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Types of childcare

The first thing you will need to do when arranging childcare is find out exactly what is available in the area. Once you have found local providers, you will need to do a bit of research to see which will suit your child best.

Below is a brief description of the most popular types of settings:

Pre-school or playgroups

Pre-schools or Playgroups are for children aged from 2 to 5 years. They generally operate within school terms, so have extended breaks for Christmas, Easter and summer holidays.

Opening hours vary however pre-schools generally open from 9am to 3pm; those on school sites may vary opening times according to the start of the school day. Some pre-schools only open mornings.

Your 3 or 4 year old child will be able to access their free nursery education entitlement at a participating pre-school. Pre-schools are registered and inspected by Ofsted. Contact Peterborough’s Families Information Service for more information about pre-schools in your area.

Day nurseries

Day nurseries are for children aged from birth to 5 years. They generally operate for 51 weeks of the year. Opening hours are usually from 8am to 6pm; however some open early or finish later than this.

Your child can attend a day nursery part-time or full-time, and your 3 or 4 year old child will be able to access their nursery education entitlement at participating day nurseries. Day nurseries are registered and inspected by Ofsted.


Childminders offer care for children aged from birth to 5 and for school-aged children in the childminder’s own home. They can operate as “teams” with assistants and other childminders. Opening times can be flexible according to parents needs, but are generally similar to day nursery opening times.

Childminders frequently offer school drop off and collection services. Not all childminders can offer your 3 or 4 year old child access to their free nursery education entitlement. Only childminders who are part of an accredited network can offer this. 

Breakfast and after school clubs

Breakfast or before school clubs and after school clubs are childcare options that wrap around the school day and are for school-aged children.

Holiday clubs or play schemes

Holiday clubs or play schemes provide childcare during school holidays.

How to choose a childcare provider

Entrusting a stranger with your child is a big step, so before you choose a provider you may want to consider the following tips:

  • Give yourself plenty of time to choose – holiday play schemes, for example, get booked up in advance
  • Ask other parents for recommendations
  • Make appointments to visit two or three providers to compare what’s on offer, and get a feel for the staff
  • Think about your child’s personality and interests – what environment will they prefer?
  • Check opening times, holiday dates and costs

It might also be a good idea to ask to see the provider’s written health and safety policy, every group care provider should have one.

The following checklist may come in handy when choosing a childcare provider:

  • Does the childcare setting have a friendly feel?
  • Is it clean, light, well ventilated and big enough for children to be active indoors and outdoors?
  • Are there places where the children can rest?
  • Are the toys sufficiently varied (do they differ in size, texture, colour and shape)?
  • Do the children look happy?
  • Are the carers talking to the children in a way that interests and encourages them?
  • Are there plenty of children of your child’s age?
  • Are the provider and carers Ofsted registered?
  • Is the furniture of a sufficiently high standard?
  • Are there enough staff to keep an eye on all children? (at least one member of staff for every eight children aged three to five)
  • Do the staff manage behaviour appropriately? (there should be a written policy for you to see)

  • Safety – what happens in an emergency?
  • Are the premises secure (can strangers get in)?
  • What training and experience do the carers have?
  • How does the provider report safety incidents to parents?
  • Do the carers know first aid?
  • What is the staff’s view on discipline?
  • What activities are on offer?
  • What happens if you are late picking up your child?
  • What food is provided (is it healthy)?
  • Who can you talk to about your child’s progress?
  • What happens if your child becomes ill?