Gosh I hadn't even nearly realised how difficult this would be. There is the complete emotional battle, the fact that there are lots of childcare options but I'm not sure how many are brilliant and it is such a personal thing so where as with most other child stuff you can ask friends, it doesn't work quite so well on this front. Parred with trying to match availability with work requirements / location, argh nightmare.
Having a brother in law as an educational consultant has both helped and hindered (but in a good way). We were probably a bit naive as to what to ask and look out for so he has given us loads of good tips aside the from the standard advice you can find on Govt and parenting websites. However, showing examples of what excellent looks like has possibly made our already high expectations even more so.
I think we have finally found a child minder (she is just confirming availability). I am quite instinctual and it just felt right but I thought I would share some of the advice Alistair gave us incase any one else out there is going through the same thing and is as inexperienced in all this as us (I'm sure most people are way more clued up).
We created a shortlist based on a few key factors like location, ofsted results(http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/inspection-reports/find-inspection-report), opening times and vacancies, before going along to visit.
Things we then asked about...
1. Staff turnover (consider when the last ofsted report was, if it was years ago there might be a completely different mgt structure)
2. Rotation of staff (between locations / rooms) - will she have the consistency she needs to form secure attachments
3. Examples of activities (look at what is around the room - have displays been completed by children or have adults just done something to look good on the wall, how are the adults interacting with children - are they on the floor with them / are the children responding well)
4. How are they fed / how will they manage differences in routines / how about naps?
5. What are the provisions like for outdoor play? How often do they go outside (as often as possible for us)
6. What info will we get back as a parent at the end of each day? (what do we expect compared to what is offered)
7. How do they stimulate babies? (there is so much more that can be done than play mats, I hadn't even realised!)
8. What is the overall ethos?
Ultimately I think everyone has their individual list of things which they are willing to give on or not.
We knew it was an important decision and I do wish we had started looking earlier...it is tough but too important not to get right!