From routines to qualifications, make the most informed decision when it comes to childcare
It’s one of the most important choices you’ll make for you and your child – yet first time around, most of us are totally unprepared. Instinct plays a huge part in deciding whether an individual, nursery or childcare is right for your child, but asking the right questions can help you make a more informed choice of childcare.
1. What qualifications do you have?
Qualifications in childcare are deeply reassuring. ‘It proves that a childminder or nursery worker has a good understanding of your baby’s needs and how she’ll develop,’ says Kate Groucutt, deputy chief executive of national childcare charity The Daycare Trust. ‘Ideally, staff should have at least a level three in a recognised childcare qualification, such as CACHE, NVQ or NNEB.’
A childminder or nanny is less likely to have qualifications, but it’s a good idea to check she holds a first-aid certificate and good references.
2. Will my baby be safe?
‘Find the nursery or childminder’s Ofsted report,’ says Kate. ‘This will highlight any problems with safety and welfare.’ You can also glean a lot from seeing childcare in action. ‘Look out for children being left with runny noses, crying without being comforted or drifting about unsupervised – you want to feel that a carer’s on the ball,’ says Kate.
Instinct plays a huge part in deciding whether an individual, nursery or childcare is right for your child
3. What will the daily routine be?
One of the advantages of a childminder is that your baby’s existing routine can stay the same. At a nursery, she may be encouraged to fit in with the other children, taking one big nap after lunch, for example, but staff should be flexible while your baby adapts.
4. How will I be kept informed?
Nurseries and childminders should keep a developmental record of your baby. ‘This may be sent home every so often so you can read it. You should also be able to add details, too,’ says Kate. ‘Your baby will also have a key worker at nursery, who you should go to with any concerns.’ With a childminder, it’s helpful to have a notebook so she can write down what your child’s done each day, including what she’s eaten and when she’s napped.
5. What about discipline?
Boundaries are essential to keep your baby safe and happy, but differ from parent to parent and nursery to nursery. ‘Some nurseries are stricter than others, but the exact approach should be set out in its policy documents, which you can ask to see,’ says Lindsey Doe, director of nanny agency Tinies. ‘Don’t be afraid to bring up how they deal with naughty children, too.’
When you visit a childminder or nursery, keep an eye out for behavioural incidents to see how they’re handled. ‘The carer should deal with situations on the spot, then move on,’ says Lindsey.