From the first moments that the sun rises in the morning, nursery assistants, practitioners and room leaders are heading out the door to start their working day. Being some of the most formative years of a child’s life, nursery work is both an incredibly important and highly rewarding role.
Those with a passion for education who love working with children will feel right at home working in a nursery. With enthusiasm, creativity, and a caring persona, those who step into the sector will help countless children develop and take their first steps into the exciting world of education.
Wondering what steps you will take throughout the day working in a nursery? Read on as we break down what happens at most nurseries and early years settings. The times may vary slightly, but the structure will remain and help you decide if nursery work is right for you.
How a day in a nursery works
7 am: You’ll be up and ready to head out the door as the nursery will be opening soon. If you’re on standby with TeacherActive you’ll be up and ready to leave for 7:30 am latest, so you’re ready to cover any last-minute sickness or staff absences.
7:30 am: The nursery is open! Most children will be heading over now for breakfast as parents drop their children off before heading to work or starting their day. Breakfast will begin around this time, as soon as you sit one child down, the next will come in. Make sure they are all fed and looked after during this time and log their breakfast.
8:30 am: It’s now playtime, which can include anything from finger and potato painting to water play if it's sunny, or free play where the children can choose their own toys to play with. There’ll always be plenty of choices for the children[YC1] to make; playtime is important for social and emotional development, helping children learn about the world, develop social skills and learn independence, confidence and curiosity.
10:00 am: This is one of a few snack times across the day, again all food must be logged for each child. After this, it’s back to playtime.
11:45 am: Between now and 12:30 pm will be lunchtime, followed by a nap or quiet time. The babies and younger children will have a quick afternoon snooze here, whereas the older children in the other rooms will have some quiet time, such as reading a story. Any children who were only booked in for the morning will be picked up around this time.2:00 pm: Now it’s time for group activities such as group play, more stories, and learning literacy or numeracy. Communication and language, expressive arts and design, and understanding the world are all areas that the UK Government’s curriculum focuses on.
3:30 pm: It’s dinner time between now and 4 pm. Similar to breakfast, lunch and snacks, these foods must be logged and fed back to the parents, so they know what their children have eaten for the day. This is in addition to any trips, bumps, medicine taken and any good/bad behaviour.
4:00 pm: The children will continue their free play until they are picked up by their parents.
6:00 pm: The nursery is closed, and the day is finished!
Throughout the day you will need to ensure the kids have enough to drink, change them or support if they are potty training and of course supervise them throughout the day. No child should be left unsupervised at any point.
The children will be in separate rooms depending on age, in most nurseries there is a baby room and a room for the older children/toddlers. Some, but not all, nurseries have an outdoor space for outdoor play. Unless the children are outside, make sure this door is always locked for their safety.
What qualifications are needed to work in a nursery?
It’s always recommended to gain a qualification when working with children, however, if there are enough staff who hold a qualification, relevant experience is enough to work in the nursery.
Some relevant qualifications are:
- Level 2 Certificate in Childcare.
- Level 3 Diploma in Early Years Education and Care.
- T Level in Education and Early Years (equivalent to three A-Levels).
- CACHE Level 3 Childcare.
There must be someone who always holds a full relevant level 3 qualification in the nursery at all times. For the rest of the staff, at least half need to hold level 2.
When working with children under two there must be one adult working for every three children. For children aged two to three you need one adult for every four children, aged three and over is one adult for every eight children, unless that adult holds QTS in which case the ratio is one adult to 13 children.
These ratios will factor in with the shift rota, so the hours you work in a nursery can vary. You may work all day, just in the morning or in the afternoon.
The qualities you need to be a nursery worker
Qualifications aside, the main quality you need is to love working with children. You have an amazing opportunity to shape the experiences and minds of the children in your care, during their most formative years. You need to want to do a good job and be proud of the work you do. When the parents leave, they trust you to look after and support their child, so treat that child with the same level of respect, care and kindness as you would your own family members or children of loved ones.
Want to learn more about working in a nursery? Check out My-Progression, one of the fastest-growing CPD YouTube channels covering everything you need to know about working in education.
Now you’ve learnt how a standard day in a nursery works, you’re even more prepared to head into this highly rewarding role and make a difference in children’s lives. If you’re looking for nursery or early years work in England or Wales, contact TeacherActive today.