Childminding Best Practice

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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.

 

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

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.

 

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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

How to do Forest Childcare when you live in urban, built-up areas

Members of the Forest Childcare Association make a commitment to take children on weekly outdoor outings all year round. This is a big commitment, and no small undertaking, no matter where you live. But let’s face it: if you live in a beautiful part of the countryside, with footpaths and scenery on your doorstep, it is easier and more natural for you to make this commitment than for childcare providers living and working in urban and built-up areas. Offering Forest Childcare to any child is fantastic. But if you are in a position to offer Forest Childcare experiences to children in urban areas, especially those who may not otherwise have access to the outdoors, then this puts you in a place to make an enormous and very positive influence on their lives.

 

The children who most need Forest Childcare experiences, are the least likely to get them

Forest Childcare birds in the city parkChildren who live in the countryside with countryside parents are already likely to spend lots of time outdoors, so Forest Childcare days provided for them may simply be a nice extension of how they already spend their weekends and time with their parents. But for children who live in urban or built-up-concreted-parts of the country, access to wild places and even parks is much more limited. Forest Childcare Days for many urban kids, may be all the ‘wild time’ they get.

 

Urban Forest Childcare is about doing the best you can with what you have

Forest Childcare in cities and towns is about actively seeking out the wild spaces that you can find near you and doing the best you can with what you have. Regular weekly visits are important because they allow children to build familiarity with the places you visit. You may need to seek out the parks in your city and it may take some planning in order to work out how you will be able to visit them on a regular basis.

urban forest childcare leaves by the fountainUrban Forest Childcare provider Tes Carlow writes, “We have explored parts of the local park we don’t normally see, ie away from the play area. We have a prom by the Thames and use that for ‘seaside’ school! Lots of opportunities if you look for them. Children can easily see things from a different perspective, take them on a different route or through a different gate and they learn all over again.  It’s fun and living in a town has enhanced my learning with respect to being completely flexible with Forest Childcare ideas and crafts.”

 

Anything you can do outdoors is better than doing nothing

Forest Childcare is about making the most of outdoor ‘wild’ spaces with small children where you live. Not everyone has forests, beaches and sheep on their doorstep. Forest Childcare is about trying to explore the wild spaces that exist at the edges of the playgrounds. It’s about stopping to see the trees and finding patches and parts of nature where you live. It’s about actively seeking out nature and giving the children access to it. I don’t want people to feel that in order to offer ‘Forest Childcare’ to children that you have to live in or near to countryside. Anything you can do, and especially the harder it is to find, the more important the experience for the child who would otherwise miss out.

 

Ignore anybody who tells you ‘it isn’t proper Forest School’

The aim of the Forest Childcare Association is to encourage childminders and other small childcare providers to take children on weekly outdoor outings to ‘wild’ spaces. It is not to offer ‘a watered down version of the ‘Forest School’ experience’ as is sometimes said. It is totally different. If all children had access to those nurseries where you spend all day outdoors, cook snacks on a bonfire and sleep in a tent, then that would be amazing, but that is not the world we live in. And I don’t want people to think: I can’t offer that, or even close to that, so I won’t try at all.

In my opinion, the chief goal of the Forest Childcare Association (which is to get all children outdoors weekly year round) is actually a much better experience for them than the intense and fun, but often short (only 8 week) experiences often offered in schools and nurseries as ‘Forest School Experiences’. I am trying to encourage childminders to get outside and go for it, without the need for specialised training that is frankly more than is required to simply take the children on an outing to the woods.

Forest childcare found a leafWith that in mind, and in reference again to my point above but is SO important, I’m going to shout it out here again: ANYTHING IS BETTER THAN NOTHING when it comes to wild time with children. Whether you live in the Yorkshire Dales, or inner city London, you can, and should feel free to join the Forest Childcare Association and offer Forest Childcare to children at the level that you are able to provide in YOUR circumstances and in the place where YOU live. Don’t let anybody tell you that what you are able to provide in terms of time outdoors isn’t “good enough outdoors to count”. It does. So there. Rant done.  Be creative. And let’s get the kids outside!

 

If you don’t have a car, take a bus or go by train

If you don’t have a car, then you will need to plan carefully around public transport how you can make your visits happen. But I would challenge you to be brave and try it, because especially if it is hard to find the wild spaces where you live, then this makes it all the more worthwhile to the children to take them there.

Could you consider taking the train?  Taking the train is great fun for children and the journey is part of the adventure.  Taking a bus ride is complicated with a push chair, I do understand, but if you can do it, to get children to those wild spaces once a week, you are making a fabulous commitment to them and their future.

 

Urban Forest Childminder Silvia Bouakkaz takes the children treasure hunting on the Thames foreshore

urban forest childcare - Thames Bank

I love Silvia’s positive attitude to Forest Childcare. She writes, “We live in central London but we just love the outdoors and try to make the most of what we have. We do not have the seaside but we have the river Thames so……..off we went. It was a fantastic day out, as you can see on the pictures we went on a treasure hunting on the Thames foreshore just behind Tate Modern. We managed to find a few items on our list, it just felt like we were in the seaside. FANTASTIC !!!!”

 

Urban green spaces are vanishing, and Forest Childcare can help to teach the next generation to appreciate them

Less and less children have access to wild spaces to play in so more children than ever grow up with limited chance to spend time in nature. Even if children have places near to their house like parks and small green spaces, they cannot visit them today without an adult accompanying them. So children rely on adults to provide Forest Childcare experiences. And when you do, you are helping to raise a generation of children who will value and appreciate these wild spaces so that they will turn into adults who want to preserve these places for the future.

You are teaching children to love these places.

You are teaching them to respect these places.

If children learn to love and respect these places, they will strive to preserve them for the next generation.

 

This photograph is a “lie”

Forest Childcare misty sept morningThis is one of my favourite ‘Forest Childcare’ photos. I use it a lot because it is one of my best childminding memories, the little boy I looked after, chasing after my own daughter through the misty September morning park. It looks like we live out in the countryside somewhere, and created for the parents who saw this photograph up on the wall in my playroom an ideal dream of what childcare with me must be all about.

I don’t think anybody realised that the tree in this photo is only a few meters away from a busy main road which doesn’t show in the picture from the angle I took the photograph. The children are running because they can see the swings and are excited to get there! Behind me was an ugly fence blocking the park from the local failing secondary school. But it was right after the school run and at that moment, the park in the morning mist had fallen silent and was utterly beautiful. As the children ran for the swings they suddenly stopped and discovered conkers beneath the tree at the age when conkers are still magical. I felt enormously privileged to be there in that moment outdoors with the children.

So the photo isn’t a lie at all really. It was looking for the beauty that was near me, sharing it with the children and making the most in that moment of what we had.

 

Childminders are ideally placed to offer “Forest Childcare Days” to children who would not normally get access to outdoor ‘wild’ places

Urban children, especially less well-off children whose parents don’t or can’t take the children to outdoor places themselves – these are the children who can most benefit from having a childminder who takes them on a weekly basis to wild, natural places. If you are a childminder, living and working in a built up environment, then you may be the ONLY person in a child’s life to give them these outdoor experiences.  It is something to offer that child that nobody else can.

 

Join the Forest Childcare Association for only £15 for a lifetime membership

Forest Childcare Association Logo

When you join the Forest Childcare Association for only £15 I will send you a pack of information including risk assessments and safety considerations associated with outdoor ‘wild’ outings, all the permission forms you need, business materials to help you to promote yourself as a Forest Childcare Provider to parents (including the right to use the logo) and a book of 50 crafts and activities with outdoor themes including treasure hunts for the very young.

 

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

Childminding in small spaces

Not everyone who childminds is lucky enough to have a dedicated play room in their house. Even some people who have the space for one, would rather tidy the toys away at night and turn what Ofsted calls your ‘childminding setting’ back into your family home.  In my blog this week I’ve asked several childminders to share their space-saving tricks with you and how they manage without dedicated play rooms to keep childminding from overrunning their house.

If you are reading this as an email rather than online, you probably want to right click on the little red x-es and download the photos so you can see the pictures!

 

Make a toy and activities selection book

childminding in small spaces toys bookWhen you are childminding from a small space, you can’t keep everything out where children can see it, so instead you could do like Claire Toms does and put photos of all the toys and play options into a book. The children can flip through and point to what they want to play with. Not only is this idea a perfect space saver for small spaces, it is a  great way to promote literacy as well.

 

 

 

 

 

Under-sofa toy storage unit

childminding in small spaces under couchThese storage units are a perfect place to hide the toys at the end of the day after the children have gone home.

 

Roll-away art materials storage unit

Arts and craft materials take up a lot of space. Claire Toms keeps hers on a trolley that rolls away under the stairs.

childminding in small spaces 2

 

Keep the toys in a shed in your garden

Michelle Fitzpatrick solves her storage problem by using the garden. “I have a big shed in the garden which the children can assess like a playroom and a lots of toys are stored there too. I don’t have a huge house or garden but we manage.”

 

Roll-up sleeping mats

childminding in small spaces bedrollsChristine Emery stores the cushions for story time/cosy corner in a nest of tables! I think this is such a clever idea.

 

 

Make clever use of your hallways

This childminder minds from a small flat, so she makes the most of her space by using her hallway. The boxes of toys on the floor in the hallway are easy for the children to access, but mean she doesn’t have to look at boxes of kids toys in her living room.

 

using your corridor

 

Use your conservatory

I totally love Katie Harper’s indoor sandpit in her conservatory. What a clever idea and a great use of space!

 

Use your radiators for displays

childminding in small spaces clip onto radiatorsBecky Pattison has clipped a roll-able poster onto her radiator. She makes them herself. Then at the end of the day she simply unclips them and rolls them away.

 

 

 

Back of door display hangers

childminding in small spaces overdoor hangers

Therese Wallace uses back of door organisers for her childminding paperwork that lift down easily at the end of the day.

 

The key to a small garden is to be very organised and think small

childminding in small spaces gardenchildminding in small spaces garden 2

I love how Katie Harper has organised her small garden. She has EVERYTHING in it, just smaller. She has animals, small world play, play house, fairy garden, natural materials and fun, and everything has it’s own neat little area. She has done a wonderful job organising a tiny outdoor space to make the most of it.

 

Notice boards that lift down and replace with a picture

my front hall during childminding hoursmy front hallway after childminded children have gone hoome

When you work as a childminder there are a few things that you are supposed to have on display at all times: your registration certificate, paediatric first aid certificate, and the Parent’s Poster showing the phone number for Ofsted etc. If you put these things onto a bulletin board, then you can take it all down each night and your front hallway doesn’t have to look like you are running a B&B.

Hang posters on strings that can be easily lifted down when the children leave, or put photographs into hanging plastic wallet displays that can be removed. Aim to spend no more than 5 minutes preparing your walls for the children in the morning, and have the whole house back to adult space 5 minutes after the last one leaves at the end of the day!

 

Do you want some printable posters for your childminding setting?

ABC poster chart by 26 childminders - 1 page versionMy Posters Pack is a collection of printable posters for your childminding setting including educational posters (ABC charts, days of the week), bulletin board signs and notices, things Ofsted likes to see (welcome posters in many languages, diversity poster, house rules, ‘who is here today’, areas of learning and development poster, characteristics of effective learning poster) plus toy box labels and display ideas for all types of childminders. I have posters for large spaces and tiny spaces and it’s all available as part of my Posters Pack. You can customise the posters for your own setting before you print them.

You can also see inside other childminders’ houses so you can get ideas of how to use small and large spaces effectively. The prize piece from the pack is a totally unique ABC chart (printable in 3 different sizes) designed by 26 childminders from across the UK.

 

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 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

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

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