Figuring out thebest childcare option for the most important, special and edibly cute person in your universe is fraught at the best of times. It’s got to be affordable, it’s got to be conveniently located and, above all, the thought of handing over your precious firstborn has got to not fill you with horror (because let’s face it, this is largely an issue for firstborns; second-and-beyond-borns just tend to get dragged along for the ride…).
Since every mother in law and her gobby friend Pat has an opinion on who takes care of your child, you might find yourself doubting your instincts and feeling seriously confused and overwhelmed.
Now, with the small matter of a pandemic to contend with too, there are a whole bunch of new issues to worry about: of course, hygiene and safety have always been important when it comes to childcare, and a few snotty noses are inevitable whatever setting you go for, but Covid has really brought to the forefront the fact that exposing our little ones to dozens of equally snotty noses from different families isn’t always ideal.
At tiney, the startup I work at where we’re reimagining early years education, we’re seeing a big shift in the way people think about childcare. After so many months at home, with more quality family time than we ever could have contemplated (and not-so-quality family time as anyone who’s had to deal with their kid screaming 'IT’S NO FUN WITHOUT MUMMY' during an important strategy meeting can testify), many parents are feeling differently about who they hand their little ones over to.
We’re all hearing a lot about the childcare sector being in huge crisis and it’s true that there are nurseries closing, staff losing jobs and major uncertainty over if and when things will really return to normal. But it’s not all doom and gloom; as ever with childcare, demand far outweighs supply, which means there are opportunities too - this is why we’ve seen an enormous spike in applications to train as tiney home leaders (our modern take on childminders) since lockdown began.
We’re seeing professionals from a variety of industries - teachers, florists, legal secretaries, retail workers, nurses, creatives, to name a few recent examples, as well as hundreds of people already working in childcare - deciding to retrain as childminders, realising that changing children’s lives from the comfort of their own living room, with a professional salary attached, sounds rather nice actually.
And that’s got to be music to the ears of any parent, desperate to find an appealing, affordable solution to their childcare woes after enduring the most challenging parenting period possible. By the end of the year, we’ll have hundreds of new home nurseries popping up, run by the many people currently acing our training programme and who we know have what it takes to become brilliant early years educators.
I’ve tried every childcare option: nursery, nanny share, childminder, snazzy babysitting app, text saying 'Aaargh, Mum, please can you drive down here IMMEDIATELY!'
So, what are the advantages of a small nursery run by a childminder in their home, versus a bigger setting? Well, the obvious one is the fact that your kid gets to form a close bond with one adult (or sometimes two - many childminders work in pairs or have qualified assistants) and mix with the same small group of children every day. Close friendships are formed and much fun is had - it’s much easier logistically for a childminder looking after three or four children to take them out on day trips to the park or the zoo, for instance, than it is for bigger institutions. The blend of ages can be nice too - rather than being sorted into age groups, babies will be learning all the time from toddlers and pre-schoolers, while older kids become more nurturing and less grabby as they help care for their younger peers. It’s like a little family away from home.
And home is the other big draw - after so many months of your little one staring at and/or smearing spaghetti over the same four walls, settling them into a cosy homely setting is likely to feel like much less like a wrench for you and them than taking them somewhere bigger and less familiar.
With many of our jobs changing shape too, there’s often a bit of much-needed flexibility when it comes to days and hours, something that it’s more logistically challenging for bigger businesses to provide.
Then, of course, there’s the Covid factor - while every childcare setting, big or small, is adhering to the same strict government guidelines around health and hygiene, a smaller venue simply exposes them to fewer different germs; it’s basically a natural bubble.
But what about nannies, surely that’s the dream for any frazzled parent? Well, it’s true that there’s nothing more convenient than a perky individual rocking up at your house at the most frantic time of day, quite happy to clean Weetabix out of various orifices before orchestrating a puppet show in four languages while you dash off to work, it’s also not an affordable option for most families. Plus there’s the fact that most nannies are unregulated and don’t have to follow the early years curriculum, whereas childminders and nurseries do.
With a five year old son and a two year old daughter, and having gone from freelance to part-time to full-time since becoming a parent, I’ve tried every childcare option in the book over the past few years (nursery, nanny share, childminder, snazzy babysitting app, text saying 'Aaargh, Mum, please can you drive down here IMMEDIATELY, the kids are sick and I have a really important meeting!'...). I’ve been really lucky with the amazing people I’ve entrusted my kids with in a variety of set-ups and have a huge respect for anyone who gets paid to care for small children all day when lockdown has taught me that I definitely can’t hack it.
Ultimately, when you’ve done your research and seen a few different settings, as well as shoved your fingers in your ears to block out Pat and her opinions, you’ll know which option is right for your child too. And if it happens to be a childminder, be sure to check out tiney…
Best Parenting Books
How to Stop Losing Your Sh*t with Your Kids, By Carla Naumburg PhD
Pragmatic about helping you work through your sh*t to be a more present and positive parent. Increasingly relevant to today's parents, who are more overloaded, overwhelmed, and overworked than ever before, Carla Naumburg has the antidote to the feelings of complete despair and rage. With some humour too…
There's No Such Thing As 'Naughty', By Kate Silverton
This Sunday Times Bestseller details the secret to tackling tantrums, tears and laying the foundations for your child's mental health. In There's No Such Thing As 'Naughty', mum to two young children, journalist and children's mental health advocate Kate Silverton shares her groundbreaking new approach to parenting under-fives that helps to make family life a breeze!
How to Raise Kids Who Aren't Assholes, By Melinda Wenner Moyer
As Melinda's children grew, she found that one huge area was ignored in the realm of parenting advice: how do we make sure our kids don't grow up to be assholes? How to Raise Kids Who Aren't Assholes is a researched, evidence-based guide that provides a fresh, often surprising perspective on parenting issues, from toddlerhood through the teenage years.
Why Did No One Tell Me?: How to Protect Heal and Nurture Your Body Through Motherhood
For too long, women have been told that debilitating conditions following pregnancy are normal and something they have to just put up with. Emma Brockwell is on a mission to change this. In this guide, Emma combines her expertise as a specialist women's health physiotherapist with personal experience to create a warm and informative handbook to help pregnant women and new mums take control and care for their changing bodies. Find out how to:
The Gentle Discipline Book, By Sarah Ockwell-Smith
In The Gentle Discipline Book, Sarah Ockwell-Smith debunks many commonly held beliefs about punishment and motivation and provides an alternative approach that will empower you to discipline your child in an effective way and with respect. Gentle discipline is not about mollycoddling your child or being a pushover - it means understanding your child, having realistic expectations of them, and responding to their misbehaviour appropriately. It focuses on teaching and learning, not punishment or rewarding.
No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame
No Bad Kids is a collection of Janet's most popular and widely read articles pertaining to common toddler behaviours and how respectful parenting practices can be applied to benefit both parents and children. It covers such common topics as punishment, cooperation, boundaries, testing, tantrums, hitting, and more.
When The World Feels Like A Scary Place, By Abigail Gewirtz
This book by prominent child psychologist Dr Abi Gewirtz, brings solutions to a problem that is only going to get worse - how bad things happening in the world affect our children, and how we can raise engaged and confident kids in spite of them. Through conversation scripts, talking points, prompts and insightful asides, When the World Feels Like a Scary Place is an indispensable guide to talking to our kids about the big things that worry them - making us calmer parents with more resilient children.
Queen Bees and Wannabes
A revised and updated version of Rosalind Wiseman's groundbreaking book for a new generation of girls. Packed with insights about technology's impact on Girl World and enlivened with the experiences of girls, boys, and parents, the book that inspired the hit movie Mean Girls (YES REALLY) offers concrete strategies to help you empower your daughter to be socially competent and treat herself with dignity.
How Toddlers Thrive, By Tovah P. Klein
Leading toddler expert Dr Tovah P. Klein reveals why age two to five is the most crucial time for a child's brain development and how parents can harness this period to have a lifelong positive effect on their children's lives. With chapters on everyday routines, tantrums, managing change and avoiding toddler shaming, this smart and useful guide promises to inspire you to be a better parent. Sarah Jessica Parker says: 'Tovah taught me how to resist the temptation to fix everything, and instead give my children the opportunity to learn how to problem-solve for themselves.'
The Montessori Toddler
This book promises to not only help you become a more effective parent but actually change how you see your children. Written by Montessori educator Simone Davies, this book shows you how to bring the educational values of a Montessori classroom into your home-while
Parenting The Sh*t Out Of Life
From Grazia columnist Anna Whitehouse aka Mother Pukka and Matt Farquharson aka Papa Pukka, comes the Sunday Times bestselling account of parenting told from both perspectives, and a handy guide (kind of) on how to raise a small human. The must-read for all parents and parents-to-be - and possibly the best (or worst) baby shower gift you could ever give a prospective mum or dad...
What Mummy Makes
Promising 130 recipes that will suit six-month-olds AND the rest of the family, this book could save you a lot of hassle when it comes to dinnertime…
Sex, Likes And Social Media: Talking To Our Teens In The Digital Age, By Deana Puccio And Allison Havey
Based on their professional work with young people, parents and teachers – and their experiences with their own children – Deana Puccio and Allison Havey give you the tools to talk to children who are digital natives with experiences wildly different from their parents'.
I Am Not Your Baby Mother
A thought-provoking, urgent and inspirational guide to life as a Black mother. It explores the various stages between pregnancy and waving your child off at the gates of primary school while facing hurdles such as white privilege, racial micro-aggression and unconscious bias at every point. Candice does so with her trademark sense of humour and refreshing straight-talking, and the result is a call-to-arms that will allow mums like her to take control, scrapping the parenting rulebook to mother their own way.
The Calm And Happy Toddler, By Dr Rebecca Chicot
You think a newborn is the hard bit… and then you meet your little toddler. This book promises to help you, gently, through tantrums, night-waking, potty-training and all the fun stuff that goes with having a toddler. Dr Rebecca Chicot has a PhD in Parenting and Child Development from Cambridge University.
How To Talk So Little Kids Will Listen
Tried and tested communication strategies to survive - and thrive - with kids ages 2-7. Users have rated this book for having a helpful toolbox of tricks that are easy to understand and carry out.
Calm Parents, Happy Kids: The Secrets Of Stress-Free Parenting, By Dr Laura Markham
Most parenting books focus on changing a child's behaviour, but this book says the truth is that children only change when their relationship with their parents changes. In Calm Parents, Happy Kids, Dr Laura Markham introduces an approach to parenting that eliminates threats, power struggles and manipulation, in favour of setting limits with empathy and communication. Bringing together the latest research in brain development with a focus on emotional awareness (for both parents and children), it will appeal to all parents who don't want to force their children into compliance and lose their temper, but want to keep calm and help their children want to behave.
15-Minute Parenting 0-7 Years: Quick And Easy Ways To Connect With Your Child, By Joanna Fortune
This also comes in a version for 8-12-year-olds and posits that just 15 minutes of mindful playtime each day in your and your child's routine could change behaviour. Created with busy parents in mind, psychotherapist and parenting expert Joanna Fortune has devised a simple but effective method to build quality playful time together at home, structured around 15-minute games that can be easily incorporated into your existing daily routine.
The Joy Journal for Magical Everyday Play
With a foreword written by Fearne Cotton and written by Russell Brand's wife and mother to his two children, this book has star ratings. But it's also hugely useful and full of games and tips to keep children preoccupied in ways that don't involve screens, which everyone knows is very much half the battle of parenthood...
French Children Don't Throw Food
Part travel book and autobiography, this book shares journalist Pamela's parenting tips she learned from living in France. And, for added glam, it's set to be made into a film, starring Anne Hathaway...
The Whole-Brain Child
Designed to help children of different ages, this pioneering, practical book for parents, neuroscientist Daniel J. Siegel and parenting expert Tina Payne Bryson explain the new science of how a child's brain is wired and how it matures. Different parts of a child's brain develop at different speeds and understanding these differences can help you turn any outburst, argument, or fear into a chance to integrate your child's brain and raise calmer, happier children.
The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read (And Your Children Will Be Glad That You Did), By Philippa Perry
Philippa Perry has been a psychotherapist for the past twenty years. She lives in London with her husband the artist Grayson Perry, and they have a grown-up daughter, Flo. Billed as a book for parents and children (and those who aren't yet parents), this book comprehensively covers lots of different stages of life and has a host of celebrity fans from Nigella Lawson to Fearne Cotton.
Your Baby Week By Week
The book to shove in your pregnant friend's hands and tell them to only read week by week. A helpful manual of things your baby might and could be doing, week by week. As with all books, best taken with a dose of salt too – use the helpful bits, ignore the unhelpful/ones you can't quite face (i.e. the sleep bits…)
Nobody Told Me
If it's weaning or sleep-training schedules you're looking for, this might not help exactly, but this book of poetry will make you smile. And probably nod your head a lot. And sometimes cry, and sometimes feel understood. Which goes much further than you'd think.
The Second Baby Book, By Sarah Ockwell-Smith
This guide examines the specific issues that can arise with a second pregnancy and birth. From the common concerns about siblings, such as how to prepare your firstborn for what's to come, to how to cope with the practicalities of life with two young children. And the feelings parents are likely to experience, too - because it's easy to forget about this part.
Between: A guide for parents of eight to thirteen-year-olds
Raising a teenager can leave you feeling like a parenting beginner all over again. Children in the 'between' stage change daily, leaving parents struggling to understand the child they once thought they knew. In Between by parenting expert Sarah Ockwell-Smith uses biology, psychology and sociology of adolescence to give readers practical parenting advice that you can use to help your child through the tricky transition from childhood to adulthood.
How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk
Parenting experts Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish provide effective step-by-step techniques to help you improve and enrich your relationships with your children. Read this guide to learn how to break a pattern of arguments, cope with your child's negative feelings, engage your child's co-operation, set clear limits, express your anger without being hurtful and resolve family conflicts peacefully.
The Danish Way Of Parenting
What makes Denmark the happiest country in the world, and how do Danish parents raise happy, confident, successful kids, year after year? This upbeat and practical guide reveals the six essential principles that have been working for parents in Denmark for decades:
Baby Knows Best
Baby Knows Best is a comprehensive guide that shows parents how to respond to their babies' cues and signals; how to develop healthy sleep habits, why babies need uninterrupted playtime and how to set clear consistent limits. After reading as parents you will be more relaxed and also have more confident, self-reliant children.
Calmer, Easier, Happier Boys
Calmer Easier Happier Boys sees parenting expert Noel Janis-Norton explains simple strategies for the unique challenges of raising motivated, cooperative and confident boys. Using the stellar techniques Noel has developed over many years of working with families, parents can get back in charge. Living with boys can become calmer, easier and happier.