With so many different childcare options out there it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.
But, as every family situation is different, it’s important to consider a few factors before looking at all the options.
We’ve created a childcare guide to talk you through the typical options for childcare and help you make sense of which is the best for you and your child.
Step 1: Assessing your finances
Spoiler alert: childcare is EXPENSIVE. But the good news is every parent is entitled to some financial help towards the cost of looking after his or her little one. You will need to take into account your salary and take the time to look into the different avenues that can offer you help.
Gov.uk give a whole guide on what kind of childcare you can get financial help with, how to get free childcare for your 2-4 year old and if you’re eligible for Tax Credit. You are entitled to ask your employer for flexible working hours and some employers provide a Salary Sacrifice/ Childcare Vouchers scheme so make sure you ask your manager about what is available.
However, be aware that using Childcare Vouchers could effect the amount of Tax Credit you’re entitled to, so work it out using the HMRC calculator. Some schools run holidays or evening childcare services for parents that can’t afford to take time out of work. You can find the closest one to you using the Directgov tool. Alternatively you could use websites like Nanyshare to split the cost of a nanny between a couple of families.
Step 2: Understanding the different kinds of childcare staff
There are two main terms that will come up when discussing a childminder and their level of professionalism, Ofsted Registration and Early Years Foundation Stage. Any individual that works with children can choose to be registered with Ofsted, which means they have had background checks and will have no criminal record. Nannies and crèche staff, for example, do not technically need to be Ofsted Registered, however teachers do. Childcare staff should also follow the Early Years Foundation Stage, which is like national curriculum for years 0-5 to ensure stimulating and creative play.
Step 3: Choosing your type of childcare
Leaving your children with grandparents or other family members might be the easiest and cheapest option, but it’s not without its difficulties.
Pro: Leaving children with family members can be really handy, because you know your relatives really well and you know their house. It’s unlikely that your mum and dad or in-laws will ask for money, they’ll probably live near by, and if you’re late picking up the children they won’t mind too much or ask you for extra money.
Con: If your relatives are elderly they might not be as active as a younger childminder or nanny. You might also disagree with your relatives about how to bring up your children, which could lead to heated arguments and hurt feelings – it’s easier to sack a nanny than it is to sack a grandparent. It’s also worth remembering that your child/children won’t be mixing with lots of other children, and they child won’t have as much space, or as many facilities or toys as he or she would at a childminder’s house or nursery. Your child also won’t be given the Early Years Foundation Stage education and development.
Child minders are self-employed childcare professionals that tend to look after several children from different families within their home. They usually cater for a range of ages and should be registered with Ofsted. They can usually provide care for flexible hours so could look after your children in the day or just after school.
Pro: Your child will get a lot of attention and form a close bond with this constant support in their life, not being within a fixed space like a nursery your child minder will take them out and about to experience parks, trips to the shops etc.
Con: Child minders are expensive because of the high level of care and it’s important to get the right person as they will become like a second parent to your little one if they are with them all day every day.
Nannies look after your children within your home. Nannies don’t have to be registered with Ofsted but if they are they should be able to provide Early Years Stage Development.
Pro: Your child will stay within your home and be comfortable within their surroundings.
Con: You will have to look after the administrative details for a nanny, such as tax, national insurance, sick pay and holiday pay. And you’ll have to do all the other checks such as criminal records and references.
A nursery will be able to look after your child for limited hours throughout the middle of the day. They are usually housed in one building and cater for children of different ages. Some nurseries take children from around 6 months to 5 years old, which gives your child experience playing with others but no one-to-one care. Every nursery is different and will have different opening hours but generally you can expect them to be open no later than 4-5pm. Similarly each nursery will offer a different level of care, some will implement some early learning whilst others will simply watch over your child.
Pro: Perfect for part time care and introducing your child to other kids.
Con: Tend to be expensive and often closed throughout the holidays but all are different.
A crèche is an area where you can leave your child whilst you’re busy doing something in the surrounding area, this could be shopping in a mall or at work. Crèche’s are very much for short-term care and generally work on a drop-in basis. They tend to have some toys and play facilities with lots of part time staff to look after the children. All are priced differently but they tend not to be overly expensive.
Pro: Your child will get the chance to play with other children and if you can find a crèche near your work it could become a more permanent childcare option.
Con: As crèches’ are generally viewed as temporary childcare your child wouldn’t get a huge amount of educational development or one-to-one care over time.
Playgroups are similar to nursery but for slightly older children.They are generally only open throughout the middle part of the day – sometimes only a few hours in the morning and a few hours in the afternoon. Playgroups offer childcare to ages around 2- 4 years old designed to help them to start learning before going to school.
Pro: They will be registered with Ofsted so your child will get Early Years Foundation Stage learning support
Con: For full time working mums the inflexible hours are inconvenient.
To find trusted local childcare easily, visit www.childcare.co.uk