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Top tips for childcare

Choosing childcare and early education is a big step for you and your child. There are lots of differences between types of childcare, early education or pre-school services and also between individual childminders, nurseries, nursery classes or out-of-school clubs.

Many places that offer childcare have a waiting list, so it’s a good idea to start looking some time before you need it.

Make a shortlist of places to visit by calling around first and asking a few questions, such as:

  • are there any age restrictions?
  • would your child have one main person looking after them?
  • what sort of activities will your child do in a day?
  • what hours can your child go there?
  • how much does it cost?

Your next step

Try and give yourself enough time to visit several possible options in your area to get a good idea of what could suit your child. It can be a good idea to take your child with you to see how staff talk to him or her. Try to go when children are there so you can see if they are calm, happy and busy.

Ask questions about what happens during the day, what the children get to eat and how they are disciplined. Don’t be afraid to visit a second time if you want to be sure it’s right for you and your child.

Once you have made your decision, make sure you are happy with all the details of the arrangement. In some cases you will be given an agreement to sign and asked to secure the place by paying a deposit or retainer fee.

Tip: visit when other children are there so you can watch them play and see how they are being looked after.

Find out how to reduce the cost of childcare.

What to look for

Here are some suggested questions to ask when you visit. Add your own questions as well:

  • how long have you been working with children?
  • how have you learned your job? Any qualifications?
  • do you enjoy being with children and why?
  • can I look around the building to see the rooms and outside play areas?
  • where will my child rest?
  • what kind of food and drink will you give?
  • what will my child do all day?
  • how do you encourage good behaviour?
  • will my child be with a regular group of children? How old are they?
  • how will you make sure I know how my child is getting on?

Quality Pointers

When you visit possible childcare options, look for these Quality Pointers.

You could add your own as well:

  1. are the children calm, safe and happy?
  2. do children play and talk together?
  3. are the staff listening to the children and answering them carefully?
  4. are the staff friendly and proud of their work?
  5. are the staff joining in with what the children are doing?
  6. are there lots of activities planned to help children learn and play?
  7. can the children plan some of these themselves?
  8. are there plenty of clean toys and equipment for children to use?
  9. are the premises clean, well-kept and safe for children with a fun outside play area (or will children go to parks and other places regularly)?
  10. do parents have plenty of chances to say what they want for their children?

If there are other things you want to know, do not be afraid to ask.

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