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I'm thinking about using a child minder - what are the benefits and drawbacks of this form of childcare?

One of the key roles of being a mother is to try to help you child reach her potential and become all she can be.

With more and more mothers choosing to go back to work, childcare has become a hot topic in recent years.

There are many options available to parents, ranging from nurseries to nannies. But perhaps the most popular of all is the child minder.

There are several key advantages of using a child minder over the alterative childcare options. However, there are also perhaps just as many disadvantages, as we shall now see...

Benefits
The main benefits of using a child minder are price and convenience. Not only are they considerably less expensive than a creche or nursery but you should be able to find one very close to your home.

Child minders will usually be experienced mothers themselves and they do have to register with register with Ofsted, so you will be leaving your child in capable hands.

Child minders are now also required to undertake a a local authority approved registration course. This usually consists of 18 hours of a Childminding Introduction Programme and a 12 hour St John's Ambulance Paediatric First Aid course for babies and young people.

Drawbacks
Perhaps the main issue some parents have with using a child minder is that almost anyone can become one. The result of this that although there will be many excellent child minders in your area, there will also be some who are not so good. However, the horror stories you may have read about are extremely rare.

Another concern of parents is that their child will be surrounded by many other children, at an age where she is particularly vulnerable to infection and disease. However, recent changes to the laws now allow a childminder to only look after up to six children under the age of eight, including their own children. No more than three children can be cared for under the age of five, and no more than one child can be under the age of one.

And finally, some young children may not be truly comfortable with a child minder. Not only is it a strange environment for your son or daughter but sometimes they won’t gel with the child minder herself. But in many cases the reverse is true. A good child minder will usually bond very quickly with a child. Indeed, children will often look forward to their next visit.

So what should I do?
Deciding whether to use a child minder has to be your own personal choice. It’s a question of whether the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. For some women they will. For some women they won’t.

However, if you do decide that a child minder is the right childcare solution for you, remember you must do your homework. Visit the child minder, ask lots of questions and contact several of the referees she gives you.

Another great way to find a good child minder is through recommendations from friends or support groups. But never just take their word for it. Always check things for yourself.

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