Parents faced with the vast range of childcare options these days have to tackle several fundamental issues when deciding upon the right childcare for their children. How can parents decide?
One of the essential questions is whether to have their children cared for in a nursery which cares for babies and young children on a large scale outside of the home environment or by a nanny or child-minder who provides care for babies and children in a home setting on a much more personal basis.
When the time constraints of a job mean that using a nursery is just not practical or when parents prefer for their children to be cared for in a home environment, then choosing between a child-minder or a nanny is the next big decision. However there are key differences so how can parents decide between the two?
A child-minder has a high level of qualifications
In the past child-minders were undervalued but nowadays this is a profession with many child-minders gaining high levels of qualification. They are able to provide a family approach to childcare which is difficult for a day nursery to carry out. For instance the children can go the shops and the local playgrounds and also engage in domestic activities, all of which are great opportunities for learning and language development. Children essentially can get the social interaction from playing with a few other children, often from outside their family, as well as the comforts of a home environment.
One good reason for choosing a child-minder is one of continuity. As a child gets older they may access a pre-school or maintained nursery prior to starting mainstream schooling. These are usually half day sessions and by continuing to use the services of a child-minder to offer the wrap around care, parents are ensuring that their child has continuity of care. This continuity is important for the relationships/attachments that a child forms with carers other than their parents. In addition to that a child-minder is often a lot cheaper than employing a full time nanny, which will make a difference to the family’s finances.
Be aware however that child-minders work from their own home and travel time will have to be built into your day to drop off and collect your children. Child-minders also have relatively fixed hours so if you are held back at work, you will need to make alternative arrangements for your children to be collected.
There are advantages to employing a nanny
So if money is not a constraint but time is, the final remaining option is a nanny, either full or part-time. A nanny provides one to one care for your children alone in your own home, enabling them to benefit from plenty of attention and stimulation throughout the day. The downside to such constant one to one care however is the potential lack of social interaction with other children if opportunities to mix with other children are not incorporated into your child’s day. Just like child-minders, nannies can provide a family approach which nurseries can’t.
One of the biggest advantages to employing a nanny is that your childcare is very flexible. If you work and often have to stay late at short notice, having a nanny will mean your child is at home and in safe hands. Although employing a nanny is expensive, it becomes more cost-effective the more children that you have. An option to make it good value for money would be to have a nanny share with another family or as your children get older to divide the week between a nanny and nursery, thereby providing your children with the social interaction that they require.
An important aspect when considering using a nanny, aside from the cost, is that you will become the nanny’s employer. This means you will have to take on the legal responsibilities such as providing a written contract and paying tax and national insurance. Legally, a parent will have to also make sure that they have adequate employer liability insurance.
Using either a child-minder or a nanny is a popular choice because of the special relationship that can be established between the parents and the child minder or nanny. This relationship is a very personal one and one which frequently extends beyond the child’s infancy. The child-minder or nanny can become an important part of the family and the connection between your child and their child-minder / nanny should never be underestimated.