Childminding Best Practice

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Should I use a childminding app?

Childminders often email me to ask if they should use a childminding app. This always makes me smile a bit because I don’t actually sell apps, so I am hardly likely to be the best person to recommend them! However, my feeling on apps is that there are actually lots of really great apps and online software out there you can use to really cut down on your paperwork. BUT, in my opinion, you should only use them once you fully understand the PROCESS you are automating and the steps they are helping you to ‘skip’.

 

Should I use an app for learning journeys and tracking children’s progress?

I get this question a lot and always tell childminders the same thing: you are fine to switch to apps but only once you fully understand how the observation – assessment – planning cycle works. You also need to be able to demonstrate that you really KNOW where each child is in their stage of development, what you can realistically expect them to do ‘next’ and most importantly, if a child is falling behind in any of the important areas, you need to spot this.

Getting a true understanding of what is meant by all of this takes time and needs experience. Every childminder needs to have a good working knowledge of what is considered normal development for a child under five in each of the seven areas of learning and development. You don’t need to keep this information in your head – but you really need to have a well-thumbed printed version of Development Matters to hand which is the ultimate EYFS reference book for what you can realistically expect and when from any child. This is your development bible that will flag up for you if a child has fallen behind in an area. All childminders should understand this publication inside and out!

Be careful about switching to an online learning journey system or any kind of app until you fully understand the process of observation-assessment-planning. I want to compare this to teaching school children basic maths. It would be perfectly easy to give a young child a calculator and teach them to do simple sums on it. They could be taught to multiply, divide, add and subtract using the calculator simply by pressing the right buttons. They could learn to press the right buttons without a shred of understanding what it actually means to add, subtract, multiply and divide. Calculators are only a great tool once you know what they are for!  All I am saying is that you need to be careful that you understand the ‘process’ you are doing before automating it.

Active learning for childmindersA childminder (who has read Development Matters) would not expect a child to run before they can walk. Once you really understand normal child development and what you are doing when you are writing a ‘next step’, planning for an individual child and how to stand back and write a ‘whole child assessment’ only then are you ready to consider removing some parts of the paperwork and automating them through apps and taking other shortcuts.

 

Should I do ‘in the moment planning’ rather than written planning?

A question that gets asked on Facebook forums a lot is what planning people do. Lots of childminders respond that they never do written planning or that they do ‘in the moment planning’ which is something of a buzz word that I worry a lot of people use without really understanding what it means.

Like automating learning journeys and assessments, before you throw out the idea of making written plans, you should try planning on paper a couple of times just so that you understand the process of what is meant by a plan. For example, you should try writing:

Ultimately, childminding plans don’t have to be written down, but if you do write them down a couple of times, you can check that you understand the point of making plans and how they can help you and the children to explore new things. Once you have done this a few times, then you should feel free to adopt a policy of ‘I never do written planning’ not because you don’t know how or can’t be bothered, but because no written planning IS your plan!

 

Should I do risk assessments in my head or write them down?

The EYFS Statutory Framework states that you must take all reasonable steps to manage risks and determine where it is helpful to do some written risk assessments. It used to be a requirement for childminders to write written risk assessments for EVERYTHING but this has been removed from the current version of the legislation to help childminders to cut back on paperwork.

In most normal day to day childminding, a written risk assessment is simply not necessary and just adds to unnecessary paperwork load.

However, from time to time, and especially when you are just starting out at childminding or doing something new, I think that it is very useful to go through the whole risk assessment process properly in writing at least once so that you know how to do it. Writing it out forces you to formalise the process in your mind so that any corners you choose to cut in the future, at least you know what you SHOULD be doing.

Use these free risk assessment forms and list of risk assessments that most childminders should do around their house, garden and trips.

 

Should I do an online first aid and safeguarding course?

If you have been reading this article from the top, I am sure you are going to be picking up on a theme at this point and are going to know what I am going to say. Many experienced childminders who have attended multiple first aid courses in their time, are perfectly fine to do refresher courses that are primarily based online. The same goes for safeguarding, where you sit there to listen to the same stuff that you know in your sleep, all to get the one or two nuggets of new information or legislation you actually need.

However, there is nothing like practicing choking and chest compressions on dummies that can be recreated online. And with safeguarding, it is vital that you attend a safeguarding course to hear and interact properly first before (mindlessly) clicking your way through an online version of the course.  So in my opinion, you should go to online first aid and safeguarding courses only once you’ve done several of these in person.

 

In a fast moving digital age, don’t forget the power of the handprint.

There are lots of other benefits to starting out using paper based methods and for all sorts of good reasons, many childminders choose to continue to work in a paper-based method for lots of aspects of childminding. You may enjoy my article: Rediscovering the pure pleasure of paper – for over-digitised childminders.

 

Learning Journey Plus – Word document based

learning-journey-plus-workbookIf my article has swayed you at all to reconsider the benefits of paper-based observation-assessment-planning cycle, then please check out my Learning Journey Plus. It is a printable system based in Word so you can customise the pages for your setting before you print them.

The Learning Journey Plus is a complete observation – planning – assessment system and comes with 200 sample observations with next steps so you can learn how to write observations and next steps in whatever learning journey system you are using. The workbook takes you step by step through setting up the whole process from scratch or you can use it to check you fully understand the steps of whatever system you are using.

 

 

About Kay Woods and Kids To Go

Kay Woods Kids To GoKay Woods has been writing and selling childminding resources through her company Kids To Go since 2008. Her products include the Ultimate Childminding Checklist, the Learning Journey Plus for planning, observation and assessment and best practice resources promoting diversity, safety and childminding in the great outdoors (Forest Childcare). She is the author of the Start Learning book set published by Tarquin and she writes the free quarterly Childminding Best Practice Newsletter.

Lots of places offer help to childminders. I provide solutions.

http://www.kidstogo.co.uk/childminders/childminding.html

The Forest Childcare Association celebrates its fifth anniversary of promoting ‘good practice in outdoor outings’

The idea that there could be a such a thing as ‘good practice’ for taking children on outdoor outings began the day I witnessed an example of what I felt to be particularly bad practice. I was meeting a childminder friend at the park on a damp Spring day. She had her normal mix of three children including the two youngest (aged 18 months and two years) wrapped up in coats and strapped into her double buggy.

I took one look at her, pointed at the children’s feet, and laughed.

‘Oh no! You’ve rushed out and forgotten something. You’ve come out without their shoes!’ I said.

‘I left their shoes at home on purpose,’ she replied. ‘They won’t need them anyway. I really have no intention of taking them out of the buggy. They’ll be fine just watching the world go by.’

It was an awful situation and upset me greatly. This childminder had just had her first Ofsted inspection and had been awarded ‘good’. She seemed to feel that what she was doing was perfectly acceptable and perfectly normal. And anyway what she was saying was entirely right. The children would be ‘just fine’ in the buggy.

In fact, surely Ofsted would be pleased? She was keeping the children safe outdoors. Very safe. Nothing whatsoever (either good or bad) was going to happen to them while they were strapped securely into that double buggy.

So why did the situation upset me so much?

 

Forest Childcare pile of childrenWhat does the EYFS say about outdoor outings?

The EYFS actively encourages childcare providers to take children outdoors and to give them daily opportunities to spend time outside but it certainly doesn’t say anything about the quality of that outdoor time. The EYFS Statutory Framework states that “providers must provide access to an outdoor play area or, if that is not possible, ensure that outdoor activities are planned and taken on a daily basis.”

Most nurseries, childminders and nannies do fulfil the basic requirement for outdoor time, in many cases simply by taking the children on the school run or by allowing children to play in their back gardens.

But to me, the back garden and the school run have always felt like the bare minimum of care. As home-based childcare providers we are in a unique position to offer the children so much more than this.  And in my opinion we should be doing so.

 

Weekly outdoor outings to ‘wild’ spaces have benefits for everyone

Forest childcare muddy toddlersThe ‘shoe incident’ was the catalyst I needed to find a way to promote what I believe is ‘best practice’ in terms of outdoor outings. At my setting I always took the children on outdoor outings once a week whether these were simple trips to the park, duck pond, and urban green spaces, or planned trips to our local ‘wild’ areas like woods and nature reserves.

Outdoor outings contribute to learning and health, and most importantly help children grow to appreciate the natural environment.

Furthermore, as a childminder running a business I had always promoted my weekly outdoor outings to parents to help me to fill my vacancies. These outings were a ‘service’ that I offered that made my setting stand out. Outdoor outings are great for the children. They are also great for business!

 

Intentional trips where the children can move around and explore

I started the Forest Childcare Association because I believe that children deserve more than just back gardens to provide them with their daily dose of EYFS-required ‘outdoor time’.  Most people’s back gardens are tiny places, and in the cases of childminders, they are tiny, very-very-safe outdoor environments, with all the same safety checks in place as indoor environments.

Children need to be exposed to real outdoor spaces where there are places to hide and explore, where they may encounter ‘dangers’ and where the environment changes daily and from season to season.

 

Outdoor learning, says the EYFS, has equal value to indoor learning

Forest childcare is good for adults tooOutdoor play can help to counter obesity. It can also improve strength and coordination skills and counter vitamin D deficiency. Outdoor play has also been shown to help prevent mental health issues, behavioural and emotional problems.

The outdoors gives benefits to children regardless of their age. For babies, they will be intrigued by the sights, smells and sounds of the environment and reach out towards things that interest them and catch their attention. Toddlers want to explore the natural world around them by crawling and walking. Preschool children will explore more purposely, play games of imagination and enjoy challenging themselves.

You don’t have to plan anything complex to do with the children while you are out. Sometimes it’s fun to go on a scavenger hunt, or collect things, but other times the point of the trip is simply to be outside and experience the outdoors. As a childcare provider you can instruct them about important safety issues like not eating red berries, touching fungus, or stroking strange dogs, but most of what they need to ‘learn’ is for the children to discover for themselves.

They are learning about textures when they pick up a sharp rock. They are learning about the weather and self-care issues when they take their coat off because they are hot. They are counting conkers and acorns, learning about space and shape when they squeeze themselves under a branch, and learning that if they work together it is easier to shift a log than trying to do it alone

It is equally important for children to grow up with an appreciation for the environment, teaching children the importance of not littering, respecting wildlife, trees and other people’s right to enjoy the outdoor space as well.

 

The Freedom to ‘GO’

Forest childcare autumnChildminders, nannies and small nursery owners sometimes forget how much freedom you have.  While you are constrained by the limits of nursery and school runs, naps and lunches, in between those fixed points your time is essentially your own. You are your own boss and I think people forget that sometimes.

If you want to take the children to the park or the duck pond or spend the morning exploring the woods, you can!  Being outdoors and having flexibility and freedom are some of the perks of this job and you should take more advantage of them.

Spending time outdoors is good for business, it’s great for the children, and it’s good for you too!

 

The Forest Childcare Association celebrates its 5th Anniversary this month

The Forest Childcare Association is a best practice initiative that has been going for 5 years this month that encourages childcare providers to take children on weekly outdoor outings to ‘wild’ spaces. The organisation now has over a thousand members in 10 different countries – mainly childminders and small nurseries. Its principle aim is to encourage small childcare providers to take the children they look after on weekly outdoor outings to parks, woodlands or other outdoor natural spaces, and encouraging children to explore these natural environments.

Members can self-train by considering the practical concerns associated with taking groups of children of mixed ages and abilities on outdoor outings. The £15 training pack covers risk assessments, outdoor dangers (from children getting lost to poison berries) plus activities and crafts and the relevant EYFS paperwork and permissions.

The Forest Childcare Association is part of the larger ‘Forest’ movement that many EYFS practitioners are exploring and many parents are seeking for their children. Forest School training is popping up across the country and one of the downsides of this is that many childminders now worry that they have to get a Forest School qualification (and pay for training) if they want to take children to the woods. Becoming a Forest School Practitioner is a fantastic thing to do and essential if you want to teach large groups of small children how to whittle, forage and cook on campfires, but it is NOT a requirement if all you want to do is to take a group of children on a nature hike. One of the aims of the Forest Childcare Association is to provide the support, advice and a little encouragement to support as many childminders as possible to provide weekly outdoor outings and simply get outside, but without getting qualifications and excessive training that are superfluous to many childminders’ needs.

The other key aim of the organisation is to encourage childminders to explore the parts of nature near to them – the wild patches at the edges of playgrounds, finding patches of beauty wherever you live. We don’t all live in beauty spots, and the children who most need access to nature are those least likely to have access to Forest School sessions offered at their schools and nurseries. Childminders are in a unique position to help children wherever they live to find, explore and learn to love the patches of nature on their doorsteps. There is a growing impression that if you can’t provide snack time on a campfire, naps in a tent and buffalo for the children to hunt for their lunch, that your idea of ‘wilderness’ isn’t good enough! My philosophy is that any access you can give children to nature is better than no access to nature at all.

 

forest-childcare-packFor more information on the Forest Childcare Association and to join for just £15 for a lifetime membership visit http://www.kidstogo.co.uk/childminders/forestchildcare.html  or email kay.woods@kidstogo.co.uk. You can find us on Facebook at @ForestChildcareAssociation.

 

About Kay Woods and Kids To Go

Kay Woods has been writing and selling childminding resources through her company Kids To Go since 2008. Her products include the Ultimate Childminding Checklist, the Learning Journey Plus for planning, observation and assessment and best practice resources promoting diversity and childminding in the great outdoors (Forest Childcare). She is the author of the Start Learning book set published by Tarquin and she writes the free quarterly Childminding Best Practice Newsletter.

Lots of places offer help to childminders. I provide solutions.

www.kidstogo.co.uk

Getting Childminded Children Back To Nature – without Forest School Training

Many parents won’t believe this, but it’s a fact that children would like to spend more time outdoors than they do. Then why don’t they?  It’s not TV and video games to blame. It’s because they aren’t allowed to! Parents, childcare providers and society as a whole worry so much about safety issues that many adults would simply rather their children played inside or in their own tiny back gardens and were ‘safe’, than ‘risk’ letting them play outside alone as they might have done when they were children themselves.

Forest Childcare pile of childrenIf children want to play outside of their own back gardens today they have to wait for an adult to take them. The world is not the same place as it was when Christopher Robin was allowed to wander around his 100 acre wood all day long, playing Pooh Sticks and climbing trees (gasp!) completely unsupervised! As a society for many reasons (from justified fears about traffic, to out-of-proportion fears about strangers) we no longer let children visit their local woodlands, fields or even parks by themselves. Children must be continually supervised, and sadly this means that very few get casual access to their local patch of nature to play alone or in wild places any more.

And the consequence: many children today are growing up missing out on a connection with the natural world. They don’t spend enough time outdoors and they are suffering the results including obesity, mental health problems and a growing inability to assess risk for themselves.

What all this means is that one of the key positive influences that parents and child care providers can give to the children they look after is time playing in the great outdoors. Children need adults to take them to ‘wild’ places and then they need adults to stand back and give them time, space and encouragement to explore on their own while they are there. Parents are often busy, parents are often working. Therefore the responsibility for taking children on these outings frequently falls to childcare providers to give children the experiences they might otherwise miss out on.

 

Weekly outdoor outings to ‘wild’ spaces have benefits for everyone

As a childminder I always believed that it was important to take the children I looked after on outdoor outings. Once a week, whatever the weather, we would go somewhere outdoors. Our trips ranged from simple visits to the park, duck pond, and urban green spaces, to more planned trips to our local ‘wild’ areas like woods and nature reserves.

Forest Childcare for childmindersOutdoor outings contribute to learning and health. These benefits applied to me as well!  I always said that being out in the woods with the children was one of my favourite parts of being a childminder. It was wonderful watching how alive the children became when they were exploring outdoors and how recharged I felt watching them play. I also felt great because I knew that when they were out in the woods with me, I was giving them a really great experience, better than the most expensive toy in our play room, and more special than anything they would be ‘learning’ in an overcrowded nursery room.

Lots of practitioners feel exactly the same as me about the outdoors and outings, and understand how special the experiences that we can give to the children we look after are. Others may feel less confident about taking groups of children of mixed ages and abilities to the woods on their own. So I started the Forest Childcare Association to support and encourage other childcare providers to offer this ‘best practice’ policy of weekly outdoor outings to the children they look after.

It might not be possible to roll back the clock and send children out to play alone and unsupervised in wild spaces as they would have done in the past. But this doesn’t mean that caring adults can’t offer children the next best thing by taking them on outdoor outings on a regular basis.

 

Child-led Learning 

forest-childcare-group-photoOutdoor outings have benefits to children regardless of their age. For babies, they will be intrigued by the sights, smells and sounds of the environment and reach out towards things that interest them and catch their attention. Toddlers want to explore the natural world around them by crawling and walking. Preschool children will explore more purposely, play games of imagination and enjoy challenging themselves outdoors.

You don’t have to plan anything complex to do with the children while you are out. Sometimes it’s fun to go on a scavenger hunt, or collect things, but other times the point of the trip is simply to be outside and experience the outdoors. As a childcare provider you can instruct them about important safety issues like not eating red berries, touching fungus, or stroking strange dogs, but most of what they need to ‘learn’ is for the children to discover for themselves.

They are learning about textures when they pick up a sharp rock. They are learning about the weather and self-care issues when they take their coat off because they are hot. They are counting conkers and acorns, learning about space and shape when they squeeze themselves under a branch, and learning that if they work together it is easier to shift a log than trying to do it alone.

Most importantly, they are learning the importance of not littering, respecting wildlife, trees and other people’s right to enjoy the outdoor space as well. They are learning an appreciation for the environment that they will take with them as they grow up.

Wherever children live, they need to spend time getting back to nature. Natural environments give children and the adults who look after them untold benefits in terms of health and wellbeing. Weekly outdoor outings is a “best-practice” goal that all childcare providers can aim for with some support, advice and a little encouragement. Learn more about the Forest Childcare Association and join today.

 

The Forest Childcare Association celebrates its 5th Anniversary this month

The Forest Childcare Association is a best practice initiative that has been going for 5 years this month that encourages childcare providers to take children on weekly outdoor outings to ‘wild’ spaces. The organisation now has over a thousand members in 10 different countries – mainly childminders and small nurseries. Its principle aim is to encourage small childcare providers to take the children they look after on weekly outdoor outings to parks, woodlands or other outdoor natural spaces, and encouraging children to explore these natural environments.

Members can self-train by considering the practical concerns associated with taking groups of children of mixed ages and abilities on outdoor outings. The £15 training pack covers risk assessments, outdoor dangers (from children getting lost to poison berries) plus activities and crafts and the relevant EYFS paperwork and permissions.

The Forest Childcare Association is part of the larger ‘Forest’ movement that many EYFS practitioners are exploring and many parents are seeking for their children. Forest School training is popping up across the country and one of the downsides of this is that many childminders now worry that they have to get a Forest School qualification (and pay for training) if they want to take children to the woods. Becoming a Forest School Practitioner is a fantastic thing to do and essential if you want to teach large groups of small children how to whittle, forage and cook on campfires, but it is NOT a requirement if all you want to do is to take a group of children on a nature hike. One of the aims of the Forest Childcare Association is to provide the support, advice and a little encouragement to support as many childminders as possible to provide weekly outdoor outings and simply get outside, but without getting qualifications and excessive training that are superfluous to many childminders’ needs.

The other key aim of the organisation is to encourage childminders to explore the parts of nature near to them – the wild patches at the edges of playgrounds, finding patches of beauty wherever you live. We don’t all live in beauty spots, and the children who most need access to nature are those least likely to have access to Forest School sessions offered at their schools and nurseries. Childminders are in a unique position to help children wherever they live to find, explore and learn to love the patches of nature on their doorsteps. There is a growing impression that if you can’t provide snack time on a campfire, naps in a tent and buffalo for the children to hunt for their lunch, that your idea of ‘wilderness’ isn’t good enough! My philosophy is that any access you can give children to nature is better than no access to nature at all.

 

For more information on the Forest Childcare Association and to join for just £15 for a lifetime membership visit http://www.kidstogo.co.uk/childminders/forestchildcare.html  or email kay.woods@kidstogo.co.uk. You can find us on Facebook at @ForestChildcareAssociation.

 

About Kay Woods and Kids To Go

Kay Woods Kids To GoKay Woods has been writing and selling childminding resources through her company Kids To Go since 2008. Her products include the Ultimate Childminding Checklist, the Learning Journey Plus for planning, observation and assessment and best practice resources promoting diversity and childminding in the great outdoors (Forest Childcare). She is the author of the Start Learning book set published by Tarquin and she writes the free quarterly Childminding Best Practice Newsletter.

Lots of places offer help to childminders. I provide solutions.

www.kidstogo.co.uk

9 tips for staying healthy when you childmind

When you’re self-employed as a childminder you’ve got to look after yourself because when your health suffers you ultimately risk losing business. Here are some tips for looking after both your physical health and equally as important: your mental health.

 

Learn to lift children and pushchairs properly

Back problems and joint problems are one of the biggest health problems that childminders experience often due to lifting incorrectly. It is so easy to do – you bend over to lift up a toddler who is clawing at your thigh, or swing a push chair into the boot, and feel a twang in your lower back that takes weeks to go away. As you get older, these problems increase, so if you are reading this and you are in your twenties, thinking you’re young and fit and this doesn’t apply to you, think again. Some day you will be older and you will wish you had spent the time learning to lift things properly when you were young! Some councils run training on proper lifting techniques – if you have to pay this would be a tax deductible business expense. If you can’t get on a course, check out this leaflet from the Health and Safety Executive and teach yourself to always lift with your legs rather than your back.

 

Don’t let children get used to being carried

A further risk to childminders is strain caused by carrying children around all day. Even if the parents carry a baby around all day in a sling at home, or have a toddler permanently balanced on their hip while doing everything from preparing lunch to sorting laundry, this doesn’t mean that you have to work under those same conditions. If you make it clear that you will not spend hours carrying around their child, then the parents will not expect you to. The long term risk of straining your back or limbs is simply too great.

Right before I started childminding I had a horrible moment where I was holding my 11 month baby daughter on my hip. Then someone handed me my nephew and I had him balanced on the other hip. My mother-in-law laughed and said to me, “that’ll be you, soon, lugging round two babies all day”. For one awful moment I felt the weight of two babies, one on each hip, and I said to myself at that moment, there is NO WAY I WILL EVER CARRY MORE THAN ONE CHILD AT ONCE. And I literally never did. The children learned to wait. They never expected to be picked up at the same time because I simply never did.

 

Walk everywhere and get lots of fresh air

Finding time for proper exercise at a gym can be really hard when you childmind, especially if you work long hours. The good thing about being your own boss is that you can spend as much time walking around as you like! Walk whenever you can, and buy one of those double buggies that means you can speed walk while pushing it. Walking is one of the best types of exercise there is.

 

Don’t finish the children’s food

It can be really hard to scrape that fish finger the child hasn’t even touched into the bin when nobody is looking and there are children starving in parts of the world! But if you are trying to watch your weight, then this is a habit that you need to break. The accessibility of the biscuit barrel is hard enough to avoid when you work at home and are trying to lose weight or stick to a fitness plan. Don’t make it worse by finishing the children’s lunches.

 

Don’t get lonely – stay connected

Talking to small children all day can be lonely, repetitious and tedious, and leaves many childminders longing for the adult company their old day job gave them. People always suggest going to childminder drop-in groups, which is great if you live somewhere that runs them, but hard if you’re somewhere that has less going on. It is also hard if you’re shy at those sorts of things and find it difficult to walk into a group of people who already know each other and make friends. Facebook has many groups where you can meet other childminders and talk online. My favourite is “Childminding For You” with 10,000 members chatting about their lives and sharing problems and successes.

 

Get a flu shot

When you’re self-employed you can’t afford to be off work for two weeks with an illness that will leave you feeling tired and weak for months afterwards. Especially an illness that is preventable with a shot. Make sure your other immunisations are also up to date – you really can catch measles, for example, if you haven’t been immunised, especially if you live in a part of the country where lots of other people haven’t been immunised.

 

Enforce your exclusion periods when the children are sick

If you let children come when they are sick, as well as all the other risks to the other children that you may have considered, remember that there is also the risk that YOU will get sick. Don’t forget that if you get sick and have to close, then everybody loses out in the long run. Stick to the exclusion periods recommended by Public Health – they are there for a reason. Do you know what they are?

 

Don’t get bored

Boredom, like loneliness, can lead to health issues if you don’t deal with it including problems like overeating and high stress levels. It can also make it hard for you to want to open the door on the mornings. This is something I can help with – if you are bored it is time to try something new. Try doing some activities like exploring a theme each month or invest in your own continual professional development CPD as a childminder.

My Childminding Best Practice Club is all about keeping things fresh and new and will definitely help you not to get bored.

 

Don’t ignore high stress levels and hope they’ll go away on their own

High stress levels can lead to all sorts of serious health problems when you ignore them. When you are stressed, childminding can be one of the worst jobs because there is no possibility of just switching the children off for a while to deal with the cause of the stress. At those times, it can feel that quitting childminding is the only option, however, there are lots of things you can try before you quit to help you to reduce your stress levels. Don’t give up childminding for the wrong reasons and then regret it.

This article takes a tongue in cheek approach to help you to think about some of the causes of stress in childminding and how you might reduce them.

 

Being self-employed as a childminder gives you freedom and has a lot of benefits including offering you plenty of time to be outdoors and walk and get fresh air. But ultimately you are on your own when you childmind and when something goes wrong with your health it can all come crashing down. Try to ask for help when you need it – and most importantly take your own health and mental health seriously.

When you make a living from being a care-giver, don’t forget to take the time to care for yourself as well.

 

Childminding Best Practice Club

Childminding best practice club logoJoin the Childminding Best Practice Club for just £2.50 each month to receive monthly themed packs emailed to your inbox.

 

 

About Kay Woods and Kids To Go

Kay Woods Kids To GoKay Woods has been writing and selling childminding resources through her company Kids To Go since 2008. Her products include the Ultimate Childminding Checklist, the Learning Journey Plus for planning, observation and assessment and best practice resources promoting diversity, safety and childminding in the great outdoors (Forest Childcare). She is the author of the Start Learning book set published by Tarquin and she writes the free quarterly Childminding Best Practice Newsletter.

Lots of places offer help to childminders. I provide solutions.

http://www.kidstogo.co.uk/childminders/childminding.html

How to explore different religions with childminded children

‘Has my guinea pig gone to heaven’?

diversity awareness logoLet me be clear that this article makes absolutely no attempt to advise you how to answer that question from the children that you look after. It sounds so simple at first. But when you really think about it, philosophers, religious leaders, and each member of the human race has battled with this question since the dawn of time!  According to the child’s family’s beliefs, the guinea pig may very well have ‘gone to heaven’, but perhaps he has already been ‘reincarnated’ as some other animal, or maybe he is simply ‘dead’? In most cases, the answers to the real questions raised and answered by the world’s great religions are the realm of the parents. You are treading on very delicate grounds if you attempt to answer them yourself.

Children of this age are far too young to understand the differences between the teachings of different religions. Most are not ready to understand the key messages of their own religions, let alone someone else’s. But they are not too young to observe that there is something called ‘religion’, that most people seem to have one, and that religions cause people to behave differently to one another. For example, they may notice that Jasvin never eats meat and is a ‘vegetarian’. They need to learn that this is because of her religion – she’s a Hindu. And they may ask why Alia, who does music time at the library, wears a scarf on her head?  It’s called a hijab, and is a sign that she is a Muslim.

Your role as a childcare provider is to introduce children to the concept of different religions, to give them the vocabulary they need to describe the differences they observe, and to encourage them to ask questions.

 

There are so many religions – which should we ‘do’?

Have you ever looked at one of those religious festival calendars they publish at the council and thought ‘oh my! I didn’t even know that there was such a religion!’  Then you are certainly not alone.  So how do you decide which religions you should do with the children? And how do you do them?

Talking about different religions can be difficult, especially if it’s somebody else’s religion, and even more so if you’re not religious yourself. You don’t want to give children the wrong information. You want to give real, simple information that they can understand, but at the same time you don’t want to offend anyone by generalising too much and assuming that all members of a faith hold identical views or practice in the same way.

As with the guinea pig example, it is generally best to steer clear of the messages that religions give other than basic, positive moral codes that tend to be common to most religions (such as the Golden Rule). Instead, focus on religious festivals. Festivals are the most accessible time to learn about any religion.

Start with what you know best. In other words, do your own religion, or the one you know best first. If you’re a Christian, start with Christmas and Easter.

Next, think about the children you look after – if you look after a little boy who is a Sikh, then it may make sense to celebrate a festival that is relevant to him. Get the parents involved and let them steer you in the right direction.

Still not sure where to begin? Then start with introducing Britain’s three biggest religions which are Christianity, then Islam, then Hinduism. In practical terms your goal is to find simple ways to celebrate: Easter, Christmas, Eid and Diwali.

 

Easter and Christmas: the two biggest Christian festivals

Easter and Christmas don’t just have to be about bunnies, eggs and Santa – it is ok for small children to learn the basic Christian meaning of these holidays. If you live in this country, whatever your beliefs, you do need a basic, working knowledge of ‘Jesus story’ because Christianity is part of our heritage and our culture. There is nothing wrong with making a nativity scene with the children at Christmas, for example or to teach them some Christmas carols.

A completely free day trip is a visit to your local parish church. Whatever their religious background, many pre-school children will have never actually been inside a church. Many churches have open hours when visitors can walk around and admire the art, stained glass windows, unique smells and ancient architecture that make up these beautiful buildings. When I took the children to our local church I made a simple scavenger hunt. The children had to find candles, stain glass windows, the altar, the pews, the organ and the flowers. This gave a nice focus to our visit and helped to teach them some new words.

 

Eid and Diwali

Eid diversity awareness for childmindersWhen I first started researching about Eid and Diwali, I did what most people would do: I went to the library to get out some books.  The photographs showed busy street scenes in far off countries, with people who looked as foreign to many British Muslims and Hindus as they did to me. If you look after a Muslim child or a Hindu child, these types of images give completely the wrong impression as they make their religion look like something ‘foreign’ that is celebrated by ‘other people somewhere else’ when in fact, here in the UK, things are often done very differently. How children celebrate Eid and Diwali is not a million miles away from how Christian families celebrate Easter and Christmas, and tend to include a family gathering, presents as well as a trip to the mosque or temple.

British Muslims celebrate Eid, which marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, with huge festivities and they often give cards to each other with the greeting ‘Eid Mubarak’ which means ‘may you enjoy a blessed festival’. So a good way to celebrate Eid is to get the children to make an Eid card and give it to ‘Alia at the library’.

diwali lamp in paper for childmindersDiwali is one of the most important Hindu festivals of the year. It is known as the ‘festival of lights’ and the lights refer to the little clay lamps called ‘diya’ which are lit in temples and houses. Many people set off fireworks, and because Diwali is celebrated in late October/ early November, these displays often coincide with Bonfire Night displays. A good way to celebrate Diwali is to make firework collages with the children, or little paper diya lamps. It’s also a great time to try some Indian food.

If you are able to get an opportunity to actually visit a mosque or a temple it is a wonderful and enlightening experience for both yourself and the children.

 

Like all aspects of diversity, it is crucial that children be encouraged to notice the differences they see and to ask questions about them.

Religion is just one way that people can appear ‘different’ to one another. Encourage children’s questions, keep an open mind, and you can feel confident that you are doing the right thing.

 

Displaying the right impression

welcome poster in many languages

diversity awareness posterThese pictures of British children are all appropriate to display at your home, to discuss with the children, and give the right impression of a racially inclusive setting. To receive your FREE A4 poster by email, sign up for my free quarterly newsletter using the orange box on my website and type ‘poster’ into the message.

Teaching children about diversity helps them to understand that people can be different and the same all over the world. It also helps them to build character that will last for their whole lives. As childminders, if we talk openly with pre-schoolers about the importance of diversity then children are provided with a model of openness that they will learn to imitate.

For more information on teaching diversity awareness to childminded children and for a Diversity Awareness Pack filled with practical activities you can do to promote difficult diversity topics in your setting visit http://kidstogo.co.uk/childminders/Diversity.html .

 

About Kay Woods and Kids To Go

Kay Woods Kids To GoKay Woods has been writing and selling childminding resources through her company Kids To Go since 2008. Her products include the Ultimate Childminding Checklist, the Learning Journey Plus for planning, observation and assessment and best practice resources promoting diversity and childminding in the great outdoors (Forest Childcare). She is the author of the Start Learning book set published by Tarquin and she writes the free quarterly Childminding Best Practice Newsletter.

Lots of places offer help to childminders. I provide solutions.

http://www.kidstogo.co.uk/childminders/childminding.html

How well do you know your childminding exclusion periods?

One thing that gets asked a lot on online childminding forums is about whether or not you should exclude children for certain diseases. The first thing to say is that it is ultimately up to you to decide as this is your family home. But it is also important to know what the government guidelines say so that you can make an informed choice and to be consistent with parents. I have lifted this ‘quiz’ directly from the Public Health England document: Health protection in schools and other childcare facilities. How well do you know your exclusion periods?

True of false….

 

You should exclude a child with head lice

headlice prevention sheetFalse: The Public Health guide does not recommend that children with head lice are excluded from schools and other childcare settings. Head lice are spread by direct head-to-head contact. They cannot jump, fly or swim. When newly infected, cases have no symptoms. Itching and scratching on the scalp occurs 2 to 3 weeks after infection. Treatment is only needed if live lice are seen. Remember that it is up to you to decide what to do in your own home. Here is a leaflet to give to ALL of the parents at your childminding setting about treating head lice if you ever find them on a child.

 

You should exclude a child with conjunctivitis

False: Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the outer lining of the eye and eyelid causing an itchy red eye with a sticky or watery discharge. It is spread by contact with discharge from the eye which gets onto the hands or towel when the child rubs their eyes. Advise parents to seek advice, encourage children not to rub their eyes and to wash their hand frequently, but you do not need to exclude them from your childminding setting.

 

You should exclude a child with diarrhoea or vomiting

True: Diarrhoea has numerous causes and is defined as 3 or more liquid or semi-liquid stools in a 24 hour period. Children and adults with diarrhoea or vomiting should be excluded until 48 hours after symptoms have stopped and they are well enough to return.

 

You should exclude a child with scarlet fever

True: Scarlet fever cases have been growing in the UK at the moment and there have been several outbreaks at schools. It is spread by the respiratory route or by direct contact with nose and throat discharges especially during sneezing and coughing. Children should be excluded for scarlet fever until 24 hours after commencing appropriate antibiotic treatment. If no antibiotics have been administered the person will be infectious for 2 to 3 weeks.

 

You should exclude a child with chicken pox

True: Chickenpox is highly infectious and is spread by respiratory secretions or by direct contact with fluid from blisters. Cases of chickenpox are infectious from 48 hours before the rash appears to 5 days after the onset of rash. Children should be kept away from childcare settings for at least 5 days from onset of rash. It is not necessary for all the spots to have healed or crusted over before return to your childcare setting as the risk of transmission to other children after 5 days is minimal.

 

 

You should exclude a child with chicken pox even if you and all the other children have already had it

Probably: But this is entirely your call. After you have had chicken pox once you have lifelong immunity to the virus. Nevertheless, you do hear about very rare cases of people catching it for the second time around. Normally when these cases do occur, they are in a person who has a weakened immune system in some way. So while the child with chicken pox is extremely unlikely to re-infect you or the other children, it is also important to think about this child who may not be feeling all that well. It’s hardly fair on you or the child to be anywhere but home while they have chicken pox. I think it would be very wrong of the parent to take advantage of a childminder in this situation when a nursery or school would send the child home.  You won’t be able to go out for example to music club or soft play even, because the child is infectious.

 

You must close when your own children are sick

Probably. Any childminder who looks after their own children while childminding will at some point be faced with the situation where their own child gets sick and have to decide whether to close or not. There is no specific Ofsted regulation that dictates what you HAVE to do in this situation. Here are my thoughts on this issue.

When I was childminding, if one of my girls was sick-but-not-so-sick-she-needed-Mummys-full-attention, I used to inform the parents of the situation and leave it up to them. I didn’t want to either inconvenience the parents or lose money by ‘closing’. I would send the parents a detailed text message so they could make an informed decision. “Beatrice has chicken pox. You can send in your child if you like. But if your own child hasn’t had it yet, they could catch it.” Or “Beatrice threw up yesterday. She doesn’t have any other symptoms and seems fine today, so if you want to send your child in, I’m totally fine with that, but it’s your risk.”

That was I used to do when I was childminding. Parents, I found, were more likely to take their chances on chicken pox than they were on dreaded stomach bugs! But they liked that I gave them the choice. They liked me to be reliable so they could go to work.

Looking back, however, I’m not so sure that was necessarily the right thing to do. It says in the EYFS Statutory Framework that the provider “must take necessary steps to prevent the spread of infection.” It also says that, “providers must take all necessary steps to keep children safe and well.” So I am concerned that if you stay open, knowing that your own children are infectious, you are technically breaking those Stat Requirements. So now that I am older and wiser and looking back on my childminding days, I’m not sure that my ‘it’s the parents’ risk’ policy was necessarily the right thing to do.

Now, following this train of thought, any nursery worker who went into work knowing that she had a stomach bug, would be in breach of those same EYFS regulations. And yet people do this all the time. This is complicated. What do people think? Please feel free to leave me a comment.

 

Health protection siteFor a list of exclusion periods from Public Health England and information about lots of childhood diseases go to Health protection in schools and other childcare facilities. If you scroll down to the bottom of the page there is two-page printable Exclusion Periods chart you can refer to.

 

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Sign up for the free quarterly Childminding Best Practice Newsletter using the orange sign up box on my website and I will send you best practice ideas, childminding news, EYFS tips, outstanding ideas, stories from other childminders, arts and crafts project templates, new products, and links.

http://www.kidstogo.co.uk/childminders/childminding.html

 

About Kay Woods and Kids To Go

Kay Woods Kids To GoKay Woods has been writing and selling childminding resources through her company Kids To Go since 2008. Her products include the Ultimate Childminding Checklist, the Learning Journey Plus for planning, observation and assessment and best practice resources promoting diversity, safety and childminding in the great outdoors (Forest Childcare). She is the author of the Start Learning book set published by Tarquin and she writes the free quarterly Childminding Best Practice Newsletter.

Lots of places offer help to childminders. I provide solutions.

http://www.kidstogo.co.uk/childminders/childminding.html

How to write a year plan for your childminding setting – step by step

Creating a year plan for your childminding setting is a great discipline and gives you a chance to visualise your whole year at once. Once you’ve made a year plan, you can refer to it whenever you plan your months, weeks and days and use it as a guide. The purpose of writing a plan is to answer the basic question: what would you like to DO with the children you look after this year and when would be a good time to do it?

 

Start with a one page blank year calendar

Print or buy a small blank calendar that shows all 12 months on it, preferably all on one page so you can see your whole year at a glance. The most important thing about a year plan is not to add too many details. If you put too many items on it or too much detail, then you will lose sight of the ‘big picture’ and what you are trying to accomplish in the year.

 

First add events that are fixed in time including:

Forest Childcare pile of childrenHalf terms and school holidays: Whether you look after school age children or not, it is useful to record the school terms on your year calendar so that you know when to avoid busy local attractions (like your local petting farm) with your under fives.

Your own holidays: Many childminders try to plan their holidays for the year in advance. I think this is very useful for parents if you can give them as much notice as possible about when you will be away. It helps them regarding planning for their work. But also, there are many childminders who forget to take holidays, or become too busy for them. If they are planned into your calendar for the year then they will be little beacons of hope to look forward to. And you will definitely remember to take off the time you are owed.

Fixed events and themes that you celebrate every year: Most childminders make cards for Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day. Most childminders also will send home cards and little homemade crafts at Christmas. As well as those days, many childminders send home crafts and have special celebrations at Easter, Valentines Day, Halloween and Bonfire Night for example.  Add these days to your calendar so that you don’t forget them and can plan ideas ahead of time.

Add in any special events with fixed dates that you plan to celebrate this year: If you plan to celebrate the children’s birthdays, add these dates to the calendar. If a child is leaving, add their last day. Don’t forget to add your own birthday to the calendar. Grown ups have birthdays that should be celebrated too and any excuse for a little party at your setting is a good one!

2 Year Checks and Transition Reports: If you have any children who will turn two this year, you will need to make time to do their two year check. For many childminders this involves some observation over a few weeks, a meeting with parents and some paperwork. So it is worth marking it on the calendar so you can mentally see it coming. Also remember that children who are leaving for nursery or school may need transition reports prepared. So if you are planning to make those, then you need to plan time for them so the paperwork doesn’t take you by surprise.

Add in any other fixed time events or activities you want to do: If you plan to plant sunflowers or grow potatoes you have to do this at fixed times in the year. Make sure you plan gardening events, for example, into your calendar so you don’t forget.

 

Look at your calendar – it may already look quite full

After you have added the events that are fixed in time, some months of your year planning calendar may already be looking quite full. Suppose, you have a progress check due in October and you also plan to make lots of little crafts to celebrate Halloween and have a little party for the children, and it is also a birthday that month, then you can see at a glance that October is going to be VERY BUSY and you will probably not want to schedule in any more events for October.

 

Brainstorm other ideas you want to try

After you have added in the fixed time events, you can now add in some of the other ideas you want to try this year. This is the fun, creative stuff, the day trips and themes you want to try. Write them in pencil or on post-it notes so you can move these activities around until you find a good spot for them.

 

Schedule special day trips

day trips for childmindersAdd in any special day trips you plan to do. Suppose you take a yearly trip to the petting farm. You might want to take it during the Easter holidays so that the school aged children can come too? Suppose you also want to plan a trip to the ‘model village’? That one is really just a trip for the under fives but it’s outdoors, so you will want to go while the weather is still warmish, so Sept would be a good time for this trip.

 

Plan in some multicultural holidays and diversity awareness activities

Free one page 2018 Diversity planning calendar for childmindersAdd the dates of a couple of multicultural holidays you plan to celebrate this year. Diwali is one that lots of people do, but if you know you are going to be very busy in October this year, then it might not be a good one to choose this year. Perhaps it is a better year to plan to celebrate Chinese New Year as you can see from your calendar that you are not busy in February? You can’t celebrate ALL of the holidays EVERY year. Prioritise some that are relevant to the children in your setting. Here is a free printable calendar events you might want to choose from?

 

Choose some themes or topics to explore this year

Choose a few themes and topics you want to explore over the year and write them in months where you don’t have too much already planned. For example, here are three themes you might choose to explore and how you might choose to schedule them. Again, use pencil or post it notes with these topics:

Road safety: this would be a good topic to do at a time when the school children are around too, so you might choose to schedule it for the Easter holidays.

Mini Beasts: this is a topic you primarily want to do with the under fives, but it would be nice to schedule the trip to the Butterfly House during half term so that the school age children can come too.

Families: Exploring and learning about families and each other’s families is a theme you really just want to do just with the under fives. It isn’t weather-dependent, and so Nov would be a good time to fit that in.

Exploring themes is flexible. Don’t try to do too many, or you won’t do them. The point of the year plan is that if, for example, you can see that you are going on holiday for most of August then this is not the month to plan your mini beast project. And if you want to be able to concentrate while you work with the youngest children exploring each other’s families, then you don’t want the school children there as they’ll be noisy and in the way!

 

A year plan is a disciplined way of thinking about the activities you do

Having a good long term plan will help you to stay organised. Good plans also ensure that you are providing a balanced and varied experiences for the children you look after, and that you have the resources you need to offer the experiences you have planned. Planning is fun and I find it relaxing to see a whole year spread out neatly in front of me. It also encourages you to try things you may not do otherwise.

Why not give it a try?

 

Would you like a pack of themed activities emailed to you each month to help you to try new things?

childminding best practice club space issueSometimes planning themes can be a bit overwhelming because there are simply so many ideas out there to choose from.  When I started the Childminding Best Practice Club a few months back, one of the key aims was to help childminders to focus on a few areas at a time. Each pack comes with printable templates and some simple art projects adaptable to children of different ages. Some of the themes are ‘time sensitive’ – cards for Mothers Day, Bonfire Night activities etc. Other themes like ‘space’ or ‘wheels on the bus’ can be done whenever they fit into your year plan.

Join the Childminding Best Practice Club for just £2.50 each month to receive monthly themed packs emailed to your inbox.

 

Looking for some structured help with short, medium and long term planning for your childminding setting?

learning-journey-plus-workbookMy Learning Journey Plus pack will take you step by step through the process of creating a yearly plan, monthly plan and weekly planning system. It will help you to put an organised system in place that can be adapted to suit children’s interests and accommodate next steps plans.

 

 

About Kay Woods and Kids To Go

Kay Woods Kids To GoKay Woods has been writing and selling childminding resources through her company Kids To Go since 2008. Her products include the Ultimate Childminding Checklist, the Learning Journey Plus for planning, observation and assessment and best practice resources promoting diversity, safety and childminding in the great outdoors (Forest Childcare). She is the author of the Start Learning book set published by Tarquin and she writes the free quarterly Childminding Best Practice Newsletter.

Lots of places offer help to childminders. I provide solutions.

http://www.kidstogo.co.uk/childminders/childminding.html

How childminders can cut costs and save money

Looking at ways to keep costs down has always been important in childminding, but with the advent of the 30 hours, many childminders are feeling more financial pressure than ever. I asked other childminders to share how they save costs in their settings and received lots of ideas including some really original ones you may not have thought of:

 

childminders cutting costs Replace cooked meals with packed lunches

One obvious way to cut costs is to abandon hot lunches and replace them with packed lunches brought from home. One childminder wrote, “I stopped doing main meals but still charge the same – best thing I ever did.”

I feel sad about this because studies have shown that packed lunches are rarely as healthy as hot meals and often contain low quality food and junk food. Childminders are generally more informed about nutrition than the average parent and are in a position to help give children the best start in life by offering them healthy, nutritious meals. Childminder Jan Bartram writes, “I really don’t encourage packed lunches. A lot of them are packed with cheap processed food full of sugar and salt.” I do feel that offering children a hot lunch is the best option. If you can.

According to an article in Nursery World (18th Sept 2017), which addressed the problem of settings cutting costs by offering hot meals as an optional extra rather than a default, “children from the poorest families are likely to be the worst affected”. This is because faced with the choice of paying extra for the hot meal, or bringing their own meal from home, many parents will choose to send their own. Poor children are exactly the ones who benefit the most from that hot healthy meal at lunch time, and will be the most likely to miss out.

From a childminding business sense, cutting out hot lunches can be a major cost savings for your setting and therefore it makes perfect sense. If your business is struggling then you should consider it. However, before you go down that line, there are several great suggestions from childminders who continue to make and provide hot lunches for children that I want you to consider first:

 

Cost saving ideas for childminders who provide meals

Lots of childminders suggest batch cooking and then freezing meals into portions. For this you need to have a big freezer to store things in individual plastic bags or Tupperware. Generally, if you cost it out, it works out cheaper if you are cooking a bolognaise to buy the ingredients to cook a big batch of it and freeze it, than to cook it one meal at a time. It is also considerably less work that way for you!

Pay attention to portion sizes and don’t put too much on children’s plates at once. One childminder wrote, “I will often have 3 little ones share a two slice of bread sandwich (along with fruit, cheese, veg sticks etc). Some days they eat it all and want more so I would make more; other days they aren’t that hungry, so then it doesn’t go to waste.”

portion size fishfingersUnderstanding portion sizes is also important so that you don’t accidentally overfeed small children. This link shows you what portion sizes should look like for toddlers for many common items and may surprise many people.

Buying the ingredients for the food you cook for the children when it is on sale, or buying it wholesale is another suggestion one childminder makes. “We have also found that the local butchers, fishmongers etc are willing to open an account for us as a business which allows you to get trade prices which is often cheaper than supermarkets and the meat/ fish is locally sourced.”

Another suggestion is to use your local market. Jan Bartram writes: “We buy fruit on the afternoon school run at our Thursday market. By then there are always bargains to be had. In June I took 3 schoolies and two toddlers and we bought 3 punnets of strawberries (large ones) for £1.50.”

Childminder Kay Hartburn provides all meals and snacks for her families. She writes: “I bulk cook so I can freeze some for other days. Although I don’t cook vegetarian meals I do 50% meat and 50% lentils and vegetables. Not only is it healthier it helps make the meals much cheaper. I actually love lentils and all the children eat everything I make and they love the different texture the lentils give the meals. If I have any vegetables left over I make soup or use them in stocks. Fruit is used to make other desserts like toffee apple cake or smoothie or banana bread. I do like to cook and enjoy thinking about how to use left overs in new and interesting ways the children will eat. It saves a massive amount of money.”

Whatever you do regarding providing hot meals at your setting, it is important to be honest with yourself and parents about how much the meals are costing you. You need to really sit down and do the maths, as the costs of feeding extra little mouths add up fairly quickly over the course of a week/month/year. Be especially careful with older after school children – as they can eat an awful lot more – and if you’re not careful, you will find that food costs really add up.

 

Snack time savings

childminder food safetyThe most obvious way to save money at snack time is to get parents to bring snacks from home in the same way that they send in packed lunches. However, like with the packed lunches, many parents’ ideas about healthy snacks and what a snack should be, will not measure up to what you could offer. With that in mind, here are some other suggestions for snack time savings:

Childminder Helen Qureshi asks parents to each bring a piece of fruit or something to share at snack time that day. She writes, “I started this a few months ago and it’s working very well. The children enjoy handing it over and parents are absolutely fine. One parent kept on forgetting but as we said to bring fruit or pay 50p per day they started to bring fruit. We did say it was either that or putting our fees up, so they were more than happy.”

Georgina Tattum does something similar. “I ask parents to send in snacks. I suggested they could either send in a few snacks each day or I would charge £1 per day for snacks to cover costs. They all send snacks in which is nice for the children as they get a variety. I still cook lunch and evening meals which the parents really like me doing and some parents would rather pay the £1 per day as they are busy and feel it’s easier for me to provide them.”

 

Cutting costs with craft supplies

The cost of all that paint, glue and art paper you need to look after childminded children can really add up, so it’s important to be honest about what those supplies are costing you and to keep good records. Many childminders told me that they cut costs on art supplies by simply waiting and buying things when they are sale. For example, if you know you are still going to be a childminder in December 2018, then I would be buying my little Christmas craft kits for next year this January when they are all heavily reduced and storing them in my shed for a year!

Childminder Rebecca Wilson suggested joining a “Scrapstore”. They re-use and recycle stuff for artistic and educational purposes. She writes, “Our council have membership so childminders get in free. I get the majority of my art and craft materials there, and they often have really interesting stuff that can be used in small-world, or home-corner type play. It saves money and is environmentally friendly.” Ask your council about membership or see if you and a few other childminders in your area can get together and join which is what lots of childminders do.

 

Second hand toys and equipment

An easy way to save money is to buy second hand toys and equipment. This is especially true if you are just setting up your childminding business and need to buy lots at once. There are lots of places you can buy second hand items online including Ebay and Gumtree. Facebook has a group especially for childminders to buy and sell items. They have everything from triple push chairs, to toys (I remember selling my own “Mr. Potato Head Set with one missing limb” on that site years ago!

nct nearly new saleHowever, many people prefer to pick things up and physically see them before buying second hand so if this is you as well as charity shops and car boot sales you may want to try your local NCT Nearly New Sale. When I was pregnant I got most of my baby supplies at one of these sales and it was really nice to open and close pushchairs, and test the latches on the baby gates, high chairs and travel cots etc. before parting with cash.

My advice if you go to these is if you have a particular item you want (like a double pushchair) to arrive early so you are first in the queue. Head straight for the item you want and grab hold of it. Bring your partner so they can hold the things you want, while you grab other items. Sharpen your elbows, wear trainers and remember that you can move much faster than a woman who is 8 months pregnant!!!

 

Sharing and borrowing resources

Lots of childminders share resources between them at childminder groups or toddler groups. For example, rather than each childminder making their own heuristic play set, many childminders all contribute some items and then pass the resource bag around. Your council or childminding group may be able to help you to get something like this started in your area.

If you have a local toy library, these are great thing to join. Our local library used to have a toy section which was great for borrowing jigsaws etc., but it closed down. In many toy libraries you pay a fee to join and then you can borrow what you like. Do a web search to see if you have a toy library in your area.

 

Free and discounted activities for childminders

Ask at your library about free and discounted activities run especially for childminders. Our local library runs a music group on a Wednesday that is just for childminders, only 50p per child. Compared to a private music club in our area which costs £4 per child, it is a total bargain. Libraries often have free arts classes as well as cooking and special activities around the holidays.

Always ask if places have special admission fees for childminders. One of our local soft play gyms has special childminder rates one morning a week – a great deal.

 

Apply for a childminding grant

Don’t pass up ‘free money’. Childminding grants exist for newly registered childminders in England. I got loads of brilliant toys with mine when I started that I would never have bought otherwise.

At the moment grants of up to £1000 are available to childminders who are planning to offer the 30 hours funded childcare. Check if you’re eligible and get more information here.

 

Childminding Best Practice Club – save 25% on my childminding resources

Childminding best practice club logoJoin the Childminding Best Practice Club for just £2.50 each month to receive monthly themed packs emailed to your inbox and 25% discount on all of my products for childminders. Great value for money on high quality products!

 

 

Can you think of other ways to save money and cut costs that I’ve missed? Please leave me a comment.

 

About Kay Woods and Kids To Go

Kay Woods Kids To GoKay Woods has been writing and selling childminding resources through her company Kids To Go since 2008. Her products include the Ultimate Childminding Checklist, the Learning Journey Plus for planning, observation and assessment and best practice resources promoting diversity, safety and childminding in the great outdoors (Forest Childcare). She is the author of the Start Learning book set published by Tarquin and she writes the free quarterly Childminding Best Practice Newsletter.

Lots of places offer help to childminders. I provide solutions.

http://www.kidstogo.co.uk/childminders/childminding.html

Why childminders should consider limiting the choices they let parents and children make

An episode of Supermarket Secrets got me thinking about childminding businesses and my own business of making products for childminders. In the episode, a jam maker with a small market stall had about 20 different types of jam that customers could choose between. As an experiment, she was asked to remove most of the jams, leaving customers with a choice of only her 5 best-selling jams. To her surprise, she started selling MORE jams than ever before.

pot of jam The point of the experiment was to show that, while people like to have SOME choice, too much choice about things that don’t really matter (like flavour of jam) can cause people to get so overwhelmed that they decide it is easier not to buy any at all. By focussing the customers’ choices around just 5 flavours of jam, the customers still felt they had a choice, but without being overwhelmed by that choice.

The experiment fascinated me. I have never thought of this before! I always thought the more choice you give people the better. But I realised I needed to rethink things. The jam experiment can be applied to many businesses, from large supermarkets to childminding businesses and even to my own business with the packs I make for childminders.

 

Limiting children’s choices

I want to start by thinking about minded children who like and need to be given the opportunity to choose things. The more choices that you can give them, the better for building and promoting the characteristics that will make them into effective learners. But anybody who has ever asked a child ‘which toy would you like to play with?’ while staring at a cupboard full of toys, will recognise the vacant, drooling expression they will get as a response. Because the toy cupboard is too big, the decision is overwhelming, and there is too much choice.

childminding in small spaces toys bookSo one way to apply the jam experiment to childminded children is to focus their choices by giving them a between two or three toys. This way, they feel they have power but without being overwhelmed. The same applies to footwear (shoes or wellies), car seat strap (which arm first?), sandwich fillings (cheese or ham?), sandwich shape (square or triangle), colour of plate (red or green) and choice of fruit (apple or banana?). Giving choices, while limiting those choices to two things you are happy for a child to choose between, gives you all the power while the child has the illusion of feeling nicely in control of his life.

Where this can really be helpful is when you are trying to get a child to try new things or to do things they don’t really want to do. They don’t want to do potty training, but if you can offer them a choice of using the potty or the big toilet, they can feel they have some power over this awful thing they are being forced to do. They don’t want to go on a walk, but if they have the choice of the park at the end of your street or the playground at the common ground, then they feel more in control. If they never want to do the arts and crafts projects or other structured activities you set up for them, have you ever tried redirecting their attention from the task by giving them a choice about something completely irrelevant: like if they would like to stand up or sit down while they work? The illusion of choice gives all the power to you, empowers the child in a good way and makes everyone more happy.

 

Limiting parents’ choices

The second key group of people who badly need their choices limited are parents. Parents have really important decisions they have to make all the time. By the time they get their child to your house on a morning, they have already made a hundred decisions for their child, some important and many not. They are ready to hand their child across to you and have some of the pressure removed from them for a short while.

If you ask people if they like to have choices, everybody will say yes. But what the jam experiment shows us is that most people would really like to have a few important choices to make, but not have to spend too much time choosing things that don’t matter very much. You can help parents and help yourself if you get parents to focus on the one or two decisions you really need them to make, and then helping them further by making the rest of the minor decisions for them.  Here are some areas where I feel many childminders overcomplicate things for parents for giving them too much choice:

 

Outings

Suppose you run your business so that parents can decide which outings to send their children on. This is a common suggestion for childminders who are offering the funded hours, to give parents the ‘option’ to pay extra for outings. I disagree with this approach.

Feeding the goatsIf you charge extra for these outings and let parents decide whether to send their children on them or not, then every single outing is a decision for the parent they may not really want to make. They will think they want power over this decision, but truthfully, they will be happier if it is out of their hands. Can we afford the entrance money for the farm on top of the hourly rate? Maybe we should wait and take our precious little boy there ourselves at the weekend? What if I upset my childminder by saying I’d rather he didn’t go?  What if he feeds his first goat when I’m not there to take the photograph for Facebook? Parents don’t want to go through this stressful thought process for every little day trip you take to something with an entrance fee (music club, soft play etc).

When you offer parents choices about things like this that don’t really matter, then you are making them sweat and worry over choices they really don’t need to make. Giving parents choices about outings is also really annoying for you, as what will you do if one parent says no?  If you have in your contract right from the start that outings are included in your fees and you take them regularly, then you have removed from that parent one extra decision they simply don’t need to bother with. By choosing your setting, they are choosing outings. Decision made. Phew.

 

Meals

child eatingMany childminders offer parents a choice of a hot meal or providing their own lunch. If you charge extra for the meal, many parents will feel they should bring their own from home to save money. If this decision is removed from parents, by stating in your policies that “a hot meal is included in your price and there is no discount if you want to provide your own food” means that you never have to deal with refunds at the end of the month, awful unhealthy packed lunches, or worse, asking parents to decide which days they would like a hot meal for their child this week, and which days they will providing it. Providing hot lunches as a default means that all the children eat the same thing, healthy things you have control over. Parents actually love the convenience of NOT having to make lunch each morning.

One childminder offered children (via their parents) a choice hot lunch for the week. It was a lovely idea, but then I thought about it from the parents’ point of view: I really don’t care if my child eats lasagne or a jacket potato on Tuesday – could you please just feed him so I can go to work, happy in the knowledge that he is being fed a healthy meal that I don’t have to make myself!

How you choose to structure mealtime is ultimately up to you, especially in light of the new funded hours, but remember that it is totally your choice what you do, so don’t make a rod for your own back by making the whole thing too complicated for yourself or for parents.

 

Prices, hourly rates and holidays

A childminder posted a question on Facebook the other day asking if she should start charging for the school run from when she leaves her house, or when she actually collects the child? She further wondered if she should still charge for the walk on days she was collecting her own child as well as the childminded ones. In my opinion, this gives the parents far too much to worry about. If you structure your payment scheme like this, then the parents will have to spend their evenings scrutinising the bill each month to make sure they have been charged correctly. You leave them with too many choices to consider.

The simple way to avoid this is to keep it simple for them by charging a flat rate before and after school. They can either take up one of your after school places at a £15 flat rate (for ex.) or they can go somewhere else. They can either keep their child with you until 6pm, or collect him earlier but there is no discount as they have paid until 6pm to hold the space.

 

My new Childminding Best Practice Club with monthly themed packs is intentionally designed to limit choices for childminders

One of the ways I adapted the jam idea of limiting choices was when I started the Childminding Best Practice Club a few months back. The key benefit of the Club is a monthly themed pack of activities (like space themed crafts) emailed straight to the childminder.

childminding best practice club space issueI really worried when I launched the Club. There are 7000 crafts with space themes for pre-schoolers online. I really worried about those 7000 space activities because I worried that people wouldn’t want to join my Club because they could just find ideas online and copy them.

But the truth is that people find 7000 preschool space craft projects completely overwhelming. You start scrolling through them and by the time you’ve looked at a few pages of ideas you are so overwhelmed you make the decision that it’s probably easier not to do space theme after all this month.

By limiting people’s choices to the seven or so ideas in the pack, that come with templates already made that just have to be printed off, childminders have responded really well to having their choices ‘focussed’ for them in this way. When offered a choice of 7000 crafts, or just 7 crafts with templates, to my surprise people have been very pleased with the ‘focus my packs have given them’ and as a result lots of childminders have joined.

 

Limiting choices focusses you on what is important

Parents are overwhelmed with choices at the moment, especially in regards to funding. In a market that is saturated with choice, often about decisions that don’t really matter all that much, you can really help parents by focussing their choices on the stuff that really matters in your setting. You can help yourself out too by limiting choices about things that cause you more work.

Research has shown that people actually feel more comfortable making choices when there are less items to choose from. Think about all the ways you can apply this to your own childminding business from how you treat the children, to your policies and permission forms, meals you provide, late fees and hourly prices.  Look at how you structure choice on your forms and in your daily routines and ask yourself: do I really need to give the parents choice here? Is this too much choice? Am I overwhelming them with decisions they don’t really need or want to make?

Aim to make things easier on children, parents and yourself. There are so many important decisions that parents have to make – and there are many more decisions that are essentially just flavours of jam.

 

Childminding Best Practice Club

Childminding best practice club logoJoin the Childminding Best Practice Club for just £2.50 each month to receive monthly themed packs emailed to your inbox.

 

 

About Kay Woods and Kids To Go

Kay Woods Kids To GoKay Woods has been writing and selling childminding resources through her company Kids To Go since 2008. Her products include the Ultimate Childminding Checklist, the Learning Journey Plus for planning, observation and assessment and best practice resources promoting diversity, safety and childminding in the great outdoors (Forest Childcare). She is the author of the Start Learning book set published by Tarquin and she writes the free quarterly Childminding Best Practice Newsletter.

Lots of places offer help to childminders. I provide solutions.

http://www.kidstogo.co.uk/childminders/childminding.html

The 8 types of childminders I hate the most

By Summer guest blogger: A. Grumpleminder

There are lots of things I hate about childminding – parents who are rude or late, thoughtless footwear, potty training, snotty-nosed children, small children in general – but the thing I hate the most about childminding is: other childminders. You know who you are – the ‘goody-goody’ ones who make the rest of us look bad with your flexible attitude to your job, helpful attitude to parents and general fondness of children. Here is my list of childminders who make me want to throw up and why. If you’re reading this, I bet you’re on this list somewhere!

 

1. Childminders who are ‘flexible’ to help out parents

Did you know that some childminders hold spaces for children when grandparents visit? Or allow children to attend on random days of the week, or for different hours each week? There are even some who go over their ratios to help out parents. Why bother with all that extra paperwork and complications, I say? Why put yourself out to help out some parent who probably calls you a babysitter behind your back? I mean, if the mum is on shift work or can’t get off work 15 minutes early to collect her child then she really ought to find a more flexible job in my opinion. Or just not work. I hate childminders who help out parents by being flexible. Why should you make the parents’ problem into your problem?

 

2. Childminders who waste the good tissues on small children

I hate snot even more than I hate poo and wee. And when I see it, I just have to get rid of it before it gets onto my furniture or carpet. But seriously, I wouldn’t waste good tissues on childminded children. Just get some of that recycled toilet paper. The scratchier the better will encourage them to sniff more. Anyway, don’t forget that if they make each other sick you have an excuse to send them home.

 

3. Childminders who let children wear shoes

top ten types of childminders I hateWhen a parent drops their child off to my house wearing shoes, they are implying that they are expecting me to actually take their child somewhere over the course of the day. Or to let them actually play in MY back garden. I have banned shoes entirely at my setting and recommend you do the same. When we do the school run, I strap the lot of the little darlings into the pushchair, stacked if necessary. Whenever I see a childminder with 3 little children all walking along hand in hand in reflective jackets, I want to throw up.  I mean, why waste your time teaching someone else’s children road safety? It’s not your problem!

 

4. Childminders who make food for the children that they actually like

Some childminders give children food they like and even treats to eat, even though it is not an Ofsted requirement. Who would waste biscuits and treats on childminded children? What really makes me even angrier are the childminders who give the children biscuits and buy them ice creams and treats and don’t even charge the parents for these items! It’s like they like children so much they seem to want to do nice things for them just out of the goodness of their hearts! It’s not like Ofsted is watching when you do nice things – so why do them?

 

5. Childminders who look after children with SEND

As if childminding isn’t bad enough already, do you have any idea how much extra work it would be looking after children with disabilities or special needs?  And yet there are childminders out there who actually make a point of accepting children with disabilities into their houses? And the worst thing is that many of these childminders don’t even charge parents MORE for looking after SEND children?  If you are one of those types of childminders, who look after children with special needs and don’t turn them away from your house, please be assured you are right at the very top of my Hate List.

 

6. Childminders who take the children on day trips

day trips for childmindersSome childminders take the children to petting farms and to soft play gyms. They strap them into the car, and take them places just so the children can have a nice day out somewhere. If this is you, what a waste of effort!  I mean, they’re not even YOUR kids. I figure, I get paid the same lousy amount per hour whether I sit on my bum watching day time soaps or put in loads of effort to take them on outings. Why waste the effort to take them places?

 

7. Childminders who seem to actually care about child development

Did you know that there are childminders out there who have actually read Development Matters?  Worse than that, there are the childminders who have read it well enough to actually point out proper concerns about child development to parents and encourage parents to seek help from other professionals.  Everyone knows that Progress Checks and Learning Journeys should be treated for what they are: worthless paperwork for Ofsted. So what if children have problems? Let their reception teacher sort them out – she’s paid more than you are.

 

8. Childminders who make nice little gifts for parents

When I see photos online of rows of little Fathers’ Day cards or Christmas presents for parents, especially those where I can see that the childminder has spent her own money on the gift, I just want to take that childminder and shake her and say, don’t you see, you’re being used!  Parents are paying you for a service, just like washing your car or getting your drains declogged. You don’t tip the Dyno Rod guy! Children are essentially just like little clogged pipes. When you think of them that way, it makes childminding so much easier.

 

Note from Kay Woods

I hope you don’t mind that I let my dear friend A. Grumpleminder write this blog. I may have to be a bit more selective about guest bloggers in future. I think she misses the point, don’t you?

I think the real point is that all over the country there are childminders going the extra mile unthanked by parents or children, for the extra work they do at very low pay. There are childminders out there doing good when nobody is watching, taking the attitude that you can’t fix all of society’s problems but you can help the world out a little by helping one child, one day at a time. I expect you are on her list there somewhere and if you are, well done and thank you, for all the little extras you do for all those lucky small people. =)

I only wish more parents would read this too so they would also understand a little better about all the little extras they too often take totally for granted.

 

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About Kay Woods and Kids To Go

Kay Woods Kids To GoKay Woods has been writing and selling childminding resources through her company Kids To Go since 2008. Her products include the Ultimate Childminding Checklist, the Learning Journey Plus for planning, observation and assessment and best practice resources promoting diversity, safety and childminding in the great outdoors (Forest Childcare). She is the author of the Start Learning book set published by Tarquin and she writes the free quarterly Childminding Best Practice Newsletter.

Lots of places offer help to childminders. I provide solutions.

http://www.kidstogo.co.uk/childminders/childminding.html

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