Finding good childcare can be one of the biggest decisions parents have to make.

The fact that more women are returning to work after having children has led to a greater demand for quality childcare.

There are many day nurseries and registered childminders available but they must meet with the approval of the local authority and comply with stringent vetting and inspection regulations.

Services offered by individual care facilities can vary.

Some private day nurseries are happy to take babies from as young as eight weeks old up to school age.

Others place a minimum age limit of around two years old.

Registered childminders have individual preferences when it comes to setting minimum age requirements but are generally quite flexible.

So how does a parent choose the right care for their child?

The first thing to do is decide on the kind of care you want for your child.

A registered childminder will provide an environment closely resembling that of home.

It is unlikely she, and it usually is a she, will be caring for more than two or three other children but she may also have children of her own at home.

A day nursery, on the other hand, offers a broader spectrum of childcare.

The children are usually divided into small groups according to age, which means the children take part in activities which are relevant to their ability.

Being with a number of other children can often be bonus when it comes to developing social skills.

The day is carefully planned to take in a wide range of activities.

Many nurseries now have a computer with appropriate software for pre-school children's first look at technology.

Weather permitting, outdoor play is an essential element in the daily schedule.

It helps physical coordination and the exercise is beneficial.

Children derive great pleasure from creating their own pictures and no childminder or nursery should be without drawing, painting and modelling materials.

Construction toys are perennial favourite and help to develop manual dexterity as well as imagination.

The final decision on child care comes down to personal choice, usually reached after visiting as many local facilities as possible.

These will give a general feel of the atmosphere, numbers, play facilities and, perhaps most importantly, an idea of the people behind them.

After all, they will be responsible for your child's safety, happiness and wellbeing.