One of the hardest bits about returning to work after having a baby is finding decent childcare that you feel comfortable leaving your precious baby with. Whatever option you choose you will still be racked with guilt when you return to work, so it’s important to take your time choosing the best childcare provider for your family to hopefully make your days go by a little bit easier.
We put our daughter into nursery for 2 full days per week from when she was 2 years old until she started school at 4 years. We were so lucky to find an amazing nursery that she loved, and where we still send her in the school holidays.
It was a hard and nerve-wracking process finding somewhere that we felt ok to leave her, but having a nursery that we all loved really did make our days at work less stressful.
Having been through it all, here are my tips on how to choose a childcare provider…
Consider all options
Have a think about whether a childminder or a nursery setting would be best for you and your child. We chose a nursery as we wanted our daughter to be in a bigger, school-like setting with more children, however I can see why some parents would prefer a smaller group that a childminder can offer.
Visit a few
Even if you think you’ve chosen a setting, try and fit in some visits to a few others. That way you have something to compare it to. You may also change your mind – I wasn’t keen on the first nursery I visited even though I initially thought it was the one we would pick.
Ask a lot of questions
Don’t worry about coming across as a neurotic mother for asking a lot of questions. It’s so incredibly important that you get all of the answers you need – after all, you are going to be entrusting these people with your most precious possession!
Ask for recommendations from friends
Ask around for recommendations from friends and family, see what experiences other people have had. Our nursery was one that we hadn’t even considered until I asked for recommendations on Facebook and had several people tell us to go and visit it.
Don’t ignore your feelings
First impressions are so important. If you have any feelings of doubt on your first visit then I would say to listen to your heart, and probably cross the nursery/childminder off your list.
Take note of how the staff welcome your child
On the first nursery visit we went on the staff were so busy they asked us to take a seat and didn’t even acknowledge Little H. When we went into the classroom they chatted with her a bit but didn’t seem overly interested in her. In our chosen nursery all 4 staff in the room came over and introduced themselves to her straight away, then took her off by the hand to show her around and made such a fuss of her. I instantly felt comfortable with leaving her with these strangers.
Take advantage of settling in sessions
Accept as many settling in sessions as you are offered. They will put your mind at rest that you’ve chosen the right place, and allow you to gage how your child is going to cope.
You usually pay for what you get
Whilst prices between different childminders or nurseries don’t usually vary a huge amount, don’t settle for somewhere just because it’s cheaper. Our chosen nursery wasn’t one of the cheaper ones, but we could see from their facilities that they could justify what they charged.
Think about picking a nursery near your school
This wasn’t actually our intention when we chose the nursery as we were planning on moving house before Little H started school, but she has ended up going to the school directly opposite her old nursery. This has meant that she started school with a lot of nursery friends, and it made the whole transition so much easier. I would definitely recommend considering this if it’s an option.
You’re going to feel nervous and guilty wherever and whoever you choose to look after your little one while you go to work, so make sure you have covered all bases and done your research to make it as easy as possible on everyone. Good luck!