Six Step Guide To Pick The Right Nursery

When you’re a parent there are many extremely emotive things you decide on when your baby is very young, especially in the first few months of birth (or beforehand!). What will be the theme in the nursery? What will be the first thing they wear? Will I breast feed? What pram should I get? There will be little to compare to picking a nursery though.

Picking the right nursery is very difficult!
Picking the right nursery is very difficult!

The nursery is such a big investment in many ways, largely in trust. You are picking a place and people to look after the most precious thing in your life. This nursery could be extremely influential in the kind of person your child becomes. Picking the wrong one could cause so many challenges further down the line and have huge implications on your child. I can’t overestimate the importance of picking the right nursery.

Why Is It Important?

The main reasons for me are:

  • Your child’s safety
  • Your level of comfort when you leave them
  • Your child’s development
  • Your child’s happiness
  • Cost
  • Location and practicality
  • Open times

There will of course be many other reasons why it’s important to you as an individual to get the right nursery.

The thing is though, how on earth do you go about finding the right one? Here is my six step plan to decide on your nursery. My first tip though is do it early! One of our options was filled up 12 months in advance. Some are even sorting it before their child is born. Do it early!

Step 1 – Location

There is no point in looking at a nursery in London if you live and work in Manchester. It’s an extreme example but you get the point. Sometimes it’s easier to demonstrate an idea with an extreme example!

Pick your location area first
Pick your location area first

Do you want a nursery on your way to work? Near work? Near home? In essence how flexible are you on location? This is the first thing I would do to narrow down your options from many thousands in the country to a handful in a small area.

At this point you could literally get a map out and draw the area you would consider.

There, you have your search area. Now, within the search area you need to find all the nurseries you can. Perhaps mark them on a map. Ultimately you’ve decided that these could work for you from a location point of view so exactly where they are is less important (they are all ok). As such you could just make a list rather than put them on a map.

Step 2 – Cost

There’s no point in considering somewhere if it’s £1,000 per day unless you’re a millionaire. There I go again with extreme examples.

Don't blow your budget
Don’t blow your budget

On a serious note though you need to work out how much you can afford to pay per month, divide that by the number of days they will be in nursery and there you have it, your absolute maximum daily cost. Of course you would want to take into account Childcare Vouchers (though this ends on the 4th October) or the new Tax-Free Childcare scheme. Which one is best for you will take some research but I’d do it quick!

The next aspect of this step is of course to figure out the cost of all the nurseries from Step 1. It’s quite likely that you could find this out on many nurseries from their website. Failing that you could phone them up and ask.

Now you can strike off your list those that are too expensive.

Step 3 – Reviews

Ofsted investigate nurseries just as they do schools so you can read their report for each nursery. Whether you want to read the whole thing for all nurseries from Step 2 or just the Summary and rating, that’s up to you. The Ofsted reports are a great source of information on nurseries for you to look at.

The other thing is to ask yourself if you know a parent of someone that goes there. Maybe ask them what it’s like? What reviews can you find online? Do they have a Facebook page – read through it. What sort of thing do they post? Would you be happy for your child to be involved in that activity?

Using this you can again eliminate some nurseries from Step 2. Hopefully you’re down to around a handful now (unless you had a huge search area!), or certainly not too many to call over the phone!

Step 4 – Availability

There is now no point in considering a place if they can’t look after your child for the days you need them to be looked after. This step is fairly short to write but takes a bit longer to do. You basically now have to ring each place on your cut down list from Step 3 and ask them if they have the days free for you from the time you want your child to be looked after. If not strike them off the list.

If you work strange hours, changing hours or shifts then this is the time to find out if they can suit your needs too. Most places are open standard hours from about 7:30am to 6pm but worth checking that the hours work for you.

Step 5 – Visit

If the days are ok and the hours suit you then it’s the time to book a visit. This is your chance to check out where your little one will be enjoying themselves for years to come. Does it look clean (where it should be…there are loads of babies and toddlers around after all!)? Do the kids seem to be enjoying themselves? Do the children seem to like their teacher? Is there enough outdoor space? Is there enough indoor space for that matter?!

Go armed with your questions!
Go armed with your questions!

You need to go armed with questions you want to ask. Even have a list of questions on your phone or on paper, don’t be shy. Be prepared! Also think ahead about which questions are most important to you. Say have have ten questions to ask but maybe in reality there are just one or two that are deal breakers. It’s worth knowing them in advance. Plan your questions thoroughly. You want to avoid walking away from the nursery thinking “oh I wish I had asked that question!”.

Some of the questions you could ask are:

  • What security is there on entry? What approach do they take to security when on outings?
  • Are there cameras to view remotely? – you can decide if this is a good thing – risk of it being hacked vs your desire to see your child
  • What do they do during the day with babies?
  • What we need to bring for our baby (food, clothes)?
  • What qualifications do the staff have?
  • First aid provisions and training
  • How do you ensure safe recruitment of staff?
  • Do you offer funded 2,3 and 4 year old places?
  • Will my child be assigned one specific person to look after them?
  • How many children under one year old per person?
  • How do you ensure the safety of children in your care?
  • What activities do you provide for different ages?
  • How do you support the learning and development of children?
  • How do you keep parents informed of their child’s progress?
  • How do you manage children’s behaviour?
  • What do your fees include?
  • What do you do in emergencies?
  • What is your policy if a child is ill or becomes ill?
  • Are you flexible on pick up and drop off times?
  • Can you cater for children with allergies?
  • What is an example of a typical meal?
  • How does the nursery help staff with their own learning and development?
  • What is staff turnover like? – this is useful to know how frequently your child is going to have to get used to a new person

That’s just a sample of the questions you could ask. Yes, it’s likely you will have to go round a few nurseries to find the best one but perhaps that’s not such a bad thing. At least you have choice and can pick the best one for your child.

Step 6 – Decision Time!

Then, from this you should have all the information you need. You know each nursery has a good location, can do the hours needed, is affordable and comes recommended. Now, with the answers to your questions you should have all the information you need to make a decision. Take your time and make sure you are comfortable with the decision. I would suggest sitting back when you think you’ve made your decision and check if your gut is telling you something different. It’s important you are happy overall with the decision as it’s so important. If your gut is telling you something different then you need to ask yourself “why?”.


Hopefully you found this helpful. Ultimately I think you’ll get a gut feeling about a place you visit. A sense that you want your child to go here. The questions though are good to confirm your thinking.

Please do let me know if you did find this helpful. Also, have you any other suggested questions to ask?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.