Types of childcare

Day nurseries

What is a day nursery?

A day nursery provides year-round care and education for children from six weeks to five years old. Nurseries offer full day care with opening hours ranging from early morning to evening to suit working parents. You can send your child full or part time.


Day nurseries offer a wide range of stimulating activities for children which are based on the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). Some of the activities that the children will be able to enjoy include:


  • arts and crafts
  • books and stories
  • sand and water play
  • outdoor play
  • music and
  • singing


Day nursery registration 

Day nurseries are registered with and inspected by Ofsted. This means that the day nursery will be checked to ensure that staff are appropriately trained and qualified and that the premises are suitable and safe. 

Ofsted registration requirements will specify the number of children that are allowed to be on the premises at any time and the ratio of staff to children. The minimum ratios are:


  • Children aged 0-2 years – 1 adult to every 3 children
  • Children aged 2-3 years – 1 adult to ever 4 children 
  • Children aged 3-5 years – 1 adult to every 8 children 

Paying for a day nursery

Day nursery fees will vary and will depend on the number of days or sessions your child attends. Fees for children under two years will be more due to the higher staff ratios.

Day nurseries can accept childcare vouchers as payment and families qualifying for Working Tax Credit may also be able to claim help with childcare costs.

Some day nurseries offer 15 hours of free Early Education Funding for three and four year olds and for some two year olds who meet the eligibility criteria. Ask the day nursery directly whether they offer the funding or check the childcare search on the Family Services Directory.

What to think about when visiting a day nursery

You will be the best judge of what is right for your child however the lists below may guide you on points to look for and what to ask.  Things to consider and questions to ask when looking for a quality setting:


  • Are you and your child made to feel welcome?
  • Do the children present look happy and involved in what they are doing?
  • Do the activities look interesting and inviting and are there opportunities for outdoor play?
  • Ask whether your child will have a key worker
  • Ask to see their registration and insurance certificates
  • What will be the cost of the childcare, what is included and how often do you pay?
  • Is there a waiting list? If so when will you be informed of a start date?


General points to consider


  • Are there lots of toys, books and play equipment?
  • Are the premises clean, well kept and safe for children?
  • Are the children able to move freely between activities and are they able to make their own choices?
  • Are different cultures positively represented in the toys, books and displays?
  • Are girls and boys encouraged to take part in all activities?
  • How will the provision meet any special needs your child may have? Think about equipment, access, skills, experience and training of staff.
  • Will you be given the opportunity to meet with staff to talk about your child and how will they share any records kept about your child with you?


Searching for a day nursery

You can use the childcare search on the Family Services Directory to look for day nurseries in your area. Alternatively, you can contact us on 020 8770 6000 for a list based on a post code area.