Types of childcare

When considering childcare for your little ones, there are many types of be aware of before choosing the one that best suits your family situation.


As childcare has to suit not just your child, but the whole family, it’s important to do the required research before making your choice. Below is an outline of a few of the options to consider.

How to choose childcare

Things to consider when choosing childcare include your child’s needs, cost, your working pattern, other family member commitments such as clubs etc, whether you wish to have your child with other children or cared for alone, whether you wish for someone to care for your child in your home, theirs or in a school or community building and dietary requirements.

Some forms of registered childcare offer extra Working Tax Credit to help with affordability. To check your eligibility and the differences between Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales, have a look at this guide.

There are a wide range of available options to cater to every family.


There are a number of nursery options for children. Nurseries offer a safe and structured environment for children to learn through play and experience with their peers. All three and four year olds are entitled to 15 hours of free nursery education for 38 weeks of the year. These places at nursery are available until the child reaches their fifth birthday as they will begin school in the term following their birthday.

The nursery your child will attend can depend on your catchment area and the needs of your child. If your chosen nursery fills up, you may be offered a place at another State nursery or have the place at a private nursery paid for by the government.

There are a number of different types of private nurseries to choose from if you wish to pay for your child’s nursery education or if you wish to have them attending from a younger age than provided. Some nurseries cater for a wide range of ages, including babies and are sometimes split into different rooms depending on ages. Other nurseries can specifically cater for children with special or additional needs.

Outdoor nurseries are becoming increasingly popular with parents. The benefits of having children learning outdoor and using natural materials for play is evident. Allowing children to assess their own levels of risk in an outdoor environment can help to prepare them for the school. From an hour in a forest play area to spending the full nursery day outdoors (including hammocks in the trees to nap!), the types of forest Kindergarten and outdoor nurseries can vary.

Specialist nurseries who nurture creativity in children and allow them the freedom to explore what they want to learn. Nurseries following education methods such as Montessori and Steiner, nurture the whole child including academic, physical, emotional and spiritual development.

Nurseries are good for developing essential skills such as sharing, playing together, communication and spending time with their peers. There is opportunities to explore music, art, books, cooking, role play, basic counting and alphabet, drama and games amongst other activities.


Childminders often care for a range of children at different ages and from different families. They are cared for in the childminders home and snack time/meals are provided by the childminder. As food and activities are set by the minder, parents have less control on the structure of their children’s day. In England, childminders must be registered with Ofsted, in Wales they must be registered with CSSIW and in Scotland they must be registered with the Scottish Care Commission.

Some childminders can be paid using the free nursery grant from the Government if your children are three or four and many offer Early Years education for that age group. Childminders often work within a network so if they are ill, another minder may be able to step in as cover.

Childminders charge per child, per hour, but often offer sibling discounts. Their homes are checked for suitability and safety and all members of the household are background checked before any registration is granted to the childminder. Some childminders may offer a pick-up drop of service however in most cases, the parents must drop and collect their own children from the childminders house. If there are other children of school age being cared for, younger children may be taken along on the school runs with the childminder.


Nannies differ from childminders in that they come to your home, care for only your children and charge a flat rate, regardless of how many children you may have. For larger families, nannies are more expensive than paying per child, per hour at a childminders. The food consumed during Nanny time is provided by you so you can have greater control on what your little ones are eating whilst you are out. Nannies will often take your children out on walks, to activities or out to the doctors when they’re ill etc.

Nannies provide tailored childcare to suit your needs and hours. A nanny will get your child ready in the morning and many offer housework services including general tidying of children’s bedrooms, kitchen and bathrooms, ironing, washing and hoovering.

Grandparents, friends and family

Having family, friends and Grandparents who are willing to lend a hand with childcare can help out enormously with the financial side of things. With little to no cost, many families might be quick to ask their relatives to step in as acting childminder/nanny.

Having a familiar face looking after your child brings not only you great comfort, but your children too. A day out with Granny and Granddad is a great adventure in your child’s eyes. As Grandparents or aunties and uncles of your child, spoiling is sometimes unavoidable and your children might be given a few too many treats in your eyes. This is something that can become difficult to control when your family is your child’s care provider.

As they have a relationship to your child, they may feel they have enough authority to discipline and treat your child in ways you might not agree with. As your close family members, it may become difficult to explain to them why you want them to follow your methods and only your methods for consistency for your child.

Many parents prefer to use childcare outwith their parents and other family members as they fear their children may be too much hard work and they want to avoid the awkwardness of parenting style clashes but for others, free childcare is the perfect solution.

More information

For more information on Government funded nursery placements for your three-four year olds please Direct Gov.

Childminder and nanny information can be found at the National Childminder Association.

Photography: Kate Lundy @Flickr

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