Children and families are all different - but you can be sure that there's a childcare choice out there for everyone.
Whether you are looking for group-based childcare, or want one-to-one care for your child, read on to find out more about the options open to you.
Registered childcare providers
In England, early years childcare providers are regulated by Ofsted, the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills. It is compulsory for nurseries to register with Ofsted, whereas nannies can choose whether to appear on the voluntary register or not.
Childminders can choose to register with Ofsted directly, or with an Ofsted-registered childminder agency. Childminders registered with agencies are not inspected by Ofsted, but instead the agency is responsible for monitoring and assessing their members.
When looking for high quality childcare, Ofsted registration demonstrates that the minimum requirements for delivering care have been met. Look out for the 'Ofsted registered' logo on SearchChildcare profiles, which indicates whether or not a provider is currently registered.
Following an inspection, those on the compulsory register will be given an overall grading; Inadequate, Requires improvement, Good or Outstanding. An Ofsted inspection report is a good source of information about the level of care provided by an early years setting and provides grades for each area of the provision. Childcare providers on SearchChildcare have the option to provide a link within their listing to their latest inspection report.
In Wales, childminders, day care and play services are registered and inspected by the Care Inspectorate Wales (CIW). Further information regarding the CIW Inspection Framework can be found on the CIW website. CIW inspect full daycare services at least once in every two years; and other childcare services - childminders, sessional day care, open access play, crèches and out of school care - at least once in every three years. Look out for the CIW logo on provider profiles in Wales.
If you are looking for a smaller childcare setting in a 'home-from-home' environment, then a childminder could be the ideal choice for you. With the same requirements for qualifications and procedures as a nursery or pre-school, a childminder delivers early education from their own home.
Childminders also engage the children in their care in a multitude of different activities - some in the home and others out and about in their local area. Exactly what they do with the children differs from setting to setting, but common practices include:
Attending local play groups, stay-and-plays, library events etc.
Visiting outdoor venues such as the park, forest or beach
Craft projects including painting, play dough, bead-threading and baking
"My son loves his time at the childminder. When he was younger he was with her full-time and I loved the partnership approach she had to his learning and development - I always felt we were working together to get him to the next milestone. Now he's three he's with his childminder before and after playgroup, so he gets the benefit of socialising in a larger group setting, as well as the more hands-on care of a childminder." Sam, Mum of one, Cornwall
For more information about what childminders do, visit the PACEY website.
Nurseries and Pre-schools
Suitable for children up to four years old, nurseries and pre-schools remain one of the most popular childcare choices in England. Based in non-residential premises including church halls, on school grounds and commercial properties, they provide care for larger groups of children under school age. Most are open Monday to Friday, with a few offering weekend care to support different working patterns. Those attached to a school operate term-time only, although independent nurseries tend to offer services all year round.
Many parents like the social aspect of group settings, as they feel it helps prepare their child for school. Equipped to entertain and engage young minds, many larger settings have separate rooms or areas for specific age-ranges, enabling them to tailor toys, books and activities to the children in their care.
"All three of my children have attended a nursery and I've always been impressed by how being in a group setting aids their development, and above all, their confidence around other children. I enjoy the regular updates our nursery provides as it allows me to see how my children are progressing. My eldest has recently started school and her key worker supported this important transition. I could see first-hand how the skills she gained at nursery helped her move to 'big school' go smoothly." Richard, Dad of three, Kent
For more information about nurseries, visit the PACEY website.
For those looking for completely bespoke childcare delivered in their own home, a nanny is the perfect solution. Standards can vary and Ofsted registration is only voluntary, however nannies can offer a wealth of knowledge and experience. PACEY's recent survey found that 81% of nannies hold an early years qualification and 90% see the importance of continuous professional development.
Either as a self-employed childcare professional or an employee, they provide bespoke care under your roof, meaning no drop-offs or collection times. Offering a completely flexible and tailored service, many nannies become more like a member of the family than a service provider. Common additional responsibilities for nannies include; preparing food for the children, tidying, organising activities and outings for the children & school pick up and drop offs.
"With a demanding, full-time job, a nanny offered me the most flexible and convenient form of childcare." Audrey, Mum of one, London
For more information about nannies, visit the PACEY website.
Whichever type of provider you choose, PACEY always recommends that parents carry out additional due diligence and background research before shortlisting childcare professionals.