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Supporting children with transitions at their childminders

One important role a childminder or other early years practitioner, performs is to support children through transition periods in their life. There are many transitions a child may go through. For example, starting at a new childminder’s, moving house, the birth of a sibling or starting school.

All transitions have an effect on children. It is useful to share information with parents about what the potential effects can be so that they are not too alarmed if any of the following happen:

Physical Effects

The body’s immune system is affected by stress which might mean, that a child catches illnesses more easily in the first weeks of starting with their childminder.  They may have more disturbed sleep or not want to go to bed and may become fussier with their eating habits. (I know that children starting at my setting often eat more when they are happily settled than they do at the start of their placement when everything is new and strange.)

Emotional Effects

Children may not be able to regulate their emotions as well as normal during periods of transition. They may be more tearful or angry than normal and will require extra support from an understanding adult. Some children may withdraw, becoming quieter and they may become upset more easily than normal. Children may regress as they work out changes in their life. Some may start having toileting accidents or show undesirable behaviour such as hitting other children. Their speech may seem to regress as they may talk in a more babyish style, or they may become more clingy and want to spend more time with the parent or the practitioner.

Long-term effects of not supporting children with transitions

It is important to support children as much as possible through transition points in their life as there can be long term effects if not getting it right. A child’s self-confidence and trust in adults can be badly knocked, meaning that they are less well able to cope with future challenges, underachieve in school, struggle making friends or form relationships later in life, develop anger, leading to unwanted behaviour, or, later in life depression, anxiety and self-harm.

How to support children starting in your setting       

Starting at their new childminders is a major event in a child’s life. It will often be the first time they have been away from home for any considerable period of time and may be the first time they have had to properly interact with other children and adults other than their parents. This is especially true for children who have been isolating due to Covid related issues.

Starting at a new childminder’s should, wherever possible, not be a sudden event. This gives the childminder time to prepare both the child and the parents for this change. A child may have mixed emotions about starting at a childminders, excitement and anticipation combined with anxiety about the change. Younger children and babies may not understand what is going on but will react to the separation of their primary attachment figure. The child may be very quiet and withdrawn at first and may not eat well for the first few days. The transition to staring in a new setting is a long one and the process does not begin and end on the child’s first day at the setting.

Ways to help children and parents with the process of starting with a new childminder

Meet the parents to gather information on the child, their likes, dislikes, routines at home, medical requirements (if any) religion, food likes, allergies, their stage of development at home, etc. Parents can be given ‘all about me’ forms to complete but do this together if possible as I find that at least initially parents feel more confident and supported if you go through this information in person.

  • Acknowledge that both the child and the parents need to settle into this new routine and that it takes different amounts of time depending on each child/family. Some children may settle in very quickly, others may take more time. The younger the child the longer it may take them to settle.
  • Give the parents pictures and basic information about the childminder and her family so the child is already familiar with some of the faces they may encounter.
  • Ask for the parents to supply photos of the child’s family for the childminder to make a ‘family book’ with so they child always has pictures of their family that they can look at and talk to the childminder about. For younger children the childminder can make these into lift the flap ‘peekabo’ books to encourage an understanding of object permanence.
  • Encourage parents to provide a comfort object if the child needs it for example a soft toy or a scarf belonging to Mummy which has a scent familiar to the child that the childminder can wear when holding the child.
  • Encourage the parents to use settling in sessions, the first of which where the parent can stay and then in subsequent sessions gradually spends less time staying with the child.
  • Where practical and safe to do so arrange a visit to the child’s home before they start. This way the child can first meet the new practitioner in an environment that is safe and familiar to them.
  • Be available for the parent(s), especially in the first few days (as the parent may be feeling more anxious than the child which the child will then pick up on, resulting in the child feeling anxious too and less likely to settle.) The parent may be put at ease with lots of texts to let them know how the child is doing, or photos of what the child is up to.
  • Make time to talk to the parent at drop off and pick up to facilitate the development of good and trusting relationships as well as to exchange any useful day to day information.
  • Be mindful and respectful of the child’s feelings. At first they may want to just cuddle you rather than joining in with any activities. Take time with older, verbal children for them to be able to talk about their feelings.

How childminders can help with ALL transitions:

  • Have a good understanding of child development and the importance and role of attachment.
  • Give older child time to talk about the transition and their feelings around it. However let the children take the lead in this and do not force them to talk if they do not want to. Support children by helping them understand and label their emotions. Children will often want to spend more time with you at times of transition.
  • Share information! Work with parents to agreed ways of supporting both the child and the parent. For children starting in your setting ‘All about me’ forms can be really useful and for children leaving to join a bigger setting or to start school sharing ‘transition forms’ is a helpful way of making the transition as smooth as possible.
  • Use resources such as books, dolls, social stories and role play toys to help the child explore the situation and their feelings towards it. This can prompt children to ask questions and talk about the events they are experiencing/will experience.
  • Children with additional needs may need more support with transitions. For example non-verbal children may benefit from visual prompt cards to facilitate communication or a child with a hearing impairment may need any new vocabulary they are introduced to supported with the correct Makaton or BSL signs, especially those concerning feelings.  Children with SEND may take longer to adapt to periods of change but as each child is different it is important to know your child and their needs so that you can best support them.

What about you?

Finally I want to mention possibly the most important person in the process – you! Transitions do not just affect the child and their parents; they will have an effect on you too.

It can be nerve wracking getting to know a new child and family and heart-breaking to say goodbye to a child leaving to start school. Be kind to yourself. Do not plan any big events or complicated activities when a new child is starting. Make sure you get plenty of sleep and make sure you have a healthy sandwich prepared the night before so that you have something to eat at lunch if things get hectic. Acknowledging the fact that this is a time of change for you too will hopefully make for a happier and smoother transition time for everyone.


You may find the following products helpful:

Share information to help support smooth transitions

Super Summative Assessment and Gap Tracker Kit £15

This kit contains all the tools you need to sum up a child’s development and achievements, right from when a child starts with you, all the way until they leave to go to nursery or school.  From ‘All about Me’ forms, starting points, transition and report templates as well as sample reports, tips and of course a gap tracker for when you need it.

Build professional relationships with parents

Partnership with Partnership with Parents Pack

An essential tool to help you build and develop your partnership with parents. From help advertising and attracting new families, through to daily communication and letter templates to send to help deal with tricky situations in a professional manner, this pack has everything you need.

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8 Things Ofsted wants childminders to STOP doing – by Jennifer Fishpool

Change is upon childminders again! The new EYFS Framework becomes statutory on the 1st of September 2021 and with inspections up and running again and now potentially only once every 6 years, there is more pressure than ever on getting it right on the day. But what about the long stretch of time that falls between inspections? With a six year gap it would now be entirely possible to look after a child from when he was a baby until when he starts school without any paperwork you create for him ever being seen by an inspector. So should childminders stop doing all paperwork?

There is a growing rumour that Ofsted have banned paperwork and some practitioners say that they are going to stop doing ANY except the statutory requirements. This represents a gross misunderstanding of the expectations on childminders. Before you throw the baby out with the bathwater let’s make sure we really understand what Ofsted is asking.

1. Stop ticking boxes on ‘trackers’ and highlighting copies of Development Matters

Trackers are the biggie which lots of people have been talking about. Ofsted have NEVER asked you to highlight copies of Development Matters or to spend hours colouring in boxes on individual trackers. Childminders should be focusing on providing a broad and balanced curriculum for children and one of the reasons Ofsted do NOT want you to use trackers in this way is because some settings were so focused on getting the children to achieve and exceed each one of the ‘statements’ that the children were getting a very narrow learning experience.

However, all that being said, don’t throw away all those trackers just yet! Many practitioners find them very useful and if that applies to you there is no need to stop using them as long as you consider their limitations. If you find yourself using them as a curriculum, a list of goals or next steps for children, or worrying if children miss steps or do not develop in the exact order written on the paperwork then STOP! This is not how trackers should be used. If you use a simple tracker which is quick and easy to use and helps you spot any gaps in learning or key points that may raise concerns, then great, this is a useful way to use this type of assessment.

2. Stop writing pages of meaningless observations

childminding paperwork

It is our job as childminders to constantly observe children to assess their development and needs. However, STOP making pointless observations that simply generate paperwork and don’t really add value for either the childminder or the child. If you know and the parents know that the child can use a spoon you don’t need a photo and accompanying write up to prove it. Think about what you really need to observe and whether writing it down will add value to what you already do. Let me be clear that you should not stop doing written observations altogether, as done properly and with clear purpose, they are extremely useful.

(If you are new to observing children and how to get the most benefit from it without it taking too much time look out for our ‘Don’t Panic! Beginners Guide to Observations,’ coming soon.)

3. Stop generating ‘data’ and ‘evidence’ in general

The new EYFS and Development Matters are intended to give you an opportunity to refresh your setting’s curriculum to ensure that it focusses on your children’s needs. You should stop spending time unnecessarily gathering evidence and you should certainly spend less time generating ‘data’. Data includes photographs that serve no proper purpose and next steps that are not followed up. Instead spend time creating a broad and balanced curriculum.

4. Stop assessing children unnecessarily

Stop doing any assessments that are not beneficial to the children you are looking after. Pages and pages of ‘next steps’ in learning journeys are not helpful. Especially if they are not acted upon. If you instead ‘know’ inside of you from your knowledge of Development Matters what comes next, you don’t need to write this out anymore. You are allowed to use your ‘professional knowledge’ of child development and the child.

5. Stop making learning journeys without asking yourself why you are making them?

Please notice that I did not say to stop making learning journeys. This is another hot topic of debate on forum discussions and many childminders are overreacting and throwing away their learning journeys. Ofsted does not want you to do this as long as you are making them for the right reasons.

So why make learning journeys?  Do not make learning journeys with photographs of observations and little circled areas of learning and development FOR the Ofsted inspector. They are not interested and may not even ask to see your learning journeys. These documents should only be generated for you and for the parents and only if you find that making them is helpful. Many families enjoy receiving them and you may secretly enjoy making them. However, many parents are perfectly happy with WhatsApp messages and you are allowed to use your ‘professional knowledge’ as long as you really do know where each child is at in his or her stage or development. Personally I think a balance is a good solution. I will still send my parents lots of photos as I love taking them and they love receiving them, but I will not be printing many out and will only include the occasional observation in a much shorter ‘learning story,’ to help me remember where each child is and to provide a lovely memento for the parents when the child eventually leaves my setting.

6. Stop doing unnecessarily detailed written planning you then don’t stick to

STOP doing any paperwork at all that has no use aside from the fact that you think Ofsted might want to look at it. For example horrifically detailed weekly plans that you don’t stick to. The new Development Matters makes it clear that it is up to childminders to use their professional judgment and knowledge to observe children and to plan for their next steps. Julian Grenier led on the revision of Development Matters for the Department for Education. He is clear that you should use Development Matters to help you use your knowledge of each child to facilitate holistic learning that helps children to make progress “without generating unnecessary paperwork.”

This video is a nice overview of the new EYFS and how it links to Development Matters with its goal to “improve outcomes for all children, especially disadvantaged children, and to reduce teacher and practitioner workload.”

7. Stop hitting the target and missing the point with the Early Learning Goals

The Department for Education does not want you to feel restrained by the Early Learning Goals and actually they are primarily there for reception teachers to assess their children against at the end of their time in the Foundation Stage.

The most important point is that a childminder should not write a curriculum plan around a learning goal because the ELGs are really narrow. For example, one of the ELGs under physical development is that children should be able to ‘move energetically, such as running, jumping, dancing, hopping, skipping and climbing’. A childminder could read that and decide that since jumping is obviously important that they would buy a trampoline, but not waste their time with ball skills since those are not specifically mentioned. That is pretty much what the Department of Education does not want you to do with the ELGs. Your physical development gross motor skills curriculum should not exclude spending time doing ball and other PE skills

8. Stop doing anything ‘for Ofsted’

They always say this, but nobody really believes them. With inspections now every 6 years, of course you are going to want to get the best grade you possibly can at your inspection because you will be stuck with whatever you get for a long time!  So, of course you should prepare carefully for your inspection as you always would by being mostly ready for inspection all the time, by being the best childminder you can be all the time, but by perhaps reading through a copy of our Ultimate Childminding Checklist before the big day to make sure you aren’t forgetting anything obvious.

In conclusion, childminders need to think about what is really beneficial to support our practice (and this will be different for each practitioner depending on their needs.) It is about finding a sensible balance, not stopping all paperwork.  If you only have one child you may be able to retain all the information you need on their development without writing anything down but how will you share that information with the parents? You may have more children but have a fantastic memory and still not have to write down much in order to be able to confidently tell an Ofsted Inspector the ‘story’ of each child, but will you be able to spot gaps in learning quickly I think that most of us will still find keeping some sort of records beneficial so don’t burn those learning journeys and trackers just yet!

References

Burchall, J. (2021, May). Ofsted early education update . Retrieved from http://www.theofstedbigconversation.co.uk: https://theofstedbigconversation.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Ofsted-presentation-Ofsted-early-education-update-early-years-providers-Summer-2021.pdf

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Kids To Go was established by Kay Woods in 2008 and is now run by Jennifer. We provide childminding and Early Years resources such as the ‘Ultimate Childminding Checklist’, the ‘Childminding Best Practice Club’ and best practice resources promoting diversity, safety and childminding in the great outdoors (Forest Childcare). We also have a Facebook page at ‘Kids To Go’ and a free weekly newsletter which you can subscribe to by sending an email with the subject ‘subscribe’ to jennifer@kidstogo.co.uk

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Have childminded children forgotten how to play with others post lock-down? – by guest blogger Samantha Boyd

Have you noticed on social media sites how many childminders are talking about the behaviour of the children – varying in ages – when playing since the return from lockdown? A childminder contacted Kay saying “The children are all very happy but have forgotten how to share and play so we are concentrating on turn taking, sharing and emotions as well as talking lots about family – generally the same as most first terms but the lack of interaction between kids does seem to be a bit more obvious this term. I guess six months without play groups and play dates has taken its toll.” Many other childminders that I have spoken to have been dealing with the same behaviours being displayed by children since returning back to work after lockdown.

For most children, play is where they learn about social interaction. They learn what is acceptable and what is not, and play is a safe place to act out things they have experienced. With lockdown this was denied to them for what is a long period of time (in their short lives) and deprived them of this important aspect of their learning.

During difficult and stressful times, play allows children to make sense of the world around them and helps to support their emotional wellbeing and build resilience. Returning to settings after a long period of being within their family unit, has heightened childrens anxieties, on top of what is already a stressful time with added pressures at home, such as worry about unemployment, finances, strained relationships, grief.

So what, as childcare professionals, can we do to support the children during these transitions. The following 6 suggestions came from http://www.youngminds.org.uk:

  1. Talk to the children about their feelings
  2. Talk to the children about the routines you have; or the rhythm of the day and provide a visual prompt, if this would help (Great for non-verbal or SEN children).
  3. Reassure the children – they are receiving a lot of messages regarding social distancing, washing hands, germs, illness and death – and this is all scary stuff when you are young.
  4. Keep things simple – allow children to play – explain that children do not have to give up a toy if they are still playing with it – snatching – patience and taking turns – facilitate play and have strategies in place to deal with any issues (see below).
  5. Go easy on yourself and ensure that you are looking after your own mental health.

Taking turns is a social skill and http://www.andnextcomesl.com  has some great ideas to teach this –

  1. Use a visual cue ie a talking stick
  2. Use turn taking language – “my turn, your turn”
  3. Model turn taking – show them what to do
  4. Play games that involve turn taking such as board games and card games
  5. Use a social story – see free link to a free printable and video about sharing
  6. Use a timer to indicate how long each turn will be – use oven timer/egg timer. This reinforces fairness and acts as a visual or auditory cue.
  7. Communicating and describing turns – first its x’s turn, then its yours – 5 minutes each.
  8. Use a fidget between turns such as a spinner, putty or ball.

If a child persists in snatching or aggressive behaviour – remove from the activity, explaining “You were having a hard time (taking turns with your friends) and you were not being kind. You need a break” NB THIS IS NOT TIME OUT!. Sit with the child and calmly talk to them about their feelings, the whys and what ifs. Once the child is calm, say they may rejoin the play but only if they can take turns and act kindly.

Remember sharing and turn taking are hard skills to master! So… work with parents to come up with some strategies; be mindful around the children regarding language and show by example; look after yourself.

Some great resources and further information can be found here:

www.outdoorplaycanada.ca/2020/05/13/play-first-supporting-childrens-social-and-emotional-wellbeing-during-and-after-lockdown/

www.youngminds.org.uk/blog/supporting-a-child-returning-to-school-after-lockdown/

www.kids-harbor.com/teach-child-take-turns/

 

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About Samantha Boyd

I am a mum of 3, a qualified Forest School Leader and childminder, graded outstanding in 2015 and 2020 and am currently studying a childhood studies degree with the open university. I have a love for loose parts and the outdoors and am currently working through the Curiosity Approach accreditation. I have a passion to allow children the space and time to explore and love setting up ‘invitations to play’ and seeing where the children will take it.

 

 

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

Loose parts

By Guest Blogger Samantha Boyd

Updated 12/08/2022

Loose parts is a term that is becoming more and more popular within education but particularly in Early Years settings and if you are looking to be more environmentally friendly, is a great way to recycle and reuse. So, what are loose parts and what benefit do they have to children’s play and development?

Loose parts are not toys, in fact they are the exact opposite. A toy has one purpose, to be what it was built for. It cannot be anything else. A loose part however, with a little imagination can be absolutely anything.

Simon Nicholson created the theory of loose parts in 1971. He was an architect who believed that all children were creative, and that this creativity should be nurtured and encouraged, rather than suppressed by what adults believed children should be like. So, he tried giving open ended materials that could be used with imagination and become anything the child wanted it to become – they can become parts of construction, pattern forming, used in role play and social play, anything; and he was amazed by the imagination and creativity the children showed. Actively engaged children are resilient learners who can solve problems and think outside the box.

Some examples of loose parts:

Natural: shells, stones, wood chips, pine cones, leaves, feathers, seeds, flowers

Manufactured: buttons, boxes, fabric, ribbons, nuts and bolts, pegs, pipes, guttering, straws.

When using loose parts, children can follow their own agenda, their own learning. Set up invitations to play and see what the children can do. Trust the children to know. You may need to model how to use them. Many children are not sure what to do because they have not needed to use their imaginations in this way as toys and adults have told them what to do with things. So, allow the children to explore these objects.

Ask parents to support you by asking for donations. You will be surprised at how supportive parents are.

Here is an example of some artwork achieved with loose parts.


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Sign up for the free quarterly Childminding Best Practice Newsletter and we 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.

About Kids To Go

Established in 2008, Kids To Go specialise in high-quality activities, easy to use paperwork, information and advice for childminders, nannies and nurseries. products include the Ultimate Childminding Checklist, best practice resources promoting diversity, safety and childminding in the great outdoors (Forest Childcare).

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Should you give childminded children homework to support learning at home?

It is an EYFS requirement that childminders “must seek to engage and support parents in guiding their child’s development at home.” Ofsted inspectors take this requirement very seriously. In fact, many childminders miss out on outstanding by overlooking this and comments like “Although the childminder works well in partnership with parents, she has not developed highly effective systems to share information with parents about how they can continue to support their child’s learning at home” often appear on inspection reports.

Parents have mixed reactions to the idea of ‘structured activities’ and ‘homework’. Some love it and want more of it. Others don’t feel it is appropriate. In deciding what to do with your children and families, you need to look carefully at your families and at what you are trying to achieve in your setting.

 

Your attitude to what you are sending home is crucial to engaging both the parents and children

The amount and type of activities you offer as suggestions to parents is going to be important and depend very much on what YOUR parents will do. An activity could be as simple as loaning a book to parents once a week to match a theme you are exploring in your setting, or could involve you ‘assigning’ activity sheets (like the colouring pages or maths sheets from my Childminding Best Practice Monthly Packs) for example.

When I used to take the children to music club once a week, as we left we were handed a colouring page. This colouring page was different from ‘ordinary colouring pages’ because the ‘Teddies Guitar Lady’ had given it to us to do. We took that colouring page very much more seriously than others we might do during the week that followed. So if you establish these assigned colouring pages, toys or reading books as important and as things to be taken seriously, then parents and children are more likely to treat them as such.

 

Why send things home?

I think it is important to be clear in your own mind WHY you are sending things home with parents. You don’t want to feel that you are wasting your time or the parents’ time or being unreasonable. So have a clear ‘purpose’ about what you are trying to achieve whether it is helping parents out, linking learning in their home with what you are learning in your setting, or getting children (and parents) ready for school. Remember that if you want parents to take it seriously and if you want them to do your ‘assignments’ with their children then you need to take yourself (and the activities) seriously as well.

 

Share ‘tip sheets’ and other tools to help parents support specific aspects of their child’s learning and development at home

One of the best types of activities to send home are activities that a parent can use to help a child on a particular learning goal he is working towards at that time. Suppose a child is working on tying his shoes. It would be fantastic to send him home with one of those wooden shoes with practice shoelaces on them. Suppose a child is just learning how to use scissors? Then a simple art project that requires him to cut something out would be perfect.

A big thing for any parent is potty training? Could you create a ‘tip sheet’ for parents – helping them to reinforce some of the ways you do things here? ‘I noticed that your child is ready for potty training. Here are some tips…’ You could send the sheet home along with a friendly children’s book about potty training that week for the parents to read at home.

Remember that all of these types of activities, suggestions and information you share with parents make you appear to be more and more of a childcare professional in their eyes.

 

‘Narrowing the gap’

According to the Ofsted publication Teaching and Play in the Early Years – a balancing act? “Children from poor backgrounds are much less likely to experience a rich and rewarding home learning environment than children from better off backgrounds.” Research suggests that good partnership working gives parents confidence to help with teaching their children. Sending things home to children from disadvantaged backgrounds is also important because you are helping to prepare the parents as much as the children for ‘doing homework’ ready for school.

Ofsted states that The best settings were acting to break any possibility of an inter-generational cycle of low achievement… the most effective providers go out of their way to engage with parents who may themselves have had a bad experience of education.”

 

Offering challenges to children who are ahead

At the other end of the spectrum you can send home activities to show how you are ‘challenging children who are ahead’. Their parents may love the idea that you are helping them to get ready for school and will treat your assignments with all the seriousness we used to treat our Teddies Music Club colouring pages!

 

Give careful consideration to the frequency of home learning suggestions

How often should you lend books to children and expect them to do activity sheets and sit down with their child to do a jigsaw type activity? This is a difficult question because it depends very much on the type of parent and on your relationship with the parent. Some may be very receptive to the idea while others simply can’t be bothered to take the time. Others may feel strongly that they actually don’t want their small child given anything resembling a school worksheet. You have to respect parents’ wishes here whatever you may feel.

 

Don’t overdo the paperwork you expect parents to fill in – if you overdo it, parents won’t do any of it

I know that it is tempting to want the parents to document every little activity you do so that you have ‘proof for the Ofsted inspector’, but this can seriously backfire and I don’t recommend it. If you want parents to fill in a long form every time you lend them a book or a game, then they will quickly (very quickly) get bored of doing ALL parts of the task. They will see the form and decide that they can’t face the jigsaw because they can’t be bothered to fill the form and will return both unused. Ask yourself if you really need to make them fill in a form or if there is some other way you can document what you are doing for Ofsted? If you must use a form, remember to keep it simple for parents to fill in, or they will vote with their feet and abandon all of your homework ideas as too much work.

 

What sort of thing should you send home?

Some childminders lend children everyday toys. Others keep a few things special, just to be used for home sharing. Some examples of the sorts of things other childminders send home to support learning at home are:

  • A reading book – chosen by the child, or to support a theme you are exploring
  • Story sacks
  • Nursery rhyme sacks
  • Story stones
  • A group toy to be looked after for the weekend
  • Colouring pages
  • ‘Worksheets’ or activity sheets
  • Maths games and jigsaw puzzles
  • Pre-prepared art kit with child sized scissors, glue stick and crayons etc

There are lots of ways that you can support children’s learning at home and it is up to you and parents how far you want to push the idea of ‘homework from my childminder’. So much depends on the types of parents, ages and stages of the children you are looking after, but the more seriously and regularly you take your home learning plan, the more seriously the parents will take it and the more benefit to everyone there will be. If you don’t have a home learning plan for your setting, why not write one today?

Remember to take yourself seriously and aim high!

Good luck with whatever you decide to do. 

 

Communication with Parents Pack

My NEW Communication with Parents Pack includes tools to help you to create a home learning plan for your setting, plus details suggestions on specific ways you can support learning at home. The pack includes information for new childminders setting up and for experienced childminders hoping to achieve outstanding.

Pack includes:

  • Supporting learning at home
  • Attracting new parents to your setting – improving your marketing skills to get new parents to contact you, your unique selling points, WOW factors, managing the ‘first visit’
  • Audit your setting to improve what you do
  • Sharing challenging information about their child’s learning and development with parents in a tactful way
  • Parent and child questionnaires
  • Letter templates for challenging situations – late payment, late collection, unhealthy lunches, terminating your contract with a family
  • Transition programme

Use the tools in my new pack to examine what is working well and what needs to be improved in terms of how you communicate with parents.

 

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 things childminders should always do when communicating with parents

Last updated 23/06/2022

Young children flourish best when parents and childminders work well together and form a ‘partnership’ but as all childminders know, some parents are easier to work with than others. Keep these 10 simple things in mind when you reflect on how you communicate with your parents.

 

1. However you may be feeling, SMILE when people come through the door every time.

Good body language makes such a difference to face to face communication. Make sure all parents get a warm and genuine greeting. Make time to listen to each parent and use ACTIVE listening skills. When you are handing over their child, you shouldn’t be packing up boxes, or tidying at the same time. When you are talking with a parent, give them eye contact and your full attention, just for a few minutes.

 

2. Show ALL parents that your setting welcomes diversity

Make sure that your resources and displays represent the ethnic, cultural and social diversity in your community and ensure that parents can see their own family background and culture represented in your wall displays. Most importantly, learn to pronounce parents’ names correctly.

 

3. Make everybody feel welcome including fathers

Stereotypical views of childcare as women’s work can make childcare feel like a no-go area for some fathers. Go out of your way to make fathers feel welcome. If you invite parents to do activities at your setting, make sure these activities are for ‘parents’ not ‘mums’.

 

4. Use whatever forms of communication work best for the parents, not for you

Communication takes many different forms and as a childminder in a modern age you need to be flexible. What works well for one parent, may not work well for another. And don’t forget fathers. They may prefer different communication methods than mothers. Ask parents about what form of communication they would prefer and try to do whatever works best for them.

 

5. Always get a written contract in place

Always get a written contract with parents because this sets the right tone for your “business” relationship right from the very start. Even if you are childminding your best friend’s little girl (in fact, especially if you are minding for a friend) make sure you get a contract because this is a business arrangement that is outside of your friendship. A contract in writing protects everyone from later misunderstandings.

 

6. Establish yourself as a ‘friendly professional’ NOT a friend

It is entirely up to you what ‘tone’ you establish with the parents of the children you look after but if you become their “friend”, it can be hard to have serious discussions about late payment or their child’s problematic behaviours later on. Instead, if you set yourself up to be a friendly professional, then you have established the necessary boundaries you may find helpful later on.

 

7. Make sure that the parent always has the impression that you are happy to talk longer with them if they need to

Sometimes an issue is too big to discuss in your doorway, especially if there are other parents around or the child is listening in. In this case, don’t try to rush it, ask the parent “when can we talk more formally” and tell them you will be in touch to arrange a time by email or text message later on.

 

8. Have two bulletin boards

Many childminders have overflowing bulletin boards full of all sorts of curling paperwork that no one except the Ofsted inspector ever needs to see. The clutter of paper makes it impossible for anybody to read the important messages hidden between the rubbish.

One way to handle this is to have TWO bulletin boards: an Ofsted inspector bulletin board with all the paperwork you have to display for legal reasons like your registration certificate and the parent poster AND a totally separate Parent Information Board on which you put things you actually want parents to see like your weekly plan of activities, menus and your holiday chart.

 

9. Invite parents into your setting for an event

Parents can make a valuable contribution to all the children’s learning by sharing their time, experiences and talents. If their home culture is different to yours inviting a parent to do an activity with you could even be a fabulous diversity activity for everyone. Hold a special event and invite parents to join you for the afternoon. 

 

10. Give parents clear ideas of how they can support learning at home

The best way to help a child in the long run is to help his parents because parents are the most important influences in a child’s life. Give lots of specific help and encouragement to parents whenever you can, give them tools to support their child’s learning at home, and take extra time to help more vulnerable parents.

Partnership with Parents Pack

Our Partnership with Parents Pack includes a communications audit that you can use to examine what is working well and what you need to improve. The pack challenges you to think about how parents want to FEEL when they choose a childminder and includes information for new childminders setting up and for experienced childminders hoping to achieve outstanding

The pack includes:

  • Supporting learning at home
  • Attracting new parents to your setting – improving your marketing skills to get new parents to contact you, your unique selling points, WOW factors, managing the ‘first visit’
  • Audit your setting to improve what you do
  • Sharing challenging information about their child’s learning and development with parents in a tactful way
  • Parent and child questionnaires
  • Letter templates for challenging situations – late payment, late collection, unhealthy lunches, terminating your contract with a family

Childminding Best Practice Newsletter

Sign up for the free Childminding Best Practice Newsletters to be sent best practice ideas, childminding news, EYFS tips, outstanding ideas, stories from other childminders, arts and crafts project templates, new products, and links.

10 Mistakes Childminders make on Parent Questionnaires

Sending out parent questionnaires is something that many childminders do. They are a great way to prove in writing that you are ‘communicating with parents’ and seeking their views about ways to improve your service.

But have you asked yourself WHY you are sending them? What is their purpose? What are you trying to achieve from the paperwork you are sending home and parents are spending their evenings diligently filling in?

Many childminders are making these mistakes on their parent questionnaires. Are you?

 

1. Asking “yes” or “no” questions

Questions on parent questionnaires need to be open-ended, otherwise you are unlikely to gather any useful information from the parent. If you send home a list of statements asking the parent to circle yes/no or true/false then a yes or no answer is all the information you will find out. How are yes/no answers meaningful?

For example, suppose you ask a parent:

  • Are you happy with the quality of food I provide? Yes/No
  • Do you feel that I am helping your child to be ready for school? Yes/No

Then you force them to circle either a yes or a no. What have you learned from those answers? Nothing helpful at all.

Here are open-ended versions of the same questions:

  • How satisfied are you with the quality of the food and snacks I provide? Is there any way I could improve this?
  • Is there anything more you wish I would do here to help to prepare your child for school

You will learn a lot more from asking open ended questions than you would ever learn from closed ones.

 

childminding paperwork2. Doing parent questionnaires for the Ofsted inspector

Only use parent questionnaires if you really plan to use them to improve your business. While they are a great way to prove in writing that you are communicating with parents, please keep in mind that they take up not only a lot of parents’ time, but your time too. If you are just doing them to stick them in a file to show Ofsted then you are completely wasting everybody’s time. The Ofsted inspector doesn’t care that you have stacks of paperwork – they care about how you are gathering the views of others and acting on suggestions for improvement.

 

3. Not reading what the parents have written

I heard of a childminder who was marked down at an inspection because she couldn’t read the questionnaire a parent had completed in front of the inspector. The childminder couldn’t make out the parent’s handwriting and thought it was unfair. But seriously?  What is the point of asking the parent to fill it out if you can’t read what they say and don’t care enough about their answer to bother asking them to clarify? 

 

4. Asking questions you don’t care about the answers to

For every question you write on your parent questionnaire, ask yourself: what am I going to DO with the answer I receive? If the answer is ‘NOTHING’ then don’t ask the question. Only ask questions that you care about the answers to. Only ask questions that matter and those with potential solutions.

 

5. Making questionnaires too long

Parents are busy. Really busy. Just like you. They do not have time to fill in pages and pages of pointless forms for their childminder. Parents will feel that they are doing you a favour by filling in your questionnaire. They are doing something to help you. So you should treat their time and effort with respect by not taking up too much of it, by taking a genuine interest in their answers, by responding positively to any criticism you receive and by not expecting them to write too much or too often.

 

6. Sending questionnaires home too frequently

For exactly the same reasons as above, as well as making them too long, don’t send them home too frequently. If you want parents to fill in your forms properly, then about once a year is really the maximum frequency you can expect meaningful responses from busy parents.

 

7. Taking suggestions for improvements poorly

In business one of the BEST things that people can do is to complain to you about something. If one person complains directly to you, it is an opportunity for you to fix a problem that is probably affecting other people too. Sometimes it can be hard getting negative feedback. Try to remember that honest, negative feedback given directly to you is better than parents spreading rumours and complaining behind your back.

 

8. Filing them away without acting on anything

If parents take the time to fill in your questionnaire, it is important not just to read them but to have in place a procedure to act on the changes they suggest. Perhaps you have a self-evaluation document you can use? How will you hold yourself accountable for making the change?

 

9. Not feeding back to parents about changes you have made as a result of their suggestions

Make sure you have a method in place to show that you are acting on any problems, changes or things that need improvement that your questionnaires raise – one idea is to have a ‘You asked, We did’ board for example. If parents take the time to comment and suggest improvements they will be flattered that you listened and changed something as a result of something they suggested. This will make the parents feel happy and is a very professional way to treat people!

 

10. Not asking for the children’s opinions as well

The last thing that many childminders do with parent questionnaires is to have a small section on them to gather the children’s opinions as well. I think the best way to do this is to ask the parents to speak to their children and to write what they say. Think very carefully about the types of questions you want answers to from the children. Like the parents there is no point in asking the question if you have no intention of using the answers they have provided to make useful changes.

 

Used properly, parent questionnaires can be a great way to show that you are communicating with parents and acting on suggestions for improvements given by others. Remember to treat everyone’s time and effort with respect by not taking up too much of it, by taking a genuine interest in parents’ answers, by responding positively to any criticism you receive and by not overusing questionnaires.

 

Communication with Parents Pack

My NEW Communication with Parents Pack includes tools to help you to improve how you communicate with parents including sample open ended parent and child questionnaires you can use for your setting. Pack also includes how to extend learning at home, working in partnership in difficult situations, your transition programme, marketing your services and sample late payment and contract termination letters. 

 

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

15 jobs childminders can do to earn extra money alongside childminding

Many childminders find that childminding just doesn’t earn as much money as they need and do a second job alongside childminding. If you are in the situation of looking to top up your income, then here are some of the jobs that other childminders do alongside childminding.

 

Nails

Doing nails isn’t necessarily a cheap business to set up but many childminders find that this can be a great side job because it can be done totally flexibly in evenings and weekends or alongside the hours you work. One childminder writes: “I’ve been childminding over 14 years and trained in nails 3 years ago. I’ve got a really good second business now. Only thing is I now work 65 hours plus a week!”

 

Evening or weekend job in a supermarket, waitressing or bartending etc.

Lots of childminders take on evening and weekend hours at supermarkets, bars or waitressing type jobs. These types of jobs tend to offer the flexible hours that you will need if you are childminding during the day. The real benefit of taking a second job in a big shop or restaurant etc. is that the pay and hours will be guaranteed. Another benefit is that you will get to enjoy some adult company as many childminders find it lonely working alone with small children all day.

 

Part time work in the job you did prior to childminding

Some childminders split their time between childminding and the job they used to do before they were childminders. For example, one childminder “works 3 days a week as a childminder and then does 2 days in her school as a teaching assistant.” When I was childminding I spent spare moments working freelance for my old boss, doing bits and pieces of marketing work, websites and writing press releases and such. The key benefit of this is that it kept my business skills going and allowed me to keep doing work that I’ve always enjoyed. If you have the skills, be brave and approach your old company (or other companies) about freelance work.

 

Tutor

Many childminders have teaching experience or come from a background in a subject (like a foreign language) that makes being a tutor a natural idea. Tutoring fits nicely into evenings and weekends and could even be done alongside after school childcare. If you are good at what you do, then you will likely get more business through word of mouth. Some people specialise in things like ‘11+ training’ which is highly sought after in certain areas and therefore pays very well.

 

eBay craft business or “market stall”

If you are crafty and creative, then you can earn a few extra pounds selling your craft stuff on eBay or Etsy. Some childminders make greeting cards, hampers and gifts for example. Another way to sell things you make like cakes and biscuits is to rent a market stall. The downside is that unless you really hit on a genius or unique idea, the money and hours you spend making the products can make it hard to treat this as a ‘job’ – more of a ‘nice little bonus when you sell something’.

 

Sell beauty products, Ann Summers or books like Usborne

A side job for many childminders is to sell beauty products such as Avon or Forever Living. You can sell to family and friends by holding ‘parties’ or set up and sell online. Another thing you can sell are books for companies like Usborne. When signing on to this sort of thing, be very careful about the amount of time and money you will need to spend from your own pocket and check that you can really make a profit. Beauty products and books can be expensive, so make sure you read all the small print and check that you can afford to lose the money if you can’t sell the items.

 

Cake making

If you are great at making cakes and are a creative, arty person, you can make cakes for other people. Another option a friend of mine did, was to make and sell loaves of bread. Before starting something like a cake business, be very careful to work out your real costs including just how much time it is likely to take you. One childminder writes: “Only problem with cake making is that people aren’t prepared to pay the price for the quality and time I put in to them. I have given up now. I think my problem was that I really cared about doing a great job. I should probably have just chucked them out quickly.”

 

Teach fitness classes

A great way to get fit yourself and make extra money is to teach fitness classes. Many childminders are also fitness instructors for Zumba or yoga etc.

Counsellor

If you are good at listening to people’s problems, you could consider training to become a professional counsellor. Please bear in mind that there are many hours of training to complete and once you have finished your training you will need to advertise to get business. But the pay is ultimately good and it would fit well around childminding as you can set your own hours.

 

Dog walking business

A dog walking business will keep you fit. Many childminders do this before school. One of the key problems with this type of business is setting it up in the first place. It can be hard to find more than the occasional hour and there is lots of competition. Another downside is that you have to be very organised to coordinate this work around childminding.

 

Photographer

There is a lot more to setting up a photography business than just taking good photographs, but some childminders find that this works well on weekends. Please keep in mind that it is a very tough, competitive market and once you’ve invested in all your equipment, there is no guarantee of work.

 

Sewing or ironing

A classic evening or weekend job is to do alterations on clothing or take in ironing. People will always need dresses taken up and clothing ironed.  Lots of childminders sew or iron in their spare time.

 

Data entry jobs and online surveys can be stead and flexible 

If you have previous office experience, this could be a great job because you can do it whenever you get spare time on your home computer. You generally get paid for data entry by the number of entries you make rather than by the hour, which means you can go back and forth to it when you get a spare few minutes. Online survey companies are another thing you can do in your spare time and get paid for. This is great work for people who type well!

 

Market research companies

You can get paid quite well for just a couple of hours of your time answering questions about a company’s products. I have done this myself on a few occasions and found it was actually quite fun.

 

Handyman (or handywoman), cleaning or gardening services

Are you good at doing little jobs around the house? Many childminders are very practical people and other people will gladly pay you to hang pictures or shelves or fix a bicycle. Cleaning or gardening is similar work that can pay quite well and be done evenings or weekends. We have a guy who comes to our house, takes all our bikes away and services them for us, then brings them back to our house when they are done. This is a clever, niche business if you are good with your hands.

 

There you have it. Some ideas to consider if you are looking for ways to make some extra money around childminding. Do something else not listed here? Please add it in the comments below.

Good luck with whatever you decide to do!

 

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

Can you name 10 reasons childminders are better than nurseries?

If you can’t name 10 reasons that childminders are better than nurseries, then you shouldn’t be surprised when you lose business to them. Parents are overwhelmed with choice when it comes to care for their children and one of the choices they have to make is whether to send their child to a nursery or a childminder. You could probably write your own list of the benefits of childminders, but could parents write this list? Could YOUR parents write this list about YOU? Or have they forgotten why they chose you to look after their child?

The purpose of this article is two-fold. Firstly, to make sure that you have a clear idea in your own mind about why you are better than the nursery down the road. Secondly, to make sure that you are successfully communicating this information to parents, both to attract new business and to retain the business you have.

 

Part 1: Here are a list of general reasons why childminders are better than nurseries. Which of the following apply to you? Can you add to this list?

  • Real-life experiences like trips to the shops, gardening, visiting the library, taking an outing to the park, cooking their lunch.
  • Flexible opening hours
  • Helping older children with homework after school.
  • Trips to soft play, music club, classes and clubs
  • A consistent key person – a secure attachment figure who doesn’t change day to day – a chance for a child to build a long lasting close relationship over a period of time
  • Care for siblings alongside each other
  • Mixed age ranges of children all playing together can have enormous benefits for all children
  • Smaller groups and more individual attention
  • A home environment offers flexibility of activities as well as simply the comfort of being in a home rather than a nursery
  • More frequent outings due to smaller number of children to coordinate
  • Opportunities to do Forest Childcare daytrips – many childminders can make the commitment to weekly outdoor outings more easily than a nursery can
  • Quiet spaces to relax – nurseries are noisy and busy

 

Part 2: What is unique about YOUR childminding business? Why should parents choose you?

The second step is to add to the list in Step 1 with the benefits of your own childminding setting. What is different about your business that would make parents want to choose your setting over your local nursery or the childminder down the street? Are you cheaper? Do you provide better meals? Do you speak two languages at home? Do you provide better outings? Do you have a sharp focus on STEM activities? Do you have lots of experience? Are you rated outstanding? Are your prices competitive? Do you offer funded places?

If you are new to childminding, this exercise will help you to think about how to write your directory listings, website entries and any other marketing materials you plan to produce like a brochure, Facebook page or a website. If you have been childminding for a while, do this exercise anyway. It will help you to stand back a little from your business and think about how you make parents aware of the good things you do so that they don’t start looking elsewhere for that ‘next best thing’. 

Not sure what makes your setting or you different? Ask a friend to help you. Sometimes it can be really hard to stand back from yourself far enough to describe yourself well. I once heard that if you register on an online dating site that you should ask someone else to write your profile because it is very hard to describe yourself well. Other people are often better at recognising your good points than you are.

 

Part 3: How do you promote your unique selling points to get “new” business?

Kay Woods Childminder ListingOne of the first places a new parent may hear about you is your online council directory or other directory listing site. These sites are increasingly the gateway through which new parents will find you. Making you and your business stand out from a list of identical-sounding entries for childminders is tough. Your top three unique selling points need to stand out in the first two lines.

Don’t just rely on directory listings to get business. Can you put up flyers at your library or school, or music club or soft play gym? Can you make a website or Facebook page? Whatever methods you use make sure that you focus on what makes you and your setting unique and that this information is clear to parents at a two second glance.

 

Part 4: How do you promote your unique selling points to retain parents’ business over time?

First a parent has to decide to place their baby with you. Then, when their child is old enough for nursery (and qualifies for free hours) they need to make the decision again (how shall I split my time between a nursery and my childminder)? When their child starts school, the parent has to make the decision for a third time (shall I keep my child with my childminder, or sign him up for after school club?) In each instance, the parents will be doing a direct comparison between you and your competition. 

5 senses art project for childmindersYou need to have a strategy for how you plan to KEEP their business. So promoting your unique selling points needs to continue long after you have signed the contract and should be a continual task on your priorities.

The golden rules for dealing with parents are to:

  • Never let them forget why they chose you in the first place
  • Always assume they are looking for the ‘next best thing’
  • Don’t let them take you for granted
  • Treat them as if they are customers who must continue to choose you over the competition

Look closely at your own setting. Which of these methods do you use to promote yourself to parents on an ongoing basis, reminding parents that you are ‘much more than just a babysitter’ and a better choice than switching to a nursery?

  • Engaging conversations at collection time about the things you did with their child that day and what the child is learning at your setting
  • Daily diaries and daily care sheets
  • Photos up in your setting were parents will see them
  • Thank you card board
  • Facebook group or page (private) on which you post activities the children do
  • Whatsapp images
  • Newsletters
  • Learning Journeys showing parents the educational fun you are having
  • Regular art projects sent home and special projects like Christmas cards
  • Weekly plans posted so parents know what activities you are doing
  • Inviting parents to join your activities so they can ‘see you in action’ with the kids
  • Big, bright colourful eye-catching displays mixing photos, artwork and great learning involving all the children
  • Sending home suggestions for how parents can support learning at home

It is a truth in any business that it is always easier to retain the business you have than to get new business. In other words, it should always be easier to keep families once you have them, than to go through the process of advertising and finding new families.

Top tip for helping parents to KEEP CHOOSING you: Get at least one nice photo of yourself WITH the child and send that photo home!

 

Communication with Parents Pack

My NEW Communication with Parents Pack includes tools to help you to write your unique selling points to get new business, to manage the all-important first parent visit and to help you to think about how parents want to FEEL when they choose a childminder. The pack includes information for new childminders setting up and for experienced childminders hoping to achieve outstanding

Pack includes:

  • Supporting learning at home
  • Attracting new parents to your setting – improving your marketing skills to get new parents to contact you, your unique selling points, WOW factors, managing the ‘first visit’
  • Audit your setting to improve what you do
  • Sharing challenging information about their child’s learning and development with parents in a tactful way
  • Parent and child questionnaires
  • Letter templates for challenging situations – late payment, late collection, unhealthy lunches, terminating your contract with a family
  • Transition programme

Use the tools in my new pack to examine what is working well and what needs to be improved in terms of how you communicate with parents.

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

Kids To Go was established by Kay Woods in 2008 and is now run by sisters Jennifer and Amanda. Our 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).

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

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

Should I use a childminding app?

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Should I do an online first aid and safeguarding course?

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

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

 

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

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

 

Learning Journey Plus – Word document based

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

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

 

 

About Kay Woods and Kids To Go

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

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

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

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