A really helpful guide if you are looking for childcare for your kids

Includes questions to ask childminders or a creche and what to expect

For many families today, childcare plays a vital role in helping to balance work and family life. Childcare enables parents to return to work or education, helping to build a future for their family. However, choosing childcare can also be a time of conflicting emotions, especially for first time mums and dads.
With this in mind, it’s important to remember that quality childcare will open up a range of exciting and positive experiences for your little one. Your child will discover new ways of having fun, make their first friends and socialise on a daily basis with other children.  With the right childcare provider, your little one will engage with a world of creative, messy and musical activities and find a warm and nurturing home from home.
Finding suitable childcare can feel daunting at first, so be sure to allow enough time so that all the options can be considered. If you are choosing a private childminder, speak with a parent whose child is also in their care, and find out more about the childminder as word of mouth is usually the best recommendation.   Arrange a visit to their home, spend some time with the childminder, and ask them about their experience and if they have any references that they could share with you.  
You may consider asking the childminder the following questions: 
  • How long have you been a childminder? 
  • How many children do you look after at any one time?  And their ages?
  • Do you take the children out regularly? 
  • Do you have a parent referee, someone I could ring and speak to about your service? 
  • Do you have any pets in the home?  
  • What happens if my child is sick or if the childminder is unwell? 
A childminder will work with you to meet your child’s needs, dietary requirements in a home based environment.  You may like to ask the childminder if they are “mobile” – do they bring the children in their care on outings to the playground, the library or the local shops, and will they offer to pick/up drop off your child at school when they reach this age. 
If you are considering a crèche for your child, arrange a visit to the centre to help you get a sense of what your child’s day will be like and there you will have a chance to meet with the carers that will be looking after your child.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as you need and as a rough guide, consider asking some of the following when you visit:
  • Could I meet the staff who will be caring for my child on a daily basis?
  • What are the daily routines and how can you incorporate my child’s and other children’s routines?
  • Where will my child sleep?
You should be immediately reassured that your child’s key carer will provide you with daily updates and you will find that most crèches hold termly parent evenings where they provide feedback on your child’s progress in addition to the daily updates that you receive.  Crèches also keep written diaries and record your child’s daily activities and all meal and sleep times, allowing you to monitor your baby’s routine closely. 
Good childcare providers recognise that parents know their children best and are happy to listen and share information regularly and this will ensure that any worries you may have are put to rest. Asking questions about staff qualifications and policies is another way to get a sense of who will be looking after your child. 
  • Do you have qualified first aiders in the crèche and are staff qualifications available to view? 
  • What is your sickness policy?
  • Are all staff Garda vetted? 
Be assured that crèches will support your baby’s development through a range of age appropriate and exciting activities that include stretching, tummy time, music, singing, story time, water and messy play and treasure baskets. As your child develops and becomes more independent, your child’s key carer will ensure that your baby’s routine changes and adapts to meet their needs and their development will be supported through age and stage appropriate activities planned around their interests.
  • Do you have a cook on site and will my child’s weaning and dietary requirements be supported?
  • Can I view the outdoor play area and how often do children play outside?
  • What is the staff ratio to children and how many children do you care for?
  • Will I get regular feedback on my child’s day?
Key carers complete regular observations and many crèches complete ‘Look What I Can Do Now’ updates as part of a learning journal for all children, outlining their development achievements and progress against key developmental milestones. This should be freely available for you to view and parents are encouraged to contribute, sharing their child’s achievements at home. 
It’s important that you feel secure with your decision. Above all you should be confident that you are entrusting your child to trained and experienced staff who’ll respond to your child’s needs, comfort them and keep them safe.
Perhaps the best way to help you decide is to do your research, talk to other parents and then follow your gut feeling. 

Written by Dearbhala Cox Giffin- Early learning & development expert with Family Friendly HQ.
Dearbhala is Director of Childcare with Giraffe Childcare 

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