Traditionally, ‘childcare’ has meant three options: nursery, childminder, or nanny. Each has pros and cons, and involves tradeoffs of one kind or another. There is also a fourth option which is sometimes forgotten – nanny share.
Nursery is great for children who enjoy the bustle of having lots of people around, and for older children who need a smooth transition into a school environment. There’s lots of equipment, toys, and a huge range of books. Many nurseries have some outdoor space.
Nurseries are highly regulated by Ofsted, with minimum staff:child ratios and staff training. Parents tend to get a lot of paper reports on progress, plus daily chats at pick up time.
For working parents, one big downside is that the hours are rigid. If the nursery is open until 6:00pm, this usually means not a minute past 6:00pm. Moreover, nurseries often close for a month in August, and have staff inset days like a school does. (‘Nursery schools’ are even worse, opening only during term times and sometimes only half days at that.)
Working parents also need to be aware of nursery sick policy, which can be difficult for two-working-parent families to deal with. Virtually all nurseries will refuse to take a sick child until 48 hours after their last symptom ceases. Children at nursery tend to get sick a bit more often, as the number of children in one place makes it easier for viruses to spread.
Costs for nursery vary hugely depending on location. This is mostly due to property costs, not staff costs—unfortunately even in expensive parts of London, nursery pay is among the lowest of any profession.
Childminders can be amazing if you find a good one living in the right place. Their location is crucial, as childminders work from their own houses so they need to live nearby otherwise pickups and drop-offs are a nightmare.
A great childminder is wise, experienced, knows the local area intimately, and can give your children all the advantages of hanging out with other kids – without the rigid hours and frequent sickness of nursery. Many will take in a sick child, within reason. You can often pay them overtime for later hours and babysitting, with no handover required. It’s a wonderful, flexible option.
Childminders are regulated by Ofsted, and there are mandatory minimum training requirements.
Unfortunately, in many part of London childminders are becoming an endangered species as they are priced out of the up-and-coming areas where families are moving in. So if a great one lives near you, treat them well.
Nannies are brilliant. They work from your house, which is highly convenient, they can shift their hours around, they get to know your child superbly well, and they can even sort out your child’s clothes, bedroom and food.
The downside? It’ll cost you. On average, a nanny costs £37,000 in London – equating to more than the first £50,000 of your salary. Additionally, solo children don’t get the development benefits of being around other babies and toddlers from a young age.
Nanny share is a newer option, growing in popularity. It combines the socialisation of a childminder with the convenience of a nanny. Two families living locally share a nanny, who works between their two houses, caring for both/all children at the same time.
It’s super flexible: the nanny can pick up from one house and drop off at another, babysit, run an errand, stay in for a delivery.
If the children are sick, the nanny can still look after them. If the nanny is sick – well, there are four adults who might be able to take a day off to cover, rather than two.
And of course, the cost is shared between the two families.
Obviously, we are big fans of nanny share. In fact, we love it so much we decided to devote ourselves full time to making it easier for parents to do.