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Your guide to childcare

This page explains the different childcare options available within the current restrictions.

What are my childcare options?

Can I use a registered childminder?

Yes, registered childminders were able to reopen from 3 June.

If you don't usually use a registered childminder for your child but you'd like to use one, you should contact them to find out if they have space.

Find out more about using a childminder here.

Can I send my child to nursery?

Yes, all registered ELC settings were able to reopen from 15 July onwards. You can find out more about ELC settings reopening here.ƒif I 

Do the new limits on restrictions for meeting other people change the rules for formal childcare?

The restrictions on meeting up with other people have changed, however, this doesn’t affect registered childminders and other early learning and childcare providers as they have their own separate guidance to follow, so these can continue as usual.

What about informal childcare?

Can a member of my extended household look after my children?

Yes, if you’re part of an extended household then any adult in that extended household can look after your children, even if you don’t live with them. You can find out more about who can form extended households here.

Can family members or friends from other households look after my child?

While households cannot meet up indoors, informal childcare is still allowed where required. This means you can leave your child with a friend, family member, babysitter or nanny to look after them, in your home or theirs, provided of course that no-one in either household has coronavirus symptoms. The type of situation where you might want to consider informal childcare could be:

  • if you need childcare to enable you to work (this can include working from home)
  • to attend medical appointments for you or another child
  • you or your children have on-going regular health or social care needs 
  • illness or health issues mean you can't look after them.

You still need to be mindful of physical distancing and hygiene when you are indoors with others and as coronavirus cases are increasing, it’s important that we all limit our contact with other people where we can.

Can a nanny look after my children?

Yes a nanny can look after your children in your house.

Will they still need to physically distance?

If your child is under 12, the person looking after them doesn’t need to distance. However, adults and children 12 and over from different households should stay 2 metres away from each other, unless there’s an emergency – for example, if a child gets hurt and needs help.

If I need to use informal childcare, what precautions can I take?

Lots of us rely on friends and families for informal childcare. While we all need to be limiting our interaction with other households as much as possible, it’s still okay to use informal childcare. One thing you can do to limit risk, is to avoid adults interacting, or visiting other households. For example if a grandparent is babysitting maybe let them look after your child at their house as opposed to them coming to yours, especially if you’re working from home. 

If necessary it's okay for the person looking after your children to look after other children at the same time (for example, grandparents could look after grandchildren from two different households at the same time). However, it's best to limit this as much as you can.

If the babysitter who usually looks after your children also looks after other families, they may decide to limit this to one family, to reduce the risk from being in different homes. 

Some additional risk comes from preparing food for people outside our household, so you may choose to supply your children with any food they need for the day. And as the virus is less likely to spread when we are outdoors it is best for family or friends to spend as much time outside as possible when they’re looking after your children.

My child is over 12, but has additional needs. Do they need to physically distance? Can someone still look after them without physically distancing?

Children with additional needs should follow the physical distancing guidelines appropriate to their physical age where possible, which means 12s and over should physically distance, except in an emergency.

Is there a time limit on how long they can look after my child? Can they stay overnight?

If needed, then there’s no time limit for how long someone can look after your child, including overnight. However, everyone aged 12 and over will need to maintain physical distancing at all times so it’s important to think the arrangements through and decide whether it’s practical.

Is it safe for someone else to feed my baby? Or change their nappy?

It’s fine for someone else to feed your baby, however, you should prepare their food in advance to be safe. It’s also fine for someone else to change your baby’s nappy, or help a little one on the potty, as long as they keep everything clean and wash their hands before and after.

If someone else is looking after my child, is there anything I can do to help them stay safe?

Before you leave your child with someone else, make sure they have everything your child will need, such as pre-prepared food and drink, utensils, disposable wipes and a towel. The person looking after your child should of course maintain good hygiene and cleaning measures.

If someone else is looking after my child, can they drive them somewhere in the car?

You shouldn’t give anyone from another household a lift in your car, or accept a lift from someone from another household, unless it’s essential or if someone is looking after your child. If this is the case, try to limit the number of passengers and space out as much as possible and keep the windows open. You shouldn’t share a car with people from more than 1 household at a time. Travel Scotland have further advice on travelling here.

Can I leave a young child with their older brother or sister?

There’s no law about what age your child can be left at home. However, you mustn’t leave a child on their own if they'll be at risk. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) recommends:

  • babies, toddlers and very young children should never be left alone
  • children under 12 are rarely mature enough to be left alone for a long period of time
  • children under 16 shouldn't be left alone overnight.

The NSPCC website has more advice about deciding when it's safe for a child to be left alone.