When Bunny was two years old, I put her into a nursery for one whole day and two half days per week, whilst I was at university getting my degree. I was fortunate enough to have the funding paid for as I was a full time student at the time. When it came to choosing a nursery, I simply looked online. I found a website which showed all the facilities of each local nursery and I fell in love with one, before I even saw it. They had their own nutritionist, meaning that a healthy breakfast, mid morning snack, cooked lunch, afternoon snack and light dinner were all well researched and included in the price. They had a room for babies on the top floor, tweenies on the middle floor and a pre-school on the bottom floor. Bunny loved every second of her two and a half years of nursery.
This time around, however, I am not a student, and I have twins. To put twins into a nursery for one day, would cost me £80. I can’t afford that. When they are 3 years old, they will get a free place, but that’s not for another six months. The twins have reached the demanding stage of two year olds, where they need constant attention and supervision, as they are really naughty. They are behind on their developmental milestones and don’t really talk yet. At the same time, I am trying to run two blogs and write a book. I need more time for my writing and I think it’s time for the girls to start socialising with other children and having a few mummy-free hours each week. I think it will be good for all of us.
So with that in mind, I decided I would need to choose a pre-school, rather than a nursery. But how do you choose one? Well, I’ve used my experiences over the last few weeks, to put together a guide of tips and advice for choosing a pre-school, which you’ll see published on this blog tomorrow.
In the meantime, here’s how I chose…
First of all, I visited the pre-school attached to the school which I intend to move Bunny to. How easy would that be, if I could drop them all off at the same time?
It turned out, it would only cost me £9 for both of my twins to attend a 3 hour session at this pre-school, which is really good value. However… I really wasn’t impressed once I was inside the building and all my maternal instincts were screaming “NO NO NO!”
These are the things I didn’t like:
The pre-school manager saying, “We’ll never know the difference between them, so you’ll have to write their names on them or something”. My twins are believed to be non identical, however they are extremely alike, but I would expect a good pre-school to learn to tell the difference and treat each twin as an individual. It’s bad enough that one set of their grandparents has never bothered to learn their names!
There seemed to be no structure. It was just a free-for-all playtime and a lot of the children didn’t appear to even be being supervised.
The manager said to me, “We like to take a lot of risks here. If a child climbs on something, we let them. That way, when they fall off and hurt themselves, they will know not to do it again”. This horrified me. I expect pre-school to be a safe place where my children don’t get hurt. If they allow them to climb on things that are dangerous… what happens if they hit their head? Or worse? I can’t bear the thought of my little girls getting hurt. Aside from which… the presumption that a 2 year old “won’t do it again”, because they hurt themselves, isn’t really true. My twins have a developmental delay. They don’t understand as much as other two and a half year olds and they don’t speak much yet. If they fall and hurt themselves doing something, they don’t make the connection between action and consequence. Neither would a child that had only just turned two.
The attitudes and apparent lack of care in this pre school had me running for the hills.
I then looked around another pre-school, a bit further away. And wow… what a difference!
Not only was I was greeted enthusiastically, but the twins were too. On arrival, the manager said to me, “The first thing we will do, when your twins start here with us, is learn the differences between them, so we can treat them as individuals”. That’s exactly how it should be, and it shows that they care, from the very outset.
The children were outside doing gardening, when I arrived and they all seemed very happy and very well supervised. I was told that a lot of the play structure is child led. So if a child talks about a certain thing, for example, the colour of the leaves in autumn, or if a non verbal child is enjoying playing with leaves in the garden, then they will tailor an activity around leaves. They then write a storyboard of how they came up with the activities and the different things the children have said, done or enjoyed. The parents can then read all about it, when they pick up their children.
I told her about the “risk taking” comment from the other pre-school and the manager was horrified. She said that the children’s welfare is paramount and they do all they can to prevent them from getting injured. They also said they are trained to deal with children who have developmental delays, which really reassured me.
The atmosphere and attitudes between the two pre-schools couldn’t have been more different. The second pre-school costs a little bit more money and is further away, but I’m sure it will be worth every penny. It’s an easy choice to make, now I’ve seen them in person.