This post is written in collaboration with childcare.co.uk, all words and opinions are my own.
We have used a few different types of childcare over the years, from a private nursery to a child-minder, preschools and after school club. Childcare.co.uk is such a useful resource for finding the childcare you need and you can find out how that works in this post. Deciding on the right option for your family first is the hard bit! It depends on so many different factors so I wanted to share a few things to consider before you start searching for a childcare provider.
Times & Days
Do you need standard working days? Or do you sometimes need shifts covered in the evenings or at weekends? Not many private nurseries open past 6pm and generally are week days only. If you regularly need evenings and weekends you might be more suited to a nanny who lives in to avoid disrupting your child’s routine.
Location: Distance to home/school/work
If you commute by work to another area it might be more convenient to find a childcare provider closer to the office – so you don’t potentially pick up late if the traffic is bad for example. But what happens if you have a day off but still want your child to go to childcare, or your car breaks down, or your job moves location. Similarly its worth thinking about if anyone else might be doing the odd pick up (another parent, grand parents or friends – is it convenient for them too?
If your child is older and starting school soon it would be beneficial for them to be with other kids who are likely to go to the same school so there are friendly faces. Also if you have older kids at school picking them up close by can be a real help. Will the child-minder be able to pick up and drop off from the school you hope your child will go to?
The needs of your child
If your child has different needs picking the right childcare can be so important , for example for a child with sensory processing issues a very large and busy preschool might not be an environment they feel happy in, but a child minder with one or two other children might help them feel more settled and comfortable. What we loved about a child minder was the huge array of activities that she took the kids to – boat trips, adventure parks, farm visits and lots more – often with other minders and their mindees too.
Flexibility to cover your needs
- Private nurseries are generally open every week of the year bar Christmas /New Year – and have regular bank staff to cover staff absence, and tend to open 8-6 as their core hours.
- Preschools tend to be open during term time and for shorter hours than private nurseries – how will you cover the 12 or so weeks they are closed during the year?
- Child-minders often work in the school holidays but if they (or perhaps their own children) are ill then you may find yourself without cover at short notice – what will you do then? What about the holidays they book – they’ll give you notice but you still need to find cover. We were lucky with our last two child-minders that they had a core group who the kids all knew and could often step in to cover sickness and holiday with parents permission.
Childcare vouchers, free childcare places and tax free childcare
You may well be entitled to help paying for your childcare but check if your chosen provider can accept each method you want to use. There is also a great tool to check average childcare costs near you. At one point we were splitting our 30 hours allowance between a preschool and a child minder, so do look into all your options.
Finding a childcare provider
Finding the right provider for your family is so important and you need the reassurance that they are reliable and trustworthy. That’s where Childcare.co.uk comes in. It’s basically a match-making service for parents and childcare providers – be they nannies, au pairs, nurseries, child-minders and even tutors and maternity nurses! Over 2 million people use it to find the right childcare, or parents of kids to look after so it’s tried and tested by many and easy to use!
We’ve used it in the past to find a preschool and childminders with success. You set up an account and share what you’re looking for, including the ages of your children and the days/times you need childcare. Then potential providers can get in touch with you using the secure messaging system. You can then see their profile, reviews and rates before deciding if you’d like to chat to them, and ultimately arrange to go and visit. You can also search a list of local providers based on how close they are to you, what days they offer and various other factors. I find the rating system a comfort so you can get an idea of what other parents think of the provider. There is also a section showing what qualifications providers have, their DBS status, and so much more to help you make an informed decision .
Of course it’s a big decision for any family to make, but hopefully this information has helped – I am always happy to answer any questions too so feel free to ask, any time!