Everyone’s situation will be different when it comes to childcare, depending on the hours you work, your family circumstances, your child’s needs and your financial resources.

Kristen Harding, Childcare expert at My Family Care shares her advice on how parents can find the right childcare for them.

To get started, there are a series of questions that you should ask yourself and discuss with your partner:

  1. What is my budget range?
  2. What hours do I need to cover? (Don’t underestimate your travel time!)
  3. What options are available in my area? (Like: relatives nearby, group settings, other families looking to share care, etc.)
  4. Do I want my child in a group setting?
  5. How structured do I want my child’s day?

Now that you’ve answered those questions, you need to know the various options available – some are short term solutions and limited by the age of your children, while others are more permanent and compliment a range of ages.

In Home

When hiring care in your own home, you may choose to do it yourself or go through a childcare agency, such as Tinies Childcare. Either way, remember that these are your children and their safety and development should be first and foremost in your decision. Even if you don’t use an agency to find your carer, you can ask them to check references or carry out a DBS check for you so that you can feel more confident in your decision.

Maternity Nurse

This is a short term option, but can be a saving grace if you have commitments to fulfill following the birth of your child, or if you’re a first time mum with no support network close by. A Maternity Nurse will usually work 24 a day, 6 days a week. They can help you settle in, offer advice and help initiate a routine. A Maternity Nurse runs at about £750 per week, but if you can afford it and have space in your home to accommodate another adult, it’s well worth the cost.

Nanny

A nanny can offer you flexible hours. Nannies can live in or out and gives you control over daily activities, routines, meals options and discipline. Remember the cost will change depending on hours, responsibilities and location. With the cost of nurseries rising, having a nanny can be more cost effective if you have more than one child or you work long hours. Companies such as Nanny Tax or Nanny Matters can help you work through the logistics. Also, websites like www.nannyshare.co.uk can help you find like-minded parents in your community who are interested in sharing a nanny.

Mother’s Helper

A Mother’s Helper can be useful but they are not usually left unsupervised with your children. Their role is to back up parents rather than take sole charge, and they would expect to do the jobs that a mother or father would do at home. Typically this costs between £100 and £300 per week, depending on hours and living arrangements.

Relative Care

Not only will your child already know this person, but the individual likely knows your routines and preferences. Relative care can be cost effective depending on the arrangement you make; however, we suggest that you put a series of boundaries in place before you begin working together in regards to mutual respect, money and the type of parenting expected.

Child-minder

Child-minders provide care for a number of children in their own home. They can be a less expensive option at £4-£9 per hour. However, your child will be one of a few and you will not have as much control over their daily routine. To find child-minders in your local area, you can consult your local Family Information Service (FIS).

Nurseries

This is the most structured form of group childcare you can choose with set hours – usually from 8am to 6pm. Nurseries provide a good opportunity for children to socialise in a safe environment. You could pay anywhere from £150 to £400 per week. To find out more information about nurseries in your area, visit the Ofsted website, or to find out what parents think about nurseries in your area, visit Good Care Guide.

Hopefully one of the options above suits you, but it is always best to have a back-up plan in place as well. This plan may be relatives or a neighbour, or even a network of friends. Services such as Emergency Childcare act as an insurance policy for those days when you need to be at work, but your care arrangements fall through. With as little as 2 hours’ notice, they can have a nanny to your door or find you a place in a local nursery or with a child-minder. Knowing you have this as an option offers peace of mind to every working parent.