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Choosing Quality Childcare To Suit Your Family Needs
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Home » Introduction to Parents Section » Choosing Quality Childcare To Suit Your Family Needs

Choosing the right childcare to suit your families can be a problem for Working Parents. It is important to get it right as good childcare provides you with peace of mind and your child with an enriching learning environment. Here are some tips on choosing childcare:

Selecting the Right Childcare

You know your child best and know what kind of childcare will suit your child and meet your family's needs. There are regulations in place for most types of childcare which set minimum standards and aim to ensure that the child's interests come first. Early Years' Social Workers in the Health and Social Services Trusts are responsible for the monitoring and inspection of childcare services.

When choosing childcare, consider the following:

  • What hours do I work and are they regular?

  • Would I prefer childcare located close to home, work, school?

  • How will I pick up and drop off my children?

  • Are my needs likely to change in the near future?

  • If so, how will I make certain my child's routine isn't disturbed?

Points to consider:

  • Check about registration and insurance

  • Visit potential providers to see if the care feels right and check whether you and your child feel comfortable. Take up references where appropriate.

  • A variety of learning experiences should be available – quiet time, messy play, creative play, outdoor activities, etc.

  • Children should be able to choose activities.

  • Staff should be appropriately qualified

  • Talk to staff about how they manage the children's behaviour

  • Premises should be clean with age appropriate equipment

  • Staff should explain how they will work in partnership with you to meet any special needs that your child may have

  • Consider a trial period before making permanent arrangements

  • When visiting possible childcare providers, prepare a list of questions that you want to raise before making your choice. Keep notes as you go along. This will provide a useful reference and places the arrangement on a professional footing.

What will it cost?

Prices vary but don't forget to consider quality when thinking about the cost of a service. The Early Years Social Work Teams and NICMA Development Office can give you an idea of cost and help you get in touch with local providers. You may be able to get help with Childcare costs through the Inland Revenue's New Tax Credits. Phone their helpline on: 0845 609 7000

Types of Childcare


Childminders look after children of all ages in the childminder's own home. They are registered with Social Services and inspected every year.

Childminders can often be flexible about the hours that they work and they should provide you child with lots of care, fun and learning.

  • Your child will be in a home environment

  • Childminders can support families for years as children grow up

  • Can be flexible hours

Day Nursery

Day Nurseries are usually privately run for children under five years old. They are registered with Social Services and inspected each year. They are usually open all day for most weeks in the year. Part-time places are often available.

Nurseries are run by a team of staff and activities are planned to help children enjoy learning. At nursery children are involved in activities such as playing, learning new skills and making friends.

  • Opportunities for children to learn and play with friends.

  • Usually geared to the needs of children with working parents.


Playgroups provide sessional care for children aged 3 to 5 years old. They are registered with the local Trust and inspected every year. They are open usually during the school term.

They aim to provide learning experiences through play opportunities in the group, and with the involvement of parents in all aspects of the operation of the group. They offer a range of fun activities for children and lots of opportunities to learn.

  • Your child enjoys learning and playing in a small group.

  • Your child can acquire skills for a head start for school.

  • You can meet and get to known parents in your area.

Nursery School

Nursery classes and nursery schools provide early education and childcare for children aged 3 to 4 years old. The offer full or half days and they are staffed by teachers and assistants.

Children who attend get the chance to play and learn alongside other children and acquire skills which will give them a head start of school. Working parents may need to arrange for other childcare to fit around the hours.

  • Children can play and learn and have fun with friends.

  • Children will be in a group led by a trained teacher.

Out of School Clubs

Out of School Clubs provide a range of play activities outside of school hours in a comfortable and safe environment. The Clubs cater for children aged between five and 12 years old. The Clubs are staffed by experienced and well-trained Playworkers in a variety of venues, for example clubs may be located at the local school, village hall or community centre.

  • Children can learn, relax after school and have fun with their friends.

  • Geared to the needs of children with working parents

Parent & Toddler Groups

These groups aim to provide a pleasant meeting place for both adults and children. Parents, Grandparents and Carers stay with their children and responsibility for them. Most groups are run by the Users and make a small charge for refreshments and running costs.