Good after school childcare is often in high demand to bridge the gap between the end of a child’s school day and a parent’s working day. To find the right solution for your family, it’s worth first exploring the options and asking any potential carer the right questions. By Jo Wiltshire, parenting expert for childcare.co.uk.
After school nanny or childminder
After school nannies or childminders help families with after school collections and looking after the child until Mum or Dad gets home. A nanny will take the child to their family home (where they may live in or out), whilst a childminder will take them to their home. Both will often provide duties such as giving children their evening meal, assistance with homework and reading.
After school clubs
A great solution if you are looking for some wrap around care for your child if they are over four years old. Extended schools are designed to help parents balance work and family commitments, whilst providing children with study support, and offering them a broader range of experiences and interests. It’s worth checking your schools in your local area and see what provisions they provide.
Once you’ve decided upon your after school care, these tips will help you find the right childcare for you.
- Visit the setting - always visit the premises if you’ve decided upon a childminder's house. Visit when they have other children there, not out of hours. Look at the children - are they clean, happy, and confident? Is the childminder approachable and warm? Are the surroundings clean and bright, with evidence of activities, outside play space, and safe places to wash, use the toilet and eat? Are the toys reasonably new-looking and clean? Are there books, paper, pencils, building toys, role-play toys and stimulating colours? Is the atmosphere one you would want to spend hours a day in?
- Ask questions - both of your potential caregiver, and also any friends, family or wider acquaintances who have already used them. Word of mouth works - as long as you are sensible enough to overlook individual grudges or personal disputes. When you visit the caregiver, don't be embarrassed to really drill them - any caregiver worth their salt won't mind answering anything you can throw at them. Ask about qualifications, policies on discipline, practicalities such as provision of food, can they help with homework and what happens if someone is poorly. If they can't or won't answer, think again.
- Be child-centred - think about the things that are important in making your child happy and safe at the particular stage they are at right now. See the setting and the adults in it through your child's eyes. While policies and records are important to you, your child will be more concerned with friendships, food, fun things to do, and feeling secure and loved in their environment.
- Check and double-check - do your homework. Check the setting's Ofsted report, take up references (at least two), do a news search of the setting on the internet to see if they've been in the local press for any reason (good or bad!). If using a childminder or after school club, drop by unannounced, and see what things look like when they're not expecting you. Are the children clean, happy and occupied? Ask to use the loo, so that you get to walk into areas that may be less 'prepped' for visitors. You may feel like a spy - but if they have nothing to hide, you won't catch them out!
- Communication is key - the people in this setting will see your child for many hours a week. They will influence them, teach them and inspire them. They may witness many 'firsts' and key stages your child reaches. Your child should form an important bond with them. You will NEED to be able to communicate with them, easily and warmly and frequently. If you don't feel confident communicating with your potential caregiver, then walk away. However shiny and impressive the premises are, it counts for nothing if this relationship isn't right. Gut instinct is the final box you have to tick - and communication is probably the key factor which will influence.
The advice published on Parent Info is provided by independent experts in their field and not necessarily the views of Parent Zone or CEOP.