Your Guide To Childcare Options
It's one of the most important decisions you will make as a parent, but deciding on the right childcare may not be as daunting as it seems.
CHILDCARE: It is one of the most important decisions you will make as a parent who chooses to return to work after the birth of your child, but deciding on the right childcare need not be as daunting as it seems.
Where do I start?
It’s a good idea to start thinking about the options that are open to you towards the end of your pregnancy. It may seem like a long way off, but by arming yourself with all the information you need, you will be able to plan for you and your family’s future with greater ease.
Check out what options are open to you in the area that you live in. Talk to your friends and family to see what works best for them, and check out your local childcare providers by speaking to them in person and arranging a visit where appropriate.
Crèches are one of the most common forms of childcare. They are usually purpose-built facilities that adhere to strict guidelines put in place by the HSE.
Usually, within a crèche the rooms are divided into different age groups. In the Baby room, the age group is normally 3-12 months, a ‘wobbler’ room usually spans 12-24 months, then a toddler room is for children aged 2-3 years. Some crèches will also offer a preschool or Montessori room suitable for 3-5 year olds, and even an after-school programme for children aged five years and over.
The HSE set in place staff/child ratios for every crèche facility:
- 1:3 – 0-12 months
- 1:6 – 1-3 year olds
- 1:8 – 3-6 year olds
The number of children in a crèche will depend on the space available in the facility. All staff members are trained as per guidelines laid down by the HSE. According to these guidelines, a crèche must provide an interesting educational environment which stimulates the children within its care. Every crèche should have an outdoor play area and most facilities boast an in-house chef who will provide healthy, nutritious meals.
Crèches are normally open between 7.30am and 6.30pm and children can attend full- or part-time.
- The crèche is usually in your local area
- You can rest assured that it is a safe and supervised environment
- Your child will be educated and stimulated while they attend the crèche
- Healthy meals will be provided throughout the day
- Your child will have plenty of interaction with other children
- As there are a large number of children in attendance at crèches, your child may pick up germs and be sick more often
- Children are out of their home environment for most of the day
A childminder provides a childcare service in their own home. They can cater for up to five children under the age of six, may have previous experience caring for other people’s children or may have their own children.
Some child minders are registered with Childminding Ireland or other reputable organisations, but it’s a good idea to investigate their qualifications and references before committing your child to their care. Childminders are flexible, and tend to be more receptive to a mix of full- and part-time care where needed.
The idea of a childminder is that they will offer a ‘home from home’ environment for your child with a warm and caring atmosphere that they are accustomed to in their own home. A childminder will offer educational activities for your child throughout the day, and should have a quiet place where your child can take a nap or have some quiet time.
Generally, parents will provide bottles and meals for the day, but some childminders offer full meal service from their home.
- Childminders provide a home from home environment
- Your child will get more one-on-one attention
- A childminder may not have previous childcare experience or a suitable qualification
- If your childminder is sick or wants to take holidays, there is no one to take over
An au pair is a young person, usually female, who comes to Ireland primarily to learn English. They live in your home and will have previous babysitting experience, but limited professional childcare experience. An au pair lives with a family who provides room, board and pocket money in exchange for help with the children and light housework.
An ‘au pair plus’ or mother’s helper is a person who has more experience. They work longer hours (30-40 hours per week) and babysit up to two nights per week. They have more experience and can be left in sole charge of the children while their parents are working, which is usually not advised with au pairs.
The pocket money for a standard Au Pair is €80 to €100 per week, while an Au Pair Plus will earn between €120 and €180 per week.
- Having an au pair is a cost-effective childcare solution
- It allows for flexibility within the family week
- There may be a language barrier
- There may be a lack of experience and qualifications.
- The hours an au pair can work are better designed for helping you around the house, rather than a proper childcare arrangement
A nanny is an experienced professional who has chosen childcare as their career. They will have fluent English, professional experience and relevant qualifications.
Professional nannies work out of the family home, some live in, but it is more popular to live out. The nanny’s priority is to look after and provide educational activities for the children in their care. They will ensure that they will attend toddler groups and other activities that the family have committed to. As well as this, a nanny will also carry out ‘nanny duties’, which include washing and cooking for the children.
The standard working week for a nanny is 45-50 hours per week. As nannies are officially employed by a family, they are entitled to statutory and paid holidays, plus bank holidays.
- Children are cared for in their own home
- A nanny is fully qualified
- Children’s washing, ironing and cooking is looked after
- Cost – a nanny can earn between €500 and €600 per week
- Household bills will go up as children are at home during the week
- Paperwork related to registering as an employer
Your childcare checklist
- Is the facility clean and safe?
- Are there outdoor facilities (garden, play area, etc) that will allow for safe, outdoor playing?
- Are healthy meals and snacks provided?
- Is it warm and welcoming?
- Are there daily routines put in place for my child?
- Will my child be part of a small group?
- Am I happy with the play options open to my child?
- Will my child receive affection and attention here?
- What are the policies on sickness, holidays, discipline, etc?
Don’t be shy about checking references. Selecting a caregiver for your child is one of the most important decisions you will make. Ask each caregiver to give at least two parent references and phone numbers. Most parents are happy to share information with others.
What tips do you have for parents searching out childcare options? What were your biggest concerns? Leave a comment below and let us know.