Choosing a childcare provider

Sep 2011
Choosing a childcare provider
Start the search for the perfect childcare solution early

Choosing a childcare provider is an important challenge for any parent. Get the decision right and you will have a healthy, happy child.

It is essential to start the investigations quite early on in your child's life, even a year before he/she is due to start. Good childminders are popular and therefore, waiting lists are not uncommon.

The next step is to investigate what childcare provision exists in your local area. The simplest option is to speak with other parents about their childcare experience. By speaking to other parents you will get insider knowledge and quickly begin to hear about the most popular choices. Your local authority will also have information about what choices are available.

There are several options when thinking about who is going to look after your child. You will have to decide some basic points, such as how much childcare you require, whether the location has to be close by and whether you want a child minder or a nursery? Cost will obviously be an important factor but flexibility in terms of changing times and days covered might be more important.

It is important to see where your child will be when you hand them over to their carer. If, for instance, there is a nursery that you are interested in, go and have a look around. The atmosphere of the place is a great deciding factor. Look out for happy busy children that are playing with a selection of toys. Are the toys clean and in good working order? What activities are planned in the nursery? Ofsted requires that nurseries and childminders follow a curriculum. Ask the nursery nurses which part of the syllabus they are covering that week. Another important feature of the nursery is the lunch menu – food is an important part of child development so make sure there is a range of healthy options.

Having a nanny at home would be an ideal choice for some people but the cost could be a little daunting. One way of avoiding this is to share the costs with another family. It makes sense if the number of children to be cared for is small and one of the parents' do not mind using their house as a base. It is also helpful as the children will become used to interacting with their peers – a skill which will be essential by the time they start school. If this seems a likely option, then agree on ground rules from the start so that there is no ambiguity with any of the arrangements.

A very popular choice for childcare these days is to handover daily care to a grandparent. The advantages are that it is often free, the grandparent already has a bond with the child and they are experienced in childcare. During a recession, relatives often become relied upon for the provision of childcare and it can often be the perfect solution. However, it can be difficult to challenge your own relative about the way that they are looking after your child.

Therefore, start the search for the perfect solution early. Be flexible with what you want in order to maximise your chances of finding great childcare and investigate your options well. Do not rule out asking a relative as Grandma could be the perfect solution!