Find out about the different types of childcare available to you.

You can search for childcare providers in the Family Information Directory.

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Sections in this guide (click title to view)

1. Childminders

Childminders look after children in their own homes and offer a range of educational activities for children to play and learn, try new things, develop social skills and make friends.

Childminders:

  • can be flexible about the hours they work
  • should provide your child with care, fun and learning
  • take children to local parks, playgrounds, toy libraries, drop-in groups and children's centres
  • may offer pick ups and drop offs to part-time nursery sessions and to school
  • have had basic training and access to regular refresher training (some also have accredited qualifications including level 3 and degree level qualifications)
  • have to undergo checks to ensure they are suitable to work with children - these include checks on every member of their household who is over 16 years of age.

Unregistered childcare

You should be clear about the law surrounding unregistered childcare. All childminders must be registered with Ofsted, but if you make your own arrangements with an unregistered friend, you could be breaking the law.

Anyone, who is not a close family member, who cares for a child under the age of 8, for more than two hours in one go, for 14 or more days a year, for payment or reward, must register as a childminder.

Reward does not just mean money - it also covers the supply of free childcare in arrangements where friends take it in turns to look after each others children.

Close family members (brothers, sisters, grandparents, aunts and uncles) can provide childcare as much as they like without needing to register as a childminder.

Non-family members don't have to register if:

  • the children are aged 8 and over
  • the childcare only takes place between 6pm and 2am
  • it takes place fewer than two hours a day, or 14 days a year
  • it takes place in the parents' home
  • no payment or reward is received for the services.

2. Breakfast clubs, after school clubs and holiday playschemes

Out of school services are for school-age children to play and learn and have fun in groups. Some centres welcome 3 year olds. Most have age ranges starting from four, and some go up to fourteen years old.

Activities at these groups include sports, computers, arts, crafts, cooking, homework help and of course the opportunity to relax with friends after a hard day.

Out of school clubs that care for children under 8 years for more than two hours for more than five days per year are registered and inspected by Ofsted.

Breakfast clubs

Breakfast clubs are:

  • open in the mornings before school so children can enjoy breakfast there and never be late for school
  • only for pupils that attend their school.

After school clubs

After school clubs are:

  • open in the afternoons usually between about 3.30pm and 6pm
  • are usually only for the children that attend the school
  • sometimes clubs run in community centres and have a collection service from certain schools. You will need to enquire about this service.

Holiday playschemes

Holiday playschemes are:

  • open during school holidays, usually from 8.30am to 6pm
  • usually held in community centres, schools or sports centres.

How much will it cost?

You can expect to pay between £15 and £40 per child per week for an after school childcare place and between £35 and £125 per child per week for a place at a holiday playscheme.

Using an Ofsted registered provider means that you may be able to get help with childcare costs by claiming the childcare element of a Working Tax Credit. You and your partner must both be working at least 16 hours per week.

Most providers are registered with Ofsted on the compulsory part of the childcare register if they have children under eight, or on the voluntary part of the childcare register if they have children aged eight to 17 years.

Schools no longer have to register their out-of-school clubs with Ofsted separately from their education provision.

3. Nurseries and pre-schools

Nurseries for 0 to 5 years

  • offers full or part-time childcare and early education for children aged 0 to 5 years
  • are mainly opened from 8am to 6pm
  • are all inspected by Ofsted to make sure that the care they provide is of a good standard.

If you live near a neighbouring borough make sure you get childcare lists from them as well. Many nurseries offer sibling discounts if you have two or more children at the same nursery.

Even though all children can receive 15 hours a week of free early years' education, not all nurseries offer this so you will need to check before you enrol.

Nurseries classes in schools for 3 to 4 year olds

  • provides early education for children aged from 3 years old until they are old enough to attend a reception class. It is important to note that attending a school nursery doesn’t guarantee getting a place in the same primary school
  • sessions usually last for 3 hours per day and during term time only
  • if the nursery class finishes at midday you may want to consider hiring a childminder if you need childcare for longer.

Pre-schools and playgroups for 2 to 5 year olds

  • offer part-time early education and care for children between the ages of two and five years
  • most are are funded to provide 15 hours of free education a week
  • find a playgroup or pre-school.

4. Nannies, au pairs baby sitters

Nannies

Nannies are employed by parents to care for children at home and can be suitable for parents who need flexible childcare.

Although many do have nursery nurse or childcare training, nannies do not have to hold qualifications.

Nannies can register with Ofsted but it is voluntary so parents are responsible for interviewing and checking the registration and all the relevant references of nannies.

Any nannies who wish to register with Ofsted must demonstrate their understanding of the early years foundation stage curriculum (EYFS).

Parents are responsible for paying their tax and national insurance.

For more information on finding a registered nanny, visit the childcare website.

Au pairs

An au pair is usually a young person looking for an opportunity to travel and live/work with a host family in a new country, learn a foreign language and experience a country's culture.

The au pair will work a set amount of hours for the host family, usually doing a mixture of childcare and light housework. The au pair may have some childcare experience and even qualifications, but an au pair is not a nanny.

For more information about au pairs visit the childcare website or the British Au Pair Agencies' Association.

Babysitters

There's no law which states the minimum age a child can be left unaccompanied, but it is an offence to leave a child alone when doing so puts the child at risk.

Babysitters are not registered with Ofsted and there are no regulations to govern this type of childcare.

We don't hold lists of people who offer babysitting, however, we do hold lists of registered childminders and some childminders may be willing to do some evening or weekend babysitting.

Parents may also wish to find a sitter by asking a friend or a relative with children for a recommendation or by searching the web for babysitting agencies.

If you use a babysitting agency, ask whether they interview and take up references and whether sitters are required to complete a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.

Recommendations from NSPCC and RoSPA on babysitters

The NSPCC recommends that most children under 13 should not be left for more than a short period and that no child under 16 should be left overnight.

Both the NSPCC and RoSPA recommend that babysitters should be over 16 years of age and that parents ask for at least two references and contact the referees themselves.