Handing your precious a child over to someone else to care for is one of the hardest things a parent can do. After spending so much of your own time ensuring ‘little one’ is safe and well looked after, what should you then look for when investing in childcare?
Tracey Poulton, Founder of Natural Nurture, reveals the top line areas, and questions, that should be explored when making such a significant decision.
There is nothing more powerful than personal recommendations from those who have had first-hand experience of the setting you are interested in. If you don’t know someone who has used that childcare provider, ask to see the references and whether you can follow any up by telephone.
The price of childcare varies greatly across the country. Council run schemes are often the least expensive option, whereas ones hosted in independent school grounds tend to cost more money. If a website doesn’t reveal their pricing structure openly, you can generally second-guess that they will be priced more towards the top end.
So what do you get for your money? Does paying more mean you get extra? The answer is possibly no.
It depends to a great extent on the setting and the experiences they are able to offer the children in their care. For establishments that have little or no outdoor space, it is worth determining what they do to educate the children about nature and the world outdoors.
Facilities and play equipment are really important too. Visit the nursery and establish how they teach through play and see the children doing so on a regular day, not just an open day which might not be truly representative.
An area that is often overlooked is how the nursery will engage with the family to ease the transition into childcare, and work collaboratively with them in the future. It is worth asking whether they work with, or employ, professional independent child specialists outside of their qualified care staff.
Many establishments offer online journals so parents can see what their children have been doing. These tools are great for parents and staff alike as it means that there can be correspondence on activity out of hours. Also check if your child will be allocated a key worker. It is good to have one person that is dedicated to a child as they will build bonds together, and as a parent, you will be able to have a contact with whom you can raise any issues.
To provide childcare for children under the age of eight, for more than two hours a day, the setting must be registered with Ofsted. Ofsted regulates and inspects childcare establishments and provide reports outlining its findings.
Outside of the Ofsted ratings there are several regional and national awards that recognise the best settings in the country. Most nurseries will shout about these on their websites or social media platforms so it is worth looking for this too.
Remember, the most important thing about childcare is that both parent and child are happy. Growth and development will follow if this cornerstone is set firmly in place.