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What would you expect to see when visiting a prospective childminder?

(10 Posts)
KeepCalmAndLOLKittens Sat 15-Mar-14 20:46:27

We have moved to Wales from England and I've been surprised to find that childminders aren't subject to Estyn regulation in the same way that they are with Ofsted over the border.

I visited the one local childminder recently but wasn't really happy with the impression I got. The TV was on (not in itself a problem but I did wonder if it was a background constant) and the one child there was just surrounded by boxes of toys. No specific focus iykwim. I asked about the garden but she told me the children really only went out there when she did. There were no outdoor toys as far as I could see. On reflection I didn't see any evidence of art or craft activities; cooking or anything creative/messy. The house was very clean and tidy - too tidy?!

We decided against using the CM, mainly because of the lack of monitoring or evidence of standards (though there are minimum standards of care in Wales), but also just on the basis of my visit. However, the lack of work in the local area means I am likely to have to look further afield and will definitely need wraparound care when DC is school age. Don't know what the hell to do. My instinct says not the CM but there isn't an alternative. Am I being too fussy?

Eletheomel Sat 15-Mar-14 21:37:22

I would say you're not being too fussy at all. If you need to leave your child to go to work (as most of us do) you need to be reassured that your child will be looked after in a fashion that your'e happy with. To be honest, regulations and standards aside (a lot of it is just box ticking, doesn't really mean much IMO) I think when it comes to childminders (and probably nurseries) it's all about gut feeling, and if yours is saying No, then I'd look for another CM or another nursery.

When we met our CM, we had a look round the common areas, there was a playroom with no TV, and lots of toys. A big garden with lots of outdoor toys, the kids she was minding were quite chatty and spoke to CM and she dealt with them really well - you could see they had a good relationship, and her own kids were there too (very nice teenagers that I'd be happy to own - figure if she can do a good job with hers, I'd be happy letting her have mine :-) and we just chatted to her, and we really liked her and the environment.

We asked her about activities and outings etc, and were happy with what she usually did with her charges.

I'm a big fan of free play, so am happy for my son to just find his own play with toys, but our CM also does focused activities like craftstuff (painting/making) or water play etc, but she doesn't force the kids to do it, and my son will often decline a 'set' activity as he's caught up playing with toy soldiers or something - as long as he's happy I don't mind at all.

Different parents look for different things with CM's, and there are many CMs out there with different styles - I'd look for one that suits you - the one you recently visited has clearly left you feeling a bit unsure, if in doubt - say no.

Gusthetheatrecat Sat 15-Mar-14 23:19:12

I think there are good and bad childminders, and it sounds like the person you saw wasn't for you. I met an AWFUL childminder when I first started looking, and I panicked completely at how dreadful she seemed (tv on, no toys, no outings, only junk food. It was like a terrible joke.)
Then we met another childminder and it was all different. She was really engaged with my little one: wanted to meet her and me. Described using local children's centres really extensively. Home cooked food. Just a lovely, caring family environment and exactly what I wanted for my PFB. Turns out my instincts were, for once, entirely right as we used her as a childminder for years, until I stopped working, and she is now my youngest and third child's god mother.
Which is all a long-winded way of saying that you need to find a childminder you like, and who you are comfortable leaving your precious offspring with. This might take a little bit of hunting. And it's fine to be a bit picky - it's important!
In terms of what I expected, I wanted to see toys, an engaged and friendly-seeming CM, and to hear about time spent playing outside and visiting places, and just to get a good gut feeling. I think that's all worth holding out for.

almaradlu Sun 16-Mar-14 06:47:15

You are not being fussy and you need to go with how you feel.

As a childminder in Wales I will be honest I am relieved that we do not have the same regulations as they do in England as I agree a lot of it is box ticking but thats not to say that a lot of us do not do anything with the children.

However the NMS should be followed and I can actually remember the days before the NMS when we had no policies/procedures and we were checked by the local social services team.

I know around here there are some who do not craft with the children, do not have any theme planning or take any of the childrens interests into account when planning. I have known a few who do just have the tv on all the day and the children are left just to play all day. No playgroups/crafts or anything whilst the childminder got on with the housework and they were always full.

When I am planning activities, I ask the children what they would like to do, what their current interest are and take it from there. I am currently caring for after schoolers , so easier for feedback but when I used to care for the pre schoolers I would also have set themes and if they showed an interest in something , I would look at other ways to extend the theme etc.
During the school holidays , we have trips to the local park, library and make use of the local community but also depending on income, I will take the children further eg to the cinema, museum, outdoor play centers etc.

I know with regards to using the garden that as part of my registration condition that no child can use it unless I am out there with them. It is only a small yard but we do have a playhouse with kitchen etc ,a storage box with ball games etc. My faithful sand/water table gave up last year, so I need to replace that soon. We also use a childs water sprinkler for them in the hot weather and they love it smile I will be honest though but if I had a choice of using the garden or going to the park, due to the size of my garden , I do prefer to use the park as there is room for them to have a good run around.

When families come to visit us, I have a photo album of what we have got up to over the years I have been childminding, so families can see what I provide in regards to activities.

I can remember quite a few years ago, apologising at one inspection for the house being messy (kids had been crafting and we had just sat down for lunch as the inspector had turned up) and I was told by the inspector she would rather see us like that , than an immaculate house, as she could see that I dedicated my time to the children.

I am also lucky that I have a very understanding hubby as there is always crafts drying around the house lol (bless him) also he is very good at helping me with some of the craft planning(makes a good plaster of paris grin ).

I have always treated my minded children the same as I would expect someone to care for my own children, after all they are the most precious things in our lives.

Good luck with your search, you will find the right childminder for your family, it just might take a few visits before you find the right one smile

KeepCalmAndLOLKittens Sun 16-Mar-14 09:14:44

The problem is, it is just this CM and one other in the village who do school wraparound care. I do need to visit the other one but tbh I am getting a similar impression from what I have seen and heard so far.

The local nursery is fab, can't fault it - but they don't do drop offs because breakfast clubs are free here but start too late for those starting work before 8:30. It's crap really. I wish we'd never moved in this respect.

almaradlu Sun 16-Mar-14 09:42:13

sad shame you are not living by us.

Our local school also offers a free breakfast club but starts at 8am.

Also there is around 16 childcare providers offering a wrap around care to our local school , so plenty of choice here for families (but naff for me as when I started offering after school care around 10 years ago I was turning families away as I was always fullish, but due to increase in providers and free breakfast clubs I am finding it really hard to fill all my places sad )

Just a thought, is there any other childminders who live a little bit further away who would be willing to drive to collect. Have another look on your local FIS website . Might be worth a little bit of traveling if the children are going to get fantastic childcare ;)

MaryPoppinsBag Mon 17-Mar-14 22:47:48

I'd expect it to be clean and relatively tidy. To have good quality toys and resources.
I would expect the CM to be knowledgable about child development and EYFS (only in England obviously). And to be providing interesting and stimulating activities, some themed/ adult led but with the majority of resources child led.
I'd expect good quality healthy food to be provided. I'd expect to see happy children.
I'd expect her to be quite outgoing and chatty and happy in her job.

LingDiLong Tue 18-Mar-14 14:12:13

It doesn't sound like you asked many questions. Why didn't you ask about messy play/arts & crafts etc? Am just wondering if she had a big tidy up before you came? Why not ring her back and clear up the things you aren't happy about? You also sound as if you've written off the other childminder without having seen her. Give her a chance at least and go armed with a list of questions this time.

MaryPoppinsBag Tue 18-Mar-14 19:36:33

I always tidy up before parents come!

LingDiLong Tue 18-Mar-14 21:21:30

Also, you do realise that childminders in wales are regulated don't you? Just not by estyn, by cssiw instead. Similar standards and inspection schedules just less emphasis on following a eyfs curriculum.

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