Choosing childcare is one of the hardest things that we will ever have to do as a parent. I remember how difficult it was to leave my 11 month old in a nursery, with someone that I had only met a few times. Yes, I have visited with my child, and watched her enjoy and bond with their key worker, but it’s still tough. It is oh so tough, to trust someone else with your child’s wellbeing not that long after struggling to bring them into the world. Anything we can do to help with choosing childcare that works well for our children is going to make going back to working mum life a little bit easier to manage. And that is worth investing a little time and money in, wouldn’t you agree?
I was asked to take a look at the childcare.co.uk website as part of writing an article with some key tips for choosing the right childcare for your little one. I have gone through the process twice myself, and countless friends have done the same. So what have we all learnt?
Research what childcare is available near you
It is worth casting a wide net at first, and narrowing your choice down, based on some of the other factors for consideration, when picking that childminder. Childcare.co.uk allows you to search for and connect with babysitters, childminders, nannies, nurseries, private tutors and schools. This site also allows childcare providers to advertise their services.
The site has more than 1.5 million users nationwide and is the largest online community for parents in the UK having launched in 2009. It is as good a place as any to start researching what services are available. It’s incredibly simple to join, with registration taking less than a minute to complete.
The search engine enables you to search for specific types of childcare, within your postcode area. This means that you are able to use it to both research the types of childcare you could opt for, as well as being more specific when you have decided on which choice you would like to make.
It is free to register with the site as a parent, and you can see detailed summaries of the childcare options available to you within your postcode area.
It is particularly helpful that relevant childcare documentation, e.g. Ofsted registration, can be uploaded onto the site by available childcare providers. If this hasn’t been made available, the site highlights this for you – making it clear whether these documents have been provided in their system.
You can even see how many other parents have looked at that provider in the last week. There are also reviews available for the childcare providers on the system, which can be really helpful when making your choices. Having a peer review is a great indicator of how childcare may go for your child.
Richard Conway, CEO and founder of Childcare.co.uk says of reviews and childcare costs:
“It’s really important to have a review system in place when it comes to childcare and we’ve found that service providers who have a review are almost twice as likely to be hired compared to those who have none. Like with many things, members of the public trust other people’s experiences and opinions, so we thought it would be a good idea to see which cities came out on top when it comes to reviews.”
We also thought it would be a good idea to pair the reviews with the average hourly childcare rate, so the results better reflect not only the places that have the best reviews but are also the best value for money, something parents are having to consider more and more with childcare.
Last year, Santander produced figures that showed 26% of parents with school-aged children have deliberately bought or rented a property that is in a target school catchment area. We believe that childcare and early education bodies such as day nurseries are just as important as schools, however the data on where is best hasn’t been readily available until now. We hope it will help parents make educated decisions on where they should live in the UK!”
Keep reading, and we will share the top 5 lowest cost locations for childcare with you!
Finally, within the profile you have as a parent, you can find other parents located near to you, which is a godsend if trying to find a nanny share, which can help you save significantly.
It is also worth noting that once registered with the site, childcare providers can see that you have viewed their profile, and may well contact you about your childcare needs. This makes it a lot easier to start the process of contacting your childcare options. You are alerted to who has been looking at your profile on the site too, so you can see who is interested in you as a client as well!
Start choosing childcare early
When we were choosing childcare, we started very early; we wanted to make sure we gave ourselves enough time to choose what was right, and to research the area properly. Childcare.co.uk wasn’t around when we were looking, so it was harder to research, but still, it makes sense to start thinking about childcare a few months before you are going to need it Don’t, whatever you do, leave it to the last minute because you are in denial that it needs to happen! It is all to easy to be worried about making the choice, and ignore it for a while, only to realise you need childcare in two weeks, and don’t have a plan in place.
Don’t get caught out this way, start 3-6 months in advance, and then it’ll be a much more measured and pleasant approach for both you, and the children.
Make sure you have a budget in mind right up front before choosing childcare
Childcare costs vary across the country, and you need to make sure you have budgeted exactly right, as you don’t want to be worrying about money, as well as if your child is having fun. Perhaps you are lucky enough to live in Hull – which was recently shown to have the lowest cost childcare in the country, thanks to a survey by childcare.co.uk
- Hull – 5 stars / £5.61 per hour,
- Middlesbrough – 5 stars / £5.93 per hour,
- Rotherham – 5 stars / £5.99 per hour,
- Coventry – 5 stars / £6.29 per hour, and
- Swansea – 5 stars / £6.53 per hour.
Averages were calculated based on the average hourly rate for the different childcare options available in these locations; childminding, babysitting, nannying and day nurseries.
Whatever the costs, you need to add a childcare line into your monthly budget, so you don’t end up with a financial headache. Nannies are typically the most expensive options, and if you employ a nanny in the home, this can mean you need to get your head around additional things like employment law. Thankfully, there are sites which can help with getting information on nanny contracts and beyond.
Visit your choosen childcare setting at different times and with/without your child
It is cruicial to see a range of childcare options, from your chosen setting, at different times, and both with and without your child. You need to ask questions, and listen hard to the answers, and if you have your child with you, that can be difficult. However, of course, you need to make sure you child will be happy with your choices, so they do, of course need to visit at some point.
It is better to narrow down to a few choices and then take your child though, rather than overwelm them and you, with too many stimulating environments. Make sure you have a checklist of questions for your choices, and spend as much time as you need there:
- Childminder checklist,
- Nursery checklist, and
- Nanny checklist.
Visit them at different times of day, and if its a childminder, or nursery, with the kids there too, so you can see what they are doing. If you are worried about something specific, for example, sleeping arrangements, then ask! We didn’t realise until it was almost too late that one of the nurseries we looked at didn’t have a cot room, and so children were put to sleep in buggies, and prams for their naps. This really wasn’t what we wanted, and though it did make our final decision easier, we should have asked earlier on!
Take time to work out what type of childcare fits into your lifestyle and your kids needs
The most important thing to consider when deciding on your childcare, is whether that option is something you can afford, and also fits in with your lifestyle, and how you would like your child to be looked after.
- Do you want your child looked after in the home, or in an educational setting?
- Do you want your child to have trips out, and regular outside time away from the home during the day?
- Do you feel you can get your head around employment contracts involved in having a nanny?
- Are you happy for your child to be looked after where there are a number of other children of the same age?
- Do you want your other children to be looked after in the same environment?
There are a number of pros and cons for employing a nanny vs a childminder, alongside those for a nursery – make sure you think long and hard before making that choice.
There is a lot more information and advice for parents on choosing childcare out there, so take your time, and it’ll be fine. We promise.
Do you have any other tips for choosing childcare – do share them with us below!
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