IF you have a child that goes to nursery, there are a variety of terms that you may have heard the staff say before when talking about your little one.

But it turns out that a lot of these common phrases may actually mean something very different to what you might think. 

We spoke to a nursery teacher from Eltham, London, to get the lowdown on what nursery staff really mean when they say certain things.

Sally James*, 27, revealed to Fabulous that there are a variety of sayings that you have most likely heard before, and while they may seem polite to you, they are often codes for much naughtier behaviour.

As well as this, there are some terms that these workers use to soften the blow when children have acted out or are getting on the staff’s nerves. 

What’s more, some sayings that you think may be complimentary of your little one, might actually be a backhanded compliment.

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Sally revealed all of the secret code words that her and her nursery colleagues always use, so if you want to get a bit more of an understanding of what these people mean, you’ll want to listen up.

'Physically enthusiastic' 

If a nursery worker has ever described your child as ‘physically enthusiastic’, it turns out that your child is a tryer, but not a succeeder.

Sally revealed: “If we describe your child as ‘physically enthusiastic’, it means that your child is one that will always do their best and often give it their all, but they don’t ever seem to succeed.

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“Bless them – they’re always the first one up to play a game, the last one to ever win and the one to always have a huge frown on their face when they shockingly, don’t come first”. 

'Strong willed' 

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Sally explained that describing children as ‘strong willed’ often means that they are a bit rebellious and eager to do things their own way.

The nursery worker explained that this term is: “Code for them being a ‘tyrant’ your child is determined to do something even though we advise against it and they are often fearful and don’t listen to what we tell them.

“They are persistent to the point that they are highly irritating”. 

‘Challenging behaviours’ 

If a nursery worker says that your child has ‘challenging behaviours’, you’ll probably already know what this means by how they act at home. 

Sally added: “If we say your child has ‘challenging behaviours’, we basically mean that they are quite a handful to deal with.

“They are a child that requires a lot of care and attention and can often be difficult around other children”. 

‘Has potential’

Unfortunately for your little one, if someone says that your child ‘has potential’, it might not be as nice a compliment as you may expect.

This nursery worker revealed: “Your child is under-achieving compared to the other children –  they could do better, but it’ll take a lot of work.

“Your little one tends to be distracted easily and doesn’t pay attention to tasks”. 


While many kids are full of energy, if a nursery worker says that your child is ‘lively’, this is another way of politely saying that they are a nuisance. 

Sally revealed: “If we say your child is ‘lively’, we basically mean that they are highly annoying.

“They have constant energy, are always running around and are just a general nuisance”.

‘Temper tantrum’ 

When picking up your child and asking how their day was, if a nursery worker says that they had a ‘temper tantrum’, this often means that they were a struggle to deal with.

Sally explained: “What we mean by this is that your child was in a vile mood all day.

“Basically, I couldn’t wait for you to come and pick them up and take them off of my hands”. 

‘Poo explosion’

Finally, if a nursery worker said that your child had a ‘poo explosion’, it often means that your child made such a mess, it genuinely left the staff in disgust. 

Sally concluded: “Poo explosions are grim and your child made an absolute mess – it was hideous and I spent the whole afternoon gagging. 

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“I definitely don’t get paid enough to deal with what I had to do today”. 

*Pseudonym used

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