Don’t leave it until the last minute. Even if you’re not yet ready for childcare, give yourself plenty of time. If a place is popular, expect long waiting lists, up to six months or more. Interviewing and hiring a nanny or home childcarer can take months.
Make a note of your basic requirements, such as: opening hours, costs and location, and make those the first questions you ask when you phone around.
Think about your child’s age and personality, particularly for small babies and children under two who need a close one-on-one relationship. You know your child best, so use your gut instinct too.
Aim to visit at least two or three places to meet the carer and compare what’s on offer. Make a formal appointment and where possible (for instance, at nurseries) drop in randomly.
Take a list of prepared questions.
If playgroups or nurseries can’t offer you care five days a week, think about combining care, for example nursery for two days and childminder for three days.
Check references. Most carers, including nurseries and pre-schools will be happy to give you names of other parents to speak to about their work.
Go back for a second or third look once you’ve narrowed down your choices. Some carers will agree to a trial run before a formal agreement.
Get everything in writing once a decision has been made. Nurseries and childminders will ask you to sign a contract or letter outlining details such as costs, rules and hours. Read it carefully before signing. You will need to provide contracts for home childcarers and nannies.