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Image of Choosing a childminder: a parent’s guide

Choosing a childminder: a parent’s guide

Many of the SCA team are not only early years specialists but parents too, and so we understand that having the perfect childminder for your child makes everyone happier. All SCA registered childminders offer the highest quality education and care, however, each and every setting has its own special difference. This makes picking the right childminder for your family even harder. Here is a little guide to help you find the right childminder for you:

1. Location: Of course the location of your childminder has to be a top priority. Working parents need their journey to and from work, via the childminder, to be convenient. When looking for a childminder, consider how far you are prepared to travel and how their location will affect your every day life. Some childminders offer pick ups so do ask if this is an option, however, it’s important to remember that most childminders are caring for other children (sometimes their own too) so pick ups are not always possible.

2. Hours: Working hours differ for everyone and most childminders offer flexibility to accommodate those jobs that don’t fall in line with the traditional 9 to 5. All childminders will have their usual opening hours, however, will sometimes care for children outside of these times by arrangement. During ‘opening hours’ childminders will be offering their usual early years curriculum, however, outside of these times they may ask for your child to ‘fit in’ with their own family routine. Talk to any potential childminders about this and find out what an early drop off or late pick up would look like for your child.

3. What is important to you and your child? We work with a number of talented childminders, all of whom have passions for different areas of the early years curriculum. Although all childminders follow the standardised Early Years Foundation Stage guidelines, it is inevitable that the practitioners’ interests and talents will shine through in their practice. We work with childminders who put outdoor learning at the heart of their setting, some who are phenomenally creative in arts and design, some who love to show children the wonders of science. It is so important to spend some time talking to potential childminders and gauging where their passions lie and if that would be suited to your child.

4. Rapport: The mark of a good childminder is how well they communicate with parents. This can only be achieved if you have a good rapport with them from the onset. In our experience, when parents feel confident in their childminder, so too do their children. Ask potential childminders how they will keep you informed of your child’s achievements, their well being and areas they are struggling with. It is not a requirement that childminders produce learning journeys, however, we believe that keeping a record of children’s achievements and development helps childminders give accurate assessments and spot any gaps in learning. Learning journeys are also informative for parents and is a beautiful, enjoyable way of capturing children’s early years and a record that families can enjoy for years to come. 

5. Ask about childminders’ curriculum and activities: It is childminders’ responsibility to provide a curriculum that enables young children to develop skills that they will need for later life. Childminding settings should be helping to develop children’s speaking and listening skills by giving children the opportunity to hear the English language spoken proficiently, through conversation, instruction and story telling. Children should be encouraged to converse with both adults and their peers throughout the day. Ask the childminder what activities she provides to encourage communication skills; ‘story time’, role play and group games should be regularly on the timetable. The physical development of young children should also be a priority for childminders. Children should have lots of opportunities to take part in activities that challenge their balance and co-ordination. Look at the facilities on offer at the setting and ask about outings to the park or woods where these skills can be practiced further. From a young age, children should be encouraged to take part in activities that help to develop the fine motor muscles in the fingers, hands and wrists; this is essential for writing and other every day skills later in life. Ask about what activities the childminder provides to help develop these muscles. Finally, your child’s personal, social and emotional development should be prioritised at any childcare setting. Ask how childminders build confidence and resilience in children, how they set boundaries to encourage good behaviour and how they teach children about their feelings and the feelings of others.

6. Preparations for school: Eventually, most children will leave their childminder and start school. It is the childminder’s responsibility to ensure that, with collaboration from parents, children are ‘school ready’. This means that children are well equipped with the skills they need for Reception class. It can be enormously helpful if the childminder already has links with the school your child will attend. Schools may like to see your child’s learning journey to help them see your child’s interests and the stage of their development so ask the childminder if this something she shares with children’s new teachers. If the school is local to the childminder they can help prepare children by doing the walk to school. Often childminders have older children who already attend school and taking the younger children on the school run can help them become familiar and comfortable with a school environment.

7. Working with external agencies: Children with additional needs or disabilities may have extra support from external agencies, such as a speech therapist or occupational health therapist. Talk to any potential childminders about their willingness to work with these agencies. A good childminder will suggest a phone call with your child’s therapist or doctor to discuss their additional needs and how they can best support your child. Alternatively, they may ask to read any paperwork to help them prepare for caring for your child. 

SCA offer a parent matching service, helping families find the right childminder for them. All SCA childminders are required to have an enhanced DBS that is on the update service and settings are inspected yearly to ensure the quality of their provision. In addition, SCA can help parents better understand Early Years Funding, including the stretched hours options, and all our childminders are automatically registered to receive Tax Free Childcare. 

If you are a parent and would like to contact us to discuss finding a childminder or any other issues, please do not hesitate to get in touch. If you are a childminder looking to expand your business by working with more families or hiring assistants then give us a call. 

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