Childcare options

What different childcare options are there?

Good quality childcare and early education is not only good for children; it gives parents more freedom to work, study or train for a job too. But juggling work and bringing up children isn't easy. If you're struggling with this, you're not alone.

There are lots of different options to consider when choosing childcare. It's up to you as a mum, dad or carer to choose what you feel is right for your family and child.


Childminders are trained, self-employed carers largely based in their own homes. They are registered with Ofsted and both the childminder and their home are regularly inspected. A childminder can work with up to 2 other childminders or childminding assistants. The exact number of children a childminder can care for is regulated by Ofsted. The maximum number one childminder can care for is six children that are under eight-years-old. Childminders work across a range of hours so can often be worth exploring if your working day doesn’t fit the 9-5, Monday to Friday pattern or if you have children of different ages and you want them to be looked after together. You may also want your child to be cared for in a home environment by just one person. Childminder charges vary from £3 to £6 per child per hour but costs vary across the city, so it’s best to check. Prices may include food, nappies and trips/outings etc; however some may charge additional fees for these extras.

Childminders are able to offer the free early years entitlement. Not all childminders offer this so it is best to check that your childminder does offer a funded place.

Day nurseries

Day nurseries offer childcare and, in some cases, free early years entitlement. They are for children between the ages of six weeks and five years and many offer out-of-school care for five to 11-year-olds. Opening times tend to coincide with a standard working day, 8am to 6pm on weekdays. Day nurseries charge between £150 and £225 for a full-time week but costs and opening times vary, so it’s best to check.

Nursery schools and classes

Nursery schools offer free early years entitlement and are for children between the ages of three and five. They are open during school hours, normally only in term time for full or half-day sessions. Nurseries are free if part of a state education system (excluding meals and trips) but private ones charge £1,200 to £1,500 per term. As always it is best to check with the school you’re interested in.

Pre-school and playgroups

Organised by community or voluntary groups, often with the help of parents, these offer free early years entitlement places. They give your child access to different resources, equipment and activities and ensure they mix with other children. Sessions last between two to six hours and take place either every day or several days a week, usually during term time. Some sessions may run over meal times, where children can bring in packed lunches or food is provided. They are for children aged between two and five years and cost around £5 to £12 per session (1/2 day).

Before and after school or out-of-school care

Some clubs are open before and after school and all day during school holidays. They offer a quiet space for catching up with homework as well as plenty of fun activities for children between the ages of three to 14-years-old (and up to 16 for children with special needs). Many breakfast, after school and holiday play schemes are linked to schools. Some of which offer a variety of activities on top of the normal school day such as music, art, sport or additional study support. Costs range between £5 and £10 a day for after-school clubs; £1 and £4 for breakfast clubs; and around £90 to £130 a week for a holiday place.

Other options

  • Parent and toddler groups - informal groups of parents and carers that meet locally with their children on a regular basis, usually including children who are under five.
  • Nannies and au-pairs - provide childcare in your own home and can look after children of any age.
  • Crèches - provide occasional care for children under eight.

What about babysitting?

A babysitter is someone who looks after your children in your own home for short periods of time. Most parents need to use a babysitter at some stage whether it is to enjoy some free social time in the evening or to attend an appointment during the day. Babysitters are not regulated so it's completely up to parents to ensure they are happy and comfortable with who they use as a babysitter.

Useful documents

Useful websites


Local Area Teams Information Service (formerly York FIS)

01904 554444