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Childminder vs Nursery - expertise please

(23 Posts)
WhoahThere Wed 15-Jun-11 12:04:53

I'm starting to think about childcare options for when I return to work; I haven't finalised the details with my employer yet but I will probably be going back 4 short days later this year when DD will be 10/11 months old.

I have half an idea of what the pros and cons of CM vs Nurseries are but would be grateful for the benefit of others' expertise and experience.

Thanks a lot

WhoahThere Wed 15-Jun-11 12:14:33

Oh, and what questions should I be asking them?!

gremlindolphin Wed 15-Jun-11 12:50:28

I went back to work 2 days a week when dd was 1 and went for a nursery to start with as I wanted dd to be in a set up with a structure rather than just one person's responsibility. It was fab, she loved it and I felt happy with her there. Also if someone is off ill, there are others to cover.

Since the dds have been at school I have had a couple of childminders for afterschool care which also worked well although illness and other commitments do obviously crop up.

I would go for a good nursery while she it little. You will soon know if you and she are happy. You need to get on the waiting list, our nursery has an 18month waiting list!

x

mamadoc Wed 15-Jun-11 13:04:02

I preferred CM whilst DD was a baby (9mo when I went back to work).
Reasons being:
CM only allowed 1 baby under one (nursery ratio 1 staff : 3 babies)

The CM will usually be minding I think 3 preschool children at a time in their own home and I felt it would be more like a family setting (DD loved the older children), more chance of her getting individual attention rather than being made to fit a schedule.

I felt happier to trust one individual who I had personally vetted than an institution and felt it would be easier for us to discuss any issues.

Less illness because there were less different children.
I accepted there would be no cover if CM ill but it never once happened in two years (they don't want to lose money so no incentive to take a sickie)

I felt she was ready to go to nursery and getting more out of interaction with others her own age from about 2.5-3. Before that I think they mainly need consistent care from one adult carer more than fancy facilities or peer group interaction.

Its a very personal decision and people's ideas will vary a lot. I can't say exactly what questions you should ask but it should be about what's important to you. Visit a lot of different options and you will get a feel for if you click with someone.

EssexGurl Wed 15-Jun-11 14:22:29

As always, very much a personal choice however I preferred nursery setting for some of the following reasons:
always cover for sick staff
staff concentrated 100% on children - not having to do meals, snacks etc
lots of different toys/activities
interaction with lots of other children
focused play and development
staff undergoing regular training / CPD

Overall, DS loved nursery. A large number of his friends are now in his class at school so that was good for him (and me knowing the mums) and now DD goes and loves it - even though I am a SAHM (bad mummy but it works for her and me!)

MovingAndScared Wed 15-Jun-11 14:44:37

I prefered childminders for pretty much the reasons that mamdoc said - no issues with her being sick and she helped us get cover when she was on holiday, and gave us loads of noticed
She really loved both boys and became a good friend - only left as we moved!
She did loads of training and stuff as well
CMs tend to be a bit cheaper and in my view more flexiable -depends on the CM of course
also read some research that childminders over all give a higher quality of care (measured by outcomes) than nurseries - but that is of course over all - some nurseries are fantastic and some childminders not so good
I also liked that the DCs were out about loads -toddler groups, school run etc
DS1 went to pre-school at about 2.6 which my CM took him to and picked up from the days I was working
agree the best thing is just to visit some settings -
depending on the area there may be limited places avaible so I would get looking asap -

matana Wed 15-Jun-11 14:56:29

We've chosen a CM for when i return to work in August, when DS will be 9.5 months. Main reason was that the same CM looked after my stepdaughters when they were little and they loved her to bits. But since making the decision i've become more and more convinced it was the right one for us. DS will be going full time and i'm not happy with the idea of him going to a nursery full time, where i don't believe he'll get as much one to one care or interaction. At his young age he needs to know that other than me and DH there is one person he will consistently spend most of his time with and whom he can trust. It's more like a home setting, i believe smaller groups of children suit babies more than large groups and there will be days when it will literally just be my DS and the CM so she'll have plenty of time to interact with him.

I am definitely not against sending him to nursery when he's older but for now i think this is the right choice for our family, him being so young and spending so much time away from home.

mossip Wed 15-Jun-11 16:56:32

Well nurseries are great in that they're open every day bar bank holidays. If someone is off sick, they will still take your dc. I guess it depends on how flexible your employer is. Because you will have to take time off when your dc is ill anyway, so to have to take time off for cminder holidays and illness can be difficult.

Having said that for a baby, one to one care seems better to me. Again it depends on how many dcs the cminder is looking after at the same time. Some prefer to just take one or two, some will take 5 dcs at a time.

Finding a good one - you'll know when you meet them who is right for you.

MovingAndScared Wed 15-Jun-11 20:00:03

Most childminders are very rarly off sick mossip - and most will give you loads of notice of holidays which means you can plan your holiday for the same time or have time to arrange cover - so we have very rarely had to take time off
also most CMs are not allowed more than 3 children under 5 - and only 1 under 1

mossip Wed 15-Jun-11 21:05:25

No but I know my cminder has a 1 year old with 2 other 1-2 year olds, then collects others from school. I'm not saying it's bad, but the 1 year old doesn't get much attention. If they're happy just to muck in and follow on that's fine, but some dc are not happy in that environment.

There are other cminders I know who prefer to take on 1 or 2 under fives only. It's a very different environment.

mossip Wed 15-Jun-11 21:12:19

And moving, how do you know most cminders are rarely off sick? I know of my own experience and a close friend, who's cminder was constantly changing her hours, so that she could take another child on, and who also went on holiday for 3 weeks with less than a week's notice. She maintained she'd told the parent months ago, but she hadn't. There are some fantastic cminders out there, but there are also, as in every part of life, unreliable ones. When you're left in this situation it can cost you your job.

lechatnoir Wed 15-Jun-11 21:26:09

I've used CM, my mum, nursery & nannies (and now DH is a SAHD grin) so reckon I'm qualified to comment:

For us, childminder worked whilst DS was little - he was with her form 11mths - 2 and only stopped because she went on mat leave herself and then quit working. Wonderful lady and it was just DS & her own sons one of the same age & one school age so really just like being at home. Idyllic but we couldn't find anyone to match up so we sent him to nursery.

Pros & cons - I liked the certainty of knowing there was never any chance they would call & cancel (not that my CM did much but it happened a few times), the social side, the variety of activities BUT he was totally shattered and that was only doing 3 days. IMO 8-6pm is too long for a child that age but probably like you, needs must & all that and he did enjoy it there.
Fast forward a few years & another child and we then couldn't use nursery as it didn't work with DS1's school & couldn't find a CM so ended up with a nanny. Lovely arrangement, super girl but very expensive (especially when you remember classes on top of their salary) so DH became a SAHD. Bloody fantastic grin. I'd rather be the one at home but no an option

MovingAndScared Wed 15-Jun-11 22:07:46

I must have know about 10-15 people who have used childminders or are childminders none of whom took time off sick - you have experience of 2 childminders - its all valid of course - its is a downside but its not always the case that it happens
and at my lovely childminder there were after school children and the little ones got loads of attention from the other children which I thought was lovely
of and op your question - about question - there is a leaflet on the NCMA about choosing a childminder -
I would say ask for their lastet ofsted, but one of the main things is get a feeling of how they are with the children

mossip Wed 15-Jun-11 22:15:53

No Moving - I didn't feel it was relevant to mention the 10-15 people i know. i do however work in the health service and know that people get ill, through no fault of their own. They also have babies and take materinity leave. And they also need to take holidays. I am not suggesting the majority of childminders are unreliable. I am saying that nurseries can combat that by staff taking on more hours, people covering or employing other staff. They don't close ime - even when there's two feet of snow.

My point being that if you have a really flexible employer who's really understanding a cminder would be the best option. But if you have a boss who doesn't understand and is going to make you feel stressed when you can't come in, a nursery is more reliable as an option. I have also said that a baby would be far better in an environment with a one to one carer imv - like a cminder who doesn't take on her full remit of allowable dcs. I'm not putting down cminders - I use one myself.

MrsHerculePoirot Wed 15-Jun-11 22:15:55

We chose a cm because I teach and we don't pay full price in my holidays. Nurseries here have massive waiting lists so we would have to pay full price all year round.

SarkyLady Wed 15-Jun-11 22:24:13

You can't generalise.

A good nursery is better than a crap childminder. And vice versa.

You need to get out and about and see what is available so you can compare actual providers rather than thinking in the abstract.

The only generalisation I can think of is that if you are in a situation where you need to be able to rely on your childcare 100% then a nursery may be better.

And looking ahead to the transition to school then a good cm can be a huge benefit.

WhoahThere Thu 16-Jun-11 07:18:50

Thanks for this - I think I'm leaning towards the CM option based on the level of 121 care. Very good point SarkyLady though about it being impossible to generalise. I shall get out there and have a look at what's available!

smile

DialMforMummy Thu 16-Jun-11 08:05:59

Here is my experience:
We have a CM since April. Since then she let me down twice, one time with notice the other without. I chose a CM because as DC was 6 months I felt it was a better environment than a nursery.
3 months down the line, I am pestering my local nursery to let us in. My CM is ok but just that, ok. She has other children as well so in effect there is not really one to one. I think she is fine with DC (he seems happy enough) but I find her pretty cold with us when we drop off/pick up ( a smile or hello would no go amiss...). At the time, I did not get much of a choice, many CM did not have vacancies and to be fair I thought she was fine but now I am getting pissed off with her grumpy attitude.
I fully expect to have time of if DC gets into nursery because apparently they catch all the bugs and illnesses around so I suppose both are even in terms of absence.
The bottom line as someone said above is the quality of the childcare and if you feel happy with it.

MrsHerculePoirot Thu 16-Jun-11 11:34:24

Questions I would ask if I was looking again...

Where will my child sleep? Eg travel cot? Room?
Do I have to provide food or does cm? Or a bit of both?
What activities do they do? Eg toddler groups, parks, going to other cm's houses etc...
Do they charge by the hour, or per session?

mrsmusic Thu 16-Jun-11 12:53:43

As another poster has said, you must get out there and start visiting - we visited both nurseries and childminders. Dd is now with a wonderful childminder and has been 3 days a week since 7 months old and loves it - that's not to say nursery wouldn't have been fine for her, it was just our choice to go with a childminder, for many of the reasons that other posters have mentioned!

Our dd' with one other pre-schooler one day and two on the other two days. They go to playgroups and are always out and about - the nurseries that we looked at didn't really take the children out of the nursery that much. One of the main reasons that we chose childminder is because of the family, home from home setting, and because our dd was so young. I think that children have enough of their lifetimes stuck to a rigid routine once they're at school, it just felt right to us.

In two years we have had three instances where she couldn't look after our dd at very short notice (ie. that morning - twice as she was ill herself and once because of a family emergency). We have a back-up plans if this happens - worst case scenario, I can't go in to work; otherwise my grandparents can come if we've no-one else; if all else fails, I have the number of another childminder who our dd could go to in an emergency (and we've done all the paperwork etc in advance in case this happens). A lot of childminders have pre-arrangements like this.

Good luck with your search!

VeronicaCake Thu 16-Jun-11 13:10:51

We looked at local childminders and at the only convenient local nursery (we don't have a car and there is only one within walking distance of our home). I was fairly open to both, but it was immediately obvious that one of the childminders we saw was 'the one'. She is a lovely warm lady in her late 50's and she works with her daughter who is also a childminder so they can cover for each other if need be.

The nursery was pleasant, but they don't take the children out and about until they are toilet-trained whereas the childminder takes her charges out every day to messy play, or soft play, or just to the swings. She also has a dog which DD loves. And she seemed very much on our wavelength about things like baby-led weaning so it is easy to work with her. Whereas the nursery seemed a bit puzzled at the idea of DD feeding herself.

DD has been going for three months now and she absolutely loves it. She wriggles with excitement when we get near the CM's house. She is only there three days but we quite often bump into the CM when out and about on other days and DD is always thrilled to see her.

However, the things that matter are that you think your child will feel secure and cared for during the day, that they will be adequately stimulated and that the lines of communication between you and whoever else is caring for your child are good. There are nurseries that will do all this and some CMs who won't so I'd strongly recommend investigating both options.

threefeethighandrising Thu 16-Jun-11 13:19:08

I think very young children benefit from the personal attention they get from a CM, and there are some excellent ones around. Nurseries are just too impersonal IMO for really little ones.

Have a look on www.childcare.co.uk at the CMs near you. You can email them and ask to see their ofsted reports.

However like sarkylady says "A good nursery is better than a crap childminder. And vice versa." so you should have a look at what's available near you.

Where are you based by the way?

WhoahThere Thu 16-Jun-11 16:30:01

Hi, I'm in Leeds (Morley). There are 2 nurseries close to us - one that's used by a friend for both his dc's and the other only half a mile away that both dh and I drive past on our way to and from work, so v convenient. Haven't been to see either though yet. And a plethora of childminders on that website, which was where I started to get a bit flummoxed - so many people to contact!

I obviously just need to get out there and visit/speak to the various options to start getting a feel for what we might want to do.

Thanks again - oh and if anyone knows a brilliant cm in my area, do let me know!

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