Many UK parents struggle with the appropriate age to send a child off to nursery. While that is certainly an important question, it is subjective and has a lot of variables.
If you are considering sending your child to nursery here are a few things to consider.
The “Right Age” is Child and Family Dependent
There is no real “right” answer to this question. For many, life circumstances demand the child be placed in a nursery, whether the parents like it or not. For others, mental, emotional and physical growth dictate the right age for sending a child to nursery. There are also other factors:
- The parent’s wishes
- The child’s personality
- Financial considerations
- Other family member availability
The Goals Oriented Approach
One approach that works for some parents is to outline a slate of goals that your child should achieve by certain ages, bearing any physical or emotional challenges. Each item is matched to the capabilities of a parent to provide the support necessary in helping the child achieve those goals.
When the capabilities of a parent are exceeded, but a goal can be reached by are more organizational approach, a nursery is considered.
Tips for the Goals Approach
This approach requires honesty. A parent or parents must be able to rationally and objectively assess their abilities. In many cases, it is a good idea to have a neutral third party contribute to the assessment and even do it outright.
In the undercurrent during any deliberations, are economic realities. The UK government funds nursery for children aged three and four.
If a parent (or both) use up their maternity and paternity leave time, finding third party care may be a necessity in order to pay bills and feed the family. If grandparents are not available, the parents may have no choice but to send their child to nursery.
Determinations by Age
According to the UK Department for Work and Pensions, over 75% of mothers return to work within a year to 18 months of giving birth, either by need or choice. In some cases, the age of child and the nursery capabilities can help determine if the time is right.
2 Years and Less: For example, children up to 2 years of age stretch the abilities of an adult when the number of children exceeds 3. Thus, staffing levels at nurseries coupled with age, is a driver for many parents.
Another consideration is the emotional needs of a child. For a child aged 2 or younger, a nursery is a good idea only if the child has time to return home and acclimate to a “normal” routine. It is important to remember that normal is subjective, but almost every domestic situation is less busy than a nursery.
3 and Up: Most children join nursery between the ages of 2 and 3. Children at these ages have more independence and immersing them in an environment that exposes them to other children is an important part of development. At the least, it prepares them socially for a formal educational setting.
What age is the right age for your child to start nursery? That is up to you. These guidelines, however, can help you choose when and choose a place that will nurture your child through these vital development years.