4. Choosing Childcare
Choosing the best childcare is important for you and your child. Choosing a type of childcare is all down to personal preference, budget, age and needs of your child and how many days childcare you need. It is important that you do a bit of research into different types of childcare, to see what would best suit you and your child and what you want your child to get out of the provider.
Children often find it hard to adjust to frequent disruptions in their childcare.
Things to think about
- What kind of setting you want your child in: a home-based setting where adult ratios to children are a lot smaller, or a bigger setting where there are more children within their age range?;
- The hours you will need childcare for: do you work standard work hours or irregular shifts/hours?;
- Location: as you will be going back and forth from this location, home, and work, it is important that you are not having to travel a lot;
- How much it costs: some settings offer government-funded places for certain entitlements; if you are not accessing free childcare places, think about the price and if it is in your budget;
- Do they have places for your child/are they able to cater to your child's needs?;
- Your child’s happiness and opportunities to develop;
- The care your child will receive from the childcare provider;
- If you can depend on the childcare provider;
- Your needs and your child’s needs for the next few months and the longer term.
Whilst thinking about the things above, write a shortlist of childcare providers that you would like to visit and find out more information.
Visiting your shortlisted settings
Before deciding on a childcare provider, it is a good idea to visit your shortlisted settings. You may decide to visit more than one setting and visit more than once to help you make your decision.
Think about taking your child with you to meet the childcare setting. You will be able to see:
- How they get on with other children;
- How the childcarer interacts with your child
Research shows that positive interactions between childcarers and children are at the heart of high quality childcare.
Try visiting at a time where there will be children at the settings and everything is in full swing. Check to see if the other children seem happy and relaxed.
Ask other people who use the setting for reviews, how they feel about the setting, how their child is getting on, etc. The setting may be able to provide details of people who will be happy to talk to you.
Things to look out for
- Is the setting safe and clean?;
- Is it welcoming and friendly?;
- Did they offer you a big warm welcome?;
- Is there enough space inside and outside?;
- Are the children busy but happy?;
- Are there plenty of activities?;
- Are they interested in these activities?;
- Are staff listening and responding to the children and other staff members appropriately?
Suggested questions to ask
- How long have you been working with children?;
- What training are you doing or have you done?;
- Do you enjoy being with children? Why?;
- What other children will be with my child?;
- What will my child do all day?;
- Where will my child rest and how do other children’s routines fit with my child?;
- How do you encourage good behaviour?;
- Do I have to supply anything? Food and drinks? Nappies and wipes? Milk and baby food?;
- What sorts of meals do you give children?;
- Do you make outside visits and trips and where to?;
- Do you keep records about children’s progress? How will I be kept informed of my child’s progress?;
- How will we exchange information and communicate about my child on a daily basis?;
- Can I see your registration certificate? Can I view procedures and policies?;
- What are the ratios of children to carers?;
- Do you operate a keyworker scheme (where one identified member of staff has primary responsibility for your child)?;
- How will you contact me if my child is sick/in an emergency?;
- How do you ensure inclusivity for children with disabilities and additional needs?;
- How do you ensure cultural differences, including language barriers, are recognised and celebrated? Will my child learn about other cultures and celebrations
- Don’t be afraid to ask about fees and payments, including deposits. Do they offer any discount for full-time hours or for siblings? Are meals included in the cost?;
- If your employer offers a childcare voucher scheme via your salary, let the childcarer know. It is usually free for them to sign up to your employer’s scheme, and they can sign up to as many as they choose.
If you need any further help finding a childcarer near you, or whether you have any other questions, please call the Family Information Service on 0800 195 1635 Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm, or email email@example.com.