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Different types of childcare

Choosing childcare is an important decision for you and your family. Child Carers provide you with the flexibility to return to work or continue with your studies knowing that your child is being helped to learn, have fun and make new friends and being looked after. There are a range childcare options available and this page will guide you through each.

If you know what type of childcare you are looking for, you can search our directory for a childcare provider.


Registered childminders provide care in their own home for other peoples children. They are registered with Ofsted and are inspected every 3 years.

Childminders can often be flexible about the hours they work and they will provide your child with lots of fun, play and learning. They can make the most of local parks, playgrounds, toy libraries, drop-in groups and community centres. Children have the chance to make good friends with other children who go to a childminder. Some childminders are able to offer part time early learning funded places for 2, 3 and 4 year olds. The plus points are:

  • your child will be in a home environment
  • childminders can support families for years as children grow up
  • flexible hours

Every childminder is different so look for someone who will suit your children. It is important to choose a childminder whose views on childcare are broadly similar to your own.


Nurseries provide full and part-time childcare for children aged between 0 to 5 years. They are registered with Ofsted and are inspected every 3 years.

Nurseries should display their registration certificate and the latest inspection report. Safeguarding checks are made to make sure staff are suitable to work with children and that the building is safe. The plus points are:

  • opportunities for your child to learn and play with friends
  • nurseries are tailored to the needs of children with working parents

Some nurseries offer free, part-time early learning funded places for children aged 2, 3 and 4.


Pre-schools, also known as playgroups or playschools, provide care and early learning for children aged 2 to 5. They are registered with Ofsted and inspected every 3 years.

Pre-schools offer sessional care, either morning or afternoon sessions. Pre-school staff work out with children and parents often help out. There is a range of play activities for children and lots of opportunities to learn. Some pre-schools are able to offer early learning funded places for 2, 3 and 4 year olds. The plus points are:

  • your child can enjoy learning and playing in a small group
  • children can acquire skills for a head start at school
  • you can get to know other parents in the area

Crèches and drop-ins

A crèche provides supervised childcare for an occasional and limited time. Usually this is to enable a parent or carer to follow other activities on the same premises. Crèches that offer childcare for less than two hours do not have to be registered by Ofsted. Please note that crèches are not for parents looking for long term childcare.

A drop-in is for parents and children to attend together to play and to benefit from support from a qualified member of staff. Usually there is no fee to use drop-ins, however there may be a small charge for refreshments.

Parent and toddler groups

Parent and toddler groups are for everyone caring for under 5s. Groups that provide care for more than two hours a day are registered with Ofsted and are inspected once every three years.

Parents can relax in the informal and friendly atmosphere of the club while the children enjoy all the different things there are for them to do e.g. books, building bricks, games, storytelling and many other activities. Your children can play indoors in warm buildings or outside in safely fenced play areas. The playleaders will be happy to help and encourage your children in their play.

Usually there is no fee to use parent and toddler groups however there may be a small charge for refreshments.

Free early education for 2 year olds

Does your family live on a low income or claim income based benefits?

Does your 2 year old have additional needs or has left care?

If yes, you may be entitled to claim up to 15 hours per week of free early education during term time or up to 11 hours per week throughout the year.

Children will be given the opportunity to experience high quality early years education with the support of a trained, high quality registered childminder, nursery or pre-school.

The aim of the programme is to enable your child to receive high quality early education that will help them to be ready for school.

Last Updated 20/12/2022

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