Healthy Peer Interaction
“One of the biggest advantages of sending your child to nursery is the peer-to-peer interaction they receive,” says Karen Clince, CEO and founder of Tigers Childcare. “They’ll be able to play with and mimic other children, which is an important part of development. Studies show children who attend nursery benefit in both language development and social and emotional development from learning alongside others.” Rageena Tahir, head of education at Fennies Nurseries agrees, suggesting it’s a great way for children to boost their self-esteem and confidence, which also will put them at an advantage when they go to school. “At nursery, children learn how to make friends, play with others, and learn about social boundaries, like sharing and turn-taking,” she explains.
Better Communication Skills
At nursery, your child interacts with other children and adults, many of whom will be from different backgrounds and cultures. This will boost their communication skills during their early years, helping to broaden their vocabulary, Rageena says. “Children can engage in a variety of different interactions at nursery which will help them understand the different ways people communicate. Through this, they’ll learn the art of conversation and how to express themselves. It will also provide exposure to a wide range of families, so they can develop respect for and celebrate each other's similarities and differences.”
Another advantage to being at nursery is that children will stick to a set curriculum which the school has to follow. Learning opportunities are varied, and children will have the opportunity to take part in activities they might not otherwise have access to. “In nurseries, learning and activities are planned for each individual child,” explains Karen. “They are also inspected by Ofsted so there’s an external accreditation of quality, too.” There’s also a set staff to child ratio, explains Rachel Carrell, CEO and founder of Koru Kids. “Staff will be professionally trained and there will be an adequate number of adults to look after the children. Parents will receive reports on progress, plus daily chats at pick up time, so you can find out how your child is developing and what they’ve been doing every day.”
Safety In Numbers
If your nanny is sick, you might be left with the added stress of having to arrange childcare with little or no notice. One of the main benefits of nurseries is that there are a number of professionals on hand to look after your child. “Nurseries have a larger number of caregivers so there’s always an extra set of eyes to make sure all professionals act appropriately,” says Karen. “There are also rules around mobile phones and TVs, tablets and distractions for the caregiver, meaning full attention is always on the children, their care and their activities.”
Securing A Place
Getting your child into your chosen nursery can be difficult. With a limited number of spaces per catchment area, and depending where you live and the type of nursery you choose, securing a spot can be highly competitive, as Karen explains. “Waiting lists, particularly in heavily populated areas can be very long. You will also have to contend with the fact that many services do not take young babies, as well as the fact it could be harder securing a spot if you have more than one child.”
“Mixing closely with other children can result in the spread of childhood infections, so your child might be exposed to a greater number of germs initially,” says Karen. “This is definitely something to consider, particularly during the pandemic. Also, if your child is sick, they won’t be allowed to attend nursery, which can leave parents struggling to look after a sick child at home or arranging further, costly, last-minute care”.
Less Flexible Hours
Most nurseries are open during working hours to fit around the needs of busy parents. However, this means there’s less flexibility when it comes to childcare that’s deemed ‘out of hours’. “For working parents, the main disadvantage of nursery is that the hours tend to be rigid. If the nursery is open until 6pm, this usually means not a minute past 6pm – not to mention the fines you’ll get if you’re late,” explains Karen. “Operating hours are set, and there will be little flexibility – a nanny will often work around your hours and can sometimes work at the weekend when needed.”
“A great bonus of hiring a nanny is that you don’t have to worry about drop offs and collections or getting the children ready,” says Rachel. “An on-site nanny will look after all of this and can work flexibly around your working hours. They might also be able to travel with your family, if needed, and can drop children off at other activities, play dates or parties.” Rachel explains flexible working means nannies usually work from your home, and can stay on for ad hoc babysitting, too – “their schedule works around yours, meaning you can have a greater input in your child’s day, from food choices to bedtimes, day trips to meet-ups with other kids.”
Nannies are particularly desirable as they offer one-to-one care. Whether you have a baby or several children of different ages, they can fit around your family’s needs and wants, Rachel says. “They get to know your children really well and create a special bond with them. They can also organise activities with your child that suit their needs and energy levels, like taking them to the park, playdates, or snuggling up on the sofa to read a book.” When you’re not around to look after your children, having someone in your home who you trust and can rely on eases the pressures of juggling a busy work-home life, particularly for single-parent households.
As well as looking after your children, nannies often take on some of the day-to-day housekeeping duties, relieving a lot of extra stress at home,” says Karen. “This could be anything from doing laundry to cooking family meals, but you must state your expectations before hiring a nanny, and agree which duties they will undertake.” Rachel agrees: “Having someone to cook healthy and nutritious meals for your child is a big advantage – you can control the types of food they’re eating, and at what times. If this is a requirement for you, research agencies or private nannies who have been trained in this field and are happy to undertake household chores.”
For many, hiring a private nanny is a luxury – and one that comes with a significant cost. “If you have just one child, it can be an expensive option,” says Rachel. “On average, an independent nanny costs £37k per year in London – equating to more than the first £50,000 of your salary before tax, not including agency fees and other tax and pension contributions you need to factor in as their employer. At Koru Kids we offer part-time nannies from £13.50 an hour – a great option if you don’t need round-the-clock care. It’s always worth doing your research to find out what services you can afford, without sacrificing the quality of care.”
Finding The Right Person
As many experts will tell you, finding the right nanny is one of the hardest parts of the process. It can be a long and laborious task, especially if you live in an area with high demand, says Karen. “Ultimately you are trusting one person with the wellbeing, care and happiness of your child, so you need to make sure you have full trust in the nanny’s dedication and ability to care for your most precious possession.” Agencies do lots of the hard work for you and can put you in contact with a range of reputable nannies for interviews. Although there are extra fees, it’ll mean you can choose from a trusted pool of professionals. It’s also important to keep in mind that nannies are not forever, says Rachel – “When the time comes, your child may have to learn to say goodbye to someone that cares about them. Koru Kids offers training on ‘endings’, so parents and nannies can manage the transition, while also bearing in mind the children’s developmental needs.”
Becoming An Employer
When you hire a nanny, you become an employer and are responsible for adhering to all employment laws, as well as paying the relevant taxes and contributions,” explains Karen. “You’ll need to organise your nanny’s payroll and taxes, unless you find one through a provider who does it all for you, and ensure you have sufficient funds to pay them every month on time.” It’s important to consider this, especially if you are self-employed or don’t receive a regular income every month.
“Another downside to hiring a nanny is that the care can be difficult to regulate,” says Karen. “No one will externally inspect the quality of care, meaning it’s even more important to trust the person you employ. Hiring an experienced nanny with family recommendations and sound references is so important.”
Still weighing up the options? Here, Karen tells SL what to consider before applying for nurseries and nannies…
Have your dream nursery wish list ready with the must-haves and would-likes. Decide what is most important to you in a nursery, like outdoor space or organic food, for example.
Visit several nurseries to get a feel for them and ask plenty of questions at each one. It’s always good to write a list of questions beforehand, so you don’t get side-tracked during viewings.
Look up Ofsted reports. All the reports are online and will give you important information about the quality of service and care.
Talk to other parents who have used the service. Most good nurseries will agree to pass on the number of a parent who may be happy to talk to you about their experience.
Make sure your child is assigned a key worker. This is a designated person who tracks your child’s learning and care. They’ll be the go-to person who is closest to your child.
Ask about the ‘settling in’ policy. Good services will encourage plenty of settling in time, so you and your child both feel comfortable.
Ask about parent partnerships within the service. A good nursery will have an open-door policy and will encourage as much communication and collaboration as possible between nursery and home.
Firstly, determine exactly what you need in relation to childcare. How many and what hours will you need a nanny for? Will you or your partner work unsocial hours? Do you have set holiday periods? You need to be very clear with them about the hours they will be required to work and when they can take statutory holiday.
Do you want a nanny that lives in your home or a nanny that lives elsewhere? This will affect the cost of care.
Think seriously about how you are going to organise back-up care should your nanny become sick or need some unexpected time off.
Reference checks and DBS clearance are both incredibly important – check their references from previous employers and check their criminal record through the DBS system.
Draw up a job description – in this you should decide what level of qualification you expect to see. It’s also good to have a set list of interview questions to ask candidates.
Decide what you wish to have communicated daily. It’s good to have a list of things you would like tracked for your child and how these should be communicated.
Trust your gut instinct – remember it’s important to find someone both you and your children like and trust.