Finding Childcare

When it comes to choosing childcare and childcare services in your area, there are a few rules you should follow to ensure you choose the right childminder, nanny, babysitter, day nursery, children's activity centre, or preschool for your child. Here we split up our handy hints into two sections – day nurseries and home-based childcare to give you precise tips for finding the right childcare for your child.

Generally, before you even begin looking for childcare you should find out what types of childcare options are available in your area, and also determine your own needs by thinking about the hours, days, location, cost, and type of childcare desired.

We will put you in touch with the childcare you are looking for with our comprehensive listings guide, which contains details for childcare services, ranging from nurseries and crèches to preschools, in your area and across the UK.

Day nurseries/preschools

If you decide to enrol your child in a day nursery or preschool, the very first thing you must do is check that the nursery schools on your shortlist are registered with OFSTED. To operate legally, a preschool or day nursery must be registered, and it is inspected annually to make sure it is adequately staffed and resourced, and meets national safety standards. To check the nursery is registered, either ask to see their registration certificate or contact OFSTED for confirmation.

Once you know the nurseries in your area are registered, ask them for a brochure or visit their website to get an idea of the childcare facilities they offer. You should then contact the ones you like best and ask if you can visit to look round, meet the staff, and discuss the issue of your child joining the nursery. While you are there you should check that at least half the staff hold a formal childcare and early education qualification (the minimum legal requirement). In addition, make sure you take the time to look at the space in the nursery and its facilities. Are there separate areas for quiet play and group activities? Are there plenty of toys? Is there enough room for children to run around?

It is worth noting here that some day nurseries and preschools are so popular that they have waiting lists so you should contact them as soon as possible to get on the list.

Home-based childcare

If you would prefer your child to be cared for in a home environment, whether its your own home or at a childminder's, then you should consider hiring a nanny or childminder. When it comes to childminders, one licensed adult can legally care for up to six children aged under eight in their own home, and when deciding which one to choose you should ask to see their OFSTED registration certificate. You should also visit their home to check it is clean, safe and child orientated. Are there plenty of toys? Is there a safe garden for children to play in? Is there room to run around safely? It's also worth checking that they can work flexible hours, particularly if your job sometimes requires you to work late or start early.

For those of you who would prefer to have your child cared for in your own home, then consider hiring a nanny. To find the right nanny for the job it is worth contacting nanny agencies for a list of registered nannies working in your area. You could also advertise the job vacancy in a local newspaper and then interview prospective candidates. As well as checking their qualifications and experience, you should also take the time to chat to the nanny in general to get an idea of their personality, and perhaps even introduce them to your child to see how they respond to the child.

Whichever type of childcare you choose, remember that you know your child best so only go with a nursery, childminder, nanny or preschool that you feel confident with.