Many parents are able to find suitable childcare as soon as they need it, but for others it may take several months of searching before you can find somewhere that accommodates both your own and your child's needs.
Think about what you want and need from childcare and what kind of childcare would best suit your needs. For example, do you need childcare in the evening, early morning or at the weekend? Will you need additional childcare for school age children during school holidays?
Your local Family Information Service (FIS) provides information to parents, carers and others about local childcare and family services. They hold details of all registered childcare providers in your area, including nurseries, childminders, playgroups and more and depending on the service offered. You can get contact details for your local Family Information Service by using this 'Find your FIS' function or by searching in your local phone book. For details of your local FIS in Wales, contact 0300 123 7777.
School, community centre or library noticeboards may also include details of local childcare providers.
Visit several settings and ask questions about the childcare provided. It might help to take a friend and/or your child on the visits to help you decide.
Check the setting's Ofsted report at www.ofsted.gov.uk. Other parents' experiences of a childcare provider can also be very useful. Childcare providers should be happy to put you in contact with other parents so that you can take up references about the service they provide. However, remember that what works for one family, may not work for another.
If your child is 3- or 4-years old, they are eligible for a free part-time early education place of at least 15 hours a week in England and 10 hours a week in Wales. Some 2-year olds are also entitled to free early education places.
Make sure you are getting all the financial assistance available to you to help you pay for your childcare costs. If you are a working parent you may get help through Working Tax Credit or employer-supported childcare, or if you are studying there may be help available from your college or training provider.
Find out more on our Paying for Childcare website.
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