If you are lucky enough to have your child’s grandparents living close by and they are willing to take on looking after their grandchild, there is an immediate massive advantage: no other childminder will love your child as much (apart from you). You know that your child will have the most important aspect of childcare built in from the word go – love. However, there are still some elements to be thought through and, as is so often the case, the devil is in the detail. Grandparents have experience of bringing up children, which is wonderful, but it may also mean they have different ideas from you. It is best to be clear right from the start, what you expect and what daily routine you'd like your child to have.
Childminders have to be trained, formally registered, and inspected regularly by Ofsted. (It is illegal for a childminder to operate without being registered.) They follow the same Early Years Foundation Stage Curriculum that you would expect from a nursery setting and often accept childcare vouchers.
A great advantage of childminders is that your child will be in a normal home environment and will learn real life experiences such as cooking and shopping just as they would at home. A good childminder will usually take advantage of all the local stuff to do, including toddler groups, soft play and parks. Your child also gets to play with other children, but not too many at one time.
Nannies work from your home, and they are usually qualified in childcare, or have several years’ experience. Nannies may work longer hours than childminders (often 8am–6pm) and provide a continuity of care within your home that you might not get with a childminder. They can become more like one of the family and might work an occasional weekend or babysit some evenings. They are usually expected to take care of all aspects of caring for your children, including their washing, cleaning their rooms and cooking their food.
A daily nanny will generally work a maximum of ten hours a day, and you might arrange for her to do some extra babysitting; she will live in her own home.
A live-in nanny is more likely to do babysitting as part of the job, and gives you more flexibility, but you provide her board and lodging and share your home.
An au pair is usually a young overseas visitor who wants to come to the country to learn the language and spend some time here. They are not ‘cheap nannies’, they are not trained in childcare and they are often very young, not much older than schoolchildren. They shouldn’t be left in sole charge of young children for long periods of time. In many ways, in having an au pair you gain an extra child, albeit an older, helpful one!
An au pair will normally work about twenty-five hours a week for you. In return she will expect her own room, all meals and some pocket money – about £50 a week.
Most au pairs are found through agencies that match your needs with the details of the au pair and you may not get to meet the Au Pair before she starts work. Ensuring the agency is reputable will help you to be confident in the abilities and trustworthiness of the person you are employing.