Choosing a childcare provider for your child/children is probably one of the biggest decisions you will make for your child before they turn 5. Whether your child attends from infancy or is of pre-school age, the decision about which setting to choose, doesn’t get any easier.

But there are things you can look out for and questions you can ask that will ensure the decision you make is the right one for you and your family.

It’s important to note at this stage that each child and family is different and so what may feel right for you, may not be suitable for your friend’s child.

Many parents who have chosen childcare for their young children comment upon the ‘vibe’ or ‘feeling’ they get when they enter a setting, and for some, you can walk in the door and just ‘know’ that this is the place for you and your child, similarly, you can walk into a setting and know that it won’t be right for you.

However, if you don’t have this instant gut reaction upon entering a new setting, then you can ask questions, ask for show-arounds (many settings may be doing these differently as a result of Covid-19 so it’s worth contacting settings early to ensure you are able to view the setting in some way.)

You should also be aware that there are numerous options available to you.

Many people think their options are limited to private day nurseries, but childminders (home-based childcare) are also an option to consider and they offer just as much flexibility, learning experiences and affordable childcare as nurseries, but within a home-from-home environment.

Similarly, dependent on your work commitments, needs and your child’s age, a pre-school is also a viable option and again, offers everything a nursery does, but often on reduced hours/half daycare.

We are incredibly lucky within in Adur & Worthing to have so many fantastic childcare options available for our children, but that doesn’t make the decision-making process any easier!  To help, we’ve put together a growing directory of fantastic Childcare Settings in Adur & Worthing which have been personally recommended by over 14,000 local families on our Facebook page – click here for details.  

When you start your search for suitable childcare for your child/children; 

It’s important to take into account what is important to you as a family and thus your child, so that you can seek to find a provider that shares some of these values and/or their ethos is very similar to yours so that you know the things that are important to you all at home, will be instilled from the outset by your childcare provider too. 

As with any big decision, research and recommendation is key and can give you an honest insight into various settings and so visit the setting’s website, social media pages and speak to friends or even other parents that already attend the setting, but don’t let these early ideas taint or influence your view, as we’ve said, this is a very individual choice! We can’t recommend enough going to visit the setting yourself, and taking your child with you (if applicable currently) as you can often pick up on how your child reacts to the new environment too which is key when starting somewhere new. 

You can find a setting’s OFSTED report readily available online, and whilst many parents can be influenced by a setting’s grading, it is not always a true reflection of the day to day environment and experienced so it’s important to bear this in mind too. 

You could ask questions about the access to the outdoor environment, their links with the local community, are there any trips or outings, what does the routine of their day look like?

Dependent on your child you may want to ask whether they are a ‘free-flow’ setting; which means the children are able to navigate their own way around the setting, visit different areas/rooms and the outdoor space freely or if they are based in rooms based upon their age/stage of development.

Similarly, you may ask to see their policies and procedures and how they propose to deal with a range of scenarios, payment structures and fees and whether or not they accept Government Funding or Childcare Vouchers, as this may be something that is an important element for you and your family. 

If you are a parent of a child with SEND, you will want to know what support is available and how they support children with a range of special educational needs and disabilities – all settings should have their ‘Local Offer’ available on their website so you are able to see at a glance the support and adaptations they are able to provide for a child with SEND, but it is essential that you ask them as many questions regarding your child’s specific needs in order to ensure they are fully able to meet your child’s needs adequately.

Whether your decision to send your child to an Early Years setting is based upon work commitments or to support your child’s further learning and development; you should know that you have countless choices on the type of setting and that as the child’s foremost and primary educator, you have a right to ask as many questions as you like to prospective settings to ensure that this is the right place for your child to learn and grow.

A gut feeling and a child’s reaction to the new environment is often the most dominant indicator that you are making the right choice and so we shouldn’t overlook the value of these emotive responses to a new situation or environment.

Every Early Years setting will understand parental (and child) anxiety regarding transitions and new environments and should do everything in their power to support and encourage this transition, factoring in each child and families individual needs. 

You need to feel confident in the setting in which you are leaving your child in the care of and so you should not feel rushed or under pressure to make a decision, and our advice would be to take your time, explore all of the options available to you locally and do as much research as you can before booking your show-arounds or asking for a virtual tour (many settings are offering these as an alternative to physical show-arounds) and ask as many questions as you need to receive the information that is most important to you and enables you to make an informed, confident decision that is right for you and your child.

With thanks to Chloe Webster who is a highly experienced registered childminder based in Worthing, West Sussex.  Chloe is a regular contributor a number of Early Years Magazines such as NMT Magazine, Early Years Educator Magazine, ABC Magazine, TES and Parenta.