Parents faced with the vast range of childcare options these days have to tackle several fundamental issues when deciding upon the right childcare for their children. One of the essential questions is whether to have their children cared for in a nursery which cares for babies and young children on a large scale outside of the home environment or by a nanny or childminder who provides care for babies and children in a home setting on a much more personal basis.
When the time constraints of a job mean that using a nursery is just not practical or when parents prefer for their children to be cared for in a home environment, then choosing between a childminder and a nanny is the next big decision. Both nannies and childminders are able to provide a family approach to childcare which is difficult for a day nursery to carry out. For instance the children can go the shops and the local playgrounds and also engage in domestic activities such as cooking and hanging out the washing, all of which are great opportunities for learning and language development. In addition, both nannies and childminders can provide focused attention in a comfortable environment, allowing a child to relax and feel safe and confident in his/ her surroundings.
So how to choose between the two?
In the past childminders were undervalued but nowadays this is a profession with many child-minders gaining high levels of qualification. There are several reasons to choose a childminder, not least of which is the cost. A childminder is often a lot cheaper than employing a full time nanny, which will make a significant difference to the family’s finances, especially when you only have one child to care for.
Another good reason for choosing a childminder is one of continuity. As a child gets older they may access a pre-school or maintained nursery prior to starting mainstream schooling. These are usually half day sessions and by continuing to use the services of a childminder to offer the wrap around care, parents are ensuring that their child has continuity of care. This continuity is important for the relationships/attachments that a child forms with carers other than their parents. A childminder can also continue to care for the child once they have started full time school, where the school day is often shorter that a parent’s normal working day and where the holidays are longer. Choosing a childminder means that children from the same family can also be cared for in the same environment and will often mix with other children from other families who are registered with that child-minder.
Childminders however work from their own home (and therefore not yours) and travel time will have to be built into your day to drop your children off and pick them up. Childminders also have relatively fixed hours so if you are held back at work, you will need to make alternative arrangements for your children to be collected.
So if money is not a constraint but time is, the final remaining option is a nanny, either full or part-time. A nanny provides dedicated one to one care for your children alone in their own familiar surroundings, namely your own home, enabling them to benefit from plenty of attention and stimulation throughout the day. Many nannies also study towards childcare qualifications and have prior experience either as nursery assistants and/or as child-minders themselves. This means they are trained to create a safe and stimulating environment for your child to enjoy and thrive in but also have relevant experience of the structured day that a nursery provides.
One of the biggest advantages to employing a nanny is that your childcare is very flexible. If you work and often have to stay late at short notice, having a nanny will mean your child is at home and in safe hands. And if you’re going to be really late home, you can be reassured that your nanny will feed your child and put him /her to bed without you having to worry about rushing home and collecting him/ her. Although employing a nanny is expensive, it becomes more cost-effective the more children that you have. An option to make it good value for money would be to have a nanny share with another family or as your children get older to divide the week between a nanny and nursery, thereby providing your children with the social interaction that they require. The potential lack of social interaction with other children, if opportunities to mix with other children are not incorporated into your child’s day, is a negative aspect of employing a nanny as your primary child carer.
Potentially the greatest downside to using a nanny, aside from the cost, is that you will become the nanny’s employer. This means you will have to take on the legal responsibilities such as providing a written contract, paying tax, national insurance and providing holiday leave. Parental Choice is able to take this burden off parents and will guide parents on their responsibilities and make sure that they are protected; for example, by ensuring parents have adequate employer liability insurance in place.
Sarah-Jane Butler, founder of Parental Choice says: ”Finding the right nanny to look after your children can be a daunting enough task without the administrative complexities of being an employer at the same time. Having been there myself, I appreciate the difficulties but they shouldn’t dissuade you from picking that childcare option. Nannies can provide the perfect combination of attention, stimulation and security your child needs. Parental Choice was set up entirely with parents in mind to relieve them from those administrative complexities and allow them to concentrate on being parents and not employers.”
Using either a childminder or a nanny is a popular choice because of the special relationship that can be established between the parents and the child minder or nanny. This relationship is a very personal one and one which frequently extends beyond the child’s infancy. The childminder or nanny can become an important part of the family and the connection between your child and their childminder / nanny should never be underestimated. A good nanny or childminder is worth his / her weight in gold!
Sarah-Jane Butler, founder of Parental Choice, the essential “one-stop shop” to help you make the right decision on your childcare needs.
For more information on your childcare options, see the Parental Choice website.