A Day in a UK Nursery Setting

When it comes to early childhood education and care, nurseries play a pivotal role. In the UK, a nursery setting offers a structured environment for children aged between three months to five years, fostering their development in these formative years. If you’ve ever wondered what a day at a typical UK nursery looks like, read on.

Nursery Schools

1. Morning Arrivals

The day begins with parents dropping off their little ones. Staff warmly greet each child, setting the tone for a positive day. Children hang up their coats, swap their shoes for indoor slippers, and store their lunchboxes, if necessary.

2. Breakfast Time

For early arrivals, nurseries often provide a healthy breakfast, ensuring children start their day with a nutritious boost. Options might include cereals, toast with spreads, and fresh fruit, accompanied by milk or water.

3. Circle Time

Gathering in a circle, children join together for songs, stories, or discussions. This routine fosters group cohesion, builds confidence, and offers an exciting opportunity to share news or introduce the day’s theme.

4. Activity Time

Post-circle time, children delve into planned activities for term time. These might include:

  • Crafts: Painting, drawing, or creating with playdough.
  • Reading Corner: A quiet space for children to explore books.
  • Role Play: Spaces such as mock kitchens, shops, or doctor’s surgeries to spark imaginative play.
  • Outdoor Play: Most nurseries have an outdoor area equipped with toys, climbing frames, and sand or water play stations.

5. Snack Time

Mid-morning, there’s the first time for a break for a snack. Nurseries usually offer a healthy option, like fruit or rice cakes, accompanied by water or milk.

6. Structured Learning

For preschool-aged children, this time might begin to focus on more structured learning. It could include foundational mathematics, phonics sessions, or early writing skills.

7. Lunch

Children either enjoy packed lunches from home or hot meals provided by staff team the nursery. Staff ensure meals are balanced, and special dietary needs are catered for.

8. Nap or Quiet Time

After lunch, younger children often have a nap. Older children might relax and listen to a story or engage in calm activities, giving them a much-needed rest.

9. Afternoon Activities

The afternoon mirrors the morning, complete with a mix of free play and structured activities. There might be music and movement sessions, nature walks, or gardening activities.

10. Teatime

Late afternoon, children working parents are provided with a light tea—this could be sandwiches, a piece of fruit, and a drink.

11. Hometime

As parents and friends arrive, children gather their belongings, say their goodbyes, and head home, often with artwork or creations in tow.

12. Continuous Observations

Throughout the day, staff make observations. These notes track children’s progress, develop them, inform planning, and are often shared with parents to provide insights into their child’s development.

What is Nursery School?

Nursery school is an early years educational setting for children typically aged between 3 to 5 year olds, just before they embark on primary school. It provides a structured yet flexible environment where children engage in a variety of educational and recreational activities.

The Importance of Nursery School

  • Social Skills: Children learn to interact, share, and collaborate with peers, forming friendships and understanding group dynamics.
  • Independence: Away from their primary caregivers, children learn self-reliance, from managing personal belongings to navigating social situations.
  • Foundation for Learning: The basics of numeracy, literacy, and general knowledge are introduced, preparing children for primary school.
  • Holistic Development: Beyond academics, nursery school fosters physical, emotional, and creative growth.

Choosing the Right Childcare Provider

Entrusting the care of your child to another individual parent or establishment is a significant decision. Whether you’re returning to work, seeking additional support, or looking for socialization opportunities for your child, the right childcare provider plays a pivotal role in your child’s well-being and development.

Types of Childcare Providers

  • Day Nurseries: Offer full-day care for children, typically from a few months old up to school age. They usually have structured activities and follow an early years curriculum.
  • Childminders: Care for children in their own homes. They can offer a more homely environment and often have more flexible hours.
  • Nanny or Au Pair: Provides care within the child’s home, offering a personalised service. Nannies might live-in or come in daily, while au pairs often come from abroad to experience the culture and provide childcare in exchange for room, board, and a stipend.
  • Pre-schools or Playgroups: Cater mainly to children aged 2 to 5, focusing on social interaction and learning through play.
  • After School Clubs: For school-going children, offering care before or after school hours.

What to Consider When Choosing a Provider

  • Accreditation and Licensing: Ensure the provider meets the national or local regulatory standards.
  • Environment: Clean, safe, and stimulating spaces are essential. Outdoor play areas are a bonus.
  • Staff: Qualified, experienced, and caring staff can make a huge difference. Check staff-to-child ratios to ensure adequate attention.
  • Curriculum: Understand the learning and play approach. Is it structured? Play-based? Does it align with your own values and expectations?
  • Flexibility: Consider the provider’s hours and how they fit with your schedule.
  • Cost: Ensure the fees align with your budget. Remember to check what’s included, such as meals or extracurricular activities.

The Phases of a Child’s Life: Understanding Growth and Development

The journey from infancy to adulthood is a remarkable and challenging one, full of growth, learning, challenges, and milestones. A child’s life is a spectrum of phases, each with its characteristics, needs, and achievements. As parents, caregivers, or educators, understanding these phases can aid in providing the best support, love, and guidance.

1. Infancy (0-2 years)


  • Rapid physical growth.
  • Development of motor skills, starting with head control and advancing to walking.
  • Formation of attachment bonds, especially with primary caregivers.


  • First words, steps, and introduction to solid foods.
  • Recognition of familiar faces and expressions of basic emotions.

2. Toddlerhood (2-4 years)


  • Emerging sense of independence and a strong desire to do things on their own.
  • High energy levels and innate curiosity.
  • Beginning of imaginative play.


  • Toilet training, development of more complex speech, and improved hand-eye coordination.

3. Early Childhood (4-7 years)


  • Increased social interactions, often forming close bonds with peers.
  • Beginning of formal education, introducing structured learning.
  • Development of morality and understanding of right vs. wrong.


  • Learning to read and write, understanding basic mathematical concepts, and cultivating hobbies.

4. Middle Childhood (7-12 years)


  • Further growth in cognitive and social skills.
  • Formation of a more concrete sense of self and personal identity.
  • Deepening friendships and understanding of more complex emotions.


  • Transitioning from primary to secondary school, developing critical thinking, and starting to understand more abstract concepts.

5. Adolescence (12-18 years)


  • Onset of puberty leading to physical and emotional changes.
  • Search for individual identity and greater desire for independence from parents.
  • Increased peer influence and exploration of personal beliefs and values.


  • Building deeper relationships, making important educational decisions, and possibly experiencing first romantic relationships.

A day in a UK nursery setting is a blend of learning, play, rest, and nourishment for little one. These early experiences lay the groundwork for future education, ensuring children are socially, emotionally, and academically prepared for school. With dedicated staff and a well-structured day, UK nurseries truly offer a nurturing environment for the youngest members of society.