In this post Anna Hampson, Director of Little Foxes, a family run childcare and education group of nurseries since 1996, addresses the dilemma faced by many parents who wish to find the right childcare for their young child but are confused by the myriad of choices available.
Besides running a successful early years business, as a mother Anna also has first-hand experience of the pressure that today’s working parents are under to be successful professionals and perfect parents! Read Anna’s post below to find out more:
Many of you who confidently manage your own business, may be surprised to find the process of choosing the right care for your child is a challenge. Suddenly a child, rather than your business, is at the centre of your universe. You know your business inside out but how do you give yourself the peace of mind by ensuring that your child is cared for and enabled to learn and develop in your absence?
What are the range of options that are available to you?
Choosing the right care for your young child takes time and energy but you also need to be armed with as much knowledge as you can about the options available to you. Therefore, it is important for you to know what quality early years provision really looks like, whether in someone else’s home, your home or a day care setting.
What is good quality early years provision?
When choosing a childcare provider, the best way is to visit potential options more than once before making your decision. You may need to make an appointment if you are visiting a nursery as they should work on an adult to child ratio basis and it may not be possible for a member of staff to leave the children to show you around.
There may be some areas of the setting that you cannot see whilst the children are there such as toilet/nappy changing facilities (a child may be having their nappy changed at this time and a good setting will want to protect children’s privacy during this time) or the sleep area where children sleeping need the privacy to rest.
Whilst good quality early learning should take place in an organised environment, it will sometimes be messy because your child can learn by covering their hands in paint, from dressing up in adult clothes, creating structures from cardboard boxes and drawing on large sheets of paper on the floor.
If you go outside, the space might not look like a playground with a range of brightly coloured plastic slides and swings. Instead you should see lots of natural areas where children can explore, make dens, socialise, solve problems, grow vegetables and even play in a mud kitchen.
Such provision will have a range of resources for children to choose from that are challenging and tactile, encouraging them to explore on their own and with other children, always supported by experienced adults.
There will be places for children to enjoy books, use technology, mark make and use a range of materials such as paint, clay, wood and fabric. Of course, you will see children using iPads and other devices but most young children already have a range of exposure to technology in their lives and any setting will ensure that technology is used only to enhance each child’s learning experiences.
You will hopefully see a range of children’s learning documented on the walls throughout the setting with examples of their work or activity engaged in, photos of the process, their comments recorded by themselves or an adult and the next stages of their learning indicated. Finally, you will want to see adults who are respectful of each child and appear to really enjoy their work.
By choosing a setting that has a range of these play experiences both indoors and outdoors, your child will start to develop the skills they will need in an increasingly challenging world including resilience, the confidence to take risks and of course to build relationships.
Communication is key
When at work you need to be able to also feel connected to your child and know about their day. Providers use different ways to communicate with parents, but it is important to feel informed and have a good bond with your child’s key worker.
At Little Foxes we use Parentzone, and a Facebook page to keep families up to date with nursery life on a daily basis. Parentzone gives a personal insight to individual children’s learning and development whilst at nursery. It is also updated daily with their routine of the day, so you can check in with their meals, sleeps and nappy changes. Parents can post pictures, like and comment on posts which all formulate their child’s learning journal. It also offers up to date account information.
Facebook posts offer daily updates for parents that frequently use social media, an insight to what is happening on a daily basis. Both Parentzone and Facebook are used by Little Foxes because we have carried out research with families that concluded that parents tend to look at Parentzone in the evening when they have more time, yet they are likely to peruse Facebook whilst they have a few minutes throughout the day.
Settling children in
High quality providers of child care will want to work closely in partnership with you to settle your child in to the setting. Settling your child should be a priority and key to ensuring your child will have a happy time during their stay. At Little Foxes we urge families to attend 6 hours settling in sessions so your family can build a relationship with our team. Further settling in sessions will be encouraged at no extra charge for children who struggle with the transition to nursery. Our priority is that the whole family feels part of the nursery community.
At Little Foxes we are also keen to help families who need flexible childcare and we encourage parents who want to increase or change their child’s sessions to discuss flexible options with us.
Childcare funding information
There is 15 hours of term time only funding that is available to some families for 2-year olds. Contact your local council to check if you are eligible as so many children are missing out on what they are entitled to.
All 3-year olds are entitled to 15 hours funded sessions. Some parents are eligible for 30 hours if they work more than 16 hours and earn less than £100,000 per year. Funding is only available for 38 weeks per year so if you intend to work all year round discuss these options with your childcare provider.
At Little Foxes we do not have a restriction on the number of 30 hour funded places we offer although some providers do.
Check out www.gov.uk/help-with-childcare-costs/free-childcare-and-education-for-2-to-4-year-olds for the most up to date information about funding.
The tax-free childcare voucher options are also a great help for parents in managing costs.
What are the key questions that you should ask?
Prepare all the questions you would like to ask beforehand as when you visit the setting you can often go ‘mind blank’ and forget to ask one of your key questions.
Don’t be afraid to make notes, ask for clarification or to further explore answers that you may receive. Ensure that you don’t take any photos when you are visiting the setting as this will be seen as a breach of the children’s safety.
You should also ask for access to the setting’s latest Ofsted report.
Here are some key questions for you to consider:
1. What are the qualifications of the adults in the setting?
You will want to ensure that the adults have level 3 qualifications/degrees and a range of experience.
2. How do you retain your staff?
You want to know that the staff are valued and receive a range of professional learning.
3. How will you ensure that my child settles in to the nursery?
You will want to know that each child has a key person who will communicate directly with, lead your child’s care routines and observations of learning.
4. What will my child eat and drink and how will they sleep?
If the setting is providing food you will want to know that it is balanced and nutritious and that you will be able to see menus in advance. If you provide their food ensure that you are given the expected guidelines for contents, including allergies etc (all settings will ask that no food a child brings in has nuts or traces of nuts). You will want to know that your child has an individual sleep routine in a calm area where they have individual bedding and familiar object such as comforters or a soft toy as needed.
5. How will I know what my child is learning?
You will want to know that the setting is working within the Early Years Foundation Stage Framework (EYFS) and offers a play-based approach to learning. You will want this communicated to you through an ongoing online platform or a regular Learning Journal that documents all aspects of their learning through the observations made by the adults in the setting.
You can find more information about the EYFS by clicking the link below
6. How will you keep my child safe?
You will want to know that
- the setting has a robust Safeguarding Framework that is readily available to everybody
- that all staff working in the setting, have criminal record checks and, whatever their role, receive regular safeguarding training
- that your child is only picked up by an adult who is approved by you and that there are procedures in place for this
- that all visitors are identified and accompanied when on the premises
- that children are protected from social media and that there is clear guidance for both employees, parents and visitors in the use of images and social media.
- that children are guided from a young age in how to keep themselves safe and in the importance of digital safety
- that clear procedures are in place to keep your child safe if they make any visits outside of the setting
Little Foxes is a family run business established in 1996 that has grown from 4 employees to 50. We offer childcare, out of school and holiday clubs for 0-12-year olds across the North West with sites in Maghull, Wigan, Garston and Newton le Willows.
Little Foxes has recently launched our Little Foxes Little Learners Academy with sessions that we run daily for young children with a play-based approach. Parents can attend these sessions to start to build the first steps in learning through play and meeting new friends. We offer a variety of classes from 5 alive sensory time a fun sensory class for babies under 1, to Curious Cubs a chance for children to explore the great outdoors with fun activities available, to Little Yogis try some baby yoga with your Little ones to help them with digestion and physical development and many more available. Click to have a look what we have with times and prices.
The Little Foxes ethos is for children to have access to natural and unlimited play experiences.
As parents and business owners we understand that families need support, flexibility and the knowledge that their child is happy and stimulated. Please visit us at http://www.little-foxes-nursery.co.uk/