Types of childcare

There are many different types of childcare you can use, depending on your family’s needs and what suits you and your children best. Use this page to explore what may be available.


Childminders offer childcare and early education and are trained, self-employed carers, based in their own homes.

They are registered with Ofsted and both the Childminder and their home are regularly checked. The exact number of children a Childminder can care for is set by Ofsted. The maximum for one Childminder is typically up to six children under eight years old, including any of their own children.

Childminders work across a range of hours, often with a mix of ages. They can be a great option, if you need childcare out of regular work hours, you want to keep children of different ages together, or care in a home environment is preferable for you.

Childminders charge around £4 to £6.50 per child, per hour, but costs vary, so always check. Some Childminders include things like food and outings in their hourly rate, but others add the cost on. You should expect to complete a contract with the Childminder, agreeing costs, hours and other arrangements, such as dietary or medical needs.  


Nurseries offer childcare and early education. They usually cater for children between the ages of 6 weeks and 5 years, and many offer out-of-school care for 5 to 11 year olds.

Opening times may coincide with a standard working day, 8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday, and many are open all year round. Costs vary, and some offer subsidised places. Always check and ask for a copy of their fee structure. Nurseries can run in a dedicated building, be attached to a work place or Children’s Centres or to a school.

Nurseries can be managed and funded in a number of ways: they can be privately owned, managed by a committee, a charity, or supported through the local authority or an individual school.

Pre-schools and playgroups

Pre-schools and playgroups offer childcare and early education. The provision is similar to a nursery. Just like any other childcare setting, it is essential that you visit and ask lots of questions, to ensure you choose what is right for your family.

These childcare providers normally offer sessional childcare, during school hours and term time only, and do not cater for children under the age of 2. Groups are run at a mix of community buildings that have other uses outside of pre-school hours, and are usually run by a committee of parents and professionals.

Breakfast or after school clubs and holiday clubs

These types of clubs are generally open for limited times before and after the school day. During school holidays, they may offer all-day activity programmes. They offer a variety of age-appropriate, fun activities for children between the ages of 3 to around 14 years old (and up to 16 for children with additional needs).

Many breakfast, after school and holiday playschemes are linked to schools. They may use school facilities and offer a variety of activities on top of the normal school day such as music, art, sport or additional study support.

Other options

Baby and toddler groups 

These are informal groups that meet locally on a regular basis, and may be free of charge. They provide social contact and play for under-5s, and parents and carers stay for the session. 


These provide occasional care for children under eight, to enable parents or carers to take part in another activity on the same premises. They are often on offer at leisure centres, shopping malls or colleges, while classes or activities are running for adults.

A home childcarer 

This professional is Ofsted registered. They provide childcare for under-18s in the child’s own home. Childcarers may look after up to two families at any time, at the home of one of the families (sometimes called a nanny share).

Anyone who cares for the children of three or more families at once is classed as a childminder, and must register and follow national regulations.

Nannies and au-pairs

These provide childcare in your own home, and can look after children of any age. They can choose to register with Ofsted, but have no obligation to register or gain any professional qualification.

As the parent or carer, you are responsible for agreeing terms with this type of carer. You should also make checks to ensure they are a suitable person to care for children, such as requesting a Criminal Record Disclosure or taking up references from a previous employer.