So you’ve made the decision to look for nursery outside of your home. Now what? Looking for a nursery program for your child can seem like an overwhelming task, but the first thing to look for in a nursery is quality. There are many factors that will identify the quality of a nursery program, and they focus on both the physical environment of the program, and what actually goes on inside the program. There are some core areas that you will want to investigate when visiting and selecting a nursery program. These include:
- Health and safety
- Teacher and child interaction
- Learning environment/curriculum
- Supervision of children
- Teacher training and turnover
- Program structure/administration
- Parent policies
When you first contact a nursery, you will want to set up a time to visit, and during that visit it can be very helpful to bring along a checklist of guidelines that fall within these core areas. This way you can note which guidelines are being met, or not being met by the nursery.
The following checklist may be helpful to consider. You may be able to observe these things, and if not, you will want to feel comfortable enough to ask.
Teacher and child interaction
- Are teachers engaged with the children?
- Does the teacher kneel down to the eye level of the child when greeting or speaking with the child?
- Are children engaged with one another?
- Is there a nice hum of activity taking place?
- Are teachers using positive language, and are they loving and responsive to children?
- Do teachers have good communication with parents? Do the teachers encourage parents to be involved in the child's learning? do they invite parents to come inside the classroom and share some activities and play games together?
Health and safety
- Is hand washing taking place, especially after bathroom use and/or diapering, and before meals?
- Is the diaper changing table cleaned off and disinfected after each time it is used?
- Are cleaning supplies kept out of reach from children?
- Are complete up to date immunization records kept for each child?
- Is a disaster plan/evacuation plan in place?
- Are all medications labeled and kept out of reach from children?
- Is the equipment safe to use, without splinters or sharp edges?
- Are there activity areas set up in the classrooms? a reading area with lots of books, a messy area for painting and water play, a blocks area for construction play, a home area for dramatic play, etc.
- Are the equipment and materials in good condition?
- Do children seem to be excited and actively involved in play?
- Is there an outdoor area for children to run, climb and jump in?
Supervision of children
- Are children supervised by teachers at all times, even when sleeping?
- Are discipline or behavioral issues handled in a positive way?
- What are the ratios in the classroom? Is there an adequate number of teachers for the size of the group?
Teacher training and turnover
- Do the teachers have experience working in the child care field?
- Do the teachers receive ongoing training in early childhood education?
- On average, how long do teachers stay at the nursery?
- Has the program passed government standards for health and safety?
- Does the director have a degree in early childhood education?
- Are written policies and procedures available?
- Does the nursery have a plan for early learning?
- Are teachers evaluated annually?