Pregnancy and baby

Deciding on childcare

Finding the right childcare is an important decision for any parent. Finding out about all the options can help you make the right choice for you and your family. Whether it's friends and family helping out, a day nursery, a childminder, a nanny or an au pair, you'll need to spend some time considering how each of the options work for you and your child.

Financial and practical help for working parents

The GOV.UK website has information on financial help with childcare costs when you go back to work. To work out how much different types of childcare might cost you, try the Money Advice Service's online childcare calculator.

Starting childcare

When your child starts childcare, it can be difficult for you and them. However, there are ways to make the transition easier.

Tell your childminder or nursery all about your child

They'll need details about their routine, likes and dislikes, feeding habits (particularly if you're still breastfeeding) and so on. When you leave or collect your child, try to make time to talk and find out how things are going.

Make sure that you and your childminder or nursery workers agree on important issues

It's important that you take a similar approach to issues such as discipline and potty training.

Allow your child to get used to it gradually

If you can, start by leaving your child for a short time and gradually build up the length of time that you leave them. You might begin leaving your child before you go back to work.

Support and reassure your child in every way you can

The early weeks are likely to be difficult for both of you. A regular routine and a handover that's as smooth as possible will help.

It's perfectly normal for your child to cry when you leave, but the crying usually stops once you've gone. Don't hang around and, once you've left, don't go back. If you said you'd be back at a certain time, make sure you are.

Share the experience

Chat to older children about what they've been doing while you've been away. Talk about the person or people who look after them. Show them it's all part of normal life and something to look forward to.

Make time for your child

Whatever else you need to sacrifice (such as the housework), it's vital to make time to spend with your child when they're at home.

Don't feel guilty

Evidence shows that children do well in high-quality childcare. There's no need to feel guilty about not being there all the time.

If you're worried about the quality of care, do something about it as soon as possible. Contact the Ofsted helpline on 0300 123 1231 for advice on how to make a complaint.

Starting school

Even children who've been in childcare can find starting school a big step.

Talk to staff at the school about ways to help them settle in. They should be able to give you some suggestions.

In some situations, extra support and reassurance may be needed. For example, your child may be one of very few black children at a mainly white school, or the other way round. In this situation, talk to the school before the start date about any problems that could arise.

Find out how the school will handle any problems. Make suggestions yourself if you want to and explain your child's needs. Talk to your child about it, too.

Read more about your child's first day at school.

The early years foundation stage (EYFS)

Legally, children must start formal education no later than the beginning of the school term after their fifth birthday. Many infant and primary schools admit children to their reception classes when they're four years old.

You can ask the school to defer entry if you're offered a school place for your child when they're four, but you'd prefer them to start later in the school year. However, you must take the place during that school year – you can't hold on to it for the following year.

Schools can only offer a certain number of places, so start looking early. You can get a list of local schools and information about them from your local education department.

Since September 2008, all Ofsted-registered early years and childcare providers and all maintained and independent school reception classes must use the early years foundation stage (EYFS).

The EYFS is a structure of learning, development and care for children from birth to five years old, which enables them to learn through a range of activities.

The EYFS ensures that:

  • children learn through play
  • providers work closely with parents
  • your child's learning at home is taken into account
  • you're kept up-to-date on your child's progress
  • your child receives a high-quality experience regardless of the type of setting they attend

The welfare, learning and all-round development of children with different backgrounds and levels of ability, including those with special educational needs and disabilities, are taken into account.

For an introduction to the EYFS, call 0300 123 1231 and ask for a copy of the leaflet called It's Child's Play (reference 00640-2008LEF-EN).

Page last reviewed: 06/01/2014

Next review due: 06/01/2016

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