Nurseries vs childminders – what’s the difference?

Deciding on the right childcare for your children can be one of the toughest decisions you’ll have to make as a parent.

With many different options to choose from – each with its own pros and cons – it can be challenging to make an informed choice without the correct information to hand.

Here, we look at the difference between childminders and nurseries and the benefits of working with a professional childminder early educator.

What is the difference between a childminder and a nursery?

There are several different types of childcare available to families in the UK, and some may be more suitable than others, depending on your family needs and circumstances.

The Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY) has an excellent guide to the different types of childcare available, but the main focus of this article is on the differences between nurseries and childminder early educators.

Childminders are Ofsted-registered professional educators who look after children in their own homes. They’re self-employed and run their own small, independent childcare businesses, providing high-quality education and care to children of all ages, from birth to 16 years.

Childminders are allowed to look after up to six children aged up to eight years, including their own youngsters. If they employ – or work in partnership with – other registered childminders or childminding assistants, they can care for more.

Nurseries, on the other hand, provide day care for children aged from birth to five years in dedicated educational settings. They are run by private individuals, community groups or commercial businesses. Many nurseries operate during school hours, but some open their doors early in the morning or later in the evening to accommodate working parents.

In England, all nurseries must be Ofsted registered and undergo regular inspections in accordance with its rules, to ensure they meet the required standards.

With childminder educators, it’s a little different. Childminders must be registered either with Ofsted, or with an Ofsted-registered childminder agency like @Home Childcare. Either way, they are again subject to Ofsted’s regulations and guidance on standards and quality assurance.

However, Ofsted-registered childminder agencies often go over and above the statutory requirements to ensure the continuous improvement of the childminder educators they work with. This includes annual inspections and ongoing mentoring and support to raise standards and ensure the best possible outcomes for children.

The benefits of using a registered childminder

There are pros and cons to each type of childcare, making it essential to do your research to decide which is most suitable for you and your children.

However, if you’re interested in finding a registered childminder early educator to care for your children, there are many benefits.

While day nurseries tend to be more rigid and operate like schools – with structured timetables and routines – childminder educators are often more flexible and build their service around the needs of each child.

They still offer different activities during the day to stimulate the children and encourage learning, but these can be more responsive to each child and how they’re feeling on the day.

For busy parents, childminder educators can be a godsend. They often work more flexible hours than a day nursery, so can provide care to fit in with different working patterns. Many childminders also help with school drop-offs or collections, to provide even greater flexibility to parents.

They usually also deliver their service in a home-based setting that’s more informal and comfortable than a nursery, which children can find intimidating when they first arrive.

Childminder early educators also usually work with smaller groups, meaning that children get more one-to-one attention and care, and develop stronger, more trusting relationships.

Children who are cared for by childminder educators often get home-cooked meals to help them stay healthy, along with the opportunity to mix, socialise and learn from children from different age groups or socio-economic backgrounds.

And because childminders work with smaller groups of children, they often have more opportunities to take out children on trips or outdoors, which has been found to have huge benefits for children’s development.

A recent report in Nursery World highlighted the importance of outdoor play to children. It stated that many children no longer have the freedom to play outdoors, which impacts their health and wellbeing, as well as their emotional and physical development. It went on to say that because children often don’t get the chance to play outdoors while at home, it falls on childcare practitioners to help them experience nature.

In purely practical terms, registered childminder educators provide peace of mind to parents that they ensure the best possible outcomes for children by delivering high-quality provision of care and early education that meets – and in most cases, exceeds – statutory requirements.

Choosing the right childcare

There are several things to consider when it comes to finding the right childminder early educator for your needs.

Children develop and thrive when they are cared for in stimulating, nurturing home environments where their needs and security come first. So, it’s important your child feels safe and cared for in a welcoming, supportive environment where they can learn, develop and thrive.

Some of the other things to look out for when choosing a childminder include:

  • Group size – children tend to develop quicker in small groups where they get lots of one-to-one care and attention.
  • Quality – All registered childminders are inspected regularly, either by Ofsted or by an Ofsted-registered childminder agency, meaning you can view their latest report online to ensure they provide the quality of service you expect. The Ofsted reports of all childminders registered by @Home Childcare can be viewed here.
  • Environment – It’s essential you choose a childminder who can provide a safe, nurturing and comfortable home environment. Mentors and inspectors regularly check all the childminders we register to ensure they are suitable and meet the required standards.
  • Education – Children learn best when their education is personalised to their needs. So, ensure your chosen childminder can provide flexible learning in different environments, including indoor and outdoor play.
  • Flexibility – Many childminder educators offer flexible hours to fit around your working patterns.
  • Affordability – Cost is an important consideration. Because childminders don’t have the overheads of day nurseries, they are often more affordable. You can also take advantage of tax-free childcare vouchers and Universal Credit, as well as funded hours for early years children, to help keep your costs down.

Check out our childminder community

Our registered childminder early educators promote children’s learning and development in safe and nurturing home-based environments.

They all share our passion for providing quality care and education to improve children’s outcomes and help them reach their full potential.

To find an @Home Childcare registered childminder early educator near you, get in touch to see how we can help.

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