Advice and Help
Here's some help and advice about childcare
Help and information about childcare
In these pages is advice and help about childcare facilities. Use the links on the left to find out more.
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Advice and Help
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Your needs as a parent
10 questions about what you need and want from a childcare provider.

Choosing the best childcare for you and your child is a tricky business and sometimes as with all things a compromise is needed and a balance achieved between what you need as a parent and what your child needs. These 10 questions will guide you through some of the practical issues that you need to consider to make your choice of childcare provider work for you both?

First be Practical

1. What time do you need to be in work?

The ideal location of childcare will depend on what time you need to be in the office, do you want to travel to work with your child or set off later and work on the train. Do you commute long distances, how will your child cope with the travel? Do you prefer to have the extra time together in the car on the way to or from your workplace. Do you want a nursery en-route to work? It is important to get these practical issues about location out of the way in the first instance. There is no point finding the childcare of your dreams if you simply can't get there and be at work on time? Are you on the road much of the time. Would it make sense to look for a nursery or preschool near friends or grandparents, just in case you get stuck in yet another traffic jam?

2. What hours will you need?

Think ahead here. Many nurseries are open from 8am and close at 6pm. Do you sometimes need to make an early start? Do you need a nursery that offers more flexibility. Do you need to cover shift work patterns? Although most nurseries are open all year round, many preschools and some nurseries offer term time only provision - does this suit your needs? Some nurseries offer additional services through nannies or childminders who will take children home at the end of the day and care for children until you return from work. Some offer similar arrangements at the beginning of the day.

3. Do you need childcare for older children?

Many nurseries also run breakfast clubs and afterschool clubs, together with holiday play schemes to provide wraparound care for school age children ? Do you need a nursery that offers these services, together with a drop off and collect service between nursery and school?

4. What are your plans if your child is unwell?

If you are out of the office for long periods, maybe consider childcare near close family or friends. Do you need a nursery that provides home based back up care should it be needed? Some nurseries can provide nannies to care for your child in your home if they are not well enough to go to nursery, but well enough for you to go to work? An emergency or back up plan is essential for your own peace of mind, but is no substitute for a caring and understanding employer.

About the Nursery or Preschool

5. Do you want a very structured formal approach, or would you prefer more opportunities for your children to play freely and explore their environment at there own pace?

6. How important is it to you that your child has a "key worker"?

Many nurseries operate a key worker system? This means that your child will be allocated a carer who has special responsibility for your child, for supporting them in the nursery and for ensuring that you know all about your child's day. They monitor your child's development and should have detailed knowledge of your child and be there for the child to develop a significant attachment to within the nursery. They should nurture and celebrate your child, understand all their routines and all the small things that make your child tick. They should be the child's special person at nursery and the main point of communication for you.

7. Where do you want the emphasis to be?

All parents want there child to do well and make good progress with their development and to give their child the best possible start in life, but what do you want your child to learn at nursery? Do you want them to learn to read and write or are you more concerned with their social skills, how they relate to other children and adults, their self esteem and their emotional well being. Do you want you child to play freely, learn through the adventures and imaginary world of the early years or is it very important to you that your child follows a more traditional or formal approach to the 3Rs.

8. Do you know where your child will eventually go to school?

If so, choose a nursery that you feel will lend well with the future provision and prepare your child well for the demands of the future?

9. Do you hold strong religious beliefs?

Is English an additional language for you and your child All nurseries and preschools should value and respect the child's and family's religious beliefs, language and culture. Think about how important this is to you and look for this not only in the nurseries policies but also in their practice.

10. What sort of environment to you enjoy?

Do you thrive in a calm environment or enjoy busy bustling places? Even very young children and babies will sense your response to a place. You need to find somewhere you feel happy and comfortable and the odds are your child will too.

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