Choosing a childminder
OK, so you've done your research, come up with a list of possible childminders and checked their Ofsted report. Now comes the difficult decision bit.
When you visit prospective childminders, it's a good idea to go prepared with a list of questions. "If there is anything you want to know, don't be afraid to ask," suggests one Mumsnetter. "Good childminders expect you to ask questions and will be happy to answer them."
Consider Mumsnetter Alibubbles' list of questions to ask childminders and things to check out (not all these may be important to you):
- How long have you been working with children?
- What training have you had? Any qualifications?
- Are you part of a network?
- Do you have up-to-date first aid training?
- Have you got a food hygiene certificate?
- Why do you enjoy being with children?
- Can I look around, see the rooms and outside play space?
- If there's no outside play space, how will you make sure my child gets the chance to play outside?
- Where will my child rest?
- What kind of food and drink will you give?
- What will my child do all day?
- How do you encourage good behaviour?
- Will my child be with a regular group of children? How old are they? How will their timetable fit in with my child?
- How will you make sure I know how my child is getting on?
- What hours are you open?
- How much do you charge?
- What about when my child is sick, on holiday?
- What do you do in an emergency?
- When was your last Ofsted, can I see the report?
- Can I see your contracts and record forms?
And consider Alibubbles' s top ten quality pointers:
- Are the children calm, safe, happy and busy?
- Do the children play and talk together?
- Is the childminder listening to the children and answering them carefully?
- Is the childminder friendly and proud of her work?
- Is she joining in with what the children are doing?
- Are there lots of fun activities planned to help children learn and play?
- Can children plan some of these activities themselves?
- Are there plenty of clean toys and equipment for children to use?
- Are the premises clean, well-kept and safe for children with a fun outside play area (or will the child go to parks and other places regularly)?
- Do parents have plenty of chances to say what they want for their children?
If there are other things you want to know, don't be afraid to ask. Good childminders expect you to ask questions and will be happy to answer them. And always, but always, take up references.
The Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY) has the following, additional, suggestions:
- How long have you been a childminder?
- What made you become a childminder?
- Are you a member of PACEY?
- How do you meet the requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage (England only)?
- Can you describe a typical childminding day or week?
- What are your policies on behaviour management?
- Who do you have your public liability insurance with?
Obviously, you may not be able to get through all these questions (you don't want your future childminder to remember your first meeting with you as up there with her French GCSE oral for pure scariness) but hopefully they give you food for thought and a starter for ten.
And, above all, always trust your own feelings about your childcare - you know your child best.