Good day all.
I am sorry for the long gap between blogs. I have put myself on the naughty step and can only pray that this elongated wait has not had an adverse effect on your personal or mental wellbeing.
Please sit back, relax and enjoy my latest update about childcare choices for toddlers….and remember to like/share/subscribe please!
Weirdly it isn’t something we sat down and discussed in great detail until Ella was a few months old, but when we did there were only two options, Childminder or Nursery. We certainly couldn’t afford a live-in Nanny and my parents still work and Chelle’s are too far away for a daily drop off and pick up routine for that to be a genuine consideration. To be honest, even if the Grandparents were close by and available we didn’t want them to become the childcare. Clearly for some this works perfectly well or is the only viable option, but Ella’s relationship with her Grandparents is so special and I think that them being her childcare day in, day out would actually detract a little from that…and besides, it means we can put them to better use when we need a baby-sitter!!
So, Childminder or Nursery? We looked at what was important to us and weighed up the pros and cons of each option against those factors. Every parent will have different considerations and priorities, and the only right answer is what you are comfortable with, but it is certainly worth sitting down and weighing it up. For us, we wanted Ella to have fun, but also to learn and develop in a structured way. We wanted her to mingle with other kids, have a low number of children to carers, be close by so we could easily embed into our daily commute (as we both work) and of course, it had to be affordable.
- Affordable – we did have a budget and we also needed an option that was signed up to the Government’s Tax-Free childcare scheme, to save money there too.
- Fun – really important for us that Kids have time being kids.
- Learn/Develop – we wanted to ensure she was somewhere that was following the Ofsted curriculum as well as being subject to ongoing inspection by them
- Interaction with other kids – as well as having fun and learning, kids need to spend time with other kids in order to develop their social skills.
- Low child to carer ratio – we didn’t want her to be just a number, quality time with a carer was key for us
- Local to where we live – had to fit into our routine, which I will run through below!
The Nursery Option
There were several nurseries close by, but some were too pricey and others not close enough to synch in with our daily commute. We eventually found a cracking nursery round the corner who confirmed a slot would potentially be available for the relevant start date and days we required. You ought to check this with Nursery’s as early as possible as it is not a given.
We had a tour of the place with Ella in tow, were shown around the different classrooms (for various age groups) and given a run-through of a typical day, security and first aid protocols. The kids all seemed to be having fun, they followed Ofsted and were rated highly at their last inspection. The class numbers were not too large and the carers to children ratio was sensible, especially when factoring in the other adults in and around the place for security, cooking, first aid, etc. It was also within budget. They were registered for all government tax schemes, including the tax free childcare. it looked clean, the carers were friendly and we even bumped into a friend of ours picking his kid up who gave it the thumbs up. All in all, a really strong showing.
The Childminder Option
We were recommended a lady by a mutual friend who’s child was also looked after by this childminder. She’d come highly recommended. We went to visit her at her house and instantly felt a warmth to the environment. She ran us through a typical week which confirmed there was lots of fun. She was registered with Ofsted and showed us how she complied a development file to evidence that she followed their curriculum. Make sure you check this claim online that childminders are registered with Ofsted, and whilst there check their last inspection notes. You can also check their health and safety credentials. She looked after two other kids as well as an older child that she looked after before and after school, so a small number of kids for her attention and enough for Ella to socialise with. They also regularly met up with other childminders and their kids throughout the week, and so Ella would meet and play with other kids. It was also just round the corner (2mins in the car), within budget and signed up to the relevant Government Tax Schemes.
In terms of meeting our requirements it was a tie. In the end we went for the childminder option as we both had childminders when younger and spending time with her really gave us the sense of her setup being a home from home for the kids, and we loved that environment. That being said, I genuinely think that it would’ve been equally fine going to the nursery as it met our criteria, but I guess we will never know!
Like most things with parenting, you just make it work, but we did have to give serious consideration to our daily work commute, etc, in considering how we could work that around the childcare. We both work up in London and it’s door to door about an hour each way. Childminder drop off and pick up is 7am and 6pm respectively and prior to this our working hours were 9-5…so we had to be flexible to make this work. In the end Chelle changed her hours to 8-4 meaning she could get back for the evening pick up and I would do the mornings. The mornings are a bit of a blur as Chelle is up at 5.30am, Ella and I are up at 6am and out the door by 6.45am. As most blokes know, 45mins is more than enough time to get up and out…but Ella of course is not fully onboard with this plan…and I do somehow lose a few minutes here and there blowing raspberries on her belly or tickling her. Somehow though it all comes together, and we make it work.
How is it going?
We love our childminder and perhaps more importantly, so does Ella. She really looks forward to going there, always has a big smile on her face at drop off and pick up, is forever trying to explain what happened during her day and talking about her best friends that are also there.
We’ve built up a great relationship with the childminder and where she is with Ella all day there is more understanding of when she is really ill vs. a little cough, so we don’t get too many calls to come and get her for a runny nose, which is remarkable really given Ella’s spent quite a lot of her first couple of years in this world struggling with illness.
We also get sent photos of her every day that we gawp over at lunchtime before showing our work colleagues who haven’t got it in them to tell us they couldn’t care less.
I am not going to bore you with the minutia, but all I will say is that there are numerous childcare schemes that will save you a meaningful amount of money each week. take 20mins to get up to speed with your options by using this Government childcare support calculator. Also know that at ages 3 and 4 (under current legislation) additional childcare support kicks in through the form of 15-30hrs free childcare per week, and this can be used on top of existing relevant tax benefits (such as childcare vouchers or tax-free childcare allowance), so a huge saving whatever your financial situation.
So that’s all from me, I hope you found it insightful and if it’s ok, can I come off of the naughty step now please?