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The modern guide to childcare

Tags: children


Going back to work is a big step – but with so much pressure on family budgets, it’s one more parents are taking; qualified health visitor Christine Bidmead gives advice on how to find the right childcare for your family.

More women with children under five now work than those who stay at home, according to latest figures from the Resolution Foundation.

Working with a young family requires military precision and organisation − and it all rises and falls on finding good, reliable and affordable childcare.

Attachment and bonding

Some women worry day care will affect their special bond and make their child insecure. But health visitor Christine Bidmead says it’s the quality of childcare that matters, not necessarily who gives it.

“A baby’s sense of security is built by having a caring and sensitive adult who will notice and respond to his/her needs as necessary,” advises Christine.
“A mother doesn’t have to be present all day long with the baby in order to love the baby.  The baby will always love her once the attachment has been formed and will not be harmed by being away from her for a few hours,” says Christine.

Christine says it’s still possible to stay close by having quality time with your child when you focus on them and involve them in what you are doing. Dads can do this too.

It is also important to make the most of your time as a family, for example, when you can, try to put the children to bed yourself, set aside time to play and talk, and eat together as a family, as these rituals can help contribute towards having a happy and balanced home life.

Care from family members

Latest figures from charity Grandparents Plus reveal one in five grandparents regularly give more than 10 hours a week childcare to their grandchildren.

ASK ABOUT: Some grandparents may have old-fashioned ideas about parenting. Ask them to do a first aid course too and follow your rule on sweets, eating vegetables, developing social skills and discipline etc, so your child gets consistency.
PROS: Your child can be looked after by a family member you know and trust, sometimes in your own home, forging a close bond. Some grandparents are prepared to do it for free. Also, it enables you to pull together as a family and maintain input towards your child’s everyday health, wellbeing and fitness.
CONS: A grandparent can get worn out by young children and may not be able to care full time; they may be prone to ill health too.

Registered childminders

Ask around locally for some recommendations and request a list of registered childminders in your area from the National Childminding Association (NCMA).

ASK ABOUT: Quiz childminders about their background, training and parenting experience etc. Trust your instinct and take someone else with you. Ask lots of questions about food, discipline, pets, safety, holidays etc.
PROS: Registered childminders are registered and regularly inspected by OFSTED. They are required to undergo professional childcare training, including a first aid course, prove they meet strict standards and have public liability insurance and an enhanced Criminal Record Bureau (CRB) check. Their hourly rates are usually cheaper than a nursery or nanny. Your child can be looked after in a home environment, usually with other children by one caregiver, and the care is more flexible than a nursery that shuts at 6pm.
CONS: Care can still be expensive and you have little control over how many other children a childminder looks after (legally they can have up to six children on the premises). It’s not such a structured learning environment as a nursery.

Day nurseries

Again, ask around locally for recommendations for good day nurseries. Contact the National Day Nurseries Association website and download its fact sheet.

ASK ABOUT: Request a copy of the nursery’s most recent OFSTED inspection report. Ask about what type of food is served, the qualifications of the staff and the ratio of adults to children. In England and Wales the staff ratio should be a minimum of 1 adult : 3 children for children under two, 1 : 4 for two to three year olds and 1 : 8 for three to eight year olds. Trust your instinct too – did it seem relaxed and happy? Was it safe and clean? Did your child enjoy their visit?
PROS: Children have a more structured environment and learn to socialise with other children from an early age, which encourages independence. Your child will have the opportunity to take part in more activities, including painting, playing with sand, singing, etc.
CONS: Nurseries won’t take children when they’re unwell. Your child may also be exposed to more infections/viruses. Your child won’t get the one-to-one care they’d get from a nanny. They’re expensive.


Nannies care for your child in your home and sometimes live in too, so there is greater flexibility – you don’t have to get your child up, dressed, breakfasted and deposited somewhere else before you even leave for work. She’ll also care for your child when he or she is ill.
There are a number of nanny agencies you can approach for suitable candidates but these will charge an introduction fee.

ASK ABOUT: You’ll need references from former employers or their training college – always phone to check these out. Ask about how flexible they’re willing to be with their hours.
PROS: Your child can form a close, one-to-one relationship with their carer, at home with their own toys, books and food. You have a high degree of control over your child’s routine, diet, activities and play environment. More flexible hours.
CONS:  Expensive and you have to pay their national insurance contributions. Nannies don’t need to be registered and inspected, although many choose to do this voluntarily. Legally there’s no requirement for nannies to have specific training or to be checked by the CRB. However, 75% of the 120,000 nannies in the UK have had a CRB disclosure, says the NCMA.

For related information on child health take a look at our lifestyle articles, including Keep children healthy and active and Helping your kids develop social skills.

Useful information  

National Day Nurseries Association fact sheet

Find out more about the child health care options available to your family. You can also discover more information in our Pregnancy and Childcare Centre or if you have a specific question, you can ask our experts.


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