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Your childcare options

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Whether you're returning to work or trying to arrange that all-important regular time to yourself, we have advice to help.

Family childcare

Advantages

  • You know and trust the person.
  • You can talk to them honestly about your worries and needs.
  • You know they'll love and care for your child.
  • They may be flexible.
  • They're cheap - possibly free!
  • Your child should be very happy.

Disadvantages

  • A tricky relationship won't be "cured" by mutual love for your child. In fact, it could bring major issues to the boil.
  • It can be hard to tell them what to do, or criticise their 'parenting' style!

How to arrange family childcare

It's best when a family member offers help - and not because they feel they 'should'. But you must set ground rules:

  • What can your child eat and who provides it?
  • How much TV can he watch?
  • How much time outdoors do you expect him to have?
  • What time will you pick up and drop off? And stick to this!
  • If you share childcare with your partner, who takes care of household tasks?

Cost of family childcare

This is something to agree between you. Even if it's 'free' you should cover offer to costs such as food, milk, play equipment and expenses to avoid resentment.

Nursery

Advantages

  • All nurseries - private, community, council and workplace - are registered with and inspected by Ofsted.
  • Nursery is reliable: they don't call in sick!
  • A good nursery will stimulate your baby's curiosity, learning and social development, offer comforting routines, imaginative activities and lots of play equipment.
  • Nursery staff are usually very caring and have a genuine interest in child development.
  • Most nurseries are flexible and will take infants part time.

Disadvantages

  • Some children find nursery a bit overwhelming. 
  • Your baby may have a few sick days at home as his immune system learns to cope with all the baby bugs flying around, but you'll still have to pay for those days - and arrange alternative childcare.
  • Many nurseries fine you if you're late collecting your child.

What to look for in a nursery

  • Warm and loving staff. Are children being cuddled, smiled at and encouraged? This is more important than posh facilities.
  • Do they regularly put children in front of the TV (except for a 'treat')? If so, cross them off your list. 
  • Lots of natural light, a clean and safe outdoor play space and a good routine that includes quiet time. 
  • Separate nappy changing area with a sealed disposal bin and hand-washing facilities.
  • Proper washing of hands and toys - you don't want your baby getting sick because of lack of hygiene. 
  • The legal group size - from 0-23 months the ratio is three babies to one staff member.

Cost of nursery

On average, a part-time nursery place for a child under two in England is £102.05 for a 25-hour week. Costs vary widely with inner London costing up to £128.80, while the average in the West Midlands was £86.32*.

Childminders

A registered childminder works from home, looking after under-eight-year-olds. It's the second most common form of childcare in the UK, after relatives†. Childminders must complete a first aid course within six months of registration, are police-checked and inspected by Ofsted at least once every 24 months.

Advantages

  • This can be a convenient and affordable option.
  • Your child is cared for in a home environment by someone they'll grow to trust, and possibly adore.
  • They spend time with other children.

Disadvantages

  • There's no other adult, so it's vital that they're competent and loving.
  • They may have a different parenting style to you, so make your expectations clear from the start.
  • If they are ill, your child may not be happy with their back-up plan.

How to find one

Contact your council's Family Information Service, or the National Childminding Association.

What to look for in a childminder

  • Registration: a child minder should be registered with your local authority, and trained and inspected by Ofsted.
  • Ideally, a recommendation from someone you know and trust.
  • A safe and friendly environment.
  • Someone who shares your approach to discipline and can cope with your child's needs.
  • The right number of children: legally, child minders can look after up to six children under eight (including their own child), only three of whom may be under five and one under one year. Or three children under five, of whom only one should be under one year. Or six children between five and seven.

Cost of a childminder

Costs vary widely but expect to pay around £92 a week for 25 hours a week, although up to £130 in London. You'll need to discuss hours and holiday pay.

*Source: Daycare Trust
† Source: National Childminding Association

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