When should I increase my child's nursery hours?

At Stepping Stones, parents often ask us when is the right time to increase their child’s hours. Particularly for pre-schoolers, and as we approach the Summer term, parents ask whether increasing their hours will help their child get ready for school.

As with starting nursery, knowing when your child is ready to spend more time at nursery can be a very emotive topic, and what suits one child will not necessarily suit another. There is also an argument that, if we put aside the practical requirements of childcare, the quality of hours spent in a nursery setting - rather than the number of hours - has a bigger impact on a child’s development.

We would always suggest coming in for a chat with us, but there are some key things to consider when thinking about whether to make a change to the number of hours your child spends at nursery.

How is your child when you pick them up?

Whether your child has just started nursery, or has been going for a period of time, try not to look at how your child responds at drop-off as an indicator of whether they are ready or not. Instead, look at how they are when you pick them up, and how they behave they are not at nursery.

Do they respond positively when they talk their day at nursery and activities? Do they enthusiastically talk about interactions they have had during the day? These are signs they are being positively stimulated and may be happy to spend more time in the nursery environment.

How tired is your child on non-nursery days?

As adults we know that over exertion one day can be more evident the day after. The day after nursery, does your child display normal levels of tiredness and consistent behaviour? Are they eating normally? If they are coping well, you may feel they are ready to take the next step. You may find they cope better with any normal tiredness while they are distracted in the nursery setting. As always, you are very welcome to try any new routine to see how your child copes.

How is your child’s behaviour on non-nursery days?

As your child gets older they become more independent, busier and more curious about the world around them. They have an increased interest in other children and a desire to interact with them. They start to push their own opinions and test boundaries. They may look for routine at home, especially after the structure on nursery days, or show signs of restlessness on non-nursery days. At Stepping Stones we are lucky to have the space and staff ratio to enable us to ensure all children are being appropriately stimulated and developed to their individual requirements in a nurturing environment.

"Stepping Stones provides a unique combination of learning, fun and social guidance that has allowed my child to thrive as an individual, and as part of a group. It's more than just childcare - it's a safe place for him, somewhere he can be himself and get excited about learning new skills and about the world around him." (Parent feedback survey)

Don’t underestimate your parental intuition.

You know your child better than anyone, and it’s important to do what is right for your child, you and your family setup. Given that 70% of communication is non-verbal, you may have already picked up on cues from your child. Don’t be afraid to act on it – and if a trial doesn’t go as you’d hoped please don’t feel defeated. The right time may only be a couple more months away.

They cope well with change.

This is a skill that develops as a child gets older, and if your child has a fairly established routine already, and you are worried about how they would cope with an increased number of hours, look at how they cope with change in their normal day. How do they transition from one activity to another in the home environment? Stepping Stones follows a similar routine every day, and the children enjoy knowing what activity comes next.

Additionally, if they have recently dropped their afternoon nap this could be a great time to extend into the afternoon, as they will be distracted and more likely to cope with the change.

The ‘quality v quantity’ argument.

Some consideration should also be given to the quality of the time your child spends in a nursery setting. We know that the time a child spend at home with their family is crucial to their development, and want to ensure that any time spend outside the home environment is a quality contribution to their cognitive, social and emotional development.

We hope that all parents feel that Stepping Stones offer a quality environment for their children. Indeed, in making the decision to remain a term time only, school hours setting which takes children from 2 years only, our focus has always been on ensuring that the short day they spend with us meets even the most rigorous of quality assessments.

“Sending your child to nursery can be a difficult decision as a parent, but knowing they will be spending time in an environment focussed on developing the key skills and experience required for school, while also having fun and spending time developing friendships, makes it a less guilt-ridden decision.” (Parent feedback survey)

So what do we mean by ‘quality’?

Adult to child ratio. We believe that keeping this as small as possible offers a higher observed quality of care with greater development outcomes.

Group size. Numbers are always limited at Stepping Stones, which allows us to offer activities highly specific to each child’s needs and requirements. The majority of activities are performed in small groups or on a one-to-one basis.

Staff training and education level. At Stepping Stones our team are our biggest asset, and as well as being very specific about what we look for in new team members, we are constantly investing in training and courses to develop our own knowledge and practical offering.

Positive attitudes of team members. We believe that adults that are in good spirits, who are encouraging and helpful towards your child, are invaluable in creating a positive environment for your child.

Positive physical contact. Where appropriate, we encourage physical contact such a hug and holding hands. Comforting your child physically and verbally gives them consistent messages.

Responding to your child’s speech. Whether this is repeating your child’s words, commenting on what they say or answering their questions, we believe these positive reinforcements will assist their social and emotional development.

Ultimately, a quality childcare setting creates security, attachment and trust – key attributes for positive child development.

Hopefully the above provides some thinking points for you. We welcome your questions, feedback and contribution at any point - at Stepping Stones our approach has always been to work in partnership with the parents that choose to put their trust in us.

Please get in touch with us for more information. All images by Little Beanies Photography.

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