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Friday, 5 October 2012

Finding and choosing childcare

The first thing you will need to do when arranging childcare is find out exactly what is available in your area. Once you have found local providers, you will need to do a bit of research to see which will suit your child best. Get advice here on the easiest way to find and choose a provider.

Finding local childcare

For information about childcare providers in your area, contact your local authority Family Information Service (FIS).

Your local FIS is a free information service for parents and carers of children aged 0 to 19. They can give information and advice to help you find and choose childcare, and also help you find activities for your children locally.

Choosing a childcare provider

Entrusting a stranger with your child is a big step, so before you choose a provider you may want to consider the following tips:

  • give yourself plenty of time to choose – holiday playschemes, for example, get booked up in advance
  • ask other parents for recommendations
  • make appointments to visit two or three providers to compare what’s on offer, and get a feel for the staff
  • think about your child’s personality and interests – what environment will they prefer?
  • check opening times, holiday dates and costs

What to look for in a provider

The following checklist may come in handy when choosing a childcare provider:

  • does the childcare setting have a friendly feel?
  • is it clean, light, well ventilated and big enough for children to be active indoors and outdoors?
  • are there places where the children can rest?
  • are the toys sufficiently varied (do they differ in size, texture, colour and shape)?
  • do the children look happy?
  • are the carers talking to the children in a way that interests and encourages them?
  • are there plenty of children of your child’s age?
  • are the provider and carers Ofsted registered?
  • is the furniture of a sufficiently high standard?
  • are there enough staff to keep an eye on all children? (at least one member of staff for every eight children aged three to five)
  • do the staff manage behaviour appropriately? (there should be a written policy for you to see)

Questions to ask childcare providers

You may want to ask about the following:

  • safety – what happens in an emergency?
  • are the premises secure (can strangers get in)?
  • what training and experience do the carers have?
  • how does the provider report safety incidents to parents?
  • do the carers know first aid?
  • what is the staff’s view on discipline?
  • what activities are on offer?
  • what happens if you are late picking up your child?
  • what food is provided (is it healthy)?
  • who can you talk to about your child’s progress?
  • what happens if your child becomes ill?

It might also be a good idea to ask to see the provider’s written health and safety policy (every group care provider should have one).

Monitoring your child's care

Once you have chosen a provider, give them clear information about your child's likes and dislikes and any health issues they may have. After a few weeks, you might want to go back and speak to the provider to find out how your child is getting on.

It's also a good idea to talk to your child, to make sure they are happy and comfortable with their care provider.

Additional links

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Help with money matters for your child

With a growing family, you could probably do with a little financial help. Follow the links below to find out what you could be entitled to.

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