Choosing the right childcare for your family


Struggling to decide on the best childcare for your family? Georgina Blaskey weighs up the options

Deciding on the type of childcare that’s right for you and your little one depends on many factors – how many days and hours you need each week, and your budget, just for starters. There are myriad options available, so here are the pros, cons and costs of each, to see your child from baby days through to school age.

Childminders are self-employed and usually take care of children within their own home. Registered with Ofsted in England, they are inspected every two years. By law, registered childminders can look after up to six children under eight years old. Three of these can be five and under, and only one can be under 12 months. They must have completed a local authority-approved training course and a 12-hour paediatric first-aid course. Hours are agreed between the childminder and parents.

How much does it cost? On average in London, it’s around £146 per week (for
under-twos) for 25 hours a week*.

Pros: Childminders are qualified and inspected regularly, they can provide tailored care for your child in a secure home environment, and there may be some flexibility with drop-off and pick-up times.

Cons: If your childminder is ill or away you will need a Plan B, and you may have to subsidise additional outings and activities.

Day nurseries
Day nurseries offer care for children from about six weeks old to when they start school (normally around four years old). The number of children attending will vary from nursery to nursery, and many have multiple rooms to separate ages and stages. There are different types of nurseries including private, community, local authority and workplace nurseries. They are inspected by Ofsted and there are legal ratios for each child: for babies aged five weeks to two years, it’s one carer per three children; children aged two to three years is one carer to four children; for children over three, it’s one carer to eight, or 13 if led
by a teacher.

How much does it cost? The typical cost of a full-time day nursery place is about £210 per week for a child under two. In London, the average cost rises to £300 to £450.

Pros: Staff are well trained with valid childcare qualifications, and nurseries are inspected every two to three years. If someone is ill, there should be enough staff to cover and they will stay open during the holidays. Your employer may even subsidise your fees. Best of all, there are lots of other children for your child to interact with.

Cons: Drop-off and pick-up times are fixed, and staff turnover can be high. You may feel your child isn’t getting the one-to-one care other options can give, and little ones are more likely to pick up illnesses.

A nanny is employed by you to care for your child in your own home; they may live in or live out. Depending on what you want your nanny to do and the age of your child, they may be responsible for feeding, bathing and dressing your baby, changing nappies, or helping him use the potty, preparing his meals, cleaning his room, washing and ironing his clothes, and planning activities, such as swimming, reading and social interaction, for example, going to a playgroup. Be aware that nannies aren’t required to hold a qualification in childcare, but many have a form of training or study, the most traditional being Norland Nannies.

How much does it cost? The London average for a live-in nanny is £460 per week, and £478 per week for live-out. You are also responsible for their tax and national insurance*.

Pros: Hours are flexible depending on your needs, especially if you have a live-in nanny, but you will need a back-up plan if they are ill or on holiday. Your child may develop a strong bond with their nanny.

Cons: It’s the most expensive form of childcare and nannies are not inspected unless they’re registered. You will have to arrange back-up care and cover their tax and NI.

Au pairs
These are generally students from outside the UK, here to study and improve their English, who live with you as part of your family. You can expect them to help around the house a little and look after your children when needed, working about 35 hours a week over five days. However, due to their age and lack of experience or qualifications, it may not be the best option if your child is under two.

How much does it cost? They must be provided with a bedroom and meals, and they receive ‘pocket money’ (£85-£120 per week) rather than a wage; they are not classified as employees so they don’t need NI or tax.

Pros: The ‘big sister’ role can be very beneficial to older children (au pairs tend to be aged around 17 to 27) and your child may enjoy the exposure to another language and culture.

Cons: They are quite young and may have poor command of English. You need to give them time to attend their college, which may impact the hours you need them.

Extra options:
Kidsitter: This genius, London-based on-demand service has a network of more than 150 trusted childcare professionals available to babysit at any time, even on short notice – no membership or booking fee required.

Student Nannies: Linking parents who need cover in school holidays with local students who have time on their hands and fees to pay, Student Nannies founder Tracey Blake believes, “this is a win-win situation”.

Koru Kids: Want a nanny but don’t need one full time? Koru Kids has families across London willing to share their top-class nannies.It’s the perfect opportunity to give your child a friend to play with, and save a bit on the cost.


Want more? The 10 questions you need to ask when hiring a nanny