Parental Choice. Finding the Right Childcare.

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    There are so many childcare options available but the finding the right option for your child as well as your bank balance can be time consuming and stressful. The biggest piece of advice for any parent thinking of childcare is to plan ahead. Many nurseries have limited places which get booked up even years in advance whilst finding the right nanny or child-minder can equally take weeks if not months.

    Here are some initial questions to consider:
    • How old are your children and do they have any special requirements?
    • How many hours per week do you need childcare?
    • Would you prefer a home or nursery environment?
    • Does your childcare have to be near your place of work and what is your available travelling time?
    • Would you / are you able to share childcare with another family?
    • What is your budget? Are you entitled to childcare vouchers?

    Your potential childcare options are family, child-minders, nannies, mother’s helps, crèches, nurseries and au pairs. Each option has its pros and cons. Au-pairs, for example, often have no childcare experience and should only be used for children over 2 years old. Nurseries are able to provide toddlers with the social interaction that they need but not the one-to one attention that an infant requires. Nannies provide flexible childcare in your own home without the need to travel whereas child-minders are a home away from home with fixed hours. The option that you choose has to work for you, your commute (if you’re working) and your daily routine. As each child is different, what works for one family may not be ideal for yours.

    When considering the cost of each option, remember that you can have a combination of two options such as a nanny / child-minder for the beginning and end of the day, with a nursery in-between. Alternatively you could join forces with another family to nanny share. There are also financial options available to help reduce the costs of childcare such as childcare vouchers provided by employers. These allow basic rate tax payers to pay for up to £243 (£55/week) of childcare each month with vouchers from their employers. This is PER PARENT so two working parents could get £486 a month of vouchers. Vouchers are not specific to each child and have a long expiry date, so if you know you're going to have higher childcare costs in the near future it is wise to get the maximum allowance now. Vouchers can be used to pay for nannies, provided they are OFSTED registered, child-minders or nursery places.

    It might be a question of trial and error but with forethought and planning, finding the right childcare need not be stressful or traumatic. Ultimately the right childcare option is the one that leaves your children happy, stimulated and safe.

    Sarah-Jane Butler, founder of Parental Choice, the essential “one-stop shop” to help you make the right decision on your childcare needs. For more information on your childcare options, see the Parental Choice website:
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