Which? uses cookies to improve our sites and by continuing you agree to our cookies policy.

Childcare in the UK

Your childcare stories

Article 6 of 6

Put us to the test

Our Test Labs compare features and prices on a range of products. Try Which? to unlock our reviews. You'll instantly be able to compare our test scores, so you can make sure you don't get stuck with a Don't Buy.

Your childcare stories

In this guide you'll discover tips and advice from parents and grandparents on finding and using childcare.

We asked parents and grandparents to share their experiences of choosing, using and giving childcare, along with their tips for how to make sure you find the best childcare for you and your child. Their stories include experiences of nurseries, childminders and helping out with childcare as grandparents.

Choosing and using a nursery

Patience, Chris and Connie

Patience and Chris Gregory from Belper in Derbyshire arranged childcare for their daughter, Connie, aged five. They explain why they chose to send their daughter to a nursery rather than a childminder, even though it was the more expensive option:

'We preferred Connie to attend a nursery as we liked the idea that she wouldn't get attached to one carer. In a nursery we felt she would have a variety of carers and experience different styles of learning. We thought she would also benefit from playing with children of a similar age and possibly make friends that would stay with her through school.

'As Connie is an only child, choosing an option where she would be with others from her peer group was an important factor, so we felt choosing a nanny would have been more limiting for her.

'The continuity of a nursery also meant booking holidays would be easier, as we wouldn't have to be tied to when a childminder was on holiday, and we wouldn't ever have to worry about needing emergency childcare.

'Overall, we've had a good experience with our chosen nursery. The staff have worked with us on Connie's different stages of development, like walking and potty training, and were also happy to keep to the routine we had built at home with Connie as much as possible.'

If you're deciding on a nursery for a young child, it's worth exploring how potential nurseries will deal with different stages of your child’s development. Take a look at our tips on finding the best childcare to get started with choosing childcare.

Guy, Joshua and Benjamin

Guy Critchlow from Yorkshire, dad to Joshua and Benjamin, aged five and three, reveals how he looked for nursery places for his two boys:

'My wife Martha and I first gathered information about nurseries by asking around and accessing information online as a basis for research. From the information we received, we shortlisted nurseries we were interested in looking at and visited each nursery on the list.

'We decided to concentrate on looking at the nursery's approach to the early years foundation stage, the culture of the setting and how the nursery handled the eventual transition to school, and we only looked at nurseries that would accept childcare vouchers.

'We then spent half a day in the different nurseries, with and without the children, to be able to get a clear impression of them. We also spoke to other parents at the nurseries we visited.

'We found that it was worth looking at independent schools in the area, as some offer nursery facilities and accept government early years funding vouchers as part of the payment. Joshua and Benjamin have both attended a nursery at Yorkshire's leading independent girls' school - Queen Mary's in Topcliffe.'

Choosing and using a childminder

Shahanah, Michael and Ianto

Shahanah Schmid and her partner Michael, from Surrey, chose a childminder rather than a nursery for their son Ianto, aged three. Here, they reveal why:

'Ianto is now three years old, but when we first started thinking about childcare, Michael and I weighed up choosing either a nursery or a childminder. We were able to be flexible enough to be able to arrange childcare if a childminder was unexpectedly ill, so we decided we didn't need the guaranteed opening times of a nursery.

'We also thought it was important that Ianto received personalised care - something that wouldn't be an option at a nursery. For example, we provide food and snacks to our childminder to give to Ianto so we know what he's eating. I'm also happy to say our childminder takes into account suggestions we have in terms of activities, and she always has time to discuss Ianto with us.

'The fact that Ianto is also cared for in a homely, personal setting with a childminder was a positive factor over a nursery setting. When we had decided on getting a childminder, we made sure we saw a number of potential childminders. This is vital to get a good understanding of the different settings your child may be in.

'The childminder's available days, location (ie if they were within walking distance from us) and what activities they planned to do were also important factors when we eventually chose a childminder.

'If you are a parent considering getting a childminder, we would advise you to think ahead to when your child is entitled to 15 hours a week of free childcare at the age of three, and check whether or not your chosen childminder is registered to provide this. If not, your child will have to leave your chosen childminder for a different one or a nursery so you can make use of the 15 free hours you're entitled to.

'Also check whether your chosen childminder will charge for a whole day’s care even if your child attends nursery in the morning, as is the case with some childminders.'

Our guide to the different childcare options available to you, including the pros and cons of each, will help you choose the type of childcare that is right for your family.

Liz, Alick and Katherine

Dr Liz Bell from Hungerford, Berkshire, has used childminders to look after her daughter Katherine (now nine years old) from a young age. She shares her experiences below:

'My husband Alick and I have been using childminder services to help look after Katherine since she was six months old. We have used two different childminders with her, and have found that the advantages of this over having Katherine in a nursery is that we've all developed very good relationships with the childminders.

'Both childminders have also had their own families and children. As Katherine is an only child, the childminders' families have become like second families to her, and she has been able to build a sibling-like relationship with their children. We like the fact that she is in a family environment when in childcare.

'When choosing a childminder, the flexibility in terms of drop-off and pick-up times was also important for myself and Alick, as we both work. We've been very pleased with childminders as our choice of childcare.'

Take a look at our page on help with childcare costs to find out about ways to make affording childcare easier.

Help from the grandparents

Chris and his granddaughters

Chris Gardner from Northampshire is a grandfather to twin girls aged two years. Chris shares care of his grandchildren with their parents, and a nanny covers the remaining days. He shares his experiences below:

'My daughter arranged childcare for my grandchildren when she returned to work after a year's maternity leave. Both my daughter and her husband were each able to negotiate one day off work a week to look after the twins.

'I also work full time but was able to negotiate a day off to take care of my grandchildren for one day a week. Between us, we had three days a week covered for childcare, so only needed to find childcare for the remaining two days.

'As the twins suffer from a mixture of metabolic and gastrointestinal disorders, my daughter felt that hiring a nanny was the best option for childcare, as the twins' diet could be more easily controlled and monitored. When we chose a nanny, she started gradually getting to know the children six weeks before my daughter returned to work.

'My daughter and her husband also use childcare vouchers through their employers to help pay for the nanny.'