Childminding Best Practice

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Rediscovering the pure pleasure of paper – for over-digitised childminders

If you are a childminder reading this and are under the age of 30, please just cough politely and delete this post, because this article is probably not for you. It is written by an old person. I am 41. And showing my age by writing an article in which I dare to propose that in SOME aspects of childminding, it might be ‘nice’ to move away from technology and app-based-login-to-view-my-child digitised childcare. I want to use this article to encourage you to reconsider the simple pleasure of paper – writing daily dairies out by hand and making printed learning journey albums – and why this might even be good for your business.

 

The most efficient way of doing things is not always the BEST way of doing things

If you are a childminder who views learning journeys as meaningless Ofsted paperwork, then you are bound to look for the fastest, easiest way of completing the task. If this is you, then go for the app! However, if, you treat your learning journeys as a valuable piece of communication with parents, as a type of marketing tool to show your business in good light, then while an app may be convenient and easy for you, it is not necessarily best for your business. Some parents love running their whole lives on their phones, but others may prefer a more ‘old-fashioned’ approach. Keep YOUR parents in mind when you make your decision to go electronic or paper, because they are at the heart of your business.

 

Paper is “nice” and it’s personal – like childminders

chocolate fridge cakeSome things are better handwritten. Some things are better handmade like homemade baking is always better than store bought. Sometimes, a book with glued in pictures, while less tidy than an online app, is simply “nicer”. Many parents like to imagine choosing a childminder for their child in a dreamy, slowing down, biscuit crumbs and soft edges, sunny days pushing children on swings sort of way. Paper-based learning journeys smell of warmth and friendliness and fit better with this image. It is a good image because nurseries cannot recreate it, however many ‘key people’ they attempt to assign to a child or home corners they install!

 

Paper forces you to look and think a little more carefully

When you zap off a photo and click a button on your phone, you have succeeded in finishing the task you believe Ofsted is expecting of you. But when you put a paper-based learning journey together, you have to select which photos you are going to use and why. You have to think carefully about the text you are going to write, the ‘story’ of the observation you are sharing and it’s meaning to the child, to the child’s parents and you. Paper can force you to engage with the process of observing and linking to planning more.

 

Paper forces you to understand the observation – assessment- planning cycle

Make sure that if you are using an online learning journey planning system that you still understand the PROCESS you are doing. If your Ofsted inspector asks you what stage of development a child is at, you need to know. You need to make sure that your automated system hasn’t removed your understanding of the system yourself.

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.

 

Books can make it easier for parents to engage

Learning Journey PlusDo parents really want to spend their time logging on to some horrible, cumbersome online system to find out how their child is developing? Can they really be bothered? For those of you who do online learning journeys, how many parents ever really look at what you put in them?  Do they bother to log on and check on their child’s development? Some parents will, but others might be much more likely to engage with the work you are doing and take more of an interest in their child’s development if you were to hand them a nice album with a few photos of their child in it and some simple observations you have written (or typed out) next to it.

 

Printed learning journeys are friendly and relaxing

Call me old-fashioned. Call me a technophobe if you like. But whenever I’m told I need to log on and do something, a small stress response begins as my palms sweat a little. I scowl at my device. There is yet another password to remember (can I remember it) and something will probably crash just as I get to the ‘critical’ part and waste loads of my time! In an age where absolutely everything from banking and grocery shopping, to ordering school uniforms is done online, how nice for parents NOT to have to go online. How nice to be handed a friendly, cheerful-looking relaxing book by their childminder!

 

Paper may be appreciated by the sorts of people who choose small childminding settings over large, impersonal nurseries

In the large overcrowded nursery down the road from your small, friendly house, that the parents DIDN’T choose to send their child to, electronic learning journeys are vital for the large number of observations and complex planning they need to do. However, you don’t look after as many children as they do, and from the parents’ point of view, they may prefer the home based paper approach. Some parents will love online systems, don’t get me wrong. But others may secretly hate them, seeing them as rather impersonal. Make sure YOUR system responds to YOUR parents.

 

Parents will treasure the album long after they have left you

I love looking back through my old photo albums and scrap books. While I also spend my fair share of time looking at photos on my phone and social media sites, ultimately and long term I take far less pleasure in electronic photos than I do looking through the actual physical albums I have made. The pleasure of turning the pages, lingering and relaxing is an experience that cannot be recreated by any mobile phone app. It is simply not the same.

If you make printed learning journeys, after the child leaves, his parents will have a keepsake photo album of their time with you. During their lives they will take lots of photos of big events in that child’s life. But parents forget to photograph the ordinary, everyday stuff, learning to paint, or playing with play dough, or putting on their shoes. Parents forget this stuff. You see it and can record it for them.

 

It’s nice to make something – an actual physical record of your own days and the child’s days – a finished product you can hold in in your hands

On days when you are feeling unmotivated, it can be nice to look back through children’s learning journeys and see all the things you’ve done with them. To watch them going from crawling to walking to running, and all those nice trips you took them on and wow moments that matter. It is motivating to see what you have done.

 

Even your Ofsted inspector will be more likely to flip through your photo album than to take time to look online

While perched on your couch with her laptop on her lap, observing you with the children, it is nice to distract her for a few minutes with an album she can look through. She’ll be far more likely to take a look at your work, wow moments and outings if she has an album to look through than if you expect her to look online.

 

You could photograph a child’s hand, but it isn’t the same as a painted handprint

Taking a photograph of a child’s hand preserves the moment forever. But it’s the handprint in paint and glitter that parents keep and treasure. Not because it is the most efficient way to record the moment but because it is the “nicest”. Parents love and treasure what is sentimental, personal and real.

Think again about switching back to paper learning journeys. It doesn’t mean you’re a technophobe. Or old. It just means you are thinking about your business, about your readers and about your parents. Who knows, some of you may even agree with me?

 

Learning Journey Plus – Word document based

learning-journey-plus-workbookIf my article has swayed you at all to reconsider the benefits of paper-based learning journeys, 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.

 

 

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 burn out at childminding…. in 10 easy steps

I tried nearly all of these when I first started childminding. So now I want to share. If you want to burn out at childminding… really fast…. follow these ten easy steps:

 

1. Save all your housework and shopping for the weekends and evenings

childminded-children-houseworkAll childminders should buy really expensive home corner play sets for their childminding settings but should never be seen to do actual, real housework around their houses while the children are present. Children should never be given real chores to do – they are paying customers, not servants! Children learn nothing from being asked to empty a washing machine and count out clothes pegs. They should certainly never be asked to help with shopping. Parents don’t send their children to childminders so they can be given chores like real children in actual homes. You need to do all housework and shopping in your own time.

 

2. Children always come first

It is really important that if small children want to speak to you that you drop everything you are doing and respond instantly to their request. If you are chatting to an adult friend or engaged in a task, and a small child tugs on your skirt or interrupts you, it is important that you attend straight away to the child’s needs. Never make a child wait or he will think his needs are less important than yours.

 

3. Assume you will be able to do everything you did before you started childminding

Everyone knows that childminding isn’t like going out to work at a real job, so there should be no reason why you couldn’t do everything you did before you started childminding. And to exactly the same high standards. You should be able to keep up all the housework, do the shopping, look after your neighbour, continue to be a volunteer school governor, and take your own children to every single club and class you used to take them to. The childminded children will just sort of tag along and join in or watch. It’ll be easy.

 

4. Do lots and lots and lots of paperwork

how-to-burn-out-at-childminding-imageWhen Ofsted come to visit you they bring a tape measure and a set of weighing scales. The Ofsted inspector will weigh your learning journeys and compare them to Ofsted standard learning journey weights which are outlined in their Inspection Guide. Policies are usually measured on length, by the metre – the longer your policies document, the better. Paperwork is great for parents too. The more bits of paper you get them to sign when they start in your setting, the happier they will feel about your ability to look after their child. So make sure you spend your evenings doing lots and lots of paperwork if you want to really impress both parents and the Ofsted inspector.

 

5. At the weekends, keep childminding your own kids and never ask for a break

All childminders love all children. All the time. It’s a fact. Childminders are all warm and fuzzy and cuddly types of people who want to be around children ALL the time.  If you don’t feel this way about children, then you should never let anybody find out because they will think you must be a bad childminder. At weekends you should never ask your partner to look after your own children for a while so you can have some ‘alone time’ or some time with other adults. If you ask for a break your partner will think you are weak, a bad parent for not wanting family time, will suspect you are failing at childminding and will tell you to go and get a real job.

 

6. Never sit and read a book while the childminded children are around

It is well known that if children see adults reading a book they will think that reading is bad. Never, ever let a childminded child catch you sitting down with a cup of tea reading a magazine or a book. Parents and other childminders will also think you are being lazy if you take breaks during the day.

 

7. Never let parents think you don’t know what you are doing

Most people who become childminders have a four-year teaching degree, a PhD in child development and child psychology and have taken a night course in police crowd control tactics. Many childminders (or at least those of us who want to get the best Ofsted grades) spend their weekends doing open university training on early brain development, plus politics and economics so that we can better understand how to ‘narrow the attainment gap’ in the children we look after. With all of this training, people rightly expect us to know everything about raising children, so it is important that if you have had less training or less experience than this yourself that you don’t let parents find out or they won’t send their children to you.

 

8. Set impossibly high expectations for yourself

be a practically perfect childminderBefore you even open your doors on your childminding setting it is important that you have weekly plans in place for the next 5 years for your practice. As well as memorising all the Ofsted manuals, you should read through every Facebook forum and all of the back issues of my Childminding Best Practice Newsletters. Every morning when you brush your teeth you should look in the mirror and say “I am like Mary Poppins: practically perfect in every way”. This will give you the right mindset to face every day.

 

9. Never ask for help. People will think you are weak and don’t know what you are doing.

Never admit that you are struggling. Ever. Nobody will ever have faced the problem that you are having before and be able to offer you advice or support. Every child is different, every problem is so unique that nobody in the history of mankind will ever have faced a childcare challenge similar to the one you are struggling with. Nobody can help you so it is best to keep your problems to yourself. Only weak people ask for advice anyway.

 

10. Never make mistakes of any kind

I saw a great bumper sticker once. It said: “If at first you don’t succeed, hang gliding is not for you.” Childminding is like this. There is no room for error. If you do something wrong around a child, it’s pretty much game over for that child. If you ever get discipline wrong, speak to a child in the wrong tone of voice, or (horror) lose your temper and shout at one, you will mess that child up foreverInstead of doing school-readiness activities, you might just as well do prison-readiness activities. Remember that if that child turns out badly, it will probably be because of that one mistake you made when you childminded them. So just don’t screw up. Ever.

 

Childminding Best Practice Newsletter

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

17 childminders share their real accident stories – don’t let these happen to you!

Nearly every childminder has a horror story to tell, an accident or a near miss story. One of those things you tell every other childminder you know so that it won’t happen to them and they won’t make the same mistake. Many accidents are unavoidable (children slipping over, banging their heads etc.), and are things that happen to children everywhere. But some things are more unique to childminders looking after groups of children in their own homes and out and about. I am going to share their stories with you here and what they learned so that hopefully none of these things will happen to you!

childminding-accident-preventionThe vast majority of these stories appear to be pushchair related, so I do hope that when I publish this post, Ofsted won’t read it and decide to ban all pushchairs!

 

Phil and Teds tipping over

don't let children play in the phil and teds“The scariest preventable accident that happened to me was with my Phil and Teds (up and down) pushchair. I was heading out on the morning school run and as I turned to lock my front door, the two year old tried to climb into the underneath section when there was nobody sitting on the top. Her weight tipped it over and the metal frame landed on her finger nail which popped off completely. I was careful never to let this happen again and very cautious about the children playing with the Phil and Teds from then on.”

 

Throwing cloths over lamps

“I used to have a clip on desk light in the playroom. Some of the after school children had built a den by throwing a sheet over the light. They turned the light on and left it and went outside. All of a sudden the smoke alarms were going off and the whole house was filling up with toxic fumes. Luckily I got back in and opened all the windows and saw what had happened. The sheet over the light had caused it to overheat and melt the plastic clip entirely. The lamp had fallen onto the carpet face down and kept on burning. It melted a hole straight through the carpet. I have never forgotten the fumes that came off of such a small patch of carpet!”

 

Lift doors closing

“I was taking a lift with a group of children. The first child walked into lift, but the second child slipped and fell down. As I reached down to help the second child, the lift doors closed and took the first child up two floors alone. All was fine, but I was absolutely terrified.”

Another childminder shared a similar story with me about taking a bus with doors at the front and separate doors at the back. Terrifying!

 

Strap on booster seats tipping over

“This was my own son but I was working at the time. My child was in a booster seat at the kitchen table – one of those soft ones that fold up for storage. I was changing a nappy in the living room (but could see him). He must have leant over too far and the whole chair went over. He was strapped in fine, but the chair was just an ordinary dining table chair, not as heavy as a high chair. He was ok but I felt dreadful. I won’t use the soft strap on baby seats anymore.”

 

Row Row Row your Boat

row row“We were at music time doing row, row, row your boat. The brother (aged 3) and sister (aged 18months) were holding hands. Both pulled back at same time and the little one’s elbow dislocated! Really horrible!”

Two childminders told me the same story. Both said they weren’t being especially rough, but like yanking a child by the arm to cross a road (nursemaid’s elbow), this is just something that can happen.

 

Self-closing park gates

“We were leaving our park play area. One child ran toward the gate with another following and the self-close gate shut in the second child’s finger and turned the nail black. I now make all the children walk with me to the gate and open it together – they all know what happened so they are also super vigilant themselves now!”

 

Taking buggies down the steps

“This didn’t happen to me, but a lady at the school, about ten years ago, but I’ll never forget it. She was bumping her buggy, with a very tiny baby in it, down a flight of steps in the playground. The path was closed so instead of walking round the long way, she thought this was a good idea. It was one of those travel systems where you clip the car seat to the buggy frame. On the last step she slipped and let go of the buggy. It landed upside down with baby firmly strapped inside. Baby was absolutely fine but mum was a mess, she nearly passed out. I don’t think she ever took the short cut again.”

 

Children standing on a pushchair parcel tray (under-basket)

“When my daughter was about two, she used to love pushing around her own buggy/stroller. One day she decided to stand on the parcel tray (you know the bit at the bottom). She was holding on to the handle bars and the whole thing tipped backwards and she cracked her head on the floor. She ended up in A&E and was keep in overnight – so scary, especially when they had trouble waking her during the night.”

 

Leaving children unattended while eating

“My own son was 6 at the time he choked on a nugget. I was upstairs cleaning and could hear the kids laughing whilst eating. It went eerily quiet. Then the eldest screamed at the top of her voice, “Mum he’s choking.” I never got down the stairs so fast. I grabbed him and spun him round and wacked his back. It didn’t work. The girls were now crying and he was going blue. I paused for a second and then really palm wacked his back. The nugget flew out he threw up and I burst into tears. I have never forgotten this and my eldest is 18 and she is doing first aid with me in October when mine expires.”

first aid for childminders chokingOut of all of the serious first aid incidents that childminders deal with, choking is one of the most common. Never leave childminded children unattended while they are eating. Would you know how to save a choking child? Take my pop quiz here.

 

 

Double side by side buggies vs. doorways and gates

“I had a little boy who had just started and I put him and another child in my double buggy. As I pushed the buggy though my door, he moved his leg to the side and it got it trapped between the buggy and door. He couldn’t walk for nearly a week. We now go out backwards with the double to prevent this happening again.”

Another childminder shared a similar story with me about her garden gate.

 

Accidentally turning on your stove

“I only have a tiny kitchen and store little ones’ bags/lunch boxes on the cooker top. I had a parcel delivered and just stuck it on there too thinking I would sort it out later. We went into the conservatory and carried on with our activities. The next thing I could smell smoke. Before the smoke alarm went off I had the kids outside in the garden safely away and went in to check. I must have knocked a switch on the cooker and it was on and burning. It had melted a little one’s bag, her blankie, lunch, nappies etc. I put it out straight away and no one was at any risk etc., but boy was I shaken up……never mind the embarrassment of having to tell mum what had happened.

We learned that fire drills do work!! And the cooker is now switched off at the wall.”

 

Standing up in pushchairs

standing in the pushchair“When my own daughter was small we had a big heavy travel system. She would stand up in it and ride around, and because it was very heavy it wasn’t a problem. When she turned one we bought a smaller, lighter pushchair. Unfortunately, when she tried to stand up in this one, the whole thing tipped over and she cut her head on a stone. She still has a scar.”

 

 

Parents not shutting the front door properly behind them

“Because of the way my house is set up, my front door opens directly onto my living room. I keep the front door locked, so there is no risk of children getting out in the day. But at drop off and collection time, it all gets a bit crazy and I can’t always get behind the parents to shut the door properly. Often parents don’t close it properly behind them either. I live on a busy road and I worry about this a lot. I have to be super vigilant about checking on the door every time somebody opens it.”

 

Escalators

“When I was a nanny I was taking a little boy (age 2) down an escalator. I took him out of the buggy and held his hand to go down the escalator and as we got to the bottom where the steps go level, he turned his foot and it got trapped between the step and the side.  I pulled him by his coat as no one would push the stop button. I ripped his coat and the shop took us to A&E as he had a fracture on the top of his foot.”

 

Children running with hands in their pockets

“When my little girl was about four, she was walking across the playground with her hands in her pockets and tripped. Obviously, she couldn’t put her hands out to break her fall and went straight down on her chin. She still has a scar.”

A similar thing happened to my friend who tripped and knocked herself out at a swimming pool. Her mum had wrapped her arms inside the towel. Never do that!

 

Duck ponds

feeding the ducks from behind a rail“A couple of weeks ago, I was sat at the edge of a pond feeding the ducks with two children aged two and three. As I handed the three-year-old a piece of bread, the two-year-old fell in head first. This wasn’t childminded children, but it was horribly embarrassing. From now on, if I’ve got more than one child with me, we only feed ducks from behind a safety rail.”

 

Changes to water temperature

“The water at our church hall never got hotter than lukewarm. It had been like that for years and was perfect temp for little hands. Unbeknown to me, over one weekend they had installed a new boiler. I was assisting children with hand washing and left the tap running between washes. The first child was fine but when the second child went to put her hand under and it was scorching hot. I am always so careful with handwashing now in public places like restaurants and libraries and shopping centres because you just never know.”

 

What about accidents that happen to us?

One childminder says: “What about accidents that happen to us?! That always scares me about working on my own. The worst time was when I was getting a new knife out of its cellophane and the safety blade cover came off with the cellophane and I sliced my hand open. I very nearly blacked out when I realised how bad it was… and had to go and get stitches.”

izzy-and-ollyI always used to worry about this happening too, and then when my little ones were about three I read a true story called Izzy and Olly, about a 2 ½ year old girl who had saved her mother’s life because she knew how to dial 999 in an emergency. I was totally inspired by this and we would practice finding me finding me lying unconscious at the bottom of the stairs and the kids would practice calling 999. Kids thought it was a riot of course, but I had this idea that one day, just in case the worst happened, that if they knew what to do, one of them might actually be able to save my life!

 

Thank you to everybody who contributed their stories to this article and to the admin group who run the “Childminding For You” Facebook group for allowing me to survey their members.

If you want to share your own stories to warn others about things that have happened to you, then please leave a comment.

 

Be safe be healthy pack for childmindersBe Safe, Be Healthy Pack for Childminders

Want to explore topics and themes in safety and health with childminded children? Check out my Be Safe, Be Healthy Pack of printable colouring pages, activities, craft ideas for topics including fire safety, tooth care, making friends, stranger danger, sun safety, healthy eating, bereavement, and accident prevention.

 

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

Three solutions for childminders who fear losing business to the 30 hours problem

In September 2017, each childminder will have to decide for themselves whether to offer parents some or all of the 30 funded hours. With the new funding rates, some childminders will find themselves better off and that offering the 30 hours could even be a good business opportunity. But many childminders are worried that they will HAVE to offer funded hours, and at less than their current hourly rates, or risk losing business to nurseries and other childminders. The uncertainty of the hourly rate, poor communication from some local authorities and anxiety about planning ahead is making this a very stressful change for many childminders.

 

What should you do if you feel you HAVE to offer at least some of the funded hours? 

Not everyone feels they have a choice when it comes to offering the funded hours. Many childminders feel they will HAVE to offer the 30 hours or they will lose business to nurseries or other childminders who do. So if you are going to offer the 30 hours, here are three things you should consider:

 

 1. Look into how you can exploit the ‘top up loop hole’.

hobsons choice childminding service - childminding humourThe legislation is leaving a nice loop hole that you can and should exploit about “extra charges”. Many local authorities refuse to call them “top up charges”, but that is essentially what they are. For example, if you are currently charging £5 an hour and your local authority says it will pay you £4 an hour for funded children, then you should seriously consider charging parents £1 an hour directly for ‘activities, outings and food’ etc. so that you are not out of pocket. I’m sure with a bit of creativity you can work this loop hole to make sure you don’t end up worse off under the funding. You will have to be careful about how you phrase this because the extra charges are not supposed to be “compulsory” or “conditional on taking up the space”. But I do feel that these extra charges give you some flexibility around your hourly rate and could be applied creatively where needed.

 

2. Look into “blended care” and find a partner now

Lots of parents are expected to split their 30 hours between different carers, such as a pre-school and a childminder. The government thinks that lots of parents will want to do this, and it could be a good business opportunity for you if you grab it now. If you plan to offer “blended care”, then you should get in contact with your proposed partner as soon as possible. Check out some working models of how you might offer blended care on the 30 Hours Toolkit published by the Families and childcare Trust.

3. Consider putting your prices up on under 3s and after school care

While this sounds awful, it may be necessary and I know that some nurseries will make up the shortfall in their funding this way. Many nurseries charge more for baby rooms now because of the extra staff needed, so if nurseries will make up the funding shortfall by putting their prices up in their baby rooms, why shouldn’t childminders?  If you feel pushed into offering care at a lower rate than works for you, then this is certainly one option you could consider.

 

Approach this an opportunity not a threat

Really consider carefully whether you should do the funded places or not. Don’t just throw the idea out as impossible, or reluctantly take that pay cut and feel angry at the world. Make a business plan and work out how much this is likely to cost you (or benefit you) with realistic estimates of how many children you are likely to have on your books at any point in time.

It is also important that you talk to YOUR parents so you get a feeling for what they will be likely to do – will they stay with you even if they have to pay a “top up fee”, or will they run for the cheapest care option going?

The most important thing to remember over the next few months is to have the attitude that you are not going to let nurseries or other childminders steal your business. Don’t let yourself slip into the feeling of inevitability, that it is all somehow out of your control and the government is going to destroy your childminding business!  Every childminder is in a different situation so do be very careful not to pay too much attention to every horror story you read on Facebook which could be very different from what will be happening in your local authority. You can and will retain and even work all this change to your advantage, if you stay on top of the changes, plan ahead and keep a positive attitude.

 

Two articles from industry leaders with sensible 30 hours’ information

If you are worried about the introduction of the 30 hours – then have a read of these two articles which are the two best sources of sensible information I’ve read on the subject to date:

This article by Pacey will put your mind at ease about a lot of the rumours you might have heard, so read this, including the comments section.  It’s a good article and answers a lot of questions.

This article from Nursery World gives you information on the national funding formula minimum rate and what that means for childminders.

You might also want to read my blog about hourly rates and setting sensible pricing:

 

Childminding Best Practice Newsletter

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

The Great Christmas Card Debate: how much help should you give childminded children on their Christmas cards?

I’m NOT going to do handprints again for my childminding Christmas present, I said firmly to myself as I stared at the blank calendar template. Because everybody knows that handprints aren’t really the children’s work. Ofsted would scoff and tut. Other childminders will criticise me when I post the photo of two cute little handprints calendar by 3 year oldpressed in place by ME, not them. So this year I’m going to let the children do it.

So instead I asked the three year olds to draw a picture of their families to give to their parents as a “special Christmas present”. This is what one of them did:

He spent AGES doing it so his mummy would love it. I should have been delighted. Instead I looked at it and my heart sank. Why oh why did I leave out the BLACK pen?  He always goes for the black. What on earth had I been thinking? In fact, why didn’t I just do red and green handprints with glitter and that lovely poem about growing up that makes all parents mist up every time they read it?

 

I hadn’t thought about the PURPOSE of my Christmas gift

The problem was that I’d read too many articles on social media criticizing hand prints and I hadn’t properly considered what I was trying to accomplish from my Christmas calendars. The question of how much help you should give children on their Christmas cards gets very heated debate on social media every single year. How do you feel?

 

Christmas card quiz: How much help should you give childminded children on their Christmas cards?

A: NONE. All art work sent home from my setting is child-initiated and open-ended including their Christmas cards. The parents want to see their child’s work, not mine.

B: SOME. At Christmas I like to send something home that’s a little more special than our normal artwork. I copy ideas from social media and magazines and help the children to reproduce it the best they can.

C: I DO IT FOR THEM: I like to send home a perfect footprint in clay or a handprint picture that his parents will bring out year after year at Christmas to remember when he was small. Parents don’t have time to do these things themselves. It’s also a special thank you gift for their business that’s from me as well as their child.

 

You probably have a pretty strong opinion along one of those lines of thought. But before you judge yourself and your own choices (or those of others) too strongly, remember that ALL three of those answers are perfectly valid reasons for Christmas projects. It just depends on what you are trying to accomplish.

So instead of saying things MUST be done a certain way, let’s turn the question around and ask a much more important question instead:

What are you trying to ACHIEVE from your Christmas art project?

 

I want to make a really special gift for the parents

If this is your goal, then it is worth spending a bit of time researching and preparing a nice idea. Hand prints and foot print projects on ceramic tiles will last forever and will be brought out by parents year after year. If you don’t have the budget for that, then there are lots of lovely handprint on paper designs that will also work well. If you laminate them, they will last in the attic and the parents will remember their child (and you) fondly each Christmas they take it out far into the future.

 

I want to promote my childminding business

If you want to promote your business, instead of a card, make a calendar and spend some time making it special so that the parents will put it up on their fridge for the whole year. I would recommend a picture that isn’t in Christmas colours if you are doing a calendar, because red and green glitter will look out of place in May and the parents might just take it down. Take some time to think about a really nice design that the parents will want to look at all year round, and help the children so the design is eye catching. This will remind the parents what a great childminder they chose for their child each time they look at the calendar on their fridge.

 

I want to impress Ofsted

The day you are being inspected is probably not the day to create your special gift for parents to treasure, or your calendar that will promote your childminding business. In general, I would recommend that you stay away from handprint art during your inspection because unless you’re really good at explaining the purpose of your handprint project (for example, you are doing a learning activity on counting to five, or are teaching children how to use scissors etc.) then, in general, hand print activities that require you to press the child’s hand into place and then to cut around the child’s hand, will not impress the Ofsted inspector. Time and again you hear of people being marked down at inspections for making the wrong sort of art project.  This is not to say you should never do handprint art or display hand print art for the Ofsted inspector. Just make sure that you can explain the purpose behind your project.

 

I want to promote a specific area of learning and the Characteristic of Effective Learning: Active Learning

snowman craft for childminders done by 2 year oldLots of art projects you do with childminded children are ones where you set out purposely to make a specific project that you ultimately hope will at least vaguely resemble the model or idea you are copying. This snowman is an example from my EYFS Art Project CD where the point of the project is to teach the children about sizes and placement. They are asked to put the large circle at the bottom and the small circle on the top. This is quite a challenge for many EYFS children to understand the vocabulary and the concept of sizes. I also expected the children to sit still and concentrate long enough to finish the project they had started. WITH MY HELP, the two and half year old was able to produce this lovely snowman that she then felt very proud of. Without my guidance, she would probably have placed all three circles on top of each other and the buttons straight into her mouth!  This would make an ideal project to send home to the parents if you want your present to highlight the focus on teaching and learning in your setting.

 

I want to show parents that everything we do here is child-led, promotes creativity and the Characteristic of Effective Learning: creating and thinking critically.

This is a perfectly valid reason to put out a tray of glitter and paint and glue and hope for the best. Don’t tut!  Leaving children to do free play with these items could produce a masterpiece more beautiful than any idea you have copied for them off of Pinterest or Facebook and is a very important aspect of learning. Setting children loose to simply play with the art materials, exploring them for their own sake helps to build their creativity. It also helps them to explore their own ideas, to make links between ideas, to have their own ideas and to choose the best way to do something which promotes the COEL. However, it could also produce a piece of brown-smeared paper and a toddler wearing a bowl of glitter as a hat!

 

So looking back at my calendar family portrait again, if I’d gone into it with the right purpose in mind, it would have been perfect. It was a lovely project that focussed on Active Learning and exploring families. It just wasn’t what I felt was important at Christmas which is why I’d ended up feeling disappointed with it.

Don’t let this happen to you!

Whatever you decide for Christmas this year don’t let people on social media bully you into doing things their way. What you send home at Christmas is based on what you are trying to achieve from the project. Take a moment to consider the purpose behind your Christmas art projects so that YOU get the result you are aiming for.

 

Do you want to improve your understanding of the Characteristics of Effective Learning?

Promoting the Characteristics of Effective Learning PosterFor help putting the Characteristics of Effective Learning into practice including tools, activity ideas, certificates you can give to children, poster and display ideas, CPD worksheets for your setting, examples for your SEF and a setting checklist for the COEL, check out my new Characteristics of Effective Learning Pack for childminders.

 

 

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

How to write about the Characteristics of Effective Learning (COEL) in childminding learning journeys

Ever find yourself staring at that row of letters and boxes on your learning journey form that asks you to circle which Characteristic of Effective Learning (CEOL) you are seeing in your learning journey observation and feeling baffled?  If so, you are certainly not alone! The Learning and Development areas are relatively easy to understand. But the COEL are more complicated, and even the most experienced childminders can struggle to know which COEL they are seeing.

which characteristic of effective learning should i circleSometimes it helps to purposely set up some activities where you will almost certainly observe the COEL. It is a good to “practice” observing in a controlled way. That way you will become more familiar with the COEL when you observe them more randomly. This article will give you some simple activities you can plan to promote the COEL in a way that is easy to observe and write about.

 

It’s not always easy to recognise WHICH COEL you are seeing for a particular activity

Many childminders will admit that it is often very, very difficult to select which COEL box to circle on their learning journeys. This is for several reasons but primarily it is because the three COEL are interlinked with each other so it is not always straightforward to pin point which COEL you are observing. In fact, with many activities you will see children doing and might write about in your learning journeys, you could easily circle all three COEL boxes. Or none. Please don’t worry about this too much. It is more important for you to know that you are observing a child displaying the COEL than to necessarily know WHICH COEL you are observing in a particular situation.

 

 

active-learning-for-childmindersTake a trip to the playground or soft play gym to observe ‘Active Learning’

Active Learning (AL) is essentially about describing a child’s motivation to learn. At a playground you should see many examples of children ‘keeping on trying’ to accomplish something and ‘achieving what they set out to do’. In your learning journey write about how the child felt when he succeeded or ‘felt proud’ about something.

Plan structured art activities to promote ‘Active Learning’ and unstructured play with art materials to promote ‘Creating and Thinking Critically’

There are two Characteristics of Effective Learning (COEL) that you can explore while you do art projects with small children. By changing the focus of the art project, you can change which COEL you hope to promote and observe.

Art projects with small children tend to come in two different types. The first type of art project is one where you set out purposely to make a specific project that you ultimately hope will at least vaguely resemble the model or idea you are copying. The second type of art projects is where you set the children loose to simply play with the art materials, exploring them for their own sake. Both of these types have their place in childminding settings and in the activities you plan for the children.

 

When you set out to purposely make a specific project (like colouring a picture), then this is a great opportunity to make observations on how well the children can concentrate on a particular task. It is also an opportunity to witness them keeping on trying when difficulties persist and feeling proud of their accomplishment when it is finished. These are all ‘Active Learning (AL)’ observations.

 

On the other hand, when you set the children loose with paint brushes and stand back and just let them paint, or give them random collage materials or scraps to build with, then you are observing them ‘Creating and Thinking Critically (CT)’. Time spent in this way gives children the opportunity to explore their own ideas, to make links between ideas, to have their own ideas and to choose the best way to do something.

 

Mathematical and construction toys promote ‘Creating and Thinking Critically’

creating-and-thinking-critically-for-childmindersMany mathematical and construction toys and activities help to promote the COEL: Creating and Thinking Critically in children. They are designed to help children to test their ideas about space, shapes and sizes, to find new ways to do things, to make links and to change strategy as needed. They offer you plenty of opportunities to ask children to review what approach worked and to try something differently next time.

 

Cooking projects can promote all three Characteristics of Effective Learning

When children try something for the first time, are willing to ‘have a go’ and show a ‘can-do’ attitude about an experience, then they are demonstrating Playing and Exploring (PE). Cooking requires concentration and motivation to finish a difficult task. When you observe children keeping on trying, persisting with an activity that is hard for them, and taking pride in their end result, then they are demonstrating Active Learning (AL). Cooking projects are also a great opportunity to observe children Creating and Thinking Critically (CTC). When they are cooking they will have their own ideas about the best way to do things, and find ways to solve problems (like how to tip all the flour into the bowl without pouring it on the floor).

 

Forest Childcare outings promote ‘Creating and Thinking Critically’

Forest childcare autumnForest Childcare outings to the great outdoors are a great way to observe all aspects of children’s Learning and Development including Personal, Emotional and Social skills, Physical Development and Communication. Outdoor outings are also a great way to observe children displaying the COEL.

Being outdoors in ‘wild’ places gives children the opportunity to practice their critical thinking and problem solving skills. How will they get across there without getting wet? How will they carry that home? What will happen if I throw that? How will I get down from here without hurting myself?

You can help children to practice their thinking and problem solving skills while you are out in the woods with them by asking them questions like:

  • How are you going to do that?
  • Is there another way you could try that?
  • What else is possible?

Outdoor tasks are a great opportunity to ask children to think of different approaches to a problem if the first approach doesn’t seem to be working. I felt so proud the day my two four year olds figured out that on their own neither was strong enough to drag the log, but that if they worked together they could move it!

Forest Childcare is about making a commitment to taking children on weekly outdoor outings to wild spaces. By taking regular trips, children build familiarity with the outdoors and can learn to make links and predications about the things they will encounter there and experience.

Being outdoors will mean that children will ask lots of questions about the things they see and find. You won’t always know the answers to the questions they ask, so it is also a great opportunity to let children watch how you think, and then to show them how to find the answers to their questions.

 

Remember that many childminding activities do not promote any of the COEL

Many of the activities you do as a childminder will promote NONE of the COEL. Many observations you may make and write about in your learning journeys will focus entirely on the learning and development areas and not promote a COEL at all. When that happens, you shouldn’t circle any of the COEL boxes at all.

 

Do you want to improve your understanding of the Characteristics of Effective Learning?

Promoting the Characteristics of Effective Learning PosterFor help putting the Characteristics of Effective Learning into practice including tools, activity ideas, certificates you can give to children, poster and display ideas, CPD worksheets for your setting, examples for your SEF and a setting checklist for the COEL, check out my new Characteristics of Effective Learning Pack for childminders.

 

Do you want to improve how you write your learning journeys?

I am now offering an 8 module distance learning course for childminders to improve how you write your learning journey observations. The course focusses on both the Learning and Development observations AND the Characteristics of Effective Learning. The course also covers the following topics:

  • Writing next steps and linking them to planning
  • Writing observations in different Learning and Development areas including Physical Development, Personal, Social and Emotional development, Communication and Language, Mathematics and Creative development
  • Writing and observing the Characteristics of Effective Learning
  • Improving the ‘story’ and ‘message’ of the observation
  • Sharing learning journeys with parents
  • Linking learning journeys to whole child assessments
  • Using learning journeys to promote a childminding business
  • Writing about ‘bad’ and ‘negative’ behaviour in a positive way

 

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

If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys (for childminders)

I have always hated this expression from when my very first boss would use it. ‘If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys’ he’d say. The problem was, he DID pay peanuts. So every time he used the expression, he made me feel that was how he thought of me. He paid peanuts. He’d hired a monkey. Me.

 

Childminding pricesDon’t let parents pay you ‘peanuts’

Feeling that you are being paid peanuts is awful. Feeling undervalued in any job is demoralising, but when you are childminding it can feel doubly awful because you are the one who sets your own prices. It is not parents who are paying you peanuts. When you are self-employed, you are the one who decides what you are ‘worth’. You are no longer the victim of a horrible boss.  You have undervalued yourself. If you let these feelings go ignored you can end up resenting the parents, your partner, other childminders and ultimately the children you care for.

 

But how much is ‘peanuts’? What is a GOOD hourly rate for a childminder?

This is a difficult question because childminding hourly rates vary enormously across the country from as little as £3 per hour (per child) to as much as £7 an hour. If you are childminding in many parts of London, for example, then you may feel you are being paid peanuts if you are paid only £5 per hour, when that same hourly rate would put you near the top of the hourly price range in many other locations across the country.  So when you compare yourself to others, make sure it is to other childcare providers in YOUR area.

 

When you are just starting out, how should you decide a good hourly rate?

If you are new to childminding the best way to decide on an hourly rate is to look at what other childcare providers in your area charge. This will also give you a good idea about the ‘market’ in your area – in other words – what parents are looking for and what they are willing to pay. You should find out what both nurseries and childminders in your area charge per hour.  As well as looking at the prices, you should also look at what is offered for those services.

Here is an example. It’s actually a real example of how I decided my original hourly rate TEN years ago in Slough (home counties) where I was trying to set up my childminding business.

The very cheapest childcare in my area were childminders who charged between £3.50 and £4.50 per hour. Next on the scale were many mid-range nurseries that charged between £4.50 and £5.50 per hour. The services these nurseries and childminders advertised all seemed very standard. The “best” nursery in our area (with a waiting list) that took the children to swimming lessons, had Ofsted outstanding and cooked lunches on the premises charged £5.50 per hour. The most expensive childcare in the area was an outstanding childminder who had been childminding for 15 years from her farm location outside of the city. She charged a massive £6.50 per hour and always had a waiting list.

So, where I lived, it seemed reasonable that parents would be willing to pay somewhere between £3.50 and £6 per hour for childcare, depending on the type of service I decided to offer.

 

How do you decide on your ‘price point’?

Once you have the range of prices in your area, you then need to make a decision about how you want to fit in on this scale. You also need to consider your ‘market’. Do you have lots of parents willing to pay high end prices in your area?  Or do most people where you live want the cheapest childcare going?

Suppose you decide to become one of the most expensive childminders in your area? If so, you will be competing with the top nursery, nannies and other top childminders in your area. If you are going in at the ‘top end’ then what services are you going to offer to parents that will make your higher prices justifiable to them? How will you compete with the nursery that offers ‘swimming lessons’ or the ‘growing up on a farm’ experience offered by the top childminder? This is especially difficult if you are new to childminding as many top childminders and nurseries have years of experience and the reputation that goes with it, neither of which you have if you are new. One of the key benefits of deciding to offer a top end service is that you often attract parents who want longer hours for their children. So you get the added benefit of longer, contracted hours at a higher hourly rate. Getting rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted can be a huge benefit if you intend to go in at the ‘top end’ and there is no reason why you shouldn’t try to attract parents who are looking for ‘the best’ even if you are new as long as there are enough parents in your area looking for that service.

Alternately, you may decide to go in at the lowest cost end. You may want to try and offer cheap and no frills childcare – like Easyjet for parents!  Parents bring their own food and snacks and children can come and go flexibly. Many childminders who offer a low cost childminding service are happy to be flexible regarding hours and this suits and helps many parents enormously. The low cost business model for childminding can make it easy to attract many parents, especially parents who have low paid jobs themselves where they are making only marginally more per hour than they pay you to look after their child.  The downside is the lower rate, and the risk that taking children for five hour slots in a day can make it impossible to take on full timers.

Other childminders decide to go ‘middle of the road’ on their prices. Childminders who choose this option are not trying to compete with nurseries or nannies, or with childminders who offer low cost. If you go middle of the road with your prices then finding ways to stand out is crucial if you want to attract parents. You have to think very carefully about what makes your service unique.  If you are neither the cheapest, nor the best, why else should parents call you, instead of the next childminder on the list?

When I had to make this decision ten years ago now, I decided that I wanted to go ‘top end’ and offer a quality service. I couldn’t possibly compete with the childminder with 15 years’ experience who raised children on her farm. But I felt that by having all-inclusive prices, home-cooked meals and weekly outdoor ‘Forest Childcare’ outings, I could easily compete with the top nursery in our area. So I matched my hourly rate to theirs offering ‘all the benefits of a nursery but in a home environment’. That was my tagline. And it worked for me.

 

Are parents really looking for the “cheapest childcare”?

Don’t get me wrong. Many parents really do choose a childminder because it is the cheapest childcare can they find. But for the vast majority of parents, price is only one small factor in the decision. Parents will pay more for childcare if you give them a reason to. They will find money if you give them a reason to spend it. So don’t start off by assuming that the only way you will attract new parents is by undercutting the competition. Setting your prices too low can result in you regretting it later on by feeling undervalued for the work you do.

 

Low prices may actually put some people off

Many parents think that they are looking for cheap childcare. But really they are looking for ‘the best childcare they can afford’. Many parents (people) believe that if they pay more for something that it must be better. They may actually seek out higher hourly rates because they will feel that if they are paying more, then what they are getting must be better.

Recently I had to buy a new toaster. I walked up and down the rows of toasters in the shops horrified at the range of prices and weird and wonderful extras I could get for an appliance that I essentially wanted to be able to ‘heat bread reliably at breakfast’. Did I buy the cheapest toaster? Even though it did exactly that? No, because somehow I allowed myself to believe that some of the extras I was being offered might be worth it. But more importantly because when I looked at the cheapest toaster I thought to myself ‘what’s wrong with it?’ Why is it so cheap?  It must not be any good if they are selling it that cheaply. It will probably break in a year.

 

A parent who pays peanuts can get a childminder who feels underpaid and undervalued

Feeling respected is very important to people’s wellbeing. When you feel that you are being paid less than other childminders, this can seriously harm your enjoyment of the job. If other childminders in your area charge more than you, then think about the impression you are giving parents about the service you offer and consider putting your prices up.

Many childminders still charge the same fees per hour as they did 10 years ago. It is easy to say be brave and tell parents that you are putting your prices up. But this is so much easier said than done.

 

Give yourself a clause in your contract about reviewing your prices

If you are starting out, then make sure you put a clause into your contract that tells parents your prices are renewed annually at a certain date (1st April for example). Then it will come as less of a shock to parents that your prices are being reviewed and are going up. And you won’t feel guilty asking because it was in your agreement.

 

How to put your prices up if you don’t have a review clause in your contract

Putting your prices up takes a lot of nerve and you are right to feel nervous about it. You don’t want to upset families and drive them away. But you also don’t want to grow increasingly resentful of them (and their child) which can happen if you ignore your feelings.

If you look after just one family, then you may want to discuss your feelings regarding the pay rise with them and come to a mutually agreed amount. If you explain how you feel, perhaps in a letter, not in the morning as they are rushing to work, or when they are tired and their child is whingy at collection time, but when they can sit down and discuss this together, then you may all be able to come to an agreement that is reasonable and will keep everybody happy.

If there are multiple families involved then I wouldn’t ask their permission if I were you. Imagine if you were a nursery. Would a nursery send a letter home asking ‘look, I hope you don’t mind but I’m thinking of putting my prices up’ and it is demoralising to ‘ask them for a pay rise’ when you are self-employed. Just make the announcement like your nursery or any kids sports club would do. Parents will moan and groan, like you would do. But unless you are being unreasonable, they are very unlikely to actually leave you over a small price increase; they will most likely grumble, then do it, and then forget about it.

 

pile-of-peanutsDon’t feel like a monkey by offering your service for peanuts

I have carried that expression on with me throughout my life. When I left my first job I made a promise to myself never to work for someone who ‘paid peanuts’ again because it left me feeling very bad about myself, including when I started childminding and became my own boss. When you are not being paid what you feel you deserve for your work, it can really get you down. If this is you, it’s time to take the brave step of asking for the money you feel you are worth. Good luck!

 

Childminding Best Practice Newsletter

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

10 Ways for Childminders to put the Characteristics of Effective Learning (COEL) into Practice

Understanding the COEL is vital for every childminder. Not only will you be expected to know this information during your Ofsted inspection, it is also a huge benefit to the children you look after if you can help them to acquire the skills in the Early Years that they will need to help them to succeed in school and become learners for life. Here are ten ways childminders can put the COEL into Practice.

 

  1. Help children to learn from mistakes, bounce back and try again

Promoting the Characteristics of Effective Learning PosterMany children (and adults) are afraid of failure. Many parents are so afraid of failure that they never give their child a chance to fail at a task. At the first sign of difficulty they jump in to rescue their child, to finish the art project for them, to lift them up onto the climbing frame. They are afraid to let their child ‘fail’ or ‘fall’ and in doing so, continually give their child the message that they can’t really be expected to do things by themselves and that if they fail or fall, that would be a terrible thing instead of a normal and positive part of growing up. Childminders can help children learn to embrace failure as something normal when learning new things. To learn from failure instead of being afraid of it and to find new ways to approach a task until they succeed.

 

2. Encourage children to try new things with a ‘can do’ attitude

Active learning for childmindersChildminders can encourage children to have a can do attitude about trying new things by praising the ‘process’ rather than the end result. It is more important to encourage the child who is attempting to use scissors for the first time and praise the child who is trying to go across the monkey bars, than to display perfect artwork or cheer the child only once she makes it across the monkey bars.

 

3. Make children believe that the harder they work, the better they’ll get at the things they do

Hard work should always be rewarded with praise and attention. There are few things that will help children to do well in school as much as a belief in themselves that if they work at something they will ultimately achieve it. I like to put up displays that show the children improving at tasks over time to remind them that success takes time.

 

4. Reward children who never give up

Give children time to persist at a task that they find challenging so that they can feel the satisfaction of meeting the goals they set for themselves. Make the point of telling parents at collection time what the child was trying, not just what the child succeeded at especially if the task was a challenge for the child.

 

5. Teach children to love learning

Make it clear to children that ultimately you don’t know all that much. That it’s a big, complicated world and no one person is expected to know the answers to everything. Show them how you look up answers to things you don’t know in books and online.  As a childminder, a great way to promote  learning is to explore themes with the children, especially themes you may not know much about yourself.

 

6. Help children to concentrate

concentration poster for childmindersEncouraging children to sit still and concentrate on tasks (sometimes ones that are not of their own choosing) is wonderful preparation for school. When a child arrives at school he can either count up to ten blocks, or he can’t. He can either write his name, or he can’t. Those tasks can be taught to him by his teachers. However, he will find any task he has to learn easier if he can make himself concentrate. Encourage and praise children who are concentrating on tasks they have chosen for themselves. And expect all children to join in with structured activities you have set up for them so they can practice and improve their concentration skills.

 

7. Encourage children to keep on trying when challenges occur

I keep on trying certificateSuccessful people don’t give up when challenges occur. They try a different approach to solve the problem. They motivate themselves to get through little setbacks and keep going. You can help children to develop this trait by praising them for keeping on trying at activities, whether or not they succeed at what they were attempting.

 

8. Teach children to think their way through problems

One of the best ways to teach children to think is to model how you think through things you don’t know and show them how you find the answers. Don’t be afraid to show children that you don’t always get things right first time and sometimes need to take a different approach to learn the answer.

 

9. Support children to ask questions and think about our world

Children asks lots and lots of questions. Always respect these questions and never give the idea that a child’s question is dumb. If they feel they can take a risk by asking questions and that their questions aren’t judged in any way, they will grow to believe that asking questions is the key to unlocking their education.

 

10. Help children to make links and notice patterns in their experience

creating and thinking critically for childmindersAll children need to be able to think and solve problems if they are going to do well in school and life. Thinking up ideas, making links between things, finding out how things are ordered and grouped together, and finding ways to solve problems is what an awful lot of education is about. In the Early Years you can help to teach children HOW to think. A great way to do this is by playing with construction toys, doing cooking projects and by taking regular trips to the same outdoor places.

 

Do you want to improve your understanding of the Characteristics of Effective Learning?

COEL examples for SEFFor help putting the Characteristics of Effective Learning into practice including tools, activity ideas, certificates you can give to children, poster and display ideas, CPD worksheets for your setting, examples for your SEF and a setting checklist for the COEL, check out my new Characteristics of Effective Learning Pack for childminders.

 

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 to ‘Do Diversity’ with childminded children without getting it wrong

So, you want to show Ofsted that you are “doing diversity” in your childminding setting. You’ve bought a black doll, and printed out a calendar of festivals for your wall.  Australia Day is coming up.  That sounds easy enough! You find a picture of a kangaroo for the children to colour and… phew, you have now done diversity.diversity awareness logo

Unfortunately, unless you or one of the children you look after happens to actually be Australian then Australia Day is, for the most part, completely irrelevant to most under fives. What is an “Australia” anyway, and does it have sharp teeth?

The reason childminders celebrate it is because it is safe. There is no fear that we can get Australia Day wrong and accidentally offend anybody. It is a token gesture that makes us look like we are celebrating diversity when in fact, by doing so, we are neatly avoiding the real issues.

 

I’m scared I’ll get it wrong

As childminders we often avoid many of the real diversity issues primarily because we don’t know what ‘message’ to tell the children. Subjects such as physical disabilities, Islam, skin colour, older people and different family types can be so difficult to address that rather than risk getting them wrong, we avoid talking about them entirely and pretend the differences aren’t there.

I believe that you can and should talk about real diversity issues with young children. Children ask questions all the time about the differences they see. If adults avoid children’s questions about race, gender, religion and disability then children will notice. They may come up with their own conclusions, even if those conclusions are wrong. Adults should talk honestly and openly with children about the differences that children see and ask about.

If you would like to explore diversity with childminded children then here are three practical places to begin:

 

  1. Who am I?

Children first need to learn about their own identity – who they are and how they fit into their own families and communities – before they can begin to imagine their place in the big wide world. So your starting point with teaching small children about diversity is to help them to learn about themselves.

“All about me” sheets and self-portraits are ideal ways to get children to think about who they are. Are you a little boy or a little girl?  It is not until they are about three that many children will know the answer to that question. Sit the children down in front of a mirror and help them to add eyes and hair in the right colour. A pack of skin tone crayons is a good investment.

In doing so children learn that some things about them are the same as other children, but some things are different. Encouraging children to point out, notice and accept their different types and colours of hair and skin is the starting point for learning that others may be different… and that “different-from-me” is beautiful too.

 

  1. What communities am I a part of?

Every child’s first and most basic community is his own family. In order to understand other people’s families and how these may be different from their own, children first need to think about their place in their own family. Today there are many types of families including traditional families, single parent families, same-sex parent families, adoptive and foster care families. Ask the children questions and record what they say about their families. Talking about the similarities and differences helps children understand how each family is unique and special.

our home display for childmindersYour childminding setting is also its own special little community. The changing friendships, the new children who come and go, all help the children to build into their identities the idea of belonging to ‘your home’.

It sounds obvious but displaying photographs of the children who come to your house will help the children to feel a sense of belonging there. Putting up displays that promote kindness and inclusion not only give a positive impression but can help to make your home community feel like a friendly and accepting place to be.

 

  1. Displaying the right impression

welcome poster in many languagesEven though most children this age are too young to understand ‘Britain’ let alone ‘the world’, it is still ok to introduce the idea of ‘the world’ and that everyone is a part of it. It also gives a positive impression to the parents. Displaying welcome posters in many languages is a classic example but if possible try to make the languages relevant to the people who attend your setting, or to the people who live in your local community.

Playing music from a variety of cultures is great, including music with words in different languages. The more varied types of music that children are exposed to when they are small, the more they will enjoy music when they are older. Sampling food from different cultures is also fun for everyone.

It is also good to display photos that show racial diversity but it can be very hard to choose appropriate photos to display. It is not appropriate to show photos of children that reinforce stereotypes – for example, hungry children in Africa. It is also not appropriate to display pictures that show children wearing their ‘cultural’ rather than their ‘everyday’ dress. Children in Scotland certainly don’t wear kilts everyday any more than African children wear their ‘tribal’ clothing to go to school in. It can be very confusing to young children to see images that give the wrong impression.

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

Do you know what you are allowed to do when you take childminded children to the woods?

 

How much do you know about what you’re allowed to do and what you’re not allowed to do when you are taking childminded children on an outing to the woods? Answer true or false to the following 10 statements:

 

  1. You have to have a Level 3 Forest School qualification to take the children to the woods.

FALSE: Forest School training courses are popping up all over the country and lots of childminders are signing up for them. They are essential if you want to run a Forest Kindergarten (outdoor nursery) and a great idea if you want to teach groups of nursery children how to do whittling and build a forest fire. However, it is a myth that you must have Forest School training or any kind of special qualification in order to take childminded children on normal outings to the woods.

Forest Childcare for childminders

  1. You need to do a risk assessment before every trip to the woods.

TRUE: You should carry out a risk assessment to identify any potential hazards each time you go on an outing, even if it is for a place you have been before. Changes in weather and the personalities of the different children you are bringing all introduce new ‘risks’ and new ‘variables’ into a trip and you should consider these when you plan your trip. You don’t necessarily have to write your risk assessment down, but you really should think through your risks before each and every trip.

 

  1. You must get parents to sign a permission form for every outing you take.

FALSE:  When children start at your setting it’s a good idea to get them to sign to say that they are happy for you to take the children on ‘regular outings’ and also to take the children out in the car. If they sign this once, then you don’t need to ask for permission every time you go out. In fact, permission for outings is no longer strictly necessary at all. In Sept 2014 the requirement for ‘written parental permission for outings’ was removed from the EYFS Statutory Framework. Many childminders still get permission from parents anyway, especially to go on ‘special outings’ or ‘day trips’ because it is nice to feel that the parents are on board and it’s also just a great way to advertise your service.

 

  1. It is bad for children’s health to take them out when it’s raining and very cold.

FALSE: Rain is not bad for children’s health. Nor is cold. Have the attitude that there is no inappropriate weather for outings to the woods, only inappropriate clothing. Taking children out in all kinds of weather, all year round, is great for their health and wellbeing. Put the children in water proofs, wellie boots, hats, gloves and bring spare clothing. Remember to think about your own clothes as well as the children, because if you get cold or wet you won’t enjoy yourself and you won’t want to do it again!

 

  1. Your childminding insurance won’t insure you if you’re out in the woods.

FALSE: I don’t know about ALL insurers but if you are insured through Pacey or Morton Michel, then your public liability insurance covers you for any normal outings you take including playgrounds, woodlands and parks as long as those outings are within the UK. Don’t forget that you will also need to make sure your car has business car insurance on it if you intend to drive the children on your outings.

 

  1. You should not allow the children to climb trees.

TRUE: While your public liability insurance should cover you for any NORMAL outing and activity you would do with the children in the woods including hiking, bug-hunting, treasure-hunting and den-building, certain activities including tree climbing, whittling, using tools such as saws, fire-making and cooking on fires may be restricted by your insurance provider. If you plan to do any of those types of activities with the children you care for, you are advised to first contact your insurance provider and to check their small print.

 

  1. You must get parental permission for every activity you might do with the children while you are in the woods.  

FALSE: Many childminders fear that if they took the children to the woods they would need to have parental permission forms for every little thing: ‘I give my child permission to carry twigs, to pick up leaves, to splash in puddles and risk slipping over on mud etc.’ This attitude can severely limit what you feel is ok to do with the children you look after, and simply isn’t necessary. Being outdoors and in the woods comes with risks. While it is important to try to minimise risks, you can’t wrap children in cotton wool and part of the learning of being outdoors is learning to manage some of its risks and dangers.

 

  1. If the parents say it’s ok, then the childminded children can play in the woods at the bottom of your street on their own.

FALSE: It would be lovely to allow children to ‘play out’ as you may have done as a child, and trusting your own children with the freedom to explore the small woods at the bottom of your street is part of growing up and your choice. But when you are childminding, children must be within your sight or hearing at all times, so you must not allow childminded children to ‘play out’ even if the parents have given you permission.

 

  1. You must carry a first aid kit with you when you are on outings.

TRUE: Yes, you must carry a first aid kit with you at all times. Plus epi pens or other first aid essentials for children who need them. But you don’t generally need to lug the same massive first aid box around with you that you have in your house. Just carry some essentials.

 

  1. You must not feed children in the woods because they will not have washed their hands properly.

FALSE: This is simply not true. Obviously you should not feed the children if they have been handling anything potentially dangerous or if their hands are especially filthy, but eating snacks while sitting on a log is really one of the nicest aspects of being outdoors. Whenever possible wash everyone’s hands before you eat in the normal way, but if you carry some wet wipes and a pot of antibacterial hand wash with you, try not to worry too much. ‘Normal germs’ really are less dangerous than many people imagine.

 

Join the Forest Childcare Association and make a commitment to taking children on weekly outdoor outings

Forest Childcare Association Logo

When you join the Forest Childcare Association for just £15 I will send you a pack of information including risk assessments, links to the EYFS, all the forms and paperwork you need to make outings happen, plus 50 crafts and activities you can do with childminded children. You will also receive marketing tools to help you to use the idea of weekly outdoor outings to promote your childminding business.

 

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

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