Our babies began going to a nursery for one day a week when they were about 20 months old. Initially I had reservations about letting them out of my sight for a whole day; after all, I felt I'm a stay-at-home Dad, it's my job, I should look after them. Today I think it has been the best decision for us all. Here's ten good reasons why sending E-Man and Bell to a nursery has ultimately been a great idea. 1. Me time
One of the most challenging aspects of becoming a first time parent is the realisation that your time is no longer your own. After 20 months of looking after the twins 24/7 I desperately needed an opportunity to hit the escape button and for some time for myself. When they first starting going to nursery I simply didn't know what to do with myself such was the novelty of free time. I would head for Westfield or the West End to carry out some retail therapy, or simply mooch around at home - all activities I took for granted before I had children.
Today I respect free time more than ever before. I dream about how I will use free time better in the future. Sending my children to a nursery is expensive and must be prohibitive for many parents, but it has been a resounding success for me and I am sure my children.
2. Encourages play
I want my children to love the great outdoors, not the TV. An active toddler is likely to remain active later, so it is important to encourage activities both indoors and outdoors.
One thing you don't see at nursery is a television. Nursery employees are paid to encourage my children to play.
Often at home I find playing with my children all day extremely tiring, mentally and physically. But play is vitally important as a bored child is hard work. As children play, they develop muscle control, balance and coordination.
E-Man needs more opportunities to run around and climb than Bell, who is often happy to read books and play whilst sitting down. Whether this is nature or nurture in action I do not know. Nursery encourages all forms of play.
3. Messy play
One element of play best left to the nursery is messy play - someone else has to do the clearing up! I'm not saying that E-Man and Bell don't play messy at home, as there are several painted walls with felt tips marks on them to vouch for that. But the range of messy play activities at a nursery are far greater than can possibly be available at home, including water, sand, paint and glue. E-Man and Bell are now two-years-olds and quickly become irritable when bored. Messy play is a sure fire (and often time consuming) way to curb boredom.
4. Promotes social activity
One opinion I regularly hear about the benefits of nursery are that the overall experience better prepares your children for school. I am beginning to see evidence of this.
Sending your child to a nursery not cheap. I pay £250 a month for sending E-Man and Bell to nursery for one day a week. It is therefore unsurprising that at this young age the majority of care for children, on behalf of those parents who work, is done by grandparents. After all it's a free and often under-utilised resource.
However, I believe E-Man and Bell have benefitted immensely from mixing with other children and will therefore be better equipped eventually to thrive at school. I am not a fan of sending toddlers to nursery for five days a week. I believe E-Man and Bell are benefitting from spending the majority of their time with a parent.
5. Getting to know fellow parents
Friendships with parents you meet at playgrounds and playgroups can be reinforced if everyone sends their children to the same nursery. I have found that camaraderie amongst parents can really improve general lifestyle. Parenting is tough and you need your social outlets and particularly for stay-at-home parents, the realisation that there are others out there like you is reassuring. Sending your children to a nursery qualifies you into a new social circle.
6 & 7 Discipline & learning to eat
E-Man and Bell undoubtedly play up or misbehave (especially at meal times) when both mother and father are in attendance at feeding time. I am yet to discover why this is the case.
I was recently amazed to see photos of E-Man and Bell happily sitting at a table at nursery eating (not much) lunch alongside fellow toddlers. I'm sure most parents would agree that the top two life-shortening activities with toddlers are sleeping and feeding. I remember when we were considering nursery for E-Man and Bell thinking how would they ever sit down and eat a meal or sleep. On both counts I remain pleasantly surprised.
Although they still don't eat much at nursery, they do sit down with fellow 'colleagues' and at least simulate eating a meal. This I feel is more than just a 'monkey see, monkey do' scenario. I believe that E-Man and Bell subconsciously are learning to see nursery employees as authority figures and are behaving better in a nursery environment accordingly. They misbehave when mother and father are around because they have learned how to push the buttons that annoy and irritate us. I am sure that nursery employees do not display the same signs of stress that their parents show when E-Man and Bell fail to eat their fish fingers or flick bolognese sauce at each other. At nursery they would get a telling off followed by little further reaction from nursery staff and possibly little further food. Correspondingly, with such behaviour at home, a desperate telling off from mother and father would be met with howls of laughter from E-Man and Bell and continued desperate pleas from us for them to eat their food.
8. Quality time with our toddlers
Absence makes the heart grow fonder? I really look forward to picking up E-Man and Bell at the end of their one day at nursery. I feel more relaxed with them and eager to spend time with them, which can only be a good thing for parent and child.
9. General advice from nursery employees
One often under-utilised resource neglected by parents who send their children to nursery is the vast knowledge bank employees working at a nursery maintain. Think about it? We send our children to nursery to be looked after by people who have had a decent night's sleep, enjoy their work and are paid to change nappies, break up fights, pacify tantrums and clear up food thrown to the floor. These people witness the behaviour of our children from a completely different perspective and through experience can be relied upon to offer advice and opinion on their development of our children. What better people are there to seek advice on myriad issues related to children?
10. Potty training
I am personally scared about the day when I will commence potty training. The thought of training two toddlers to use a small plastic receptacle to poo and wee into rather than a nappy is horrifying. How will trips to soft play, the library and swimming work if both decide to soil their pants at the same time!
We have bought a plastic potty, which sits in the bathroom, in order that E-Man and Bell become gradually aware of its existence. Unfortunately they currently see the potty as a toy and sit on it as if it were a chair and throw it about as if it were a hat. Imagine the future possible consequences if such behaviour continues.
Enter the saviour that is the nursery. Although E-Man and Bell only attend nursery one day a week, it is a day to be used to reinforce potty training whenever it may start. If you send your children to nursery for several days a week, potty training will prove a breeze. Potty training is obviously not a sole reason to send your children to nursery, but in terms of generally lifestyle assistance, every little helps.