Different types of childcare
There are lots of different options to consider when choosing childcare. It's up to you as a parent or carer to choose what you feel is right for your family and child. When choosing childcare, try and give yourself enough time to visit several possible options to get a good idea of what may suit your child. It can be a good idea to take your child with you to see how they interact with staff and their reactions to the setting. Try to go when children are there so you can see if they are settled, confident and involved in a variety of activities.
Finding what is right for you and your child
Consider what childcare you need.
Some questions to ask are:
- do you need all day, to cover working hours and travelling to and from work?
- are you looking for a couple of hours a week?
- do you need term time only or all year around childcare?
- are you looking for before and after school childcare?
- are you looking for a home from home environment or looking for a larger childcare setting?
These are all personal preferences and some of the things to consider when making childcare choices.
Read more about the different types of childcare:
- day nurseries
- nursery schools and maintained nurseries
- pre-school and playgroups
- out-of-school care
- home childcarer
Childminders are trained, self-employed carers largely based in their own homes. They are registered with Ofsted and both the childminder and their home are regularly checked. A childminder can look after up to 6 children under 8-years-old including their own, but only 3 of them can be under the age of 5. Childminders are perfect if your working day doesn’t fit the 9.00am to 5.00pm, Monday to Friday pattern or if you have children of different ages and you want them to be looked after together. You may also want your child to be cared for in a home environment by just one person. Further information about childminders is available in our childminders - a guide for parents.
Day nurseries offer childcare and, in some cases, early education. They are for children between the ages of 6-weeks-old and 5-years-old and many offer out-of-school care for 5 to 11-year-olds. Opening times tend to coincide with a standard working day, 8.00am to 6.00pm on weekdays.
Nursery schools and maintained nurseries
Offer early education and are for children between the ages of 3 and 5. They are open during school hours, normally only in term time for full or half-day sessions. Nurseries are free if part of a state education system (excluding meals and trips) but private ones charge. It's best to check with the centre you’re interested in.
Tip: When you visit, look for projects and drawings up on the walls. Are there stimulating toys and books for the children to enjoy?
Pre-school and playgroups
Organised by community or voluntary groups, often with the help of parents, these usually offer early education places. They give your child access to different toys, equipment and activities and ensure they mix with other children. Sessions last between 2-and-a-half to six hours and take place either every day or several days a week, during term time. They are for children aged between 2 and 5 years.
Some clubs are open before and after school and all-day during school holidays. They offer a quiet space for catching up with homework as well as plenty of fun activities for children between the ages of 3 to 14-years-old (and up to 16 for children with special needs). Many breakfast, after school and holiday play schemes are linked to schools. Some of which offer a variety of activities on top of the normal school day such as music, art, sport or additional study support.
A home childcarer is a person who provides care for children in the parents' own home. Parents can also share a nanny with another family. Nannies and au pairs are the most common examples of home childcarers. Home childcarers do not need to register with Ofsted but can choose to register on the voluntary part of the Childcare Register. Home childcarers can often provide quite flexible childcare, fitting in with unusual working hours, or they may even live-in. Some may also agree to do additional jobs around the house, such as cleaning or cooking. Further information about employing a nanny including what financial support you can receive and questions to ask is available in our home childcare and nannies - a guide for parents.
Provide occasional care for children under 8.
A babysitter is someone who looks after your children in your own home for short periods of time. Most parents need to use a babysitter at some stage whether it is to enjoy some free social time in the evening or to attend an appointment during the day. Babysitters are not regulated so it's completely up to parents to ensure they are happy and comfortable with who they use as a babysitter. Some Ofsted registered childminders offer this service, so if you're looking for an Ofsted registered provider who offers babysitting, get in touch.