What is it with the mind-boggling array of childcare options out there? You’ve got au pairs, childminders, nannies, nurseries and preschools – all offering different services at different rates. Making sense of it all is almost as painful as going to the supermarket on a Saturday afternoon with two children and a toddler who hasn’t slept. It’s enough to leave any parent weeping into their keyboard.
Understanding your childcare options
Here’s where we might be able to help, with the first of a series of blogs we’re putting together on various childcare options. We’ll be looking at the pros and cons and costs involved – although obviously this will vary slightly depending where you live and the individual setting. We’re kicking-off with childminders (not literally, the title is just a joke – we love childminders almost as much as nannies. Almost.)
Disclaimer – we love nannies (duh – we’re a nanny agency!)
Disclaimer alert! We are a nanny agency and we really believe in what we do. We think nannies are awesome in more ways than we can count. But – hand on heart – we are going to try and give an honest, fair overview of all the options. We can’t promise not to talk about nannies a lot because, well that is basically our job. But we’ll do our best to be fair. (Even if nannies are the best! #sorrynotsorry)
Aren’t nannies really expensive?
Now, before we start talking about childminders let’s just clear up a common misconception about nannies. People seem to think they are the super expensive childcare option – and we can understand why they might seem more pricey on paper. But when you consider the bigger picture – the extras you might pay for at nursery or preschool (things like meals are often charged on top of fees), the hours you may end up paying for that you don’t need because the sessions differ from your work hours – and you add-on the flexibility, convenience, one-to-one care and other benefits of nannies, they actually work out pretty competitive. Especially if you’re paying for more than one child or working long hours. They may not be the best option for you, but don’t rule them out until you’ve read and all the info below.
Childminder key facts
What hours do they work?
Childminders provide all-day or wrap-around (before-and-after school) care and usually work a slightly longer day than normal office hours, something along the lines of 7am to 7pm. Childminders choose the hours they are open to suit most families, but nannies work just for you. So you agree the working hours that best suit you when drafting their contract. And they work from your home, so there’s no pick-up and drop-off required. Whether you work part-time, early mornings, late evenings or both – they turn-up, you go to work. Both nannies and childminders are usually happy to pick-up and drop-off your children at school or nursery, although sometimes childminders tend to have particular schools they cover, so do check with them from the outset.
How many children can a childminder look after?
A childminder looks after a lot less children than nurseries or preschools so they can give your child more focussed care. Guidelines vary in Scotland and Wales, but in England each childminder can look after a maximum of six children under the age of 8 and only three can be under the age of 5. Although they may be able to take more children if they have an assistant or work with another childminder (more detail on that here). Nannies just look after you and your family, so their attention is completely focussed on your brood.
What qualifications do childminders need?
You don’t have to have any formal qualifications to become a childminder, but like nurseries and preschools they must be registered with Ofsted, be enhanced DBS checked and both they are their setting are inspected and assessed regularly. Most childminders do have a childcare qualification if you ask and they follow the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) standards and EYFS statutory framework. Which basically means they must all abide by the Government’s early learning principles and health and safety policies and keep records for parents and inspectors. This includes paediatric first aid training and keeping learning journals for parents. Like childminders and nursery staff and anyone who works with children, nannies must also have an enhanced DBS check. And if they’re a Happy Nest nanny, they’ll also have to have a valid paediatric first aid qualification (you can ask for this too and most have it already) and a level 3 childcare qualification – although this isn’t an official requirement for non-Happy Nest nannies. Nannies don’t have to be Ofsted registered, but a lot are – and if you’d like your nanny to sign-up it’s pretty easy to join the voluntary register online which will allow you to pay via childcare vouchers if you want to.
What about early learning and education?
Childminders follow the same early education framework (EYFS) as nurseries, preschools and the early school years. Although nannies aren’t required to follow the EYFS, they’re providing care in your home, so the setting is as safe as you can make it. And even though they’re not required to follow the standard learning structure or record learning journals like childminders and nurseries – a lot of nannies come from a childcare or early years education background so they know the drill and working on those early education milestones comes naturally. You can write any specific requests into their contract, but nannies usually love taking children out to groups and activities and learning through play at home. And you can set-up your own way of communicating about your child, whether that’s a daily diary or regular photographs.
The big question – how much do childminders and nannies charge?
Now we get to the clincher. Cost. On average childminders charge around £5-7 per hour, per child. This obviously varies depending where you live (there’s a handy guide to the average in your local area here) but is usually slightly higher than nursery or preschool fees and less than nannies, who usually charge around £10-12 per hour. However, if you have more than one child, the cost of a childminder (or nursery/preschool) obviously doubles with each child. Some offer a sibling discount, but this tends to only be around 10% and dependent on them having a space to accommodate another child. Nannies are your employee, so you pay them an agreed flat wage to look after your whole family.
Making the best decision for your family
There are definitely some brilliant childminders out there – and it helps that they’re Ofsted registered, so you can find local ones and check their latest reports on the Government website. And you know that your children will be safely looked after in a happy home environment. It’s a great option, particularly if you only have one child. And you can’t argue with the cost, it is cheaper than a nanny. But then, I’m going to do just that – because it’s not just about cost, it’s about value for money.
What is ‘value for money’ in childcare terms?
You may pay a bit more for a nanny, but there are some things you just can’t put a price on – like taking the pressure off family life. Nannies are there in school holidays and inset days so you don’t have to juggle expensive holiday clubs and extra time-off. They still come to work when your child is ill (always when you’re both about to give a major presentation at work) or when you are ill and can’t make it out of bed, so you can actually stay in bed and rest. (You read that right. I said STAY IN BED AND REST.) And they take your children to play dates, parties and groups so they never miss out on the things they like to do and you want them to experience. Plus the wonder of having someone turn up on your doorstep so you can just grab what you need and head out the door to focus on your working day, without the crying, screaming nightmare of school drop-offs (and that’s just me) cannot be underestimated.
More than just childcare
Only you can decide what’s best for you and your family – and we are openly and shamelessly biased towards nannies. But with good reason, because we think they provide much more than just a childcare option. They become part of your family.
Obviously no childcare provider will ever be as good as hanging out with mummy and daddy or actual family, but we think nannies are the next best thing. So when you consider what is ‘value for money’ in child care terms, a good nanny is worth their weight in gold.
Good luck in your decision-making – and if you have any nanny questions we haven’t answered above, ask away!