Small but perfectly formed
The Little Lane Nursery is a boutique nursery providing childcare for children between the ages of six weeks and five years old.
Conveniently located in Silver Lane, in the centre of Stamford, the Ofsted - registered nursery won the Stamford Mercury New Business Start-up Award in 2017.
Proprietor Victoria Banfield and Nursery Manager Emma Altham are passionate about childcare and dedicated to creating a safe and happy environment in which every child can achieve their full potential by developing confidence, creativity and a lifelong love of learning - regardless of their ability or background.
Victoria and Emma took a break from their busy schedule to tell Parent Time what makes the nursery so special.
Home from Home
Choosing a nursery for your children is a tough decision.
"Finding the right nursery for your child is a bit like buying a house...it is a massive, massive commitment and when it comes down to it you will now when you find the right one. It's just a feeling," says Emma.
Victoria agrees: "You have to love the place, find a connection with the people there, and you’ll just know.
"We believe that a nursery should be welcoming and offer a home from home experience.
"It shouldn’t be clinical and should include everyday things for their children to do."
For Little Lane, size is important. Victoria and Emma believe being small allows them to offer children that all-important‘ home from home’ experience.
"We wouldn’t look to grow any bigger than we are currently because we like the size we are, and the number of children we have," explains Victoria.
"It’s important that the number of children per room stays at the same level.
"Legally for pre-school one staff member is required for eight children, but we maintain the one-to-four ratio for that age group, so we have twice as many staff.
"We tend to split them so that there is only ever eight children in the pre-school room, while the rest attend Forest School.
"This gives staff the ability to take the children out, and to have that freedom to do more of the things you would do in a home environment."
Although Victoria and Emma are very different personalities, as mummies themselves, firm friends and business partners they work extremely well together.
Victoria, a former business administration professional looks after the day-to-day management and has a keen eye on the detail. Keeping up standards is key.
"I'm a stickler for things looking beautiful. I walk around the nursery with ‘parents' eyes’ on, and as soon as something looks tired, I’ll change it," she says.
Emma, on the other hand, is a qualified nursery nurse and Victoria describes her as a ‘mother hen’ with a 'natural way’ with children.
"Emma is always in and out of the children’s rooms and they gravitate towards her, she will quite often be sitting in our office with a child asleep on her lap.
"She just loves them, and the children pick up on that."
Recruiting friendly, approachable, caring and understanding staff is key to maintaining high standards.
"There are some things that you just can't teach people when you work with children; there has to be some natural flair and that will show regardless of whether you are nervous at an interview or not.
"If you’ve got it, it will shine," says Emma.
Life for working parents is a juggling act and Emma and Victoria fully understand the pressures.
"The biggest thing is for parents not to feel that they are missing out on their child because they’ve gone to nursery.
"They should be able to still do all the things that you would do with them, go to the coffee shops, get their hair cut or go to get their feet measured.
"Going back to work doesn’t mean that your child can’t continue to do all those things, like going to the park, walking down to the Meadows to feed the ducks, or going to Burghley park for the day," explains Emma.
Children at Little Lane Nursery enjoy regular trips out and about - either in the VW minibus, complete with flowery branding, in a specially-designed 10-seater stroller, quad pushchairs or on foot using a Walk-o-dile.
They take part in a range of exciting activities from pumpkin picking, watching lambing and trips to Sacrewell Farm, The Yard soft play, PlayTown in Essendine, to tobogganing at Tallington Lakes.
"We are always facilitating ways for the children to get out.
"As well as the minibus we have the 10-seater wagon, three quad pushchairs, and a Walk-o-dile.
"We feel it’s just as important for the babies to get out as well as the pre-schoolers. And it’s also important for the staff too!"
The Little Lane Nursery Forest School is run by two Level 3 qualified Forest School practitioners, who have a wealth of knowledge and expertise for the children to enjoy activities in a safe environment.
During forest school sessions children have the time and space to be directors of their own learning with the staff taking an observational role.
"Forest School can help a child’s self-esteem and allows them to manage their own risks and boundaries," says Victoria.
"It increases their love of the outdoors and the ability to explore in an environment that has no limits."