By Karen Dennis
Before I start, I want to point out that I am very bias towards childminders (as I worked as one, for 14 happy years, only giving up due to ill health)
Childminders usually work alone, in their own homes and many have their own children.
Choosing a childminder
My personal feeling is that babies are better with a childminder, than, say, a nursery setting, as a childminder is in a home environment and the adult to child ratio is a lot lower. It was one under one, three under five and six under eight in my day. Childminders also cover a wide age range, usually birth – 14 years, so your child could stay with a childminder for many years, including before and after school and during school holidays, if necessary.
Most of my work came from word of mouth, so ask around at your child’s school, toddler groups, etc., to see if anyone knows of a good childminder. Health visitors are also a good port of call, or contact Ofsted for a list of registered childminders in your area.
My advice, would be to visit several before making your decision. Although all childminders, follow strict Ofsted rules and regulations, we are all quite different from one another and you need to find one that is on ‘the same wave length’!
Initially, you will need to make phone contact to check on vacancies and then make an appointment to visit. I used to try to interview prospective parents, during the day, while I was working, if possible, to give them the feel of my setting while it was in use.
During the visit, parents should be shown the registration certificate (ideally this should be on display), insurance document, details of policies, Ofsted reports, first aid certificate and other qualifications gained. She should also explain about things like accidents / incidents and make out a contract, if you decide to go ahead, so everyone is clear about everything (like fees, arrangements for non-attendance, etc.)
Questions to ask the childminder are: How is behaviour managed? Will there be extra fees for outings or meals (or should a packed lunch be provided)? What happens if a child is taken ill during the day? What are the ages of other children who will be at setting at the same time? Plus any other questions that are important to you.
My last piece of advice is to go with your gut instinct. If it doesn’t feel right, look elsewhere. Most of my child minding parents told me that they knew when we first met that I was right for them and their offspring. I have made some lifelong friends from both parents and children from my time as a childminder.
As always questions/ comments are welcome.
About the Author: Karen Dennis is a mum, step mum, grandparent and blogger at The Next Best Thing to Mummy. She also worked as a childminder for 14 years, until ill health forced her to give up. She has an NVQ Level 3 in early years care and education, as well as many more qualifications. She has also been employed as a pre-school development worker and by the children’s centre as a support childminder.