She or he will have sole charge of your child when you're not around - so picking a childminder can seem a daunting task.
If you are looking for a list of registered childminders in your area, the first stop should be your local council. Ask for their list of registered childcare providers.
Susanna Dawson, chair of the National Childminding Association, offers advice on how to choose the right registered childminder:
* Find a childminder by looking for adverts in your baby clinic or local newspaper, checking the Family Information Direct website on http://childcarefinder.direct.gov.uk/ or asking around for recommendations.
* When you first meet a childminder, take your child along with you and see how they interact with them. Also visit in the evening so you can talk to him or her without distractions. If you can, bring your partner so he can meet her too. You could also visit the childminder when working to see how they interact with the children.
* Visit as many times as you want to before you make your decision. See a few childminders to compare them, especially if you've not used one before.
WHY A CHILDMINDER CAN BE YOUR BEST CHOICE
- Your childminder can be flexible around your own routine. If you work long hours or shifts, they can tailor their hours to fit in with you.
- Continuity of care - your childminder can look after your baby right up until they're a teen.
- Your childminder can respect the family's wishes. If you're bringing up your child as a vegetarian, they should be able to provide veggie meals and so on.
- They can respond to your child's individual needs. If he has bags of energy, they can organise lots of activities or read a book with them on the days when he's tired.
- Often, your childminder can form a strong bond with you and your child, and you'll know each other for years to come.
- Your childminder will offer your child the same learning opportunities as nurseries, but in a homely environment.
- The cost of childminding depends on your region and what the individual childminder offers for their fee. Prices vary but expect to pay an average of £3.60 per hour.
- Childminders are registered to care for up to six children under 8, including their own children. No more than three should be under five. But most childminders can only care for one baby under 1.
- Because of these limited numbers, your preferred choice may be booked up early, so allow plenty of time to find the right one.
5 questions to ask at the first visit
1. Are her qualifications up to date? All child-minders need a current first-aid certificate, personal liability insurance and to be registered with Ofsted if they’re looking after children under 7.
2. What activities do they plan to do with your child?
3. What facilities will they provide? Is there a sleeping area? Will they cook meals?
4. How many children are they looking after at the moment?
5. What’s their approach to discipline? Is it similar to yours? If not, will this be a problem?
6. It is also useful to find a childminder who can see your child all the way through to school, they may even do the school run.
National Childminding Association (NCMA) Call 0845 880 0044 or visit www.ncma.org.uk.
Your local FIS. The local authority switchboard will have the telephone number or visit www.childcarefinder.direct.gov.uk/ to find childminders in your area.