Choosing the right childcare setting

To meet your family’s needs and make a successful choice, here are a few things to consider and some questions you might like to ask the childminder, nursery or any other childcare provider you are thinking of using.

Questions for parents to ask about any childcare setting

Practicalities

  • What are the opening hours, holiday and sickness arrangements?
  • What immediate vacancies do you have?
  • How will we communicate about my children’s needs on a day-to-day basis?
  • If my child needs to be given medication, what arrangements will I need to make?

Safeguarding and wellbeing

  • Are the children calm, safe, and happy and do they play and talk together?
  • Can you tell me about how you will protect my child and keep them safe at all times?
  • How will you support my children’s needs during the day or session?
  • What about a settling-in period?
  • Will my child have a specific person to support them?
  • Do you encourage parental involvement?
  • Are you insured for outings? (car insurance, public liability)
  • Can I see your documents and policies? (your last Ofsted inspection report, public liability insurance, registration certificate, and policies for issues such as child protection, inclusion, complaints, managing behaviour and toilet training)

Contract and costs

  • What are your fees, and when are they payable?
  • Are there any additional charges for things like food, nappies or outings?
  • Will you charge me for a missed session, if my child is ill and stays at home, or if we go on holiday?
  • Do you require a retainer if I book a place with you?
  • How much notice will I or you give, to end the arrangement?

If your child has a Special Educational Need or Disability (SEND)

  • Can I see your Local Offer document, showing how you will meet my child's individual needs?

Questions for nurseries / pre-schools and out of school providers

  • How is your organisation managed?
  • Who is in charge?
  • What qualifications and experience do your staff have?

Questions for childminders and nannies

  • What training, qualifications and experience do you have?
  • Do you have any cover arrangements for your sickness or holiday commitments?
  • Are you a member of a childminding network?
  • Do you take children to any play-based groups or Children’s Centre activities?

Questions your child may want to ask

Children view things very differently from adults, and although the issues we consider as a parent or carer are very important for our children's safety and well-being, they are often not the things most important to young children. Your child may want to know about the following things.

Hello

  • Does anyone notice when I come in? Do they say 'Hello'?
  • Can my mum, dad or carer stay if I want them to, until I feel confident and happy?

The place

  • Can I reach the things I need (toys, handles, toilet)?
  • Are there any people, or pictures of people who look like me?
  • Is there somewhere safe for my things?
  • Is there somewhere I can be quiet or by myself?

Things to do

  • Are there a variety of things to play with?
  • Can I choose what I play with?
  • Is there something different to do each time?
  • Can I play outside when I want to?

Food and sleep

  • What happens if I am thirsty or hungry?
  • Will they make me eat food I don't usually eat at home?
  • Will they make me go to bed if I'm not tired?

The people

  • Do I have a specific person to look after me?
  • Who do I tell if something is wrong?
  • If I really want my mum, dad or carer, will they get them for me?
  • Can I bring a teddy, toy or comforter with me?

The rules

  • Does anyone tell me what I am allowed and not allowed to do?
  • What happens if I do something wrong?
  • What happens if I wet my pants? Will they be cross?
  • What happens if other children hurt or frighten me?
  • Can I help make the rules?

Whenever and wherever possible visit as many childcare providers as you can, this will help you make an informed decision about the right setting for you and your child. Also, ask your child for their thoughts and suggestions. Remember they know you better than anyone else, and you know them better than anyone else.