How to Find a Childminder
Using a childminder is just one of several options when it comes to childcare. Knowing how to find a childminder can leave you bewildered. This article looks at exactly what a childminder is, and how they differ from other types of childcare. We also look at how to find the right childminder for your childcare needs.
What is a childminder?
Firstly, let’s explain what a childminder is and how they differ from other forms of childcare.
Childminders care for children happens in the childminder’s home. The ethos is to create a home-from-home environment of care. They may care for several children; the ratios depend on the age of the children and the scope of their registration.
Childminders don’t have to have any formal qualifications. However, they do have to meet the requirements of Ofsted, and be registered with them. They are expected (and as such inspected) to ensure they create a nurturing, safe and stimulating environment which meets the requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS).
Although a childminder doesn’t have to have formal qualifications, part of their registration with Ofsted involves them attending a ‘pre-registration meeting’. This short course covers a range of information they require including food hygiene, safe care and the basics of the national curriculum that they will need to follow. Childminders are also required to undertake child-specific first aid training.
All childminders are required to have a DBS (criminal record) check.
Always ask a potential childminder about their qualifications and experience.
The nature of childminding
Typically, childminders require you to ‘sign-up’ to set hours and days each week, which forms the basis of your contract with them. This makes childminding an ideal solution if you want a home-like environment for your child’s care on a regular basis.
As your child will be cared for within the childminder’s home, and they usually mind multiple children at the same time, this makes it a more affordable option than a nanny.
Your child is dependent on the one relationship with the childminder, as well as how they get on with other mindees. Each child’s needs, need to be met within the wider dynamics of the group. If your childminder is unwell or on holiday, you will need to have alternative arrangements in place, unlike a nursery where they can shift staff around to provide adequate cover.
A childminder should, fundamentally, enjoy caring for children and meeting their needs. It can be a demanding role and they will likely work long hours, on a self-employed basis. You’ll want to choose someone who matches your family ethos and outlook.
Furthermore, as a parent, you need to feel you can communicate well with your chosen childminder. Particularly for pre-verbal children, you will want to know they are communicating with you easily and regularly about your child.
Where to find a childminder?
Childminders, depending on the area in which you live, can be like gold dust. Therefore, they often don’t advertise, and tracking them down can be a case of word of mouth. Talk to other parents, family and friends and see if they can recommend anyone who may have availability.
You can also search for local childminders in your area using this .Gov site, using a postcode tool, here. It is still worth asking around for feedback on specific childminders before committing.
You should also be able to meet a childminder, during working hours, so that you can gauge whether you are happy with the care they are providing. This also enables you to see the home environment where your child will be cared for, see the facilities, and hear about the sort of activities and trips they do. At this stage, it’s also important to find out about things such as discipline.
Remember, even if you’re looking for care for your baby now, they will grow into toddlers and pre-schoolers. You need to ensure the care is best for the future too. If you have your sights set on a particular preschool or primary school, it is also worth checking that your childminder will be able to do these drop-offs and pick-ups if needed.
Ask about meals and nutrition, including snacks. Ask about where children nap. Ask about how they communicate with you, for example, if they fill in a daily diary.
If both you and the childminder are happy, you can then move on to gradually settling your child in.
Furthermore, ask about the childminder’s own children and how they fit into the childminding dynamic. Many childminders do this role precisely so they can care for their own children at the same time. Check how this works in practice.
It’s therefore worth looking for a childminder a good few months before you actually need them. It can be a slow process.
What happens if your childminder is ill or away?
For parents who use childminders as regular childcare, this can be a huge concern. If a childminder is ill or on holiday, you will need to find alternative care. Furthermore, if your own child is poorly, you will also need to find a different arrangement.
This can be particularly tricky. At Sitters we have emergency babysitters who are ideal for situations like these and when there has been a short-notice breakdown in childcare. You can find an emergency babysitter with Sitters here. An emergency babysitter is also a good option to consider if your child is too unwell for the childminder, due to being potentially contagious, but not ill enough to justify you staying home from work. It’s a good solution for many situations.
What about if I don’t need regular care?
Childminders are running their own business. As such, you will be contracted to certain hours with them. This is fair as they cannot hold spaces open without compensation.
However, this is difficult if you don’t require regular care at set hours. For example, if you work shifts, or only need daytime childcare in holiday times, it will be difficult to use a childminder.
Babysitters are an ideal solution here. They aren’t just ‘evenings only’ but can be used for care within your own home during the day too. They can be booked with short-notice or in advance. You can find out more about Sitters daytime childcare here.
Most important of all is that you choose the right childcare for your child, your family and your schedule.