Things to look out for when visiting potential childcare providersMaking sure you choose the right kind of childcare setting for your child is a big decision for any parent to make. We would recommend that you visit a selection of providers to give you an idea of what will suit you and your child.
Take your child with you to see how staff talk to them and try to visit during opening hours so you can get an idea of a typical day and to see if the children there are happy, calm and busy.
Always ask to see an Ofsted registration certificate, a recent inspection report and references from other parents.
FYi have drawn up a list of quality pointers to look out for when visiting potential childcare providers as well as a list of questions to think about when visiting nurseries and childminders:
- are the children settled, safe and happy?
- do children play and talk together?
- are the staff listening to children and answering them carefully?
- are the staff friendly and enjoying their work?
- are the staff joining in with what the children are doing?
- are there lots of fun activities planned to help children learn and play? Can children plan some of these themselves?
- are there plenty of clean toys and equipment for children to use?
- are the premises clean, well-kept and safe for children with a fun outside play area (or will children go to parks and other places regularly)?
- do parents have plenty of chances to say what they want for their children?
If there is anything else you want to know, do not be afraid to ask. Good childcare staff expect you to ask questions and will be happy to answer them.
Questions to ask
What will my child eat and drink during the day? Are you able to cater for special diets?
Sometimes childcare providers and/or parents prefer children to bring their own packed lunches, though snacks and drinks will be provided.
Can I see where children play outside and where do they sleep if they need to?
For example, what security measures are there to ensure that the children are safe?
How do you encourage good behaviour?
Does the childcare provider have a policy for dealing with misbehaviour? Until children learn to talk and communicate clearly, they often get frustrated and misbehave because they can't easily make you understand what is wrong, what they need - a hug or a drink for example - or that they are just tired and need to sleep.
Don't forget to ask about costs
If your child is aged three to five years, ask about free entitlement to early education to see whether the childcare provider is registered for funding and when your child is eligible for funding.
Questions to ask when visiting nurseries/pre-schools
How many children are each member of staff responsible for?
There should be:
1 member of staff for every three children under the age of two
1 member of staff for every four children aged two
1 member of staff for every eight children aged three to seven.
What is the usual turnover of staff each year? What training do the staff have?
Answers to these questions will vary, but most childcare providers with employ staff with qualifications.
What is the daily routine and how will my child be occupied?
For example, are there planned sessions as well as free-play time?
Will my child be kept with the same group of children?
This gives your child a chance to develop social skills and relationships with children of similar age.
How will I know what my child has been doing during the day?
For example, will your child have a key-carer that you can talk to about your child's experiences during the day?
What if my child becomes ill?
If you are at work, does your employer understand that you may need to take time off to care for your child if he or she is unwell?
Questions to ask when visiting childminders
May I see your Ofsted registration certificate and your certificate of insurance and First Aid certificate?
If you are not sure, you can also contact FYi to check that a childcare provider is registered. Childminders should have public liability insurance and have taken an appropriate first aid course.
How long have you been looking after children and what made you choose childminding as a career?
Many childminders have their own young children to care for. All registered childminders are obliged to complete the Introduction to Childminding Practice course within six months of getting registered. You should be shown certificates for any other qualifications taken.
What do you do with the children all day?
Many childminders take younger children to parent/carer and toddler group and/or to pre-schools and Children's Centres. If there is no garden, are the children taken out on trips or to play in a local park regularly?
What ages are the other children who are regularly cared for at the same time as my child?
How does the childminder manage potty training or taking older children to school?
May I contact other parents whose children you care for or have cared for in advance in order to obtain references?
Providers may be able to provide contact details of parents to obtain references.
Are there any other adults around during the hours that minded children are cared for?
Sometimes childminders have an approved assistant, but this should be stated on their registration certificate.
You will need to set up a legal contract with your childcare provider giving details of notice required, payment and any other details that need to be agreed.