Friday, 15 June 2012

Childcare- what works for you?

Our little boys have recently started doing one day a week with a childminder.
We made the decision following some events which has meant the OH needs support and this has been a step in the right direction.

We have previously looked at the price of nurseries in the area and knew this would not be an option we could afford. We had not considered a childminder before but fortunately events collided and the opportunity became available.

Our experience with childcare has been very much finance determined.

When I went back to work after maternity leave with Squeaks and the OH became the SAHD it was on the proviso that Squeaks went to nursery one day a week. We had little/ no support up North and as I work away it was the only way we could guarantee regular respite for the OH.

Private Day Nursery
We chose a day nursery for Squeaks from 6 months. As most parents will recall you are provided with lots of literature about selecting childcare. My instinct went with a day nursery after doing quite a bit of research. For some reason I didn't like the idea of a childminder, my priority at the time was to ensure Squeaks benefited from the experience and I liked the idea of her socialising with babies her age and upwards.
Squeaks went to nursery for a year. After finding out we were pregnant with the boys we agreed it was an expense we could not afford.
The experience though was excellent. Squeaks went from not being happy to be left to running in... and yes, from being carried in to walking!
The nursery provided daily reports on activities, as well as regular craft trinkets and a 'Learning Journey' book full of reports, progress and 'art'. It is such a cherished reminder of her first years,and one as a parent we should do but tend to think we'll remember it all.
We learned how Squeaks has mummy wrapped round her finger, Squeaks would eat food in nursery she wouldn't eat for me, she'd cry when I tried to leave but be fine literally two minutes later.
I do not look back on the experience as an unnecessary expense, but it was a luxury.
Johnson Babies
Squeaks spent her last day at nursery cleaning up!

Day Care Centre/ Pre School
Once the boys were born I realised how much support we needed and how Squeaks also needed respite from the needs of the babies.
Fortunately the local school was associated with a day centre centre which took children from two years. The school was the one we would have chosen for Squeaks so seemed ideal.
Unfortunately it was full.
More fortunately for the OH they took pity on our situation and rather than making us wait till September for a place they offered us a place on their summer scheme. Not quite as structured as the usual 'play school' as it catered for a wide range of children nevertheless it was what we needed.
Squeaks was able to do the hours she would do in the September to get used to the environment.
The set up was great in terms of the different areas for the activities, different days meant different themes. Squeaks enjoyed her time.
From the September it improved to suit the younger age group. The timings were mornings or afternoons, rather than the Summer 'pay by the hour' and therefore the time was more structured in terms of activities, group activities, singing and stories.
We were really sorry that as Squeaks was being to thrive in the environment we had to take her out as part of our move to Wales.
Johnson Babies
A year on, last day at Pre-school

Play School
On moving to Wales we looked for a similar pre-school arrangement as we had in Yorkshire. We found only two similar options locally- a play school and a nursery. With the costs of the nursery so much higher. and our needs being more about Squeaks than needing flexibility we visited the play school and were happy with what it offered.
With honesty, it was not as flexible as the pre-school in Yorkshire- it opens three mornings a week, so no opting for certain days or mornings or afternoons. The play school is at a community centre so it does not have the same facilities. But nonetheless, it is next to a park, the hall is split into different activity areas- and Squeaks loves it.
Obviously because she has developed so much since pre-school, she quickly voiced disapproval at not being able to go to play school, whether it be due to school holidays or weekends. She has lots of friends whom she talks about by name, and she is frank about what happens- especially the day she got told off, it turns out  she's not allowed to shout and scream at play school. Heigh ho!

Reflecting on these experiences with Squeaks what I realise with the benefit of hindsight it that I expected too much from her too soon, and actually by luck we have made the right decisions for her.
Nursery for Squeaks was right at 6mths, she was not ready for anything else. At 2 she was a little too young for pre-school but she needed time away from the boys and this met everyone's needs.
Play school at 2 1/2 was perfect, she has thrived.

Squeaks is now begging to start big school and we have our fingers crossed that come September we will be able to make this happen.

So, moving on to the boys and the childminder.
This again has been a good halfway house for the boys. The key difference between Squeaks and the boys is that I don't have the same nagging thoughts about the boys needing to socialise with other little people. They have their big sister, their cousins, and ultimately each other.

The priority for them has been to get them used to other adults (my parents are the only ones brave enough to babysit), and as an additional benefit to meet other little people.

When selecting childcare for twins the recommendations are even more detailed- looking after twins is different!
We have been soooooo fortunate.
We have moved to a village where a friend lives. I met my friend in playschool, thirty odd years ago. We had twins within two weeks of each other.... anyone else thinking match making?
My friend found a childminder when the girls were six months. So a year on when we decided to look for support one day a week, it transpired that the girls were about to drop a day with the childminder.
We now have the perfect arrangement where the boys have picked up a day a week, and we alternate an additional day every fortnight.
And as for the childminder and experience, well, does a mum of twins count? And after a year of looking after the girls they're well prepared for the boys.
We really have landed on our feet.
The boys are still uncertain, it's not regular enough for them to have adjusted- yet, but we've been here with Squeaks and I do think it will be a good experience. Admittedly more essential for dad rather than them, but beneficial to them as well.

It's amazing how none of this was planned, that we have inadvertently benefited from the various types of childcare offered.
I am left with no preference, apart from as always, to say follow any instincts you have, I've found that works better than any amount of desk research!

1 comment:

  1. We too have done a range of childcare arrangements, including childminders, day nurseries and nannies and I agree, you just have to do what suits you and your children at the time. You have given some fab advice and insight.


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