Finding childcare for the first time can be a daunting task, whether your baby is 9 months or 3 years old. With a lot of things to consider and questions to ask, we've come up with a checklist of 10 things to be looking out for during your selection.
1: Meal Plans – Find out if you have to make a packed lunch to take in, or if food is included in the price. If it is included, what kind of meals do they make? A hot, 'home made' lunch is a popular option in nurseries, which means less worry about dinner when you get home. Don't forget to ask about catering for any special dietary needs that your child has.
2: Naps – Are there set nap times, and where do they sleep? This could be a big thing to consider. If your baby will only nap with a cuddle/walk in the pram/dark room, you need to make sure that they can get it.
3: Holidays – You might be jetting off on a week away, or just taking some time off work and want to take your child out of childcare for the week. Make sure you know the policies on holidays. Some places still take full fees for being off, others are a bit more relaxed. You don't want to get an unexpected bill when you get home from holiday!
4: Cuddles – Sometimes a cuddle can solve anything. From a teething baby to an upset toddler, a cuddle can make it all better. You want somewhere that can be a home from home, and where the staff have time for all the children.
5: Potty Training – It might be a long way off, but one day you'll have to do it! Find out how often they'll go to the toilet and how many spare pairs of pants you should pack. Maybe put in some spare socks and shoes too.
6: Activities – Have a look at what toys are on offer for the children and the different things that they can do during the day. It's good to have a mix of activities, so that they can go wild in the morning and relax towards the end of the day. An outdoor play area is always a plus, and ask if they'll go on trips to the shops and park.
7: Settling in Sessions – These can be just as important for Mum and Dad as they are for the child. Check out how many settling in sessions you can do, starting with an hour or two before you build up to a full day. Most nurseries and childminders will be happy for you to phone up and check on how your child's doing at any time, which could give you the extra peace of mind that they're having a good time!
8: Who Can Do Pick Ups? - There might be an emergency at home, a meeting running late or your train has been delayed, so you need someone else to do the evening pick up. Make sure you have a back-up plan in case you can't get there in time, and that your childcare provider knows who this is. They might want to meet them, or have a password to give before they can collect your child.
9: Accessibility – You may have found the perfect place to send your child, but it won't work if you can't get there! It can also help if you're dropping off your child en route to work, so you're not adding too much time on to the start and end of your day.
10: What do you need to pack? - Find out everything that's included in the daily rate you'll be paying. You might need to send in your own wipes, nappies and a packed lunch. Ask about trips and any toddler groups your child might be taken to, and if these are funded out of what you already pay.
Remember that the most important part of childcare is that you and your child are both happy. They might take a little while to settle in, but soon enough your child will be running away from you the second you're in the door. Don't forget to pack a change of clothes (maybe more than one...) and to put their name on the tags!
Melissa (Forever Bespoke Marketing Team)