Good quality childcare is more in demand than ever before. Shannon Kyle takes a look at the different childcare arrangements every parent should consider.
Whether they’re at a nursery or child-minder, every parent wants to know his or her child is feeling safe and secure during the working day. But just as importantly, they want them to feel happy.
Dr Genevieve von Lob (@drvonLob), a Clinical psychologist and author of ‘Happy Parent, Happy Child, a 10-step plan for a stress-free family life’ explains how important the bond between child and child care provider is.
She says: ‘As babies, we are born completely dependent on our parents. Research shows that if a parent is attuned, sensitive, responsive to their child’s needs most of the time, they will develop what psychologists call a “secure attachment.” This primary relationship is one of the most important factors that will influence a child’s wellbeing later in life.’
It’s important to ask yourself what your little one needs, says Dr von Lob. She adds: ‘Every child comes with a unique personality, individual needs, and family upbringing. Therefore, a one- size fits all childcare provider is not going to work. The best childcare is the one, which matches with yours and your child’s individual needs, is flexible and is provided by someone who is emotionally warm, responsive, attentive, and consistent and takes the time to understand you and your child. ‘
Every parent knows their own child best, but there are a few questions to ask before deciding on the best provider. Is your little one shy and sensitive? Or loud and loves playing outside? Do they love socialising with other children or need more time to themselves? One major must-have is consistency. Any childcare provision must include a responsible and loving adult.
A registered child-minder can provide lots of flexibility where other providers don’t. Some do not keep the rigid hours of a nursery, while others are more flexible with the needs of a child. If the child-minder looks after several children, you might find it more cost effective.
Registered Ofsted child-minder Imogen Barnett (@Immytalks) works in her own home in Retford. She says: ‘I provide a service in my own home, so the children feel as ‘at home’ as possible. Child-minders suit parents who might arrive home a little later than nurseries close but also I work around the children flexibly too during the day. We have our routines but we can vary them according to what kind of day everyone is having.’
A nanny can be an expensive alternative as they often only look after one child at a time. They might suit a more sensitive child who needs more one-to-one care or downtime. A disadvantage of having a nanny or child-minder is when they are off sick and parents don’t have time to make alternative arrangements.
The wellbeing of your child is at the top of the priority list for parents, but one choice is not necessarily better than another. For every childcare option there’s clear advantages and disadvantages. So, make a list of each before you decide.
Nurseries provide a stimulating and exciting environment for many children. Often they follow a curriculum and can help make the transition to school much smoother for the child. Don’t forget most working parents are eligible for child tax free credits, that’s around 20% off your monthly bill or up to 30 free childcare hours per week after the age of three. But nursery can be expensive depending on the hours you need and some only open term-time.
An au pair might be a cheaper option when factoring in childcare costs, especially if they live-in and work for a reduced rate if meals are included. However, an au pair also might be off sick or need to take holidays.
Playgroups can work for other parents. Often they are local drop in centres where parents need to stay, but if you’re freelance and can take a laptop with you, you might get some work done!
Family can be a reassuring option for any parent. Today more grandparents than ever are stepping into the breach when it comes to childcare.
Julia Bryson (@rainbeaubelle) mixes up afterschool clubs and care her mother provides for her two children, aged 10 and 7. She said: ‘Family support gives me flexibility when I need to work late. The kids love spending time with their granny but also she takes them to other clubs like scouts and Rainbows.’
Grandparents caring for grandchildren under 12 could qualify for national insurance credits too. However, be mindful of the energy needed to look after small children, some grandparents might struggle to keep up!
Babysitting circles where parents take it in turns to look after each other’s children can work for ad hoc babysitting hours, usually for the evenings only. Phone apps are becoming increasingly popular too, such as the Bubble app, where local babysitters can be found often at short notice.
Whatever you decide, always do your research and also trust your instincts. Parents almost always know best!