Every parent will want the best childcare for their children - being safe, happy and healthy in a new environment is important particulary when making that first transition from home to nursery.

In the nurseries you want your children to be cared for, feel secure, be content and be respected. You also want them to be fit, have fun, play and learn.

So how do you find childcare that offers quality care and education, as well as meeting your requirements in recognising the importance of children's safety and well-being ?

First, find what types of childcare are available. Always choose registered childcarers who are inspected by OfSTED. Visit the childcare place and see what they offer and how they run the place. Be sure to check out their status before making a decision. Also, consider your child's needs and personality, as well as viewing your own circumstances.

Types of childcare

Childcare Age range Hours Information
School nurseries 2 - 5 years old

Open during school hours & Term-time only.

Half a day sessions -
mornings or afternoons.

Nurseries normally attached to state schools.
Attending school nursery does not guarantee a place at the school.
Pre-schools 2 - 5 years old
Term-time only

Half a day sessions -
mornings or afternoons.
Pre-school nurseries are based in community venues such as a church or village hall.

Largely run by voluntary committees.

Some nurseries are independent.
Day nurseries 0 - 5 years old Open all day 8am to 6pm.

Some may offer half day care.

Few are open in the evenings and week-ends.
Also open during holiday time.
Mostley private run.

Many provide breakfast, lunch and tea
Childminders 0 - 8 years old Open all day,
week-ends, term-time and holidays.

Also provides care before and after school hours.
Independent - self-employed.

Looks after children in their own home.
Play groups 0 - 5 years old Term-time only

1 or 2 hours

Parents stay with child during the play session.
Run by Children Centres.
Some run by community in halls or churches.

What to look out for when choosing childcare

- Start researching early, obtain a list of registered childminders from your local family information service or children centres or local authority.

- Note your location, cost and opening hours.

- Visit a few nurseries so you can compare whats on offer. Ask if you can drop in randomly if possible.

- Ask to take up references. Most carers will be happy to give you names of other parents to speak to about their work.

- Enquire if they offer a trial-run before any agreement.

Safety check list

- Childcarers should be registered - inspected by Ofsted to ensure standards are met. Ask to see a copy of the latest OfSTED inspection report.
(OfSTED stands for Office of Standard in Education)

- Staff members should be qualified and experienced.

- Disclose and Barring Service checks - all staff should be DBS checked to ensure they have no criminal records

- First Aid certified - a qualified first aider should be on duty at all times

- SENCO officer present - ask if there is a special education coordinator to support children with learning needs

- Staff-to-child-ratio - ask how many children are served by one staff member

- Key worker available - ask if there is a key worker who will be responsible for looking after your child. A key worker is a named carer who is responsibe for showing interest in your child' needs and monitoring their development. Key work is alrso responsible for feeding back information to the parent. - Supervision - ask who supervises and how


- Ask about late pick-ups and early drop-offs

- Ask what is the procedure in case of emergency or accidents

- Ask about procedures regarding Illness / medicines

- Safeguarding policies - all staff should undergo a 'Disclosure and Barring Service' check

- Health and safety policies - check how safe and secure is the environment

Are the toilets and basins are clean?
Are there facilities for potty training / nappy changing?


- Toys should be varied, creative and plentiful

- Toys and equipments should be age appropriate and safe to
play with (Kite marked)

- The surroundings display should reflect diversity of culture

- Outdoor space should be safe and secure and indoor activities

- Indoor space should be spacious

- Staff team - Qualified and experienced staff, First aider, SENCO officer, key workers and interpreter should be available.

Sufficient team of staff should be working and implement staff-to-child-ratio policy.


- Menu should include fresh fruit and vegetable.
- Water should be accessible to children when ever they want it.
- Special requirements- cater for vegetarians, halal or kosher meat eaters.
- Allow meals or snacks from home.
- Awareness of food allergies.

Progress feedback

- Daily feedback of child's day
- Monthly report
- Learning Journal

Child's needs and personality

- Does your child thrive in a small and quite environment or flourish
in a larger environment?

- Does your child need a close one-to-one relationship to thrive?

- Will your child need time to adjust?

- Is your child timid or confident?

- Do they prefer out door play

- Do they have special needs - physical needs, emotional needs, language delay
or learning needs

Own circumstances

- Consider if you want a nursery close to your home or work

- If you're late, who will pick up your child or if you start work before 9am who will drop off your child?

- Depending on your working hours, what type of childcare would suit you: full-day nursery, pre-school (term-time) or childminders.

- Think about the cost of the childcare

Settling children into childcare

- Visit the new childcare facilities couple of times with your child

- Leave your child for 30 minutes while you stay in the back ground. Later, for another 30 minutes, step out and go for a walk.

- Ask a family members to help settle your child in too.

- Start the nursery in the middle of the week , so your child don't have to start a full week.

- Try to let the carer take charge and help your child so they get used to the face, the voice and the security.

- Prepare you child by talking to them where they will be going each day and the sort of things they will do.

- Try to get to the nursery early to settle your child in.

- Let your child take their favourite toy or blanket to give them some comfort and familiarity.

- Try to be cheerful, give your child a hug, say goodbye rather than slipping away and remind them you'll be picking them up later.

Monitoring your child's care

- Talk to your childcarer everyday; the childcarers need to know what's happening at home that might affect your child's needs during the day.

- Talk to your childcarer about how your child's day went - what they ate, how well they slept etc.

- Ask your carer to keep an activity diary (sometimes known as a 'My Day' sheet) outlining the day.

- Keep saying what you expect from the carer. Although certain requirements will have been agreed from the outset, new concerns will inevitably come up.

- Look out for changes in your child's behaviour or mood. If they can talk, ask questions (what they have eaten, slept, done?).

- It's good to know the names of the children and parents to know who they're talking about/ playing with early on.

- Make occasional unexpected visits to the childcare centre or childminder's home, or arrive early to see what's happening.

-Talk to other parents and neighbours.

- Ask to see a copy of the latest OfSTED inspection report every year for the service you are using. Or log on to to view it online.

- Book two months or so in to a new arrangement to discuss your child's progress/ improvements/issues together.

Contracts - what should be included

- The details of the retainer fee or deposit to secure your child's place
- The amount you pay, when you pay and what it covers (e.g. nappies, food, days out) - and importantly anything it doesn't cover
- The hours / days your child will attend
- Any days, e.g. public holidays that the place isn't available
- Whether you pay when your child is absent including holiday and sickness arrangements
- Arrangements for terminating the place
- You should where possible set up one agreement that covers the settling-in period and then set up another contract following this. This is so that if your child doesn't settle or one of you realise that the arrangement isn't going to work, you are not tied into too long a notice period.

Tips on finding childcare

How to recognise quality childcare

Childcare resource

Childcare & early education

Early years and Parent survey