The Childcare Debate

The hot topic at the moment is the high cost of childcare. But let’s look at the facts. Is childcare really that expensive?

In reality, cleaning, dog walking and babysitting will actually cost you more per hour.

The government is painting a very negative picture of stay-at-home mums. We’ve almost reached a point, for the first time in history, where wanting to stay at home and look after your own small children is seen as wrong, lazy or taboo. But how many parents actually would prefer to take care of their own child? And is the ‘high cost’ of childcare being used as a valid excuse to be home with their pride and joy without being judged?

Researchers in developmental psychology argue that during the first three years of a child’s life, the interests of the child are best served by being cared for by a parent in their own home environment. The UK-born psychologist and writer, Steve Biddulph, is a harsh critic of childcare, particularly for the under threes and even though this might seem like bad news for many parents, his condemnation is not without foundation.

Studies show that a baby’s brain grows 3 times in size by the time they are 3.  During this time, in response to the love and caring firmness they are given, the brain makes most of its connections.  If this intense love and care is not given, these areas of the brain do not develop properly. This is clearly shown in studies on the brains of Romanian orphans.

A baby’s stress hormone (cortisol) levels can be measured in their saliva when they are crying and upset. The reading of these measurements drop after a cuddle from their mother.  The cortisol readings for children that attended a nursery were double that of children cared for at home.

So where does this leave the childcare debate? Hopefully it will bring strength and courage to parents who want to stay at home and care for their own children. The research is on their side. There is no need to hide behind excuses. If you can afford not to go out to work and can instead find a way to be with your little ones those first few years then do it, no one should make you feel bad.

But how about parents who do need to return to work? Whether they need to financially or want to return to a career that fulfils them, how can childcare best serve the practical needs of these parents and the developmental needs of their children? Despite the herd-childcare that the government seem to be pushing to the forefront, with proposals for higher child-carer ratios and schools expanding facilities to take children as young as two, it is actually possible, and affordable, for children to be cared for in the loving, caring home environment that they deserve to be in when so young.

Of course one option, if you are lucky enough to have family close by, is for children to be cared for by a grandparent, aunt or other family member, but even if this option is not viable there is one more unsung hero of childcare, a childminder. Childminders, as individuals running their own small businesses, are often a much more affordable option than nurseries, yet can provide the same professional and quality care as nurseries with so many added bonuses.

Being with a childminder is like being part of an extended family in a home environment.  The numbers are much lower than those in a nursery so there can be more time for 1:1 care.  Childminders provide a real-life learning experience.  They are qualified, registered and inspected childcare professionals that often have the added benefit of being a parent themselves.  Children benefit from sharing the family setting with peers of different ages, allowing them to learn from each other.  Children at childminding settings can enjoy a range of activities and outings, from visiting the parks and playgrounds to attending toddler groups and taking trips to local attractions.  Childminders also offer flexible childcare options for parents who do not work 9 to 5, with options to provide care in the early morning, evening, weekends and overnight, term-time only, holiday cover, school pick ups and ad-hoc care.

The great thing about using a childminder is that you can grow a relationship with them where they truly become like extended family and often continue to care for your child even after they start school.  The research may show that an idealised situation for a young child would be to be cared for full-time by a loving parent, but in reality this is not always possible or desirable. In cases where childcare is really required, I truly believe there is no gentler, and kinder choice for childcare than a childminder, the true ‘Free Range’ choice.

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Notes

Annelize Cruz is a childminder with a passion. She truly believes childminding is the only alternative option to providing a child with the type of care they so deserve when they are young.

For this reason in 2013 she set up the online service, Free Range Childcare, to show parents that they have an alternative option for childcare.  They have an option which allows them to give their children the home care that they need.  Free Range Childcare is raising awareness of the nurturing, flexible and affordable childcare option that is childminding.

The aims of Free Range Childcare are to raise the profile of childminders by giving parents an accurate picture of how childminding works and how it fits into the spectrum of childcare options; and helping parents to find the perfect childminder for their family through their database of UK based, Ofsted registered childminders.

For parents thinking about going back to work, the prospect of finding childcare can be daunting and Free Range Childcare aims to help parents make this process as simple and smooth as possible.  The service they provide to parents is totally free and seamless with no need for them to even register to get full details from the website.  The site provides details about why childminding is the best option for childcare, some suggestions to help find the perfect childminder and a list of registered childminders local to them.