How to find the perfect Day Nursery

Baba being now 5 months old (yep already?!), I decided to look for the perfect day nursery where he will be staying 3 days a week as soon as I get back to work.

Thinking of myself of being une femme organisée, I thought that I was well on time for that kind of adventures. Having enjoyed a free work environment (well, not really but I am technically not at school. So let’s pretend I am not working) for the last 6 months, I started thinking about going back to work this week.

Find the perfect place for bébé to stay is, therefore, my top priority over the next couple of days. Being a first-time maman, I truly ignored the full process of finding the perfect day nursery. So here I am emailing and calling the local crèches, arranging visits to then choose la perle rare, the best one.

Looking for THE place that will dare to try to replace her majesty is tough. May I say, we already know that it will be difficult? Baba is indeed in love with me and I am already dreading seeing him being taken care of. The truth is, he will probably be a bit upset at first. But then, he will be fast to forget me, too amazed by either the other children to play with or the toys and other amusement available in the day nursery.

Yeah, you are right, I am already deadly jalouse of the person who will have the privilege to be with mon amour 3 days a week… Enough talking about my fears of being (temporarily s’il-vous-plait!) replaced in the heart of mon enfant. As I said earlier, this is my first experience, but I still feel that I can help other mummies to find the perfect place. So here are my top tips.

  • Start as soon as possible

I don’t mean 2 months after the baby is born. No! If you want to play the game properly, you better get ready for it ladies! You might even check out the options while you are pregnant. It says how organisée you must be. When I visited the first-day nursery on my list, the manager was very nice. But she made it clear. The waiting list was long. She even had a visitor who was only 6 months pregnant and put her name down to be sure to have a place the day before I came by. Quoi?! Sérieusement?! What next then? Do we need to make inquiries as soon as we try for a baby? I took the welcome pack with all the information. It was clear that I wasted my time! No need to say that I won’t fill in a registration form…

If you want my honest opinion, I think that we should tell us early on how hard the competition is in some places. Or at least help us in our désepérée research. Remember the Bounty Pack you got when you were at the maternity? I think it should contain a list of child care possibilities in your borough. Or at least a leaflet to tell us where to look for it! It would remind new mummies that they need to investigate the question as soon as possible. Let’s be honest, you are so overwhelmed in the maternity ward, it won’t hurt to be informed and well prepared.

  • Check in your local area the day care possibilities

Is the day nursery the right choice for you or do you prefer a childminder? Nursery it is, so let’s continue. Think about different aspects. Who will drop and pick the baby up? What are the opening times? Lots of nurseries don’t open before 8.00 am. How big is it? Do you want a more ‘small family’ type of environment or something bigger? Check their website. It might be worth verifying the prices range. No need to waste your time visiting a day nursery if you know you won’t be able to afford it anyway. Also, inspect their Ofsted report. The teacher in me is talking here ?. It might be worth checking reviews online or discuss it with other mummies. For example, if you are in a playgroup, try to gather information to find out the establishment’s reputation.

  • Book an appointment ASAP for all of them

Did you decide a number of places? Call them to visit them. It makes sense to come and see it by yourself. The more you see the better. Usually, day nurseries arrange it with you. Try to choose a time which will be their ‘normal day like’. Don’t come during the holidays for example. You won’t have a clear picture of what it’s really like. If you like it, I am sure you can come back with your partner, your mum… whoever you want the opinion of if you’re unsure. La crèche should be fine with that. You are showing interest. Furthermore, it’s a big decision, so you want to make the right choice.

  • Things to have in mind

Once you are there, bear in mind a couple of things. Observe and look at the following. No need to question anything here. You just need to regarder!

  • When you come in, what is the security like? Do you need a code or anyone can come and go as they want?
  • Do the kids look well-stimulated or are they left on their own?
  • Is the staff engaging kids?
  • Do they have sitting-down activities?
  • What is the quality of the outdoor play area? Is it big enough for the children?
  • What about the facilities and equipment? Is it safe? Of good quality and up-to-date?
  • Look at the displays. It will give you a good idea of what activities kids did.
  • Have a look at the menu. Is it well-balanced? It should really but, it’s better to check.
  • What about the manager and the staff? Ask yourself this question: would you trust them to look after your precious angel?
  • Is it clean? We know what it’s like with our little ones. We are not talking about a bit of mess. But can you see cleaners or other dangerous products that would be at the reach of children? Accidents happen quickly and I saw it in a place I visited yesterday!
  • Do they ask you to put overshoes when you enter? It’s a good sign, but not a necessity.
  • Questions to ask

Here is a list of good questions you can ask when visiting the place:

  • What is the staff to child ratio?
  • What are the team’s qualifications? For how long have they been working there?
  • How will you be informed of your child’s progress?
  • Where can he/she nap?
  • Are there any periods where the nursery is closed?
  • What is the policy on taking children for extra days? Can you do it? If so, how much would it be?
  • If any allergies, how do they manage them?
  • Ask what you need to provide: change of clothes, nappies, snacks…
  • Are there any requirements to get in?
  • Do they cook food on the premises? Do they use fresh food (rather than tinned fruit and vegetables for example)?
  • You may also want to see the nursery’s registration certificate and the latest inspection report. It’s very likely to be on their website.
  • Last but not least, run away if you see the following:
  • The day nursery has loose rules.
  • Inadequate or mainly young staff are working there – I am sorry but I want someone who knows what they’re doing!
  • Dirty or unsafe facilities.
  • An expired license.
  • A lack of security – You will have a good feeling of it as soon as you walk through the door.

I know, it’s a long post, with a lot of recommendations. I may be a bit picky here. However, childcare for your baby or toddler is a very difficult decision and you surely don’t want to regret it! You need to have some peace of mind while you are back at work.

I hope this post will be helpful. Feel free to comment and add anything major that I may have forgotten. Remember, I am a first-timer here. I don’t have all the answers ?.

Nominations for the Mumsnet Blogging Awards 2016 are on until 31st July. If you liked this post, I would love you to nominate me for the Best Writer category. It’s very simple; just click on the link above. Merci from a Frenchie blogger ?

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  1. July 1, 2016 / 2:05 pm

    Really super super useful. I know I should wait for a linky but honestly I seen the title and knew I’d want to read it now 🙂 I’m so impatient haha. Great tips it’s ridiculous about the waiting lists though that’s the first thing I found out as well! Definitely sharing, another Frenchie Mummy star post!

    • thefrenchiemummy
      July 1, 2016 / 3:11 pm

      ?????? I can’t say no words!

  2. July 2, 2016 / 4:59 pm

    This is so useful! We have a place for our little one who is starting nursery in September…we’ve had the place since she was 5 months old I think, as the nursery is very popular and it’s right at the end of our street so I didn’t want to miss out! The nurseries are so fully booked here too. You are spot on with your questions and also things you should run a mile if you see…I agree that we should be warned in advance of what a minefield childcare is! x #fortheloveofBLOG

    • thefrenchiemummy
      July 2, 2016 / 5:36 pm

      Thank you very much for reading again

  3. July 2, 2016 / 9:27 pm

    I went and looked at a nursery when I was still pregnant ???. The one I chose in the end wasn’t a super snazzy one. It’s very simple and homely but there are a range of age ranges within the staff and they are warm and friendly. There have been a couple of things I’ve not been too happy about (they fed him Aero balls when he was like 9 months) but on the whole I know he loves it and feels safe. So for now I’m sticking with it. Hope you find somewhere you are happy with. Xx

    • thefrenchiemummy
      July 2, 2016 / 9:35 pm

      Aero balls to a 9 months old? I would sue them! Tell them that next time, you better have them, otherwise the nursery is fired ? I wish my mum gave me this kind of treat when I was a baby.

      • July 2, 2016 / 9:42 pm

        Haha they told my husband and I was like…what? It was near Xmas and I think it was a one off ???

        • thefrenchiemummy
          July 2, 2016 / 10:10 pm

          Priceless and hubby telling you that after ?? Seriously, I reckon you could sue them if you want to make money…

  4. July 2, 2016 / 9:39 pm

    I need to start looking at nurseries ready for my return to work in the new year so this is really useful. I remember the search with number 1 and one nursery manager opening a door onto a child, tutting and telling them to get out the way. We didn’t go with that one!!!

    • thefrenchiemummy
      July 2, 2016 / 10:09 pm

      When you go there and observe, it’s just the best sometimes. Some manager totally puts me off the other day. Basically telling me to go on the waiting list and pay £50 non refundable but it was clear we had no chance to have a place ?

  5. July 4, 2016 / 7:02 am

    Wow this is incredibly useful and something I’ve been thinking about for a while even though I only just gave birth last week! Loved your list of questions too!x

    • thefrenchiemummy
      July 4, 2016 / 7:28 am

      Happy if I can help. Enjoy your new baby before you stress yourself with a nursery search, but don’t be too late either. Thanks for reading x

  6. July 4, 2016 / 7:45 am

    Our childcare options were very limited so booked a place when bubs was only 3 months old as I was worried if we left it too late we wouldn’t get a place! These are some fab tips, very useful when you’re first starting your search! #marvmondays

    • thefrenchiemummy
      July 4, 2016 / 7:52 am

      Thanks. Happy to see that you found the perfect place for your little one x

  7. Double the Monkey Business
    July 4, 2016 / 7:50 pm

    This is a great list, I think it is so important to ask these questions. Off to share xxx #fortheloveofBLOG

    • thefrenchiemummy
      July 4, 2016 / 7:51 pm

      ???? Merci!

  8. July 5, 2016 / 5:13 am

    We were very lucky. we had a good child minder just down from us that my other friend has used. But I have heard some horror stories of people trying to find a good child minder /nursery.
    Great post!

    • thefrenchiemummy
      July 5, 2016 / 5:18 am

      How lucky! I might consider a child minder if really I don’t find what I want. Thanks for reading x

  9. Mrs C
    July 5, 2016 / 5:37 am

    You’re completely right, it’s a matter of being super organised. Im in complete denial at the moment, waiting for my baby (number three) to come along, I’m convincing myself we’ll have forever at home together. I think I’ll just stay in this bubble a little longer…! Mrs C x #twinklytuesday

    • thefrenchiemummy
      July 5, 2016 / 6:27 am

      It’s just insane so I want it sorted out by the middle of July. Enjoy a little bit staying in the bubble; it’s so nice ?

  10. July 5, 2016 / 5:41 am

    We’ve been very lucky with our nursery and it’s fab 🙂 One thing that helped is that I went in at 6 months and integrated easily X #TwinklyTuesday Great tips!

    • thefrenchiemummy
      July 5, 2016 / 6:28 am

      Good advice, I am planning for my little one to start earlier so that he can get used to it. thanks for stopping by x

  11. July 5, 2016 / 6:53 am

    Great tips and post. I hope you get a good one. I remember looking for my daughter. Childminders didn’t feel
    Right so we went with a nursery. She’s loved it and never any tears which has been great! Getting the unborn’s name down now – very odd X #twinklytuesday

    • thefrenchiemummy
      July 5, 2016 / 7:02 am

      That’s just ridiculous that you have to that so early… Good luck with it and thanks for reading x

  12. July 5, 2016 / 4:16 pm

    Good tips, it’s so important to do your research and make sure you ask ALL of the questions you need to. It’s heart wrenching it first but you do get used to it. My daughter’s 5 now and nursery really gave her a great start for school! #DreamTeam

    • thefrenchiemummy
      July 5, 2016 / 5:15 pm

      I know it’s the right decision for Baba. It will help him to socialise and they do amazing activities in the nurseries I visited! Thanks for stopping by.

  13. ladycotswold
    July 5, 2016 / 8:19 pm

    Fantastic list and advice – I’m going to print this off and take this with me when we start looking around (which will be very soon) thank you. #marvmondays

    • thefrenchiemummy
      July 5, 2016 / 9:30 pm

      So happy to have helped, you are so welcome. Hope to see you again ? Thanks for reading.

  14. discombubulated
    July 5, 2016 / 8:24 pm

    Great pieces of advice here…a lot of it is gut but you need to ask and answer the important questions too. Anything to make the process easier! Thank you! #TwinklyTuesday

  15. The Pramshed
    July 6, 2016 / 11:47 am

    It sounds like you have it all planned out, the list of questions to ask the nursery is fab for any parent or parent-to-be thinking about nursery. We started the nursery hunt when my daughter was 5 weeks old, we saw quite a few, and I was told by about half of them that I should have started looking months before. Some waiting lists were 18 months long! Fortunately the nursery we chose could pretty much guarantee us a place when we went to look round, and it was our preferred choice too. I just can’t believe how expensive they are, we are currently wasting a day of nursery fees as my little one is at home ill, grrr! I hope you find a good nursery for your little man, and it isn’t too stressful going back to work. I recently just wrote a post all about my daughter’s first day at nursery Thanks so much for linking up this week at #fortheloveofBLOG. Claire x

    • thefrenchiemummy
      July 6, 2016 / 12:27 pm

      Thank you for your fab comment. I saw your post about going to work and I don’t want to think about it really. 6 more months of freedom so I want to enjoy it x

  16. An imperfect mum (Catie)
    July 6, 2016 / 1:05 pm

    Super tips. I would say that you should visit at different times of the day to get a good overview of what happens. #dreamteam

    • thefrenchiemummy
      July 6, 2016 / 2:40 pm

      True thanks for commenting x

  17. beautiesandthebibs
    July 6, 2016 / 5:32 pm

    Being a nursery manager I think it’s best if you can just turn up as it doesn’t give them chance to prepare . That way you will see them as they would be normally . #bloggerclubuk

    • thefrenchiemummy
      July 6, 2016 / 7:21 pm

      I thought about doing that but I imagined that they could say no?

      • beautiesandthebibs
        July 6, 2016 / 7:44 pm

        If they have got nothing to hide they should say yes I used to welcome drop in visits X

        • thefrenchiemummy
          July 6, 2016 / 8:26 pm

          Really good.I thought about doing that and the I didn’t want to be rude or annoy me just in case they put me at the back of the waiting list ? But I totally agree with your idea x

  18. July 7, 2016 / 1:31 pm

    I’m always suspicious if a nursery looks too clean and pristine – how do they keep it like that with all those kids? Far better to be a bit rough round the edges! #twinklytuesday

  19. July 7, 2016 / 7:48 pm

    These are great tips for trying to find a nursery and I remember considering a lot of these when it came to finding a preschool too. I think there’s also a lot to be said for gut instinct – I knew as soon as I walked in the preschool that we chose that something felt right and it was an easy decision to make in the end. They’ve been brilliant. Good luck with your hunt for the right nursery for Baba 🙂 #ablogginggoodtime

    • thefrenchiemummy
      July 7, 2016 / 7:52 pm

      Merci thanks for stopping by again

  20. Maria Hughes
    July 8, 2016 / 7:42 am

    I have spent the last two weeks looking at nurseries; it’s annoying that some only open at 8 as you say; I assumed they all opened earlier to allow drop off before work.

    We have found one horror nursery so far (think kids running riot in garden and eating sand while staff chat inside), then we have visited a couple of AMAZING ones; but the caveat being the HUGE fees, I am prepared to suffer the fees though in exchange for a really high quality nursery. I have bookmarked your checklist as you had a couple of things on there I didn’t have on mine!

  21. Alex Muir
    July 8, 2016 / 9:42 am

    very useful list – it’s a minefield out there. I knew we’d found the right one for my daughter when visiting one and they said ‘we do baby yoga with them every morning’!! My perfect haven for my perfect angel. Where do I sign up!?

    • thefrenchiemummy
      July 8, 2016 / 9:52 am

      That’s fab, well done and thanks for stopping by x

  22. Helen
    July 8, 2016 / 10:45 am

    Wow this is thorough. Well done. It is a mine field! I say trust gut instinct and ask around. #TheList

    • thefrenchiemummy
      July 8, 2016 / 1:16 pm

      yeah, I agree that your instinct is pretty important as well. Thanks for reading.

  23. July 8, 2016 / 8:23 pm

    Great post – so informative. I wrote one ages ago after we’d had to go through it for a second time when we moved house. I remember going to the one closest to our new house and thinking how pristine and uncolourful it was and immediately didn’t like it! I love where he is now, even though it can’t take me ages to get there when it should take 5 minutes! Thanks for linking up with #TwinklyTuesday

    • thefrenchiemummy
      July 8, 2016 / 8:45 pm

      I liked 2 I visited fingers crossed we will have a place. Thanks for commenting xx

  24. twotinyhands
    July 8, 2016 / 9:09 pm

    That is such an extensive list. Great advice for Mums needing child care. I am now a stay at home mum. My partner toyed with the idea (converstation for today) of sending me to work and him staying home with our son. Conversation ended with us deciding that one of us will always look after our child, no childcare here! #FabFridayPost

    • thefrenchiemummy
      July 8, 2016 / 9:10 pm

      You’re very lucky. I know it will be hard to leave my little one even if I always complain that I miss work Thanks for stopping by x

  25. July 9, 2016 / 8:15 pm

    I am very lucky to be a work from home mummy so have not yet sent my bubba to nursery yet. However, I do want her to start going soon as I feel it is important that she socialise with other children and have some time away from me. I will definitely be coming back to your post.
    Thanks for linking to #ablogginggoodtime

    • thefrenchiemummy
      July 9, 2016 / 8:47 pm

      Me too I want Baba to socialise. Good luck for your search x

  26. July 9, 2016 / 8:31 pm

    Such a useful post. I think that the list of things to think about will really help other parents out there. We did our research way in advance and we had Little Buttons name down for our top place when I was about 8 months pregnant. Except, when we went back to visit with her in tow, things weren’t quite as great and so we pulled out. Always go with your instincts I think. Thank you for linking up to the #DreamTeam

    • thefrenchiemummy
      July 9, 2016 / 8:48 pm

      Thanks for reading, commenting and sharing x

  27. July 9, 2016 / 9:32 pm

    Some really great tips here – it’s such a big thing finding somewhere that you feel happy and comfortable sending your baby there. I’m lucky because my partner is a SAHD so Marianna won’t start playgroup until she turns 2. I think it will be so good for to mix more though!

    Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next Sunday!

    • thefrenchiemummy
      July 9, 2016 / 10:01 pm

      Good luck with your little one and playground. I am sure she will love it xx

  28. July 9, 2016 / 11:59 pm

    This is a really good list of advice. I agree with you – look for placement asap! I remembered walking around with my 6 months old Ethan and it was so so hard. I was on the waiting list for 4 months! Thank you so much for linking up with us on #FabFridayPost x

  29. July 10, 2016 / 12:18 am

    Wow what a ton of work. I was lucky enough to be a stay at home mom for 10 years none of this investigating needed. But this is a great post for those in need of childcare, thank you for sharing!

    • thefrenchiemummy
      July 10, 2016 / 6:52 am

      Thanks for reading and sharing x

  30. July 10, 2016 / 6:18 am

    Haha I totally relate – I did so much searching for my daughter and then only ended up putting her in nursery one day a week! We were very lucky though as our niece came over from France to be her nanny for the other 4 days. Now she’s got back to France and I’m off on mat leave with no. 2 – but I’m already starting to worry about childcare arrangements…and I’m not going back to work until NEXT MAY! LOL. #KCACOLS

    • thefrenchiemummy
      July 10, 2016 / 6:55 am

      I know it’s terrible we should not have to worry like that. Thanks for reading and sharing on twitter ?

  31. July 10, 2016 / 4:39 pm

    What a fantastic informative post. I think nurseries are perfect for all children.

  32. July 10, 2016 / 6:16 pm

    We started looking when Arthur was a few weeks old …. I am an early years teacher so I went in with my professional head on and came out of every single one feeling really upset and disappointed at what are supposed to be quality care provisions. We decided that no one but myself would probably match up to my own standards of how things should be done and agreed that I would stay off work for a while longer and put my skills to good use! Now that Arthur is 18 months we have been looking again for other settings (eg pre schools) who take children once they are aged 2. Thank goodness we found somewhere but again I was really shocked by what I found in many nurseries with a complete lack of understanding of how young children play, learn and develop and the importance of a good learning environment.

    One thing I would add to your list, is that yes – do look for some adult led activities but don’t be fooled into thinking this is always the best way. The most important thing for young children is to have a good open plan area with quality reaources and activities/ provocations set out for them to choose and play independently – so that they learn not only to take ownership of their own learning, but they have the ability to extend their own learning by (for example) choosing resources from one area (that they have visited before) and using them to make an activity elsewhere better. Staff should engage with the children yes, but not interfere with the play, or lead the play… Just question and extend in an open ended manner to help them think for themselves …. I’ve seen far to little of this in many nurseries. It really isn’t easy xxx


    • thefrenchiemummy
      July 10, 2016 / 6:56 pm

      Fantastic comment! That’s what I love about blogging. Thank you so much for the extra tips. I think I found the one and no applying for it. Fingers crossed xx

  33. The Unsung mum
    July 10, 2016 / 10:05 pm

    You are so right here! I tried to find the kid somewhere to go a month before returning to work and it was a bloody mine field!! When I did get her in I then needed to change a day to get told I had to give six weeks warning! What??!! I liked the bit about applying early while preg. Two of my friends did this and at the time I thought they where crackers. Let’s just say they had the last laugh! #KCACOLS

    • thefrenchiemummy
      July 10, 2016 / 11:01 pm

      Excellent comment, thanks for stopying by

  34. Kim
    July 11, 2016 / 2:33 pm

    I am really impressed with how much thought you put into this. Not to say most mothers don’t, but I only wish I had thought to ask some of your questions before settling on a place for my son. Where I live unfortunately options are scarce so I made the best decision I could. I am thankful at the moment I haven’t had to enroll him, but in a year or so I will have to start the search again for him. Thanks for the tips! #KCACOLS

    • thefrenchiemummy
      July 11, 2016 / 3:02 pm

      You’re so welcome. I wanted the best place possible. I am dreading leaving him… Thanks for reading x

  35. Katy - Hot Pink Wellingtons
    July 11, 2016 / 7:31 pm

    This is such a useful post. I have to admit that I really wanted a childminder as I thought I preferred a family home environment, but sadly there was zero availability near us. But I couldn’t be happier with our nursery. I knew on my first visit that they were the one. The staff are fabulous, whether young or more experienced they are always engaged with the children and clearly care about them. They really listen to any concerns we have, and are supportive of us as parents. My son is so happy there, and it’s lovely to see how well he’s getting on. It’s strange, as they are a small chain and very corporate and everything I didn’t want in a nursery when I started out looking. Best of luck in your search! #KCACOLS

    • thefrenchiemummy
      July 11, 2016 / 7:37 pm

      That’s so good I think I found the one too. Just applied today fingers crossed ?

  36. July 13, 2016 / 3:18 pm

    Ah choosing a nursery is so hard and it’s so hard to know what your little ones really think. You can gauge a good idea but until they can speak how will really know. And yes it is crazy how busy they get so quickly, strange really as they are so shockingly expensive. Good luck, hope the little one get on well, I’m sure he will xx #KCACOLS

    • thefrenchiemummy
      July 13, 2016 / 3:45 pm

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting x

  37. Sarah@teammomlife
    July 15, 2016 / 5:43 pm

    These are some great tips and questions for people looking for a nursery. We have been really lucky that my aunt retired and is able to watch our boy. #KCACOLS

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