Choosing the right childcare for your little one
There is no blueprint for what a family should look like now. And what a joy that is! 30 years ago you might have expected mom to be home with the kids and dad to be at work, but that’s so far from the reality of lots of families now. From stay-at-home-dads to WFH parents, to office-based mamas, jobs have diversified, and so have traditional family roles. This means childcare comes in more guises than ever before. Choosing whether to stay at home, pay for childcare, use family support or something totally different is a difficult decision. You need to ask yourself – what’s most important to you, your family and what suits your child’s needs?
With that in mind, here are some practical tips on choosing the right childcare for you and your family.
A few of your options
From creches to childminders and nannies to nurseries, there are a number of different childcare options to consider. Before you make any decisions though, do your research. The most valuable resource you have for information is other parents. So look on local message boards, read reviews on Facebook and ask other moms and dads in the area.
A childminder will usually look after more than one child at a time, usually in their own home. They are often cheaper than a nursery, but not necessarily as regulated.
Creches can be a bit of a godsend for parents. They’re usually in gyms or supermarkets (or if you’re lucky enough to be on holiday – hotels) and provide short stints of childcare.
Day nurseries are one of the most popular childcare options. Different types include private, community, local authority and workplace nurseries. They will usually offer meals and do activities, and there will be lots of other children there for them to interact with.
A nanny will usually come to your own home to look after your baby. Sometimes they even live in the family home and travel abroad with families. Or they might also just have contracted hours.
We’re looking at you, nanny and grandad. This is when someone who is not a professional look after your little one, often for free.
Back to work considerations
If you and your partner are both going back to work, then it’s very likely you’ll have to find some sort of childcare. Obviously, there are lots of things to think about, including how close the childcare is in case you’re needed in an emergency and backup plans for if you’re delayed at work.
If you’re staying at home
Maybe you work from home but have realized there’s not a chance in hell you’ll be able to concentrate fully with a little one nearby. In this case, it might make sense to employ someone who can come to your house and look after them for a few hours while you crack on. Remember though, you might be able to keep costs down by hosting but you’ve also got to consider their travel time.
Wait, it costs how much?
The biggest shock for lots of new parents is the cost of childcare. You may have planned to go back to work, and then realized it makes sense for one of you to stay at home during the early days so you don’t have to fork hundreds of dollars a week.
Make sure you think about the fee structure before signing on any dotted lines – do you have to give a lot of notice if you change your schedule? Does it include food and snacks etc? Babies and toddlers can be very unpredictable, so it’s wise to sign up for something that’s relatively easy to change.
Also, make sure you look closely at what you’re paying for. Are the staff qualified and have they been there a while? If it’s a nursery school, they’re going to be regulated, but visit before you sign up and make sure that there’s plenty of stimulation. Childminders aren’t as regulated, so it’s a good idea to visit their home first and watch them with the other children so you can understand their style.
If you live in the UK you might qualify for help with childcare costs: Working Tax Credit, Universal Credit, or Tax-Free Childcare. Make sure you have explored all your options before you make any decisions.
What does your baby need?
Beyond just being safe if your little one has any special needs, they’ll need to be considered. From allergies to learning requirements, every child is unique, and just because they’re now with other children, their individual needs must be honored. When you visit any type of childcare, tell them about your concerns and see how they react. Hopefully, they’ll be supportive and understanding.
Your childcare checklist
- Make a shortlist – whittle down your favorite options and create a shortlist.
- Visit the top choices – arrange appointments to visit all of your top choices. Go armed with questions so you don’t forget anything when you arrive.
- Check for safety and independent reviews – have a look online and read reviews. Ask other parents in the area about the options.
- Get references – request references for anyone who will be looking after your little one.
- Do the math – can you afford your number 1 choice? Work out how much you’ll have coming in and, and how much you’ll have going out. You could use a budgeting app for this.
Take a deep breath
Leaving your little one in the care of anyone – whether that’s their nanna or a qualified nursery teacher – can be daunting. But the more research you do, the happier you’ll feel when it comes to going back to work. So get prepared and make sure you’re confident in your decision.