Choosing early learning and childcare outside the home that's right for your child is an important decision to make. There's a huge amount of choice out there, from nurseries to playgroups to childminders.
Most childcare providers must be registered with the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) but there are some types of childcare that do not need to be registered.
Childminders look after children in the childminder's own home on a full or part-time basis depending upon parents' needs. Some childminders will work early mornings, evenings, weekends and in the holidays.
You can search for childminders using our online directory.
- Registered childminders look after your child along with other children, usually in their own home.
- They are usually allowed to care for up to six children under the age of eight, including their own, but you will need to check the childminder's Ofsted Registration Certificate to see exactly how many children she or he can care for. The certificate should be on display in the childminder's home.
- Self-employed, they decide on working hours. Most are willing to work early morning, evenings and weekends, as well as part-time.
- All childminders are required to have completed a basic training course, including first aid, and most go on to do further training and professional development.
- Your child should experience learning and development activities suitable for their age.
Is it for me?
The answer is 'yes', if:
- You need flexible care because you work irregular hours, which don't correspond to a normal 8am-6pm nursery day.
- You want your child cared for in a family home.
- You want your child to have one carer.
- You have children of different ages and it's important they're cared for together.
- Mixing with large groups of children isn't a priority right now.
Questions to ask when choosing a childminder
- How long have you been childminding?
- What extra training have you done?
- Why do you like this job?
- How long do you intend to do it for?
- What other children will be with my child, and how old are they?
- Have you joined any quality assurance schemes?
- Do you belong to a childminder network?
- Do you charge for sick days?
- Ask to see if all the rooms in the house are clean and tidy.
- Where will your child sleep? Make sure it's quiet.
- How do you spend the day and how do other children's schedules fit in with my child? Find out simple things, such as when she or he does shopping/banking/chores.
- Do you go out on day trips? Where to?
- Do you have properly fitted car seats?
- What kind of meals and drinks do you give the children?
- Do you keep a file about a child's progress?
- Will you agree to a trial run (say a couple of mornings) to see how it's going to work out? Most childminders will agree to this.
Other things to remember
- Ask for the childminder's up-to-date registration, public liability insurance and first aid certificate.
- Check all rooms and gardens are insured, otherwise your child will be excluded from those areas.
- Who is coming and going? Ask how many other adults will be in the house.
- Agree on feeding, learning, TV watching and discipline policies.
- Any contract should cover hours, pay, sickness and holiday pay.