All us parents deserve a well-earned break at some point. Whether you're in need of a trip to the salon or want to nip to the shops without a baby in tow, it's not always possible to find a childminder or a friend or family member to look after your child. That's where creches come in.
What's the difference between a crèche and a nursery?
Crèches are often a cheaper and more flexible option compared to nurseries. They're designed to provide occasional child care for a few hours at a time. You can often find a crèche at adult colleges, meaning you could take up a new course or training and put your child in crèche while you're in lessons. You must stay on site while your child is in crèche and they can usually only stay there for no more than two hours.
You may also find a crèche at shopping centres and gyms. Depending on popularity, you may need to book your child in a space at these kinds of crèches and again, your child will only be allowed to stay there for a few hours.
The age you can take your tot to crèche depends on each facility. Some take babies as young as 6 weeks, others take children from 2-3 years. There is also an age limit on most crèches too which is usually around the age of 8.
What do crèches offer?
You'll find many crèches have plenty of games, soft play areas and even ball pits to keep your little one entertained and safe. Some crèches may even be able to offer tots drinks, snacks and nappy changes if needed.
Things to look out for in a crèche
As with all childcare services, the space needs to be clean and safe, with plenty of fun to keep your child entertained. There should also be plenty of staff to make sure every child is monitored to take care of their needs. The crèche staff should also ask if your child has any allergies, medication or has special dietary requirements.
You will also find that some crèches are Ofsted-registered, depending on the type of crèche, the number of children it caters for and if parents stay on the premises. A crèche must be Ofsted-registered if:
Facilities that look after children aged 8 years and under for more than two hours a day on non-domestic premises.
If a crèche caters for children aged under 8 for four hours or less per day, and parents stay on the premises, it doesn’t need to be registered with Ofsted. If parents are allowed to go home, or off site, then children can only be left for up to two hours at a time.
If the crèche doesn’t officially need to be Ofsted-approved, it can opt to join the Voluntary Ofsted Childcare Register (VOCR) – it’s well worth checking as this shows a commitment to high standards.
The ratio of staff to children should be as follows:
one member of staff to every three children for babies from 3 months to 2 years
one member of staff to every four children for toddlers aged 2 to 3
a ratio of one member of staff to every eight children for children aged 3 to 8
The crèche leader, the deputy and half of the staff should have a childcare qualification. It's also a good idea to check that at least one staff member has a first aid qualification for your peace of mind.
How much do crèches cost?
If they're located in a shop, private leisure centre or private sector workplace, it's likely a crèche will be free. If they're located in local authority run places, such as leisure centres, it's likely you'll need to pay a small fee. It normally costs a few pounds per hour for a council run crèce.
Parents can't use childcare tax credits to pay for crèche, but you may be able to use childcare vouchers to pay.