Vanessa Cook (Managing Director) gives expert video advice on: What are the advantages of using a childminder?; What should I ask the childminder?; Should I let my child meet the childminder? and more...
What is a childminder?
A childminder is someone who looks after several people's children in their own home. They'd need to be OFSTED approved, and they will cook for the children. They can look after up to six children at any one time, and this may be full or part time. It can be a bit more economical than using a nanny, and it has the advantage that rather than being in a nursery environment, it's in someone's home, so perhaps if your child's very young, and they need to take naps, they might have their own room to sleep in, or you could provide a cot for the baby. It's just a different type of environment for a child to be left in while you go to work.
What do I look for in a childminder?
When choosing a childminder, you should probably choose someone who doesn't have too many children on their books already, because the more children that they have to take care of, the less attention your own child's going to have. You should also spend the day with a childminder and the children that they look after to check how your child will get on with the other children. Preferably, you should find a childminder who's looking after another child the same age as yours, because then they can be friends. You should look for someone who's loving, someone who's been a childminder for many years, because they will obviously be better at their job then. And you should have a look at what kind of food they supply for the children, because some childminders might feed the children foods that you're not happy with.
Are childminders registered?
Childminders are supposed to be registered will Ofsted. So you should check this before you put your child with any childminder. Ofsted will come into a childminder's home and make sure that everything is safe. For example, the front door should be alarmed, so if a child is old enough to open the front door, the childminder is made aware of it, or alerted by the alarm that goes off when the child opens the door; so there's no escaping. If you're deciding to put your child with a childminder, you should check out anyone else who's living in the childminder's home such as whether they are married or have a partner. That person should also have a Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) disclosure that's clear and very recent, within a year.
Are childminders qualified?
Childminders don't necessarily have to have qualifications, but you do find childminders with the same qualifications as nannies. This qualification is an eNEB, an eNVQ, and there are other Ofsted approved courses that you can find lists of on the Ofsted website. Rather than looking for qualifications in a childminder, you should really look for experience. However, the childminder really should be registered with Ofsted, and you shouldn't put your child with anyone who wasn't registered with Ofsted.
What are the advantages of using a childminder?
The advantages of using a childminder are that it can be a bit more affordable than a nanny and it's in someone's home so it's more of a homely environment than a nursery and if your child is a toddler or a very young baby they would be asleep in a cot that you provide or that would be in your own room. Also if you put your child with a childminder rather than a nursery there's going to be a lot fewer children around and so you can make sure that the children that are in this home are going to be friendly with your own child but in nursery the children are changing all the time and you can't be made aware if your child dislikes the nursery.
Should I visit the childminder?
You should always visit a childminder's home and have a good look around, maybe possibly even spend the day with the childminder and your child to make sure that the child's happy in this home, and is happy to be left with this person. You should also find out all about the childminder's routine during the day, such as if they go to parks, playgroups or anything outside of the home because you want to make sure you're happy with these things.
What should I ask the childminder?
You should ask the childminder what she does during the day with the children. You should ask her if she's planning on adding any more children to the group. Find out what foods she gives the children, and where your baby would sleep if you have a baby or a toddler. You should find out if there's a garden and make sure that everything in the garden is safe. Generally, just ask her everything that she is going to do. Is she going to do any educational activities? Is she is going to leave the children to watch TV all day? You want to make sure you're happy with everything that goes on.
Should I let my child meet the childminder?
You should always let your child meet a childminder and make sure that your child is happy to be with that person. You should, before committing to a childminder, try leaving your child alone and see how the child reacts when you try to leave the house.
How flexible are childminders?
A childminder is really flexible. She can have, because she can have up to sort of five children, she might look after a toddler during the day and then do someone's school run in the afternoon with the toddler. So that's the kind of thing you need to find out, if your toddler's going to be taken on a massive three hour school run. They can be a good alternative to finding an after-school nanny which is very difficult. The only thing is, school age children often don't want to be in a stranger's home, they want to go home after school and when you leave your children with a child minder they're going to the child minder's home. But it's good for a parent whose work day doesn't fit in to a nursery day which is sort of 8am to the latest 6pm. A child minder can have your child to 8 or 9 o'clock at night if you want for less cost than a nanny.
Can I ask my childminder to work weekends?
A childminder might be happy to look after children during the weekends because it's in their own home. They're normally very flexible on times and days.
What do I do if I am not happy with my childminder?
If you're not happy with your childminder, it's best to take your child straight out of there because it's very difficult for you to check up on what they are doing because its not in your home; it's in their home. So there's plenty of childminders and alternatives that you can do. You can find a nanny or put your child in a nursery. But if your not happy take your child out straight away because otherwise your going to be worried all day long.