Choosing the right Childcare

Choosing childcare, what are the options?

For whatever reason, the decision to leave your child in the care of someone else, is a very difficult one. Thankfully there is a world of choice when it comes to options and online search platforms such as Childcare.co.uk really do help to make difficult decisions easier. Whether you’re looking at Nurseries, Childminders, Nannies, Au Pairs or Babysitters, the choice is yours and there is a suitable option for every situation.

It can be useful to sit down with your partner or anyone else involved in caring for your child so that you can discuss the practical arrangements that need to be in place such as timings, locations and days you’ll require childcare. For some families, a very early start means that perhaps it would be more suitable to have a nanny or au pair. For others, more traditional childcare hours may be better suited to a nursery environment.

Childminders also offer a great bridge between the former options as they care for your child in a home environment but can also do drop off’s and pick up’s for nursery sessions or school meaning that you’ll have more flexibility and someone will be able to provide wrap around childcare so that your child can get the best care while allowing you to accommodate different work hours or shift patterns.

Below is an outline to the most popular childcare services on offer including the pros and cons.

The Nanny

A Nanny has a more autonomous role, ensuring your child’s wellbeing and safety through responsible supervision within your own home. Nannies have various levels of experience, skill and qualifications. Depending on your child’s age, what you expect to pay and the level of care required, you may find an array of Nannies who may or may not be suitable.

Nannies are not currently regulated by OFSTED however they are able to join the voluntary part of the register which ensures that there is a minimum standard that parents can expect, this also means that you can pay your Nanny through a childcare voucher scheme run by many employers.

The pros: Nannies are a convenient option for many families as they provide care for your child or children within your own home. This can be particularly useful if your hours of work differ from day to day or you require a more flexible arrangement. This can usually be discussed and agreed with your Nanny at the interview. Your nanny is directly employed by you so you are able to negotiate the terms of contract with your prospective Nanny before a job offer is made, any changes can then be discussed at a later stage and can be changed if both parties are in agreement.

You can have more direct input into how your child is cared for and the one-to-one care can be a comfort in your absence. Another advantage is that some Nannies (by prior agreement) are happy to do light housework or chores in your home which will help to ease the demand on your time when you return home from work.

If you have an early start or a late finish at work, you can feel confident in the knowledge that someone caring and reliable is at home getting your child up for the day or helping him or her into bed at the end of a fun filled day.

Where needed, many Nannies drive and would be happy to use their own vehicle or one you provide to transport your child to appointments, play groups and little adventures out and about during the day. Again, this makes errand running and transportation issues less of a hassle.

The cons: While one-to-one care is of great benefit to any child, it is important to ensure that your Nanny takes your child or children out to enjoy social interaction with other children. If your Nanny does not drive or you live in a rural location, this could be problematic however, with a little forward planning, most of the pitfalls associated with the above should be easily overcome.

Nannies don’t come cheap! One-to-one care comes at a cost, you will not only be paying your Nanny’s wages, but additional costs for fuel, food, outing expenses and so on, can soon add up to more than a day at a nursery.

Another consideration is that you will need to ensure that you pay your Nanny’s tax and statutory contributions. Regular payslips will be required and you will also need to have a system in place to ensure your Nanny is paid on time each week or month.

There is also the risk that your Nanny may become ill at the last moment, leaving you with little time to arrange last minute cover. If your Nanny has his or her own child, this could also impact on absence from work, unless the child is joining your Nanny at work while he or she cares for your children at the same time. Your Nanny will also be entitled to annual leave, something you’ll need to pay for, so consider what childcare arrangements you’ll have in place to cover any periods of absence.

The Au Pair

An Au Pair can be an affordable alternative to hiring a Nanny. Many work on a live-in basis however, they are limited in the number of hours that they are able to work. It is also not recommended that Au Pairs care for childcare under the age of two on a sole charge basis. Au Pairs generally come from foreign countries and part of their experience is to learn another language such as English.

The pros: An Au Pair quickly becomes like another member of the family. They rely on you for a home-away-from-home experience and in turn, they provide a loving and stimulating level of care for your child, often doing housework as part of their agreement. Childcare.co.uk offers a quick and hassle free way of searching through a multitude of different Au Pair profiles. This has made it far more convenient and affordable than using an agency. Your child can also have the benefit of being exposed to a second language from an early age.

The cons: If you need more than the minimum number of hours, you’ll need to hire an Au Pair Plus. This can mean more expense, you will also be feeding another individual, the household costs will increase in line with the extra person in the house, is this still an affordable option once you have done the sums? You will also need to be comfortable with the idea of having someone else living in your home. You may need to set some boundaries in terms of ‘house rules’ to ensure that everyone respects each other’s space and the relationship benefits everyone in the long run.

Some Au Pairs speak very little of your own language. Is this a potential barrier to communication and will you and your child be comfortable with muddling through at the start and until your Au Pair improves his or her language skills?

The Childminder

A childminder can provide a wonderful alternative to childcare in your own home. Childminders are more formally regulated. They require OFSTED registration and will be inspected to determine the standard of childcare provision on offer. Childminders offer a home-from-home setting. This means that children will have the freedom and comforts they are used to in their own homes but with the added benefit of a structured routine that has its roots in delivering a core educational curriculum.

The pros: Children will benefit from a more holistic, homely environment. There is still a structured routine with education at the core, but with the added flexibility of outings, trips to play groups or before/after school provision with drop off’s and pick up’s where offered. Children may be cared for alongside other children, however ratios are regulated meaning your child will still benefit from more focused one-to-one care. Childminders tend to charge less per hour than a Nanny or Nursery so this may be a more attractive option for some families. Childminders may also offer a greater degree of flexibility. This can be particularly useful for families who have to deal with shift patterns that do not follow mainstream work hours.

The cons: Some childminders only work term time. Others may have days where they take leave and you’ll need to find alternative childcare. If they become ill or they’re caring for their own ill child, you may again need to find alternative childcare at the last minute. Only some childminders offer the free entitlement funding, others don’t accept childcare vouchers. Your child may only socialise with a small number of children particularly where a childminder does not attend local play or activity groups.

The Nursery

Nurseries provide play, care and early education for children below school age. Some nurseries take babies from as young as six weeks and will provide care for them until they are of school age. Nurseries are usually privately run or operated by organisations such as schools, churches or similar. They can be fairly expensive however, many parents choose this options as it provides a stead and reliable form of childcare.

The pros: Nurseries offer a stable environment, working towards a core curriculum to ensure your child’s educational, emotional and social needs are being met. Your childcare is not affected by staff illness in the same way it would be with a Nanny, Au Pair or Childminder for example. Some Nurseries offer care year round meaning that you are not restricted over the holiday periods. You also have more flexibility for family holiday’s as you are free to take your child out of nursery when you wish. Children benefit from meeting lots of other children, making new friends as children come and go, helping to give them a good social grounding.

The cons: Nurseries can be expensive. If your child is ill or you take your child out of nursery for a family holiday, you will still need to cover the cost of the nursery place. Children may be more susceptible to illness from mixing with lots of other children until they build up good levels of immunity. Start and finish times are usually not flexible, late pick-ups or early drop off’s are not usually available ad hoc. Your child may get less one-to-one care due to child-staff ratios however, the structure of activities throughout the day means that your child will be actively engaged for the duration of their session.

Using a childcare search platform like Childcare.co.uk, means you have more choice available than ever before. Your profile gives potential childcare providers a chance to get to meet you and your family before you’ve even made contact, this makes it easier than ever to find the right fit for your family. Phone calls, interviews and reviews are all quick and easy to access through Childcare.co.uk.

Making sure that you choose the right childcare setting for your child is a huge decision. Research your local area, speak to friends and family and read the reviews provided through Childcare.co.uk. Don’t forget to leave your own reviews when you’ve used a particular childcare option, this will help to inform other families of your experience, making the service easier to use and providing useful feedback from your own experience.

Find out more about Checks and References

Wherever possible, involve your child in the process. Remember that children process their experiences and environments differently to the way adults do. It may take repeat visits or settling in sessions before your child is confident and happy with their new childcare provider. Always check references, OFSTED registration where applicable, qualifications and experience.

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