Types of childcare

Help choosing the right type of childcare for you

When choosing childcare you need to decide what works best for you and your child.

Things to consider 

Factors you should consider when thinking about the best childcare for you include:

  • Your child's age
  • School arrangements for any siblings - including location and  finish times
  • Your family's jobs and study - including flexibility, location and travel times
  • Any support you have from family and friends
  • Your financial situation - remember you may be able to get help with childcare costs.

Find additional information on GOV.UK including legal information and financial support.

Visiting potential childcare providers

Choosing childcare can be difficult and you may need to visit several local options to see what's available. It can be easier to first ask detailed questions over the phone so you can take notes.

Always follow this up with a visit, either with or without your child and do listen to your instincts. The best childcare providers expect questions and are happy to answer them.

Your first impressions can be really helpful - does it look clean and cheerful and have a friendly feel? Is there plenty of space to play inside and outside? Are the staff and children talking and playing together? Do you feel welcome and are the staff easy to talk to?

Questions to ask a potential childcare provider

Asking questions about the following areas may help you choose the right provider.

  • Safety - your child’s safety should be the top priority. What happens in an emergency? What precautions are in place? Do they have finger guards on doors? ​Is it secure? Do they have visitor control systems in use?
  • Environment - look at the equipment and facilities on offer. Is there a variety of equipment and activities to give your child creative and stimulating experiences? Is children’s work on display? Are there separate areas for quiet time and noisy/messy play? How many children are in your child’s room?
  • Staff - ask about qualifications, training and experience. How long have staff been working there and is there a good balance of ages in the team? Will your child have a key worker and how will you find out how your child is getting on and developing?
  • Care - it’s important to speak to other parents with children in the setting, so ask how you can arrange this. Is there a flexible settling-in period? How do staff deal with misbehaviour and homesickness? Does the setting have visitors and events? Do children go out on visits? Is the setting flexible enough to fit in with work hours? Ask about the latest Ofsted inspection or get the Ofsted Unique Refe​rence Number (URN) from the setting and view the inspection report.
  • Meals - what’s on the menu? Is it healthy and is water always available?
  • Disabilities and Special Educational Needs (SEN) - what experience do staff have of caring for children with disabilities and special educational needs? How would they adapt activities for your child? Is the building fully accessible?
  • Childcare costs - find out about any financial help to meet your costs, such as the childcare element of Working Tax Credit, childcare vouchers, free childcare for training and learning for work or free early education for eligible 2 year olds and all 3 and 4 year olds. Contact your preferred childcare provider for charges once the free allocation has been used.

Complaining about a childcare provider

There are several ways you can try to solve an issue with a childcare provider. If you think a child is in immediate danger, call the police on 999.