Now that shared parental leave is well established, dads are more likely than ever to take the lead in selecting the right childcare for their youngsters. Here is workingdads’ handy guide.
It can feel quite daunting, and most dads have some guilty feelings about leaving their child with non-family members. The good news is that children who get lots of opportunity to socialise with others are proven to have better social, emotional and educational development than their peers.
Deciding which route to take isn’t always easy. The following list should help you narrow down the options:
Key advantages of nurseries are that you can often find one near work, making the morning routine simple. They will usually offer flexible hours, starting as early as 7.00 and extending into the evening.
You’ll also have guaranteed care year-round, unlike with a nanny or childminder who won’t be able to work if they’re unwell. Some nurseries also offer after-school care.
Pre-schools and nursery schools are available for three- and four- year olds and are designed to help prepare your child for school. If you choose a pre-school near your child’s likely primary school, they will get to know some of their future classmates, which can help them settle in more quickly. These provisions usually only operate in term-time.
All families are eligible for 15 hours of free childcare for their 3 and 4 year old. If you both work more than 16 hours and earn less than £100,000, you should qualify for 30 hours of free childcare per week during term-time – or 22 hours if you spread it across the whole year.
Some dads like the idea of a childminder setting, as it provides a more home-like environment for the child. Registered childminders are also inspected by Ofsted. They look after children in their own home, with a limit of six children under eight, with only three of these under
Many childminders can be very flexible in terms of hours and some offer evening and weekend care. Dads that choose a childminder often like the fact that their child has more variety in their day –walks, visiting the shops, playing in the garden etc.
The other children also provide good social interaction, and many childminders visit local playgroups and classes. Many childminders often do the school run for older children too, making it a good option if you have children of different ages.
A nanny or an au pair will care for your child in your own home – which gives you great flexibility if your working hours can be unpredictable. Nannies are usually qualified in childcare, while an au pair is often a young person from overseas looking for an opportunity to combine work and travel. They’re less likely to have a formal qualification.
A nanny can be an expensive form of childcare, but some families overcome this by sharing with another family to split the costs.
Once your child or children are at school there are often opportunities to extend their day, making it easier for you to work full time. Breakfast clubs and after-school clubs are now fairly common. Some schools offer free after-school sessions, while others offer a more structured, paid-for childcare service.
This is something to explore when choosing your child’s school, as it can make things simpler. There’s less need to find a childminder or friends and family to drop and collect your child while you’re working.
If none of these suit your plans, further options are to involve your parents or in-laws in caring for your child – if they’re willing and able.
You could also consider whether it makes sense to work part- time or become a stay-at-home dad. Explore our pages for more on whether these options could work for you!