Choosing the right childcare is a big decision - you want to make sure you get it right! Here are my top 20 tips on choosing the perfect childminder for you and your child:
1 Start by asking people you know. Are any of your friends, family or colleagues already using a childminder? Getting a recommendation by word of mouth is a great way to get started.
2 Make a shortlist of childminders to go and visit. Your local Family Information Service
(FIS) holds details of registered childminders in your area. Soon Ofsted will also have a search feature to look for childminders in your local area.
3 Arrange to visit your chosen childminders at times when they'll have children with them, if possible. It gives you chance to see their setting in action.
4 Listen to your child! If they're old enough, ask them what they liked about each of the childminders. And if they're too young to tell you, think about how they reacted to the childminder - and how the childminder reacted to them.
5 Did the childminder greet your child and try to engage them? Do you like the feel of the environment? Are there age appropriate toys for your child's age and stage of development? Did the childminder ask you questions regarding your child's needs and interests?
6 Take a list of questions to ask. Finding out what qualifications the childminder has, or what they plan to do with the children, can help you make up your mind.
7 Review the childminders latest Ofsted inspection report. These can be fairly dated, so keep this in mind as Ofsted inspects childminders every 3 to 4 years if there have been no complaints or accidents.
8 Will the childminder collect your children from pre-school or school?
9 What does the childminder provide in the way of food, drinks and other snacks? Will s/he prepare food that is suitable for your child’s religious beliefs/usual diet?
10 What is the childminder’s behaviour management policy? Does the childminder have a written statement on the procedures to be followed in relation to complaints from parents? Does the childminder have a written statement to be followed for the safeguarding and protection of children?
11 How much will the childcare provided cost? Take into consideration the cost of illnesses, holiday time, food, nappies, formula, etc. What does the childminder provide compared to what you need to provide? One childminder may charge more, but when you evaluate if you have to pay for a childminders holiday time, nappies, food and such the costs may be relatively similar in the end.
12 Does the childminder attend any groups? What activities are available throughout the week? What activities and " learning through play" programs does the childminder do with the children?
You should also ask to see their portfolio, which should contain public liability insurance, Ofsted registration certificate and possible membership with NCMA. It should be noted that all registered childminders have to be insured. Ask to see the childminder’s portfolio containing certificates for training courses, her/his policies, procedures and any testimonials from other parents (or ask if you can contact other parents whose children they childmind for a reference).
14Ask about outdoor play - make sure there’s either an outside play area or a park nearby. Ask how the childminder will transport and safeguard your children on outings.
15 Make sure there’s adequate sleeping facilities for the children to rest and/or sleep.
16 Make sure you’re happy with the childminder’s approach on behaviour.
17Ask to see any parts of the home and garden which the children use. Are safety precautions in place? Is everything clean and are toys and furniture in good working order?
18 Once you’ve selected your childminder, ensure you sign a contract with him or her – it provides a vital safeguard for you both.
19 Discuss and agree on a settling in procedure for your child. This is very important as children under two years old need much more time to settle in than older children in my experience.
20 Make sure that you explore all options of childcare. Having a good knowledge base on the different types of childcare available will help make your decision easier.
Wishing you the best of luck in your search for childcare for your little one. It is a decision that requires quite a bit of investigating. Start looking early- at least four month or more before your start date. You want to be comfortable and assured that your child is happy and safe while you are at work. This peace of mind is priceless!