As this is the second day of my last 2-day/2-child stint (thank gods), I thought it would be good, and after yesterday completely necessary, to get us all out of the house. So am currently sat in the admittedly quite nice Bocketts Farm Park car park, with two sleeping babies.
The younger one is understandable – she had her second settling in earlier. And I don’t think she fully approved of the concept of me not being there. She was crying when I left and when I returned! To reassure, she clearly hadn’t been crying the whole time, but even the staff admitted she’d “taken a while to settle when you left”. Which I suspect is code for about half the time….
But she did settle and start playing, and apparently even smiled…before I think it got too tiring and she started crying again. They want to do quite a lot more settling in next week after today…so Monday we’ll see if there’s improvement!
Junior is just in a bit of a funny state – not really eating. Mostly because he got the hang of Easter really quickly and thinks he can live on chocolate. If only….
Hopefully I’ll be able to update on a successful afternoon at Bocketts Farm, but no stirring yet!
It doesn’t sound like a big deal, an hour for No.2 in the baby room at nursery with me never leaving the room (well, only once very briefly to hang a coat up!). But it is a big day, for all the family in different ways. For No.2 it marks the real transition from being a baby to becoming a more independent person (long though that journey is). For me it means that #dadtime really is drawing to a close; the time I get to spend off with my children has just a few days left. And for Mummy and Junior it marks the imminent start of a routine that will last us at least until Junior goes to proper school.
The settling in went as well as we could have hoped. No.2 wasn’t overwhelmed by the room or people – as you can see it is light and toy-filled. She has been going through a VERY clingy patch, with times when she has been limpeted to Mummy or me constantly, but this started to ease a week or so ago. After 5 minutes of staying within touching distance of me, she started to explore for herself, “playing” with her key worker and I (she’s too young to actually play interactively, but she likes giving you things and taking them back at the moment) as well as playing on her own with musical instruments and the kitchen toys. And when I did pop out of the room she didn’t melt down instantly, although she was pretty keen to come make sure I was coming back, padding towards the door as I reappeared seconds after going out of it.
This hopefully is a good sign, and on Friday we’ll up it by leaving her on her own for an hour. Which I think will be harder, and don’t expect the sound of crying to be easy to leave, but she does have to get used to it.
The difference with Junior is marked here, both for personality and timing reasons. Because last time we hadn’t planned time off together, Mummy was able to take her annual leave accrued while on maternity after I finished Additonal Parental Leave. And Junior had been born on the first day of maternity leave, so he was already 1 when I finished anyway. So he was actually about 13 1/2 months old when he started at nursery. No.2 is 2 months younger. And that is a lot. Also, he is a very (very) active individual who likes exploring and playing with any toys going, so nursery was just a room ful of new stuff. No.2 is more people-focused, which means she simply notices our presence or absence more, and needs to feel comfortable with those she is with. Which is where settling in matters much more for her.
Of course instead of tiring her out, the experience seems to have energised her and after eventually going to sleep she’s had half an hour and is now crawling around my legs spreading Easter egg chocolate round the room….lovely!
One of the things that has struck me since moving to Surrey is that Relatively unusually Junior has been in two different nursery settings, which has given us a breadth of comparison that most people don’t have – you pick a nursery at the starting stick with it, almost certainly for all your children. So herein some learning points from me.
First thing to say is that both nursery school we’ve used have been good, and we have been happy helped Junior prosper and develop. But there are definite differences, and our current, Surrey nursery is definitely better. And I think it is that comparison which is interesting.
I should declare a conflict/bias at this point – as I didn’t go to nursery, and my parents were rightly proud iof having been able to raise me and my siblings at home, I’ve been reluctant about nursery, although knowing that in the current economic cl mate, even for two pretty well paid parents we can’t afford to do anything else (despite the costs).
The similarities: both are private, go from 9 months to 5, and have at least 3 “rooms” (age groupings). Both relatively large, but not massive – Wimbledon was about 40 places, and Merstham about 55, as it also has a term time-only room for 2+.
What Should You Look For?
- Leadership. Wimbledon had a really good manager when we started, but she was overworked as she was expected to both education and admin. She left, and the vacuum was huge. They had difficulty filling the post, not their fault, but despite the owners’ best endeavours the nursery lost focus and drive. Merstham clearly had this from the very first time we viewed it, and they have strengthened with another leader since.
- Find out about staff turnover. Neither setting was bad, but again Wimbledon comes second. Mostly because of the greater choice of employers. Mind you I wouldn’t do their job, and they earn peanuts. Change is unsettling for kids and if you lose a key worker it is even harder.
- Outside space is great. Merstham has the space outside as well as great equipment (slide, house, sandpit etc) that you can’t afford in Wimbledon. Junior is a ball of energy and this is great for him, and most boys.
- Mixing of classes. Difficult to compare as Junior went from baby room to toddler room, and the babies don’t mix with the older kids in either, but again Merstham has the space to allow this in a way I don’t think Wimbledon could. And it’s important as it allows a wider range of interaction and friendships. As well as know Junior is nearly out of the toddler room for him not to have to nap.
- Look at the walls. These will give you an idea of how much activity is carried out in the classes, as opposed to less directed play. Wimbledon had an edge here initially but the additional leadership has moved things on in Merstham. You can also get other extracurricular activities. Junior did French in Wimbledon. Unsurprisingly doesn’t remember it now…
- Don’t ignore the admin. Neither is amazing at admin (except taking money), but this was a bit of a sign of the troubles at Wimbledon. You can quickly spot this from early engagement – take a long time to reply to queries? Ask some questions.
As I said, neither was a bad choice, but with hindsight these are the questions and things I’d wish I’d known. And awake….