Supporting Development


Every child is different and choosing the right childcare to suit your child is a big decision. There are different choices to suit your child’s needs.

It is important you feel confident your child will be well cared for and can learn, socialise and enjoy their time in the setting.  

The government recognise how important access to high quality early years education is. For this reason government funding is available to parents and carers for approved childcare.

What is available depends on the age of your child and your family circumstances.

Dive Deeper


Nurseries provide child care for children from birth to 5 years. They will mostly be open through the working week from 8am - 6pm and you book set ‘sessions’ for your child. Many are open year round but some will close for bank holidays and over Christmas.

Nurseries need to be registered with Ofsted who inspect them every three years. You can read the Ofsted reports for any nurseries you are thinking about for your child.

Nurseries follow the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum – this is about supporting children to learn through play.

Benefits of nursery

  • They are staffed by qualified early year’s professionals and your child will benefit from a range of different skills and experience.
  • They have age appropriate toys, activities and outside play too.
  • Your child gets to play and learn with children their own age.
  • They prepare children for a ‘school like’ environment. They have structures and routines which help children feel safe and secure.
  • They can still open if a member of staff is ill or on holiday.

Drawbacks might be

  • Your child might be cared for by staff they don’t know as well to cover sickness/holiday.
  • Children often move into different areas with different staff as they get older.
  • They may not have a ‘family feel’ and siblings of different ages are cared for separately.
  • There may be extra charges for meals and some activities.

Registered Childminders

Ofsted registered Childminders are childcare professionals. They have to prove that they can provide children with a safe and stimulating environment.

You can see the full list of rules childminders must follow, to be registered. Childminders are inspected every three years by Ofsted. They are given an identifying number which they should share with you. You can then read their Ofsted report.

Childminders follow the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum – this is about supporting children to learn through play.

Benefits of a childminder

  • Childminders work from their own home. They may be more flexible with available hours.
  • You can ‘choose’ a childminder with very similar ideas on raising children as you.
  • Your child is usually in a more ‘family feel’ environment and can learn from ‘everyday experiences’ like going to the shops or helping make lunch.
  • They have fewer children to care for at any one time, and they will be in a mixed age group.
  • If your child is under one it will be the only baby cared for when there (unless you have asked them to care for your twins!).

Some drawbacks might be

  • If you your childminder is unwell or takes a holiday – you may find yourself without childcare at short notice.
  • Your child may be cared for with a mix of ages and that might affect activities available.
  • They might have to fit in around ‘school pick ups/ drop offs.’


Nannies are the employee of the person/people who hire them to care for their child or children. There is no legal requirement in the UK for a nanny to have a particular qualification. Many parents decide it is important to employ a qualified childcare professional. 

Nannies can care for the children of no more than two families in one of the family’s home. This allows for two families to share a nanny.

Nannies do not have to register with Ofsted but can choose to.

Benefits of having a Nanny

  • Flexibility of having childcare in your own home and being able to ask for the hours you need.
  • One professional focusing just on your children.
  • Able to care for your child if they are unwell.
  • You can be specific on how you would like your child’s day to be structured and what you would like them to do.

Some drawbacks might be

  • You will be an employer. You will need to pay national insurance, pension and sickness and holiday pay. Read more about your responsibilities.
  • You have to place a lot of trust in one person without much monitoring.
  • If your Nanny is going to live in your home you need space and may lose some private family time.
  • Your child might have less opportunity to socialise with other children.

Playgroups or Pre-school

Pre-schools and playgroups are often run in local communities by a mixture of child care professionals and volunteers.

Children can usually attend from the ages of 2/3 years .They may be attached to local schools or sometimes church groups. Pre-schools and playgroups tend to have a morning and / or afternoon session but don’t usually offer childcare across the whole day.

They have to follow Ofsted regulations and follow the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum – this is about supporting children to learn through play.

Benefits of pre-schools and playgroups

  • They are usually in your local community.
  • Your child can meet children that they will move into reception with.
  • They offer a shorter sessions to help children adjust to being in a ‘setting.’
  • They tend to run in term time only so you don’t have to pay during school holidays.

Some drawbacks might be

  • They can be difficult to use as childcare for working parents because of shorter sessions.
  • They are not usually open all year round.
  • They are not available for children under 2/3 years old.


Around 5 million grandparents in the UK provide childcare for their grandchildren. Many families decide to use grandparents or relatives as a source of low-cost childcare.   

Benefits of using grandparents

  • Low cost flexible alternative to formal childminding.
  • Being cared for by someone you trust who has a good relationship with your child. 
  • Can improve bonding between grandparents and children. 
  • Being looked after in a familiar environment.  

Some drawbacks might be

  • Grandparents may have low energy and health problems and will not be able to look after your child if they are unwell. 
  • They may have different parenting styles to you which could lead to a strained relationship between grandparents and parents. 
  • Less opportunities to socialise with other children. 
  • May lack professional training such as first aid. 

If grandparents are of working age and are looking after grandchildren under 12 years old regularly, they could be eligible to claim National Insurance that contributes towards their future State Pension.


Friends can look after your child without being registered. If you want to pay your friend they have to follow Ofsted regulations. 

Ofsted rules state that friends cannot gain a reward for looking after a child aged under eight, for more than two hours outside their home without being registered.

Benefits of using friends

  • Low cost flexible alternative to formal childminding. 
  • Being cared for by someone you trust who has a good relationship with your child. 
  • Being looked after in a familiar environment.  

Some drawbacks might be

  • They may have different parenting styles to you which could lead cause tension between you and your friend. 
  • May lack professional training such as first aid. 
  • May not be trained in childcare.


What To Think About When Deciding

When you are thinking about a childcare setting for your child, it is helpful to have some ideas about important questions to ask, or things to look out for if you are visiting to look around.

Practical questions to ask

  • Do you have space on the days and times I need?
  • How much do you charge and how and when do I pay. Do you take childcare vouchers and / or funded places?
  • What is the staff to child ratio and what qualifications do you / your team have? Will my child have a named worker?
  • How will you keep my child safe?
  • Can I see your registration and Ofsted reports?

Does the setting suit your child?

  • Tell me what a typical day will be like, where will my child spend their time? How will I hear about my child’s day?
  • Is their a fixed routine or can it be flexible for my child?
  • What happens at mealtimes?
  • How will you comfort my child if they are upset and how will you manage any challenging behaviour from them or others?

Pay attention to how you feel about the place and people – your instincts are really important.

Once you have chosen your setting and your child is settled, it is important to continue to ask yourself if it still suits your child and you still feel happy with what it offers.

Who can Help?

You can contact Norfolk County Council's Family Information Service who can discuss childcare options with you. They can also discuss what funding is available for some two-year-olds to use at a registered childcare setting such as a nursery or childminder.  

You can also contact the family information service directly at fis@norfolk.gov.uk.

You may also be able to get tax-free childcare. To see if you are eligible you can visit www.childcarechoices.gov.uk.

You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520 631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.

If you are 11-19 you can text ChatHealth on 07480 635060 for confidential advice from one of our team.

To speak to other Norfolk parents and carers, you can join our online community forum below.

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