How to Choose a Day Nursery

Parents' guide to choosing a Day Nursery

We want your child to come to Ready Steady Grow and we think, like our parents, that we're the best in town. But we want you to choose us for the right reasons.

Choosing a childcare solution is a big step, but our guide shows you what to look for and which questions to ask. Personal recommendations by family or friends are always good but you should always go and see for yourself. It is best to visit several nurseries if possible before making a choice.


  • How were you treated when you rang or called in for the first time? Were they helpful and enthusiastic, or off-hand until they found out you might bring them business? 


  • Always check if the nursery is registered with OFSTED. The registration certificate should be displayed, and a valid insurance certificate should be visible.
  • Ask about the last OFSTED inspection. You can ask to see a copy or it should be available online. The report will show the quality of care, nursery education and the appropriateness of equipment and facilities.
  • Does the nursery belong to any professional organisations? Ready Steady Grow for instance is a member of the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA).

 Clean premises

  • This is a really good indicator to how good a childcare facility is. Does the nursery look welcoming, is it bright, colourful, well decorated and a good temperature. You should look for a clean environment (we don't mean immaculate in terms of untidy - lets be honest that wouldn't be much fun for the kids) but you should make sure it is not dirty and a place where germs could fester. Check the washing facilities and toilets for signs that they are cleaned regularly.
  • It's really important that children have an easily accessible an outside area for physical play- the bigger, the more grass, the better. Have a good look at this and ask about safety and security.

Safe Environment

  • Does the nursery have sole use of the building? If not does anyone else have access to it while the nursery is open (and are they CRB checked)? You should look around the facility from a child's viewpoint to see if there are dangers where your child could get hurt. For example; sharp corners, slippery floors or unguarded heaters. Also ask how do they verify people collecting children, what locks are in place to ensure that they can't wander off, what fire fighting facilities and drills are in place. What are their emergency procedures?
  • Do they have risk assessments for activities both inside and out, especially for outings?

Well equipped

  • Have a look at the amount of books, toys and play equipment available. What is the condition of it? Is there enough to go around all children? Is it appropriate for the ages of children being cared for? Do they clean equipment regularly and replace if it is damaged?

Happy Kids

  • The most important question to ask yourself is do the children look happy. The staff may try and tell you how wonderful everything is but the looks on the kids faces will rarely lie.

Key Person

  • A good childcare provider should operate a key person scheme for your child.
  • This means that one person should be your child’s main carer ensuring continuity and a good relationship between you, your child and the nursery. The key person for child will also be responsible for their Individual learning journal.
  • They will discuss any issues or problems that your child has with you personally. Ask who this will be for your child and what their ways of reporting progress and problems are. For example; do they have daily sheets on your child or a diary of their week


  • Do the staff look happy, well presented, calm and confident? Are they involved in the children's play or just standing around watching?
  • Are all staff CRB checked? It is worth asking about the level of training that staff have. Ask them about qualifications etc. and don't assume that they will all be fully qualified.
  • At least one member of staff should hold a level 3 qualification relevant to childcare.
    At least half the remaining staff should hold a level 2 qualification relevant to childcare. One member of staff should hold a first aid certificate.

Ratios of Staff to Children

  • Ask about the ratios of staff to children these should be;
  • Children under 2   = 1 adult to 3 children
    2 years    = 1 adult to 4 children
    3 years + = 1 adult to 8 children

Meals and Drinks

  • Does the nursery provide meals, snacks and drinks for your child?
  • Are these cooked on premises or delivered?
  • Are the meals cooked from fresh ingredients? Do they have a sample menu?
  • Ask if the meals are nutritionally balanced. Can they provide for special diets?
  • How often are drinks offered - do the children have good access to drinking water?


  • Ask about what planned activities are undertaken. Check what the children are doing
  • Do the children look well occupied and happy?
  • Are they focused on learning and playing or are they just running riot? Ask if the activities are planned and whether the children have any opportunity to direct activities themselves as part of the planning
  • Do they take the children on outings? Where? How do they travel?


  • Does your child need to be toilet or potty trained? Will the nursery be able to help and support with training?
  • Does your child have to be able to put on their own shoes and coat, feed themselves or use the toilet independently?
  • Will the nursery give medications if prescribed by a doctor. How do they store these? Do they have a medication book?
  • Ask what they nursery's policy is on sickness? How long does a child have to stay off? Do they send ill children home?


  • Ask what the nursery's policy on discipline is?
  • How do they deal with disruptive or violent children? (Remember this should never be corporal punishment in any way)


  • Ask about the fees for the nursery. Is there a deposit? Is it refundable? When do the fees need to be paid? i.e. weekly, monthly, termly.Does the cost include meals, nappies etc.
  • Are there holiday charges if nursery is open all year round and you want a holiday. If you want term time only is this possible or is there a financial penalty?
  • Does the nursery offer settling sessions before your child starts full time? Is there a limited number of sessions? Are these free or do you have to pay?
  • Are there charges for late collection of your child and for late payment of fees?


  • What is parking like around the nursery?
  • Does it have a car park? Remember you will probably be in rush dropping off and will not want to spend valuable time searching for somewhere to park, or risk a ticket from a warden or the dreaded Camera Car!

And Finally

  • Was the visit relaxed and enjoyable?
  • Always ring up if you forgot to ask anything. A good nursery will be happy to answer as many questions as you want to ask.
  • If you didn't take your child with you arrange another visit and take them with you to see if they like it too. Take a friend or relative and ask their opinion - they may see something you missed.
  • Remember if you are unsure about any aspect of a nursery after visiting either visit again to check or move on to another nursery.