Your toddler can benefit in a big way from childcare. You and your child carer will first need to agree on your toddler’s safety, continuity of care, and activities. That way, you’re happier with your choice of childcare, and your toddler can know what to expect even when they’re not with you. You might find that continuity of care is the toughest target to achieve, so here you’ll find some tips for you if your family helps to look after your toddler as well as an expert view on making rules for your kids.

Safety first

A major consideration when choosing a carer or care setting is safety. Registered settings like childminders and nurseries will be well aware of safety issues. But if your child is going to be cared for by a relative or someone who has not had children of their own, their home may not be child friendly and you’ll need to work with them to make sure that it’s safe.

Childcare checklist

Probably the simplest and cheapest childcare option is to arrange for a neighbour or someone in the family to look after your tot. Many people spread the childcare around: so your tot could be looked after by several different people during the week.

Sharing the childcare around other mothers in the neighbourhood can help pre-school children become confident in different surroundings. It can also help you get some much needed free time to do something other than look after your little one.

Useful points to cover with relatives and friends

  • The food and drink your little one needs (plus how to feed him or her).
  • The best place for your toddler to sleep – and how much sleep he or she will need throughout the day.
  • The stage and age of potty training that your tot has reached.
  • Contact details in case of everyday problems or emergencies.
  • Any specific rules or boundaries that you’re trying to teach your toddler.

There are many different kinds of registered or formal childcare. You will most likely have to pay for registered childcare, but there are various sources of financial help available. One Parent Families Scotland provides a useful Childcare factsheet on the types of registered childcare available.

Useful questions to ask a childminder or nursery

  • How many children do you look after and how much individual attention can you give my child?
  • What will my tot’s daily routine be?
  • What food and drink will you provide?
  • Do you organise regular outings to the park?
  • How do you handle discipline?
  • When was your last Care Commission inspection? What were the results? (Question for nurseries.)

You can find more useful information about choosing a childminder on the Scottish Childminding Association (SCMA) website.

Ease them into it

Some children cheerfully cope with being away from their parents but others are clingier. A little preparation pays off.

  • Some children cheerfully cope with being away from their parents but others are clingier. A little preparation pays off.
  • Don’t spring a new care arrangement on your tot. Talk about it beforehand.
  • Visit your chosen care option several times before the first day or, if your care giver will be looking after your tot at home, get him or her over to work with you for a day or two first.
  • Show your little one that you like and trust your new care giver.
  • Don’t slip away without saying anything, otherwise your child might panic and get upset. Give them a hug and a kiss before you go.
  • Tell them when you’ll see them again, like ‘after lunch’ or ‘when you’ve been to the park’, and then say a clear ‘bye-bye’.
  • Don’t be late collecting your child.
  • Allow time for settling in. But if your child is still very upset after several weeks, you might consider talking it over with the nursery’s staff, your GP or health visitor.

Hot tip!

If your child is being cared for away from home let them take something familiar with them, like a photo book of family and friends or their favourite toy.

Tips for you if your family helps to look after your toddler

What’s the situation: "My mum looks after Caitlin two days a week. I’ve told mum that I don’t want her to have sweets, but she insists that a few chocolate buttons won’t do any harm. What can I do?" Mary

  • Tell your mum to start with how much you appreciate her looking after Caitlin and what it means to you both.
  • Explain honestly and clearly why it is important to you that she doesn’t give her sweets and that you no longer want her to do so.
  • Find out why she wants to give her buttons – usually it’s a sign of affection or a special treat – and agree between you something that she could give her instead that you are all happy with.

What can I do: being looked after by a family member can offer great continuity and familiarity for your child but it does make it harder to address things like this.

Making rules for your kids: an expert view

What makes rules work? Make rules about things that really matter, and then ensure you stick to the rules you do make. It is also important that other people who spend time with the children use the same rules. If mum says it’s ok, why should Dad or Gran make a fuss? It means the rule is flexible and so the children will try to bend it.

It’s important to: "agree the rules with partners and grannies and other carers and then stick to them. Don’t undermine each other or the children will undermine you all!"
Christine Puckering, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Glasgow University

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Last updated: 7 February 2018
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