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Many studies show that some of the worst quality care is found in nurseries. For example, the FCCC (Families, Children and Childcare) study compared the care offered in nurseries with that offered by childminders, nannies and grandparents and found that nurseries provided the worst care.

It suggests that parents should be very careful about the quality of care offered by nurseries. They often provide the most colourful and attractive spaces but this does not equate to quality care. Stimulation, love, stability and attention are more important for a young child than spaces. This is not to say that nurseries cannot provide high quality care, some do very well. Nurseries with more experienced staff and low staff turnover provide the best quality care.

The people many parents trust the most to look after their child is their own parents. After all you might say, I turned out fine, so I am sure it will be fine for my own children too. More and more people are using grandparents as a source of childcare and research suggests that this sort of care is high quality.  The EPPE (Effective Provision of Preschool Education) study found that being cared for by a relative, usually a grandmother was related to less antisocial behaviour and more cooperative behaviour compared to children not cared for by a relative. However, the FCCC study found that grandparents had less positive relationships with their grandchildren at 10 and 18 months old than childminders or nannies. They also found that they took them to less activities such as toddler groups or children’s centres and the children had less chance to interact with their peers. On the other hand, Wise et al. (2005) found that children whose grandparents looked after them in combination with nurseries or childminders had the best communication skills. There are also long-term benefits to children being cared for by their grandparents. Studies have found that children who are close to their grandparents are more emotionally adjusted and are less likely to report mental health problems.

The FCCC study found that childminders provide the second best quality care after nannies. I personally use a childminder for my own son because I work odd hours around preschool and the childminder is much more flexible and cheaper than any nurseries. I also believe she is attentive to my son and he seems quite attached to her. When I have spent time with both of them together, I can see that he is confident about getting her attention and actively seeks it. He also hugs her and wants to sit on her lap. This makes me feel happy about my decision to leave him with her. The problem with a childminder is you don’t exactly know how they are treating your child when you are not there so you have to trust your instincts. Fortunately, childminders have to now be Ofsted registered and they are encouraged to take childcare qualifications, which teach skills such as providing stimulating, child-friendly activities. Childminders are given advice individually on how to improve and they also have to show their Ofsted report to parents, which gives them a strong incentive to act on the advice given.

The FCCC study found that nannies provided the best quality care overall when compared to nurseries, childminders and grandparents. Nannies were observed to be more responsive to the children they were caring for and they also reported taking the children to a greater number of activities. However, many people may only consider a nanny once they have a least two children to care for, as it is an expensive option for one child.

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