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 😏.
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