Day nurseries are usually privately run and provide care for children aged from six weeks to five years old. All must be registered and annually inspected by Early Years Team in your local Health and Social Care Trust.
Minimum Standards for group childcare settings
All day nurseries must adhere to the Department of Health’s Minimum Standards, which include strict guidelines on the ratio of staff to children.
Day nurseries are usually open from 8.00 am to 6.00 pm all year round.
Day nurseries participating in the Pre-School Education Programme will have an allocation of funded places for which children in their final pre-school year can apply. These places are available:
- at least two and a half hours per day
- five days per week
- at least 38 weeks during the period September to June
In day nurseries:
- 50 per cent of staff must have a childcare qualification
- children have the chance to learn and play with friends
- childcare is reliable - if one member of staff is ill, others are available to cover
- some day nurseries offer school pick-ups and out of school care
- you may be eligible for financial help and support towards the cost of your childcare
- funded places may be available for children in their final pre-school year
- part time places are often available
Some day nurseries are not flexible if you work shifts or weekends and there can be long waiting lists for a place.
Things to check with day nurseries
Before your child goes to a day nursery, you should check the nursery:
- has places for your child's age group - some don't take children under two years old
- has a key worker carer system - babies in particular need to build up a relationship with one person
- is clean, bright and child-centred, with plenty of safe space to play inside and out
- has suitable facilities for your child throughout their time there, with different areas or rooms, depending on age
- has children present who seem happy and relaxed
- supervises children at all times with staff who communicate well in a warm and caring environment
Questions to ask day nurseries
You need to ask the day nursery about how they organise and run the place. You should ask:
- the ratio of carers to children and turnover of staff in the last year
- about the routine activities
- when and where they give children sleep sessions
- if they take the children off the day nursery premises
- if they can provide a special diet
- their discipline policy
- about talking to the carer at the beginning and end of each day
- their settling-in policy
- for their most recent inspection report
Family support NI
Family support NI holds the Northern Ireland public register of all registered and approved childcare providers in Northern Ireland. You can use their website to search for registered and approved childcare providers in your area.
Childcare partnerships give information and support to childcare providers, parents and employers.