Childcare options – how to choose

Grovelands Childcare Plus

Oh, the woes of choosing childcare: how to navigate your options

Regina Bushell, a veteran of the childcare profession guides us through the childcare choices and what to look out for.

Your new baby is the most important thing in your life right now, so it’s daunting to think of someone other than you or your partner taking care of your beautiful little bundle. But, the right childcare can be a really positive experience for both your baby and you, and careful planning can make the transition a lot easier for everyone.

Before returning to work it’s important to have an honest discussion with your employer. Sound them out about work/life balance. If you’re self-employed, think carefully about how many childcare hours you need before investigating the different options available.

So where do you start?

1 Grandparents:

This may be an option for some families, however for others, grandparents may not be living nearby or it may not suit them to take on the responsibility. While they love you to come and visit, five days a week might be too much for them depending on their age and health. If you are working part-time, a couple of days a week or half days, it might be a different story.

Child-minder:

A child-minder could be a relation, a friend or neighbour, either registered with TUSLA (the child and family agency), or not. Talk to other parents and take soundings from locals to find out what kind of reputation and experience they have, how long they have been caring for children – and babies in particular – and how many children or babies they care for. Make sure you visit. I really believe in gut feelings – listen to what your intuition is telling you.

A Crèche:

Your local CCC website will provide a list of registered crèches in your area. All crèches, nurseries and Montessori schools are regulated by the Childcare Regulations 2006. Reports by TUSLA inspectors as to how services live up to these regulations are available at Pobal.ie. It is important that you review the report of any crèche you’re considering.

First things first, you need to give some consideration to a local service or, is there a suitable crèche near work or along your commute?

You may also need to consider your child’s opportunity to make friends with children in your local area if you decide on a crèche outside your locality. However, this can be overcome by enrolling your child in sport/dance/drama/art classes at weekends.

Choosing the right crèche:

If you decide that a crèche is the best option, make a list of your needs and what is important to your child and family. Take a note of questions you want to ask so you can make sure all your queries are answered when visiting a potential crèche.

You need to think long-term: consider services that are offered past the baby stage – will your baby be able to avail of the free preschool Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) scheme when they are over three years old? What are the primary schools like in your area? Is there after-school available? Does the crèche offer a pick-up or drop-off service?

The manager should listen to your requirements and bring you on a tour of their facilities. You should be given an overview of the rooms, staff, equipment and space available, both indoors and out. Focus at this stage on the baby and wobbler/toddler areas. Consider these questions:

Most childcare providers offer flexible packages. For example:

Childcare facilities usually bill monthly in advance. Fees are multiplied by 52 weeks of the year and divided by 12 months to calculate the monthly fee.

Before returning to work:

The manager of your chosen centre should arrange visits for you and your baby close to your return to work date. This can be a number of hours over a 2-3 week period depending on the personality of each individual child and parent. You should do a number of ‘dummy runs’ before your start date to time how long it takes to get to the crèche, drop your child off, have a word with staff and get to your place of work on time.

Finally, it can take a few months for your child’s immune system to develop so it’s a good idea to have them out and about with other people and children long before you decide to go back to work.

Being organised can go a long way to ensuring you don’t feel overwhelmed. For example, cook meals in advance to ease your evening routine, pack your baby’s bag and your own each night and put them out in the car to save time in the morning.

Most important of all remember, childhood is the most precious time for you and your family, so enjoy every minute.