Choosing the Best Childcare Setting for Your Little One
The most important advice that I can give you when it comes to choosing childcare, is find what works for you and your family. Everyone’s experiences are different but, as a Mum and a Nanny and Parent Coach, I thought it would be useful for me to share tips and advice on choosing the right childcare setting for you. When it comes to going back to work, if can feel overwhelming, so I hope that this post helps bring some clarity around the childcare industry.
When it comes to going back to work, you really need to think what works for your child / children. Cost is a really important part of this, particularly with multiple children, but I’d encourage you to sit down and make a list of what you’d like from childcare – what would be the ideal scenario? Ultimately, you may have to make a choice between one or two options and it can be really helpful to refer back to what childcare means to you.
Also, look at the hours that you need because that will determine the type of childcare that will work for you. If you’re working all day, you may need an all-day Nursery, as opposed to a 6 hour a day Pre-School. Once you’ve understood this, it’s a really good time to start looking.
A nice tip is to get on a list for childcare, even when baby is a couple of months old, as I do understand that places get very very busy! Waiting lists are often long and it won’t hurt getting your little one’s name on a list.
As well as thinking about hours and days, location is really important, especially if you need to get out to work first thing in the morning. How will you get there? Can you drive or walk? What will the timetable be for you and your partner with drop offs and pick ups? Think practically: imagine yourselves already there and how you can make it work best for you. Getting out of the door with a baby or toddler at 7:30am and get yourself ready for work can be really full on, so anything that you can do in choosing your childcare provider to make life easier for you as a family will pay dividends.
A key thing to consider, and I know this is important to many, is cost. Quite a few Mums that I know go to work, not to make money, but to have career-time for themselves because by the time you’ve paid for childcare you’re either breaking even or you’re not even making money. Childcare in the UK is very expensive and I would urge you to do your research on cost and thrashing out the numbers before you make your shortlist.
For a Nanny in London is around £12 per hour; a Childminder is around £8 – £8.11 per hour and a Nursery in London is around £8.50 per hour. A Nursery and a Childminder are similar here, with a Nanny being the more expensive option per hour. This price for a Nanny is NET and then you are responsible for paying their TAX on top of that – you don’t for a Childminder or a Nursery. There are companies – such as NannyTax – who will take care of this for you.
Nationwide – the picture is not too dissimilar. A Nanny outside of London is, on average, £10.80 per hour; a Childminder is around £5 – £5.50 and a Nursery around £5.30 per hour.
Here, I am talking about daytime nurseries that provide childcare all year round and all day long. If you’re looking at a Pre-School, they usually provide childcare only in school hours and in term time only.
Nurseries have a ratio of 1 adult : 3 children, which is important to think about.
If your child is unwell, you wouldn’t be able to send them into Nursery and so you’d have to take time off work to look after them or seek alternative childcare. They have strict policies on things like vomiting and diarrhoea etc, so this is worth considering what you would do for childcare in the case of illness (and they often pick up a lot of illnesses in that first year of childcare!).
You might want to ask how they structure their day and if they follow a routine – are they flexible? Does this fit in with your routine?
Look into the qualifications of the staff and if you can see an inspector’s report.
Have a look at the menu or discuss if you need to send food in for them.
How do they keep you informed? Is there a diary or an app for you to keep up or are they a Nursery that simply give you verbal feedback at the end of the day?
The biggest advantage is the stimulation and being busy all day amongst other children. Some take a while to settle, but stick with it.
Nursery gives them so many structured activities that they wouldn’t get at home so it’s a lovely childcare setting to be in.
A Childminder is someone who is qualified but will look after their child from their own home. They will likely have a special room or activity area and they often have a small number of children. Some Childminders double up and are almost like mini-nurseries.
Things to ask them:
What sort of activities do they do?
Do they go out on outings?
How many children do they have?
Can you see their policies and procedures?
What experiences of socialisation do the children have?
You’re probably likely to find a Childminder will follow your set routine more than a Nursery, so if you’re nervous about this then having this conversation is important.
Some Childminders do after-school care, too, so your child may be with different aged children, whereas in Nursery they’re often in rooms with children of the same age.
Personality is really important – make sure that you get well and that you feel that you have a trusting relationship. You want to like them and have open lines of communication!
One advantage is that a Nanny comes to your home, so mornings can be calmer if you start work early, and you won’t have to rush to do a drop off or a pick up. She is employed in your home, so you take on the responsibility of being her employer (see above). This is worth thinking about and doing your sums here. You may have to pay sick pay or pensions contributions. Have clear lines of communication and a contract in place; this is so important when they’re in your house all day. Asking her to do things clearly is really important and ask if they’re happy to help out in the home, if that’s what you’re looking for support for.
A Nanny can be the more expensive option, but if you have multiple children it may actually work out a lot cheaper.
Flexibility comes with having a Nanny, as they’re often always there – unless Nanny is unwell herself.
There is a huge range of experience and ability, which will be reflected in the pricing. I would say, in my experience, you get what you pay for. Meet the person and ask them what they do outside of looking after children, you really want to make sure that you like them and can trust them to have in your home.
Do they have a natural ability to look after children?
What are their qualifications? Do you need to do reference checks?
Do you need a Nanny agency to find someone for you and do reference checks?