Childcare in London

The costs are so high and the choices seemingly endless..where on earth do you start in making such an important decision?

Obviously in an ideal world, you'd be able to sort out all your childcare arrangements while you are still pregnant and have time to explore the options, however this is unrealistic for most and therefore you will be trying to sort this out whilst dealing with the physical and emotional demands of being a new parent.

There will probably be excellent, average and mediocre childcare in your area, and it is important to devote as much time as possible in finding out exactly what the local options are for you. Since good quality childcare is in great demand, you have to plan ahead. Costs vary greatly from area to area and they depend on the type of childcare you choose. It’s a good idea to ask friends for recommendations, ring local nanny agencies or contact your local social services to find out more.

Entrusting a stranger with your child is a big step but there are a few ways to make sure you maximise your chances of finding a good match.

Research ofsted reports since all childminders and day carers must be registered by Ofsted (that includes a criminal record check) you can simply ask to see a registration certificate. Reports are normally also available on line so you can see the detail of the inspector's findings.

Make the most of parenting forums which are not only a place to make new friends but can also be valuable resources for get parenting and childcare tips.

The best way to find out whether a person will suit your needs is to meet face to face with people on your shortlist and talk to them about things that are important to you.

Follow up references & have a written contract to ensure that everything is above board and formalised from the outset. Also make contingency plans for alternative care in case of an emergency.

Types of Childcare available:

The oldest form of childcare is to have a member of your family looking after your children. This is likely to be the most cost-effective form of childcare and will normally lead to the child feeling happy and secure being left with someone they know well when you're a work. Your children will also be familiar with the environment - either your own house or your relatives'. This option also has the advantage that you can largely stick to your child's existing routine (diet, nap times, etc.); nurseries and childminders might not be able to do this as they will need to consider the practical aspects of dealing with several children as well as their own internal routines.

There are still downsides to this kind of arrangement though. Asking parents (or in-laws) to babysit for the odd night out is a completely different thing to them looking after your children on a permanent, regular basis. This option will only work if you have a good, honest relationship with the person that will be looking after your children since both sides should feel comfortable when it comes to raising issues without fear of insulting the other side. A lot of people feel a bit guilty about having a family member deal with such a large amount of responsibility without some form of recompense, so it might be a good idea to offer some sort of payment.

A major source of tension in this kind of relationship can be where relatives don't agree with or don't follow your wishes in relation to childcare and child rearing. Arguably, this arrangement also leads to the child missing out when it comes to mixing with their contemporaries unless they are taken to baby groups and other activities involving young children on a regular basis.

Generally, child minders look after children under 12 in the child minder's home; they often also collect school-aged children from a nearby school. In many cases they are mothers themselves and in any case will usually have done a short, pre-registration course and have undergone police and health checks. Depending upon the size of the childminder’s home, they may look after three children under five (with not more than one child younger than one year); six children between five and seven years old or six children younger than eight years old (with up to three children younger than five years old, and one under one year).

An advantage of having a childminder look after your child is that your child will be able to enjoy the company of other children in a home environment. Some childminders also look after children part–time or at weekends and early evenings which might suit your needs. Often the charges are lower than what you would have to pay for a nursery or a nanny.

A disadvantage could be that you have to take the baby to the minder, which may mean that your day starts relatively early in order to allow time for your child to be dropped off. Another issue is that you may not agree with the childminder’s views on important things such as feeding and discipline. You should discuss these issues when choosing a childminder and in any case in advance of leaving your child with them. Bear in mind that childminders are often busy and may have a waiting list so you may need to book your place early.

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