When it comes to the right nursery age, lots of parents are confused.
It’s a question that almost every parent will consider, and every parent will have their opinion as to the right time for their child to start nursery.
It can also be a scary thought as you’re handing the responsibility of your child over to someone else, and in lots of cases, this person is a complete stranger.
During the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), it’s important your child’s needs are consistently met. Children’s experiences in their first five years have been shown to have a significant impact on their developmental outcomes in later life.
As such, finding a nursery who you trust with this responsibility is absolutely essential as you don’t want to be worrying about your child when you’re not physically present.
The longer you look after your child at home, the more difficult it can become to send them to nursery.
According to Acas, everyone is entitled to 26 weeks leave under the law after giving birth. However, after this point, it’s classed as ‘additional maternity leave’ and some of the terms and conditions can alter.
If you’re lucky, you might be able to save on childcare until your little one is 3 years old which means they’re only attending nursery for a year before starting Primary school. In some cases though, parents return to work much quicker, and children can start nursery from as young as 3 months old.
This begs the question, ‘what is the right nursery age for my child?’
Well, that’s a question we hope to answer in this blog post to give you greater confidence and reassurance in your decision.
What are the options when it comes to Nursery Age?
Parents usually return to work within 12-18 months of having a child, although for dads, paternity leave tends to be much shorter.
In fact, according to Gov.uk, paternity leave is usually around 1-2 weeks; a very short amount of time in the grand scheme of things.
So, what are your options as a parent?
After exhausting the services of grandparents and other family members, day nurseries are the most popular form of childcare for children under 3.
Many parents decide to send their children to nursery when they are 2, as toddlers who are aged 2 and 3 qualify for free government funding.
However, if you find yourself needing to return to work before this time, what are your options? Well let’s find out…
Babies aged between 0-1
Some nurseries offer childcare from birth, however most nurseries offer childcare services from 3 months plus. (Just a side note- it usually means 6 weeks old onwards rather than literally ‘birth’)
If you need to send your child to nursery at this age, there are some vital checks that you need to carry out. After all, whilst every child needs to be looked after during EYFS, this is a particularly young age group meaning children will have greater needs.
Their level of independence at this stage is virtually non-existent so they will be entirely reliant on the care of nursery practitioners.
Therefore, it’s important to choose a nursery that has experience with newborns as this means they are better positioned to handle their needs. You should also ensure that they meet certain government standards, for example, there are recommended ratios for the amount of children to adults.
When it comes to babies aged between 0-2, it is one adult to every three babies.
Babies aged between 1-2
Around a third of children start nursery between the ages of 1 and 2. However, there is still some skepticism about whether or not this is too early which has led to a great deal of debate among parents.
There is an increasing amount of pressure for parents to return to work, which is why, often, they have no other option but to put their children in nursery.
There is some loose research that suggests putting your child in nursery too soon leads to problems with behaviour and aggression in later life.
However, this research often overlooks the benefits of entering children into nursery care at this age, including improved language skills and social development. Furthermore, much of the research is conflicting, and even some of the most respected figures in child development question the contradicting results.
When considering a nursery for your child of this age, take their personality into account. If your child is more extroverted and doesn’t struggle with confidence, then a larger nursery might be suitable.
However, if they are quite shy and introverted then consider a small daycare nursery as they will receive more attention. At The Hunny Pot nursery, we assign a key person to every child. This ensures that their needs are consistently met, and also guides them on their learning journey.
Toddlers aged between 2-3
Most children start nursery between the ages of 2 and 3.
During this time, children are developing more awareness and are becoming more interested in other children. They are also curious about their environment and start making connections between different concepts.
This is also the age where they reach lots of key developmental milestones. For example, they’ll generally be able to eat independently with a fork or spoon, as well as say 2-4 key phrases.
These are all signs that your child is ready to start nursery as they are beginning to think more for themselves. From an academic point of view, sending your child to nursery at this age could benefit their long term academic development as they will be able to build on these core skills.
If your child is still nervous about going to nursery at this age, then it’s perfectly normal. Consider giving them a toy from home which they can take to nursery such as a teddy bear or comfort blanket. This will make the nursery environment feel more familiar, and will make them feel more relaxed.
Children aged 3 and over
Whilst most children start nursery before the age of 3, it doesn’t have to be the same for your child. If you’ve got enhanced maternity leave, or only work part time, then you might be able to look after your child for longer at home.
The reason lots of parents decide to send their child to nursery at the age of 3, is to help them get into a routine. When they start reception a year later, children will need to get used to being away from their parents for extended periods of time.
Therefore, sending them to nursery before school age will facilitate a smooth transition into primary school, and hopefully make the process less stressful.
What are the benefits of sending your child to nursery?
There are lots of benefits of sending your child to nursery, for both you as a parent, and your child.
Whilst this can be a daunting process, especially if your child is used to being with you at home, nursery can have a positive impact on their confidence and development.
With that said, let’s take a look at some of the other benefits in more detail.
Helps with school readiness
By sending your child to nursery before they start primary school, it helps them settle into a better routine.
If they’ve been used to waking up at a flexible time, they might struggle when it comes to starting school as the hours are fixed.
Furthermore, going to nursery gives your child a sense of structure as there will be different times for things such as meals, naps, indoor, and outdoor activities. The school environment is very similar to this as there will be different times for certain lessons and activities which children will need to adapt to.
It also prepares children for separation anxiety, as if they’ve never been apart from you for a long period of time, they might find it challenging when they first start school. The school day usually falls between 9am-3pm which can feel very long if your child has never been to nursery before.
As such, sending your child to nursery before they start school is very beneficial, even if it is only for a year prior.
Helps children develop social skills
As your child is going to be around other children in nursery, they will develop better social skills.
There will be ample opportunities for them to engage in group activities which will improve their confidence and communication skills as they work with other children to figure out different concepts.
Furthermore, they will learn how to communicate their feelings and opinions, as well as gaining a greater understanding of other peoples’ feelings. In turn, this leads to increased empathy as they understand how to react to different situations.
Aside from other children, they will also build a relationship with nursery practitioners and staff which is a core part of their development.
If children only ever come into contact with their parents or primary caregivers, they might struggle to communicate with other people.
Eases separation anxiety
As we’ve touched on above, attending nursery can help ease separation anxiety as children get more comfortable being away from their parents.
It’s totally natural for children to want to stay close to their parents or primary caregivers as this is where they feel most safe. However, over time, children will find this process easier the more time they spend in a nursery setting.
By having friendly, supportive nursery practitioners who can ease them into the nursery environment, children will soon immerse themselves in the experience and become less concerned with the whereabouts of their parents.
The way the nursery is designed can also help with this, as by providing an exciting and engaging learning environment, children are more encouraged to explore. At The Hunny Pot nursery, there are 4 bright, attractive floors which are age-related for the children. This inspires children to freely explore the nursery whilst feeling safe and secure.
Learning new skills
There’s never a dull day at nursery! Well, certainly not at the Hunny Pot nursery as we provide a fun and stimulating environment where children can thrive.
Through a wide range of activities, resources, and experiences designed to engage your little one, there is always so much for your child to do and learn.
As such, this leads to a greater level of independence as they are starting to figure things out for themselves.
Every day is an exciting, new adventure and the best thing is, you can leave the messy play at nursery! At The Hunny Pot, we have a range of outdoor classrooms for your child to take advantage of. For example, in Kanga’s Pocket, children can lose themselves in a whole host of activities, and play in the mud kitchen, sand pit, or water pit.
Your little one will be learning new skills every day which benefits them both academically and socially. From learning how to work with others, to learning how to put their own coat on, to understanding different mathematical concepts, these are all valuable life skills.
Takes pressure off parents
Now it’s your turn to enjoy some of the benefits of sending your child to nursery.
Juggling the rest of your life and looking after your child can be very time consuming. Even aside from going to work, you will have a lot on your plate such as keeping up with day-to-day housework, catching up with friends, and having time to yourself.
Furthermore, looking after an energetic pre-schooler can be pretty heavy, and you deserve a well-needed break. Even the best parent in the world gets tired, and it’s very difficult to keep up with an active toddler!
Even for just a few hours a week, sending your child to nursery can provide some much needed relief and precious ‘me-time’.
This also means the time you do spend with your child is quality time, instead of you feeling overwhelmed and stressed. Instead, you will be able to enjoy the activities you share, whether that’s baking together or reading a book.
Nursery Age: When Can My Child Start?
When it comes to nursery age, there is no one-size-fits-all.
It’s about understanding your child, and also taking your individual circumstances into account. If you’re lucky enough to have enhanced maternity leave, then you might choose to send your child to nursery at the age of 3.
However, like lots of parents and caregivers, you might need to return to work within months, which means your child would be starting nursery much sooner.
It’s important to know that there is no right or wrong answer. Only you know what is right for your child, and when the time comes, the most important thing is to choose a nursery that caters for your child’s every need.
At The Hunny Pot Nursery, we know that this can be a daunting prospect. As a parent, you need to feel confident that your child is in safe hands, and that they are happy and secure in their nursery setting.
That’s why we create a home-from-home environment, and make your child feel welcome from the moment they come through the door. To find out more or to book a free tour, just get in touch with our team! We’re looking forward to meeting you.