Help and advice on choosing childcare

Choosing childcare can be daunting so make sure you give yourself plenty of time to make your choice. Remember you know your child better than anyone else, so trust your gut instinct and gather as much information as possible to help you make an informed decision.

How to find childcare

The first thing you will need to do is to find out exactly what's available in your area. Our service hold details of registered childcare in Surrey. We receive this information from Ofsted and it is updated regularly to ensure that it is accurate and up to date.

By choosing a childcare provider who has chosen to register with Ofsted you will know that they have been approved to care for children.

You can search for details of Ofsted registered childcare providers in Surrey on our Childcare Finder. Just enter your location or postcode and then use the filter to search for different childcare types.

Ofsted inspection reports

These can give you an impartial view of a childcare provider and can help provide information on how well they meet the standards set out in the Early Years Foundation Stage. However, remember that their Ofsted inspection only reflects a snapshot in time.

You can search for childcare providers inspection reports on the Ofsted web page

If the childcare provider's report is not available on the Ofsted website it could be because they are newly registered and their report has not been uploaded yet. However, if you contact the childcarer they may have a copy of the report which you can ask to see.

What to consider when making your choice

Once you know what your childcare options are you can start to do some research.

  • Think about what best suits your child and where they would thrive.
  • Make a list of your requirements such as opening hours, costs, location, and make those your first questions when you phone around.
  • Phone several places to save time and ask a few key questions rather than visiting them all.
  • Aim to visit a few places to meet potential carers and compare what's on offer.
  • Take your child with you to see how they get on with the staff and surroundings.
  • Don't be afraid to go for a second visit if you have any doubts, a good childcarer will welcome this.
  • Some childcarers will agree to a trial run before a formal agreement to see how it's going to work out. This will give you time to confirm that they meet all your requirements.
  • Consider combining different types of care to meet your needs.
  • Use references for peace of mind. Most childcarers will be happy to give you names of other parents to speak to about their work.
  • Be aware that many childcare providers have waiting lists and you may have to put your child's name down at more than one in case your first choice changes or even closes.
  • Is your potential childcare provider a Early Years Graduate Teacher? Research has suggested Early Education and Childcare is of a higher standard when provided by these professionals.
  • Once you have made a decision make sure you sign a contract with the childcarer outlining details such as costs, rules and hours. Read it carefully before signing to ensure there is no room for misinterpretation or disagreement in the future.

This is not an exhaustive list, but asking the right questions will give you a good indication of quality and help you decide if the childcare provider is right for you and your child. Don't forget, first impressions count.

Further reading

You can find further information about finding and paying for childcare in our Choosing childcare booklet which also includes copies of the checklists available to download below.

You might also like to have a look at our At my childminder's photobook for real life snapshots of how children in the care of a childminder might spend their time.

Files available to download