Top 5 Tips to Selecting a Nursery School or Daycare - Part 2

This blog post was originally published on July 23, 2013

Selecting a good quality nursery requires that you look beyond a center’s reputation in society, beyond what’s considered fashionable simply because “everyone else is signing up their kids there”. It’s a matter of looking at your needs, teacher-child ratios, whether a daycare is close to your work or home (if both parents are working, work is often better so your kids spend less time between drop off and pick up and you can arrive earlier in case of emergency), etc.… In part two of this two-part series, I’ll be sharing the top 5 tips that’ll help you make a better decision.

  1. Play Time!

Play is one of the most important aspects of your child’s early years and a good variety of books and toys is important to trigger different areas of development. At a nursery, toys should not only be within the reach of children, but kids should also be allowed to use them frequently. Many centers advertise themselves as ones that value play, yet they create daily schedules with very little free play. Sadly, this is the first generation of children that is less physically active than any previous one, and it’s taking a serious toll on their health.

Equally important is how much media is present at the nursery. Are there cartoon characters on the walls? Yes, children may have learned to love them (we’re not born dreaming of our favourite characters), but a daycare should be a media-free environment and not make your life harder when you go to a toy store. Trees, clouds, and birds work just as well, if not better, at sparking their wonderful imaginations.

Further, how much of children’s free time is dedicated to media consumption? Are there TVs present and is TV time on the weekly schedule (formally or informally)? If so, I suggest you run, not walk, out of the daycare. Nursery directors and early childhood educators should be well-aware of research on media’s negative effects on development, especially for children under the age of two (See my previous post on TV Effects). Kids are at the center to play and learn how to make their own fun, not to be entertained with TV.

  1. Inside the Classroom

What happens inside the classroom is what really matters in your child’s day at nursery. Studies show that, yes, teachers’ years of experience matter. But what’s more influential in how they care for your child is their education background. How many kids are actually registered in your kid’s class versus how many does the director count on the day of your tour? What’s the teacher-child ratio? The lower, the better-quality care your child receives. How many of those teachers are in the class full time, and how many of them are floaters, going from room to room? Are your children in a large group of several teachers or in a smaller group and able to have more one-on-one or small group time? Are the teachers treated well by their employers or highly stressed? How do the educators speak to the children? Are they respectful, attentive, caring or snapping at them when they cry or ask for something? Are they overly affectionate and focused what your child is wearing or on their thoughts, ideas, and abilities? Are you allowed to visit the center to spend time with your child whenever and as often as you would like to? Do you feel as though this is a class and teachers you would like your child to spend several hours a day with or not? The key is to trust your instincts!

So with 18 in mind, what kind of care will you expect and demand of those in the business caring for your little ones? (let’s not forget you’re the client.)

Happy parenting,


N.B.: 18 in Mind is a blog about the day your kids turn 18 and the parenting years in between!