Choosing a childcarer: What’s the difference between childminders and nannies?
Childcare in a home environment is a more flexible option than a nursery or day care centre. It gives children the opportunity to enjoy real-life learning experiences like cooking, shopping, gardening, mealtimes and outings to the park or library. The childcarers can be more spontaneous than those who work in an institution – an unexpected sunny or snowy day can be taken advantage of on the spur of the moment. They are also ideally placed to look after disabled children, taking into account their individual needs.
You will need to decide between a childminder and a nanny. Childminders work in their own homes while nannies work in the home of the children they’re looking after. Childminders usually look after children from other families as well as yours, while nannies usually work just for one family at a time.
Registered childminders are generally self-employed. Those who care for children under the age of 8 are required by law to be registered and inspected by Ofsted in England, or by the Care Standards Inspectorate for Wales (CSIW) in Wales. All childminders take introductory training and most also hold a relevant qualification. To go on the register, they must have public liability insurance, a health check, an enhanced Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) disclosure, and a valid first-aid certificate.
Some nannies live in; others come to work daily, while some work for two or more families. Unlike childminders, nannies do not have to be registered and inspected. Many are trained but this is not required by law. Neither are there limitations on the number of children they may look after nor any legal requirement for a CRB disclosure. However, reassuringly, they can now be approved under the Government’s Childcare Approval Scheme.
Over 7’s childminders
Childminders who care only for children over the age of 7 (i.e. 8 year olds and above) do not have to be registered or inspected by Ofsted and are not governed by national standards for childminding. However, like nannies, they can be approved under the Government’s Childcare Approval Scheme. Over-7s childminders provide care before and after school, taking children to their after-school activities.
Where to start looking for a childminder or nanny
Before you start to look for a childminder or nanny, think about what kind of person you want to care for your children. What level of qualification or experience is important to you? What activities do you want them to do with the children? Think about your own parenting style and whether you’d like someone to match or complement you. To find both childminders and nannies, the best place to start is by asking people you know. Tell colleagues, friends and families that you are looking for childcare. They may be able to recommend someone they themselves use or have used. However, always remember that it’s your decision and what’s right for your neighbour may not be right for you.
Finding a childminder
Your local Children’s Information Service (CIS) can give you a list of registered childminders who have places available. It may also have extra information such as which schools and playgroups they can drop off and pick up from or whether they have a garden or pets. You’ll find the details of your nearest CIS on the ChildcareLink website or by calling them free on 0800 096 0296. To find an over-7s childminder, you could try your local school to see if they keep a list.
Finding a nanny
Advertise in your local paper or contact any local colleges that offer childcare courses if you would like to employ someone newly trained. Or you could use a nanny agency. They charge a fee to find you a list of suitable candidates. A good agency will carry out their own checks before adding anyone to their lists. Find an agency from an internet search or look in the Yellow Pages.
Start looking early
Some parents are lucky enough to find the right childminder or nanny almost straight away but it may take several months. Allow time for getting lists of childminders or for advertising, then for drawing up a shortlist, interviewing and selecting. You will also want to give your child plenty of time to settle in with their new carer, so it’s wise to start looking early.
Visiting the childminder
Make appointments to see at least two or three childminders, ideally when the children are there so you can see whether the atmosphere is happy and busy. If you want to talk about anything in more detail, you could arrange a second visit at a quieter time. Ask the childminder to show you around their house, including the bathroom and the places where your child will eat, sleep and play. Have a look at the toys, books and equipment to make sure everything is clean and safe. Take your child along if possible so you can see how he or she is welcomed into the group. And don’t forget to take a pen and paper so you can make a few notes.
For further information, download the National Childminding Association’s free booklet.