Here you will find things to think about and questions to ask when you visit a childcare provider.
Ofsted ratings and reports
Ask the childcare provider for a copy of their Ofsted inspection report. You can also view it online at reports.ofsted.gov.uk
Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO)
If your child has special needs or a disability arrange to meet with the SENCO when you visit. They will be able to talk to you about the staffs experience and training and the support they can offer.
Policies and procedures
Policies and procedures will cover all aspects of the care your child will receive. They cover the staff and parents responsibilities. These should be available for you to read, so do ask for a copy.
- A warm welcome when you arrive
- if your child is with you are they engaging with your child
- children’s art and work on display
- staff joining in with what the children are doing
- staff listening to children and answering them
- children are happy and engaged
- staff communicating with children in non-verbal ways such as using cards or signing
- easy to move furniture and height adjusting tables
- parents notice board with up to date information on routines
- staff notice board so you can see who is who
- somewhere safe to store any specialist equipment needed to care for your child
- are you able to leave your pushchair
- off road parking
A settling in period is an agreed amount of time to help settle your child in their new surroundings. You will need to talk to the childcare provider to see if you will need to pay for these hours.
It helps your child to feel confident and feel safe.
During this time you may need to stay with your child so be sure to factor that in if you are returning to work. If your child is not settling in you and the childcare provider can agree to end the arrangement. If appropriate you can end without the normal notice period.
- Will you be able to come in to breastfeed?
- If you provide pumped breast milk or formula milk how will they store and prepare it?
- What methods do they have for documenting how much and how often babies drink?
- At what age do they start to give babies solids?
- Does your child have specialist feeding equipment such as ‘feeding tubes’? Are there trained staff who will be responsible for taking care of your child during feeds? Will your child be able to sit with the other children while feeding?
- Are children supervised during feeding time? Do staff eat with the children?
- Are they allowed to choose how much or how little they want to eat?
- What is your child is a fussy eater, too tired, or upset to eat
Are they able to practice feeding themselves and given adult help when needed?
- Can you view a typical weekly menu? Are the meals and snacks nutritional and varied?
- Where is the food prepared and served?
- Can they cater for a child with a special diet?
- Can you provide your own food?
- What are their guidelines around what you can bring? How will they store food during the day?
- What drinks do children get and when?
- Is drinking water available, throughout the day?
Do you need to provide a drinking cup or bottle?
- Are they able to accommodate children with allergies?
- How will they ensure your child is not exposed to foods they’re allergic to?
- Do staff have training in how to respond to an allergic reaction, including storage and use of an epi-pen?
- Do they have a structured plan for activities to help your child learn and play? Do these include:
- quiet time
- reading time
- group and individual activities
- outside play and free time?
- can children start some of these activities themselves?
- Will they take your child on outings and visits to places such as the local park or library? If so how do they do this? Do they do risk assessments?
- Which festivals and special occasions do they recognise? How do they celebrate them?
- Will they insure your child is able to join in all the activities.
- Do they limit the amount of time that children can:
- watch television
- play computer games
- use tablets or other online platforms
- Are specialists or therapists allowed to visit the setting?
- What support can be put in place to support your child?
- Are they able to access funding to support your child?
- If needed can they arrange additional staff to support your child?
- How many of the staff have accessed training specific to working with a child with SEND?
- Will there be a general day to day handover where you will find out what your child ate or did that day.
- How do they ensure your child is making progress and identify any area of need?
- How will they share information with you about your child's learning and development? How do they involve you in planning the next steps?
2 year old progress check
The progress check should happen between the ages of 2 and 3. It highlights areas where your child is progressing well and areas of need.
- How does the childcare provider praise and encourage good behaviour?
- What do they consider to be unacceptable behaviour?
- How do they manage unacceptable behaviour?
Your childcare provider will able able to support you when the time is right for your child. If your child is ready and you have begun training, ask how the setting will support you in this.
- If your child doesn't like their potty can you bring your own?
- What happens if your child has already used the change of clothing you provided? Do they have spares?
- Where are the toilets situated? Are they on the ground floor?
- disabled toilets and changing facilities.
- handrails in the toilet area.
- adjustable height changing facilities.
You can also get advice on when and how to potty or toilet train from your Health Visitor or local Children’s Centre.
Contact a Family have a parents’ guide on potty training with a disabled child (PDF, 762kb)
Other sites that can offer advice and tips are:
If you child needs to have medicine check with the childcare provider their policy for this. The policy should cover things like administering and storing medication.
- If your child needs to take medicine ask who will insure that they receive it on time.
- Will they give medicine that is not prescribed by a doctor? (homeopathic medication or creams)
- What procedures are in place and do staff have training in how to respond to an allergic reaction. This should include storage and use of an epi-pen?
- Have all staff got a first aid certificate?
You will need to sign a contract and agree on payments before your child starts. Take time to make sure that you have considered and spoken with the childcare provider about:
- Registration fee
- How often and how much?
- Are you getting 15 or 30 hours free childcare for 2, 3 and 4 year olds? The free hours is not intended to cover the costs of:
- consumables (such as nappies or sun cream),
- extra hours
- activities (such as outings)
Providers can charge a fee for these. Check with the provider if there are any charges before your child starts their place.
- Are you going to pay using Tax Free Childcare
- Your childcare provider will need to be signed-up to take these too.
Find out about all the different help available to pay for childcare at www.childcarechoices.gov.uk
Holidays and sickness
- What days, sessions, hours will your child be attending?
- What if you are late picking up your child?
- What if your child is unable to attend due to sickness?
- Are the hours flexible to accommodate any hospital or therapist appointments?
- If your child is attending a childminder what happens if the childminder is ill?
- Giving notice – how much notice do you or the childcare provider have to give. Does this need to be in writing?
What do you need to provide? What is covered in the cost?
- Baby wipes
- Sun cream
- Change of clothing
There are several type of childcare. How many children they have in their care will depend on what type of childcare provider they are. See the staff ratios and qualifications page for further information.
- how many children are there per member of staff?
- how many staff have the appropriate childcare qualifications? what training and experience do the staff have?
- are they experienced in supporting and meeting the needs of children with additional needs
- if needed will they be able to make referrals to outside agencies and are they experienced in working with a range of outside professionals such as:
- Speech and Language Therapists,
- Occupational Therapists,
- Advisory Teachers for Hearing Impairment.
- how long have they been working with children?
- do they have any references from parents with children at the setting?
Policies and procedures
There will be policies and procedures in place to ensure your child is safe and well cared for. Your childcare provider should be able to give you a copy of their policies. Many will have them available on their websites. Policies and procedures cover things such as:
- Equal opportunities
- Special educational needs and disability
- Safeguarding and child protection
- Risk Assessments
- Accident, injury and first aid
- Health and safety
- Healthy eating
- Behaviour, biting and bullying
- Toilet training
- Mobile phone