1. Don’t leave it to the last minute to search for childcare. Popular providers can have long waiting lists, (up to 6 months or longer) so its important to give yourself plenty of time, to research and put your child’s name down. Even if you are not ready for childcare at this time, it is better to plan ahead for when you are.
  2. Make a list of your basic requirements, such as opening hours, costs and location. Make these the first questions you ask when you phone around.
  3. Think about your child’s age and personality and how the setting would suit them.  This is especially important for babies and children under 2 years, as they require a lot more one-to-one care. You know your child best, so use your gut instinct too.
  4. Aim to visit at least two or three places to meet the provider and compare what’s on offer. Make a formal appointment and where possible (for instance, at nurseries) drop in randomly.
  5. Take a list of prepared questions (see ‘What to look for and questions to ask’ in our Tips and Advice section for ideas).
  6. If playgroups or nurseries can’t offer you care five days a week, think about combining care, for example nursery for two days and childminder for three days.
  7. Check references. Ask providers if parents are available to give references and check online in forums and directories for reviews.
  8. Go back for a second or third look once you’ve narrowed down your choices. Some carers will agree to a trial run before a formal agreement.
  9. Get everything in writing once a decision has been made. Childcare providers will ask you to sign a contract detailing items such as costs, rules and hours. Read it carefully before signing, and ensure you are happy with everything that has been outlined.

Find out more

Tips on what to look for and questions to ask