Choosing childcare is difficult for any parent. There are various options, with a nursery and childminder being two of the most popular options. Just how do you decide which one is best for you and your child?
Making a decision about childcare needs to be an informed one, based on the information you gather. It is an important choice. As well as your child being safe, you want them stimulated in a nurturing, educational environment.
However, instinct plays a big part in whether you are happy to leave your child in the care of a nursery of a childminder. But rather than listing pros and cons for each, we decided to look at five key question to ask of both the childminder and the nursery.
1. What qualifications do you have?
It may surprise you, but a childminder and nursery staff are not obligated to be qualified in childminding. They need to hold a current Paediatric First Aid certificate but other than that, once the policies and procedures are in place to the satisfaction of the local authority, a nursery or childminder can start to operate.
That said, most nurseries will train their staff and most childminders will also look to complete a range of childcare courses. Qualifications are important and deeply reassuring when you are leaving your bundle of joy in their care.
Qualifications show that the nursery or childminder understand how to provide the right care and have a deeper understanding of your child’s need and how they develop.
2. What did your last inspection report say?
Nurseries in England are registered with OFSTED – education and nurseries are a devolved responsibility in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland so consult the appropriate regulatory body – and thus, are inspected at regular intervals.
As part of this inspection process, a detail report is produced with a final ‘grading’, from excellent to good, poor or inadequate. Look on OFSTED’s website and check the official report from the last inspection.
Nurseries will often promote their business on the better bits of this report, so it is important to get the overall picture.
For childminders, they too are inspected by OFSTED in England to ensure that they are meeting the safety and learning standards expected of them. Like nurseries, their reports are published after inspection too.
3. What is the daily routine?
Attending nursery or being cared for by a childminder is a big change in your child’s routine. Most children find comfort in a structure to their day and in fact, can prove advantageous when they start school.
Nurseries will often have a prescribed timetable for the day, similar to that of a school. There may be messy play in the morning, followed by story time before lunch. Some nurseries advocate sleeping after lunch whilst others allow napping to happen as and when a child wants.
The afternoon may be outside play or another activity. Nurseries will display a weekly or monthly timetable for parents to see how the day is structured.
Childminders can operate differently, depending on the children they are looking after. Like a nursery setting, a childminder is expected to offer different tasks and activities during the day to create a stimulating learning environment.
4. How will you keep me informed?
You want to know what your child has been doing during their time at nursery or with the childminder. Likewise, you also want to know if there are any concerns and also the best way for you to communicate with them.
Nurseries and childminders should keep a development record or a daily, weekly or monthly reporting system so that you can see what your child has been doing. Or you can leave a notebook with your childminder and ask them to make a daily entry as to what your child did during their time with them, what they ate, when they napped and so on.
5. How do you manage behaviour?
To be safe and happy, children need boundaries, but discipline varies from one parent to another, and from one nursery and childminder to another too.
Ask to see their policy document on discipline and how they prefer to do things. Some nurseries and childminders will use distraction techniques, raising concerns with parents and working together and so on.
Managing behaviour is covered in our extensive guide ‘How to become a nursery nurse’ – why not take a look?
You want the best for your child and thus, as well as asking key questions, relying on your own instinct. Is this the person or the nursery who gives off all the right vibes too?