A Childminder’s Guide to Writing Starting Points

Note: A shorter version of this blog was originally published in the free Childminding Best Practice Newsletters. If you would like to receive the free newsletters please join via the link at the bottom of this post.

Starting points. It is a subject that comes up a lot. Do you need to do written starting points and when should you do them? What is the difference between starting points and a base-line? What are the official ‘rules’ about starting points?

The EYFS doesn’t directly mention starting points but it does say, ‘Practitioners must consider the individual needs, interests, and development of each child in their care, and must use this information to plan a challenging and enjoyable experience for each child in all areas of learning and development.’ (The Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) page 15.)

The Early Years Inspection Handbook, however does directly mention starting points, ‘The provider must demonstrate how they will . . . identify children’s starting points and ensure that children make progress in their learning through effective planning, observation and assessment, if appropriate.’ (Early Years Inspection Handbook, September 2023 Paragraph 36.)

starting points for childminders

Therefore you do need to have starting points for each child but you do not have to write them down. However I would strongly recommend at least jotting a few notes for yourself so that if you freeze in front of the inspector and forget everything you have something to refer to. (The inspector will not ask to see written records so even just jotting something for yourself on the back of an envelope is fine.)

You may have also heard the term baseline. This term is more commonly associated with a child’s entry to school where teachers now have to complete a baseline assessment of children’s skills and development when they start in Reception. The Government website states: The RBA (The Reception Baseline Assessment) is an activity-based assessment of pupils’ starting points.‘  (Source: Reception baseline assessment – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)) In other words starting points and baseline mean the same thing it’s just that baseline is the term officially used in schools and starting points is the term favoured for childminders.

This is how I do starting points when I have a new little one in my own setting:

Step One: I like to get parents views when gathering information about children’s starting points. After all they are the ones that know their child best. I get them to complete the ‘All About Me’ form from the ‘Super Summative Assessment and Gap Tracker‘ kit. This has been designed to complement the contract in the ‘Contracts, Policies and Forms‘ pack and has room for plenty of essential details like the child’s doctor and health visitor, dietary requirements, etc. However, it also has sections where parents can share information about what a child likes and what they can do. I find this is a simple uncomplicated way for parents to share information in a way that makes them feel that their input is valued from the very start of your relationship. (And without frightening them with specialised language or technical terms!)

Step Two: As well as parents’ input I also like to observe the child and record my own starting points. I do this from the very first meeting with the family as I always ask them to bring the child with them when we meet for the first time. I don’t necessarily write notes when the family is there but I sit on the floor and play with the child, observing what they do. If a child is very young I concentrate on the three prime areas. I also have an informal talk with the parents – they will often share things about their child with you this way that they would not feel comfortable writing down on official looking paperwork. I then jot myself a few rough notes so that I don’t forget anything when the family leaves. I can then compare these with what I know about child development, using official documents if necessary, to give me a picture of where a child’s initial needs may be.

Step Three: Once the child has been with me for a couple of sessions without their family (or just one session if it is a longer one,), if I am unsure of a child’s development in any area, or simply want some more information, I do a short written observation. This is not compulsory, but I personally find sitting for ten minutes and really concentrating on a child helps me focus and I often spot subtle things that I might not otherwise see. (You can miss this step out if you are happy you know the child well.)

Step Four: Finally I use the, ‘Starting my story – the beginning of an exciting journey,’ form – again from the Super Summative Pack, to write a very short report, with a nice picture of the child, about what the child can already do. I share this with parents as it shows them, from the very start of our relationship, that I am a professional and that I value them and their child. I find that parents love this little ‘report,’ in many cases it is their child’s first ever one and can become a special memento!

That is how I do starting points. It works for me, I get the information I need and start of new relationships with parents in a positive way. You may have your own documents that you can use if you want to do it the same way but if not you can find everything you need, plus yearly report templates and samples, transition report templates and samples and a gap tracker in the Super Summative Assessment and Gap Tracker Kit here:

You may also find the following helpful:

Save money with the Super Summative Assessment Bundle deal.

This bundle deal contains the Super Summative Assessment and Progress Check at Age 2 packs. Buy them together and save £6 off the price of buying them individually.

Childminding Best Practice Club Logo

The Childminding Best Practice Club is unique. Designed by childminders for childminders it provides monthly support in the form of emailed toolkit packs. 

Every month members receive a toolkit straight to their email inbox. This is an easy and convenient way to develop your childminding or plan new ideas or activities without having to spend lots of time searching the internet for CPD or planning ideas. Every Club toolkit contains a wealth of ideas, activities and exclusive resources, all designed especially to support you with your childminding adventure.

Contracts, Policies and Forms Pack

Having a clear and robust contract and policies is vital to the smooth running of any childminding business and can help prevent unwanted situations and misunderstandings between parent(s)/guardian(s) and childminders.

This pack contains a fully updated contract, complemented and reinforced by specially written policies. Also included are lots of useful forms for you to use in your business as well as information about the sort of paperwork you will need.

The weekly free Childminding Best Practice email newsletters are great for childminders and EYFS providers. Sign up for free and each week you will be sent a useful email containing things like business tips, activity ideas, childminding news and ideas and more.

Written 28/09/2023

Changes to the September 2023 EYFS for Childminders

(Note: I originally published this blog as an article in my weekly Childminding Best Practice newsletters on the 18th of July 2023. To be first in the know you can sign up for free here:)

The Department of Education has now published the newly revised EYFS which comes into force today. (Monday the 4th of September 2023). I have already seen lots of posts on social media about the changes and it would be easy to form the impression that the guidelines have changed a lot. In truth very little has changed, and even less so for childminders. I have now gone through the entire document (except for Annex B which is only for Reception teachers,) and have listed the changes below:

Change One: On page 3: The date in the sentence at the very start of the guidelines has been changed to read, ‘This framework is mandatory for all early years providers in England from 4 September 2023.’

In the old (current) EYFS the date is the 1 September 2021. I have underlined the part that says ‘all early years providers,’ as there is still talk of another more simplified guide which is being specifically written for childminders. However it is important to realise that you must follow all the rules set out in the full version. Please do not worry about this, if you have a copy of the Ultimate Childminding Checklist,’ this sets out all the ‘musts’ in an easy format for you to go through and tick off. The ‘Ultimate Checklist’ has now been updated to reflect the new changes.

Change Two: In the section on ratios there is only one change that childminders need to be aware of and that concerns how you supervise children while they are eating. Currently paragraph 3.29 of the EYFS states that ‘children must usually be within sight and hearing of a member of staff. The new EYFS adds, ‘Whilst eating, children must be within sight and hearing of a member of staff.’

Choking is silent so if you can only hear children while they eat you may miss a life threatening situation, therefore, although this is not mentioned in the current EYFS please follow this rule now. It could save a child’s life.

Change Three: There is also another change to the ratios section which is causing confusion in some of the threads I have seen on social media. This change is in the section ‘Early years providers (other than childminders) Paragraph 3.33 in the new EYFS which concerns children aged two states that ‘there must be one member of staff for every five children.’ This is an increase from the previous ratio of one member of staff for every four children. Although this is a controversial change IT DOES NOT APPLY TO CHILDMINDERS so you do not need to worry about it! If anyone says you can now have more children because the ratios have increased, please gently set them straight!

Change Four: The final minor change is on page 32 section 3.43 of the new EYFS which details the circumstances in which childminders can make exceptions to the usual ratios. In the old EYFS it states that exceptions to the usual ratios could be made when ‘childminders are caring for sibling babies.’ In the new EYFS this has been changed to siblings.

I think this makes it easier to argue that you can take on an older child’s sibling, rather than it being limited to twins, for example.

The new EYFS has also been changed so that in the same section as above the statement (exceptions to the usual ratios can be made) ‘when caring for their own baby,’ now reads ‘child’ instead. This is good as your own children no longer need to vanish in a puff of smoke when they are no longer babies – you can keep caring for them 😜

And that is it! The amount of changes is really nothing to worry about. If you have not got one already get yourself a copy of the Ultimate Childminding Checklist and by using it you will know that you have all the ‘must do’ things in place.

You may also like:

NEW! The Ultimate Childminding Inspection Preparation Pack 2023

Is your Ofsted Inspection imminent? Do not panic. this bundle will help you prepare AND will save you £10 off the price of buying these resources separately.*

Knowing that your Ofsted Inspection is due can feel stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. Being prepared and knowing that you have everything in place can help massively reduce any stress or worry about your inspection.

This new bundle pack of useful resources has been put together to help you:

  • Check that you have everything in place with the Ultimate Childminding Checklist and the Safeguarding Audit list. (Now updated to meet September 2023 requirements.)
  • Update and/ or check your Safeguarding Policy so that everything is in place using the Editable Safeguarding Policy.
  • Revise your safeguarding knowledge so that you feel prepared for questions on the day with multiple choice safeguarding questions.
  • Quickly and easily evaluate your own provision and think about how far you have come using Focus Point Questions from the Guided Self-Evaluation Pack.
  • Relax with the puzzles and mindfulness colouring sheets that are also included in your pack, knowing that you have done everything to put things in place for a successful childminding inspection.

Smoother and Safer Mealtimes for Childminders

From September 2023 the EYFS requires that children are within your hearing and sight while they are eating. Here are my five tips for smoother and safer mealtimes. (Learned via lots of trial and many errors!)

Published 04/09/2023

Smoother and Safer Mealtimes for Childminders

From September 2023 the EYFS requires that children are within your hearing and sight while they are eating. However this is a really good rule to follow straight away so don’t wait. Here are my five tips for smoother and safer mealtimes. (Learned via lots of trial and many errors!)

ONE: Get children into good routines.

Start training ALL the children to go to the toilet and wash their hands before they eat. You should already be helping children wash their hands before they eat so it shouldn’t be too hard to add an extra step if necessary. Make sure you plan in lots of time for this, especially at first, it may take longer than you think but it will be worth it!

It is good for the children to learn simple routines such as this and seeing older children go to the toilet while hopefully inspire the younger children when it comes to their turn to potty train. (There’s nothing like a bit of gentle ‘peer pressure,’ even if you are only two!) Making sure everyone has gone to the toilet before you eat will also reduce the chance of someone needing it halfway through your meal.

Obviously babies and very young children will not be at the ‘go to the toilet’ stage yet but they can start learning how to wash their hands properly. I use a poster with simplified steps as a visual prompt for very young children so they can practise while I support them.

TWO: Get everything ready before you sit down. (This is harder than it looks – I know from experience! Don’t worry if it takes a few goes to get into a routine.)

Make sure you have everything you will need before you sit. Will you need a jug of water? Flannels or a cloth for spills or sticky hands? Tissues for runny noses? If you have lots of children invest in an apron with a large pocket that you can pop things in so they are handy when you need them.

Don’t forget something for you to eat and drink too, even if it is only something small if you like to eat the majority of your meal later. This helps you model things like good manners and will help you feel better and more rested too.

THREE: Have a useful distraction for early finishers.

It happens to us all! You have one child that has eaten everything before you have barely put the plate down and another one that can take an hour to eat half a sandwich. Children should be encouraged to start to sit and wait for others to finish eating but this can be a big ask for some little ones! I find it really helpful to have a copy of the book we are concentrating on, (currently Goldilocks and the Three Bears,) so that I can read it to the children while they eat, or I can give it to early finishers to look at the pictures.

FOUR: Make sure you plan meal times around drop off and pick up times.

The last thing you need is parents arriving in the middle of your mealtimes and disrupting everything. Plan when you have your mealtimes so that you have time for each child to finish calmly before you have to answer the door to parents. It can be really helpful to share the times you have your meals with parents and tell them that you are unable to answer the door during those times. Then stick to your guns! After all it is for their child’s benefit and safety that you are doing this.

FIVE: Train children to expect the unexpected. You cannot plan for every eventuality. Sooner or later something will happen that you do not expect. If something happens that means that you must leave the children to attend quickly to an emergency but will be unable to see them then move their food somewhere where they cannot reach it while you attend to the emergency. You can practise this with the children so they get the idea that they will get their food back. (For example if you are practising tip TWO, forget something you need and have to pop into another room to get it.) However, remember an upset child is far better than a child being injured or worse if you cannot see them choking.

Written 24/07/2023

Do you have any more tips for safe and smooth mealtimes? Share them in the comments below.

You may also like:

Safeguarding for Childminders

Making sure children are safe at mealtimes is just one of the things that you must do to ensure that you are following all the EYFS safeguarding requirements. If you would like some support with this I recommend the NEW 3 in 1 safeguarding pack for childminders. This pack contains three useful tools in one pack. An editable safeguarding policy, 40 multiple choice safeguarding questions and a safeguarding audit list. You can find out more by following the link below:

If you enjoyed this blog and would like more helpful advice, tips, news and ideas please sign up for my FREE Childminding Best Practice newsletter. To sign up please go to the sign up page here:

Why not get the children involved with some health and safety topics too?

Health and Safety Activities for Childminders

As a childminder you have a choice about what activities you do with the children you look after so why not do some topics that could really make a difference to their lives? Taking the time to explore topics like healthy eating, making friends, sun safety, oral health, fire and road safety will not only really help the children, but it will make you feel that you are doing something truly valuable with the time you are spending with them. The ‘Be Safe Be Healthy,’ pack is a collection of 14 mini printable packs with resources to help childminders to teach 14 health and safety topics to 2-5 year old children. 

Childminding Best Practice Newsletter 11th July 2023

Note: The company I normally send out the weekly newsletters with is having issues this week meaning I cannot send out this email the normal way. So that no-one misses out I am sharing it here instead. Please share this with anyone you know as they may also normally receive the newsletter and may be wondering where it is!

Thank you,

Jennifer x

Childminding Best Practice Newsletter

11th of July 2023

Ofsted Change coming? Plus, New Funding Rates News

The Head of Ofsted, Amanda Spielman, is leaving at the end of this year. It is not yet known who will replace her but I suspect that more changes will accompany whoever takes her place as they will want to make their own mark.

Should childminders, worry about this? Those of you who, like me, have been involved in childcare or education for a long time will have seen trends come and go. (Does anyone remember the craze for having windmills in the garden?!) However the fundamentals of what children need to learn and grow, remain the same.

One of the things that are really important to understand are the Characteristics of Effective Learning, (also know as the Characteristics of Effective Teaching and Learning.) It is a requirement of the EYFS to understand these and promote them with the children in your care.

Helping children develop the Characteristics of Effective Learning does not have to be complicated or expensive. Traditional activities such as completing jigsaws or building things with bricks are simple and effective and can be easy for parents to provide at home too. Practice observing children and see if you can work out how they are ‘planning and exploring,’ ‘actively learning,’ and ‘thinking creatively and critically.’

Start by having a go at this sample 10 minute CPD activity from a ‘Childminding Best Practice Club’ toolkit:

Don’t forget to involve parents. You can do this informally by talking about which characteristics their child has shown during the day, or on a more formal basis. If you use the ‘Super Summative Assessment and Gap Tracker Kit,’ you will notice that there is a section for your to report to parents about their child’s developing COEL. The ‘Progress Check at Age Two‘ pack also includes a template for reporting on the Characteristics so you may find it useful to sit down with the parent and talk about them as part of your review meeting. (If you find dealing with parents tricky I recommend the ‘Partnership with Parents’ Pack.If you would like a copy I’ll put a link at the end of this newsletter for you.)

You will find short guides to the COEL in both the ‘Birth to Five Matters,’ and the ‘Development Matters’ documents but for a easy to understand guide for childminders I recommend the ‘Characteristics of Effective Learning Pack‘ which has activity ideas, templates and evaluation resources as well as practical guides to what the COEL actually mean for childminders.

To find links to these documents plus links to other essential documents bookmark the official documents links page from the Childminding Best Practice website:

In other news the Department of Education has now confirmed the new funding rates. From September, these will increase to an average of £5.62 for three and four-year-olds and £7.95 for two-year-olds.

If you are not yet registered to accept funded children it is a good time to start looking into it, rather than having to do it in a rush when (if!) the proposed changes to funding come into place. You do not necessarily have to do anything yet but having the correct information will help you make informed decisions. If you have not accepted funded children before you may not have realised that you get more money for two year olds. However it is really important to check rates with your local council as although we are used to seeing the ‘headline’ rate they can vary widely from area to area.

You may also like:

Check you have all the essentials in place, including the absolute nitty gritty of the Characteristics of Effective Learning with Ultimate Childminding Checklist.

Develop a professional relationship with parents with help from the ‘Partnership with Parents,’ pack.

Special offers and deals:

Save £10 and get inspection ready with the Ultimate Childminding Inspection Preparation Pack, containing full versions of the 3 in 1 Safeguarding Pack and the Ultimate Childminding Checklist as well as Focus point questions for the Guided Self Evaluation Pack (and some puzzles to unwind with!)

Save £6 with the Super Summative Assessment Bundle Deal. Containing full versions of both the Super Summative Assessment and Gap Tracker Kit and the Progress Check at Age 2 Pack.

I hope you found this newsletter useful. Apologies for the unusual way of getting it to you all. Hopefully normal service will resume next week!

Best Wishes

Jennifer x

25 Childminding topics to explore in Spring

Spring topics for childminders. Baby animals.

One good way of using topics to plan your work is to plan topics that help reflect the changing of the seasons. Are you looking for some good topics to explore with children in Spring? Here are some ideas:

Well-loved themes:

  1. Baby animals.
  2. Spring life cycles.
  3. Easter
  4. Spring

Some slightly different ideas:

Spring themes for childminders. Spring flowers, primroses
  1. Gardening. Spring is a fantastic time to plant seeds and explore gardening with children.
  2. Frogs. World Frog Day is on the 20th of March
  3. Trees.
  4. Weather. Spring is a time of very changeable weather so is a good time to explore a weather themed topic with children
  5. Mini-beasts.
  6. Spring flowers.
  7. How about some nursery rhymes that tie in nicely with a Spring topic, like ‘5 Speckled Frogs’ ‘Mary had a little lamb,’ ‘Little Bo Peep’ or ‘5 Little Ducks.’
  8. Watch me grow. As children watch other things like baby animals or flowers growing they may also become interested in how they grow.
  9. Bees. World Bee Day is on the 20th of May
  10. On the Farm.
  11. Birds.
Diversity ideas for childminders, St David's day

Diversity themes to explore in Spring

  1. St David’s Day 1st of March
  2. May Day
  3. St Partick’s Day 17th of March
  4. Holi
  5. Mother’s Day
  6. St George’s Day. The patron saint of England has a special day on the 23rd of April

Some more unusual (but fun) themes to explore in Spring

  1. Washing. Spring cleaning anyone? Children can have lots of fun with soapy bubbles washing toys and themselves! A good topic to help enforce good hygiene practices in your children.
  2. Earth Day
  3. World Laughter Day (3rd May)
  4. Turtles. World Turtle Day on the 23rd of May

Written 08/05/2023

If you liked this you might also like:

Childminding Best Practice Club

The Childminding Best Practice Club is unique. Designed by childminders for childminders it provides monthly support in the form of emailed toolkit packs. 

Every month members receive a themed toolkit straight to their email inbox. This is an easy and convenient way to develop your childminding or plan new ideas or activities without having to spend lots of time searching the internet for CPD or planning ideas. Every Club toolkit contains a wealth of ideas, activities and exclusive resources, all designed especially to support you with your childminding adventure.

Good (and terrible) ways to use themes

When planning your curriculum it is important to think about how you are going to introduce children to new ideas and experiences. Using themes or topics is one good way to help you do this.

10 Easy Vegetables, Fruits and Herbs for Childminders to grow with Children

Growing edible produce with children is a fantastic way to help them learn about all sorts of things, from life cycles to how food is grown, to healthy eating.

Contracts and policies for childminders – a quiz!

Time and time again I hear about childminders who are having problems with parents over one issue or another. While some of these issues are unfortunately unavoidable, others can be prevented by having a robust contract supported by strong policies. Here are some scenarios that could be avoided by clear communication and robust paperwork. What would you do in each case?

Scenario One:

You have had a family on your books for around 10 months without any issues. Then one day your 14 year old son gets a bad headache and does not feel quite well enough to go to school. He can stay upstairs in his bedroom, so you decide to remain open that day. However the mother of one of your childminding parents hears about this and decides to keep their child at home all week as they say they are worried about their child catching a bug. The parent then refuses to pay for the entire week that she does not bring her child in for. Your contract states that you do not charge parents if you or any of your family are ill.

Do you?

  1. Tell the parent you completely understand their worries and pay back all their fees for the entire week.
  2. Resentfully pay the day’s fees back and complain about it on social media making sure everyone knows who the parent is.
  3. Realise your contracts are not robust enough so pay the money back for the day your son was ill at home and change your contracts to say that when a child is off for any reason normal charges apply.

Scenario Two:

You are a new childminder. A family visits and you like them so when they ask to start in three weeks you are delighted and agree. In the intervening three weeks you have other enquiries and sign on two more children but have to turn others away as your places are full. The day comes that the first family is due to start but they do not show up. You ring them to see what is happening and they tell you that they have changed their minds and that a relative is going to look after the child instead. You did not take a deposit or get the parents to sign a contract, intending to do it on their first day.

Do you?

  1. Offer to give them two weeks free if they start today.
  2. Have a massive argument with the parent about it. On the doorstep. With the neighbours listening.
  3. Chalk it up to experience and readvertise the place, making sure in future that you get families to pay a deposit and sign a contract to secure their place.

Scenario Three:

You have been childminding for two years without any major problems. Part of your ethos is lots of trips out to places to give the children lots of experiences outside the setting. You use contracts and gets parents to sign permission slips. You sign on a new family for a full time place, and they seem to sign everything happily with no fuss. You then check the permission slips before putting them in the new child’s file and see that they have not given permission to take the child in the car. You ask the family about this, and they are adamant that they do not want their child going anywhere in the car.

Do you?

  1. Tell all the other families that you can no longer offer any outings that are not within walking distance.
  2. Continue taking all the children on outings using the car but tell the child not to tell their parents, it is your little secret.
  3. Talk to the parents calmly and professionally and if they insist they do not want their child going in the car regretfully decide that you have to give notice under your settling in period conditions. Then alter your permission slips.

Scenario Four:

You have robust policies for charging when a parent is late to collect their child. These work well and parents are only ever late for genuine reasons as they know there will be an additional charge to pay. You are good at sticking to your policies, so everyone knows what to expect. Then one of the parents gets a new job. They start to arrive with their child up to fifteen minutes before their contracted start time and expect to be able to drop the child off. You do not have a policy covering early drop offs.

Do you?

  1. Let the children in early each time but do not charge the parents so end up feeling used and resentful.
  2. Open the door when they arrive and hand them your dog with its lead with strict instructions to walk it until their contracted start time.
  3. Change your policies to include charges for early drops offs.

Scenario Five:

You are an experienced childminder with plenty of children on your books.  You meet with a new family who need a place at the last minute. They do not bring the child with them to the initial meeting saying that they are unwell. You talk to them about your setting and what you can offer and ask them if they have any needs for the child. They say no. You gets them to fill in all the required paperwork and then set a date for the child to start the following week. When the child starts it very quickly becomes apparent that they have needs that always require one to one support.

Do you?

  1. Continue to struggle on, trying to support the child on your own until everyone is tired and stressed and other families start to notice their child isn’t getting the care they need and start to leave.
  2. Stick the child in a playpen all day while you work with the other children.
  3. Refer to your contracts and give the family notice on the basis that they have knowingly and wilfully concealed important information about their child’s needs from you.

Scenario Six:

You have been childminding for years and think you have seen it all. You take on a new family, get them to complete all the necessary paperwork and then set a date for the child to start. On the child’s first day the mum drops the child off and you could swear that they are moving in. They come supplied with several large bags, including a large bin bag full of what looks suspiciously like washing. A baby in the other room starts to cry so you shove all the bags under the stairs so you can have a look when the children are all settled.

When the children are settled you get to look at what is in all the bags. You discover the bin bag is full of dirty washing. You also find a dog lead in another smaller bag along with a short shopping list. You thinks it is odd, but the children are waiting for their morning snack, so you forget about it.

At pick up time the new parent arrives to collect up their child. You pass all the bags across and talk about the child’s day and all the fun they have had. However the parent does not look very happy at all. You ask what is wrong and the parents then berates you for not doing the washing, walking the dog and picking up the shopping!

Do you?

  1. Apologise and then the next day do your best to comply with all the parent’s requests, meaning that you have no time to spend with the children as you are too busy doing washing, shopping and dog walking.
  2. Shout, “you must be having a laugh!” and throw the bags out into the street so that the bin bag splits open and dirty pants start blowing down the street.
  3. Realise that no matter how long you have been in this job there is always something that will surprise you. Explain to the parent that you are a childminder not a skivvy. Sigh when they scream obscenities at you then decide life is just too short and give the parent immediate notice as backed up by your contracts.

How did you do?

Mostly a: Parent’s must love you. You are a complete walkover! You may think you are trying to do your best for everyone but this is not always a good thing because at some point you will either realise you cannot cope with everything you have promised to do or will end up feeling more and more resentful and unhappy. Do not be afraid to set boundaries using your contracts and policies to back you up. Then stick to them.

Mostly b: You are a complete nightmare! You bend the rules to breaking point, ignore any safeguarding protocols and love causing as much drama as possible. Try setting up some robust contracts and policies instead before someone gets hurt or you end up in court.

Mostly c: Well done. No one gets it right all of the time, but you use sensible ways of resolving problems and recognise the importance of having robust contracts and policies in place.

Written 10/04/2023

You may also like these helpful resources:

Contracts, Policies and Forms pack

Having a clear and robust contract and policies is vital to the smooth running of any childminding business and can help prevent unwanted situations and misunderstandings between parent(s)/guardian(s) and childminders.

The ‘Contracts, Policies and Forms pack’ contains a full contract, complemented and reinforced by specially written policies. Also included are lots of useful forms for you to use in your business as well as information about the sort of paperwork you will need.

There is no need to buy repeated contracts. You can print the contracts in this pack as many times as you need.

Partnership with Parents Pack

This is 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.

Childminding Best Practice Newsletter

Sign up for the free Childminding Best Practice Newsletter via the link below 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.

About Kids To Go

Kids To Go was established in 2008. Products include the Ultimate Childminding Checklist, best practice resources promoting diversitysafety and childminding in the great outdoors (Forest Childcare). It is the home of the Childminding Best Practice Club and the free weekly Childminding Best Practice newsletters.

10 Easy Vegetables, Fruits and Herbs for Childminders to grow with Children

Written 01/04/2023

garden centres sell lots of vegetables that you can grow with childminding children

Growing edible produce with children is a fantastic way to help them learn about all sorts of things, from life cycles to how food is grown, to healthy eating.

Spring is a good time to start thinking about which things you might want to have go at growing with your children. We grow a variety of vegetables, fruits and herbs with the childminding children every year – all with varying degrees of success. (All of the things I mention here have been grown in a coastal area of northern England where it quite exposed and rains A LOT! I have chosen plants that should do well anywhere, but you may need to experiment a little to find plants that will thrive where you live.)

I never use any pesticides of any sort – I don’t want to risk such nasty chemicals around children, and they are utterly terrible for nature. Therefore all of our produce is shared with the wildlife in our garden – whether they have been invited to or not! Don’t worry too much if you only manage to grow small amounts of wonky veg. The main thing is having a go, having fun and helping the children learn a bit about growing food.


Childminding child helping 'chit' potatoes. Childminding Best Practice poster resource in background.

1.Potatoes. These have to be some of the easiest vegetables to grow as they are not fussy about where they grow. We have grown potatoes in special potato bags, half filled compost bags and even buckets! You can experiment with ‘rooty’ shop bought potatoes but ones that you buy from garden centres are a little better as they are treated to prevent rot, etc. You can usually buy a large bag of these for less than £5 which also makes them very economical.

2. Carrots. We have never had amazing success at growing beautiful large carrots, but we have always managed to grow something. I like to get special seed mixes of multicoloured carrots as the children are always amazed when they pull up orange, yellow, white and purple carrots! Carrots are a bit funny about being handled so I would avoid ready grown seedlings if you are planting with toddlers – they are just too easy to damage! Instead let the children sprinkle seeds on compost in a tub. You can then thin out the seedlings later if you want to. (Especially if you have children like mine that ‘sprinkle’ (aka dump!) all their seeds in one corner leaving the rest of the soil completely bare!) Tip: leave a good couple of inches between the top of the soil and the top of your container. This helps prevent your carrots getting ‘carrot fly’, a kind of pest that will only fly at certain heights meaning leaving a gap hides your carrots from them – weird but true!

3. Peas are fairly easy to grow and come in lots of different varieties. You can buy seedlings or seeds from a garden centre. You can even grow peas using whole dried peas bought from the dried food aisle of the supermarket. (Something I discovered during lockdown when you were not allowed to go out to the garden centre.) Although these do not tend to be as sweet as other varieties this is an excellent way to grow peas on a budget! If you have lots of hungry slugs and snails in your garden wait until your pea plants are a little larger before planting them outside to give them a fighting chance. Peas need plenty of watering to grow nice fat pods, but the children will love picking and eating the sweet raw peas. (Very few of ours actually make inside as they get eaten as soon as they are picked!)

4. Cabbage. If you want to explore the life cycle of the butterfly in a natural ‘free range’ way I recommend planting cabbages! We have grown endless amounts of caterpillars and butterflies this way! However if you fancy your chances at actually being able to eat some of your cabbages I recommend trying the following. These methods are not completely fool (caterpillar) proof but at least you will stand a fighting chance!

  1. Cover your cabbages with very fine butterfly netting (ask at your garden centre or look on-line.) Make sure the netting does not touch the cabbages as butterflies can be very sneaky about laying caterpillar eggs through the netting. Believe me I know. My husband built as a special ‘cabbage cage’ one year which mostly kept the caterpillars off, but I still found chrysalises inside it at the end of the year!
  2. Plant your cabbages really early in the season before butterflies are thinking about waking up.
  3. Employ eagle eyed children to spot the tiny eggs and/or baby caterpillars. These can then be removed and placed on a sacrificial cabbage. (This is the least effective method as you must do it every day.)


5. Tomatoes. Living in a northerly exposed sort of place without a greenhouse, tomatoes have been a bit hit or miss for us. However we have had some success by experimenting with different varieties. If like us you do not have somewhere suitable outside you ask at your garden centre, as they should be able to recommend smaller varieties, some of which can be grown on a large windowsill inside. You can also experiment with growing tomato plants by putting a slice from a shop bought tomato onto some compost, covering slightly and keeping watered. You may be surprised how many plants you can grow using this method.

6. Strawberries. These are another relatively bomb proof crop to grow with children. I have never managed to grow plants from seed and this is very fiddly with children involved. Instead buy a selection of different strawberry varieties and let the children plant them in tubs or containers. They are robust plants so will withstand a bit of rough toddler handling. Some of your plants may grow long stems with baby plants on the end. If you want the ‘mother plant’ to have more strawberries you can cut these off, but I tend to shove a couple into soil each year, (leave the stem attached until they are established,) as this is a good way of getting free plants! Talk to the children about how the flowers will turn into strawberries. You can cover your plants with mesh to help prevent birds eating them, but you may have to race other critters such as slugs and snails to your bounty. Get the children in the habit of checking under the leaves to find ripe strawberries every day.


7. Rosemary. This is a really good herb to grown with small children as they are robust and happily withstand a bit of toddler handling. They also thrive on a bit of neglect, preferring poor soil. I have a large one growing in a container made from old car tires and smaller ones which grew from cuttings off the original plant.

8. Mint. This is another herb which is usually easy to grow. It comes in lots of different varieties and I have quite a few as they smell so nice when you brush up against them. Look for varieties like peppermint, spearmint, apple-mint, chocolate mint and others. When the leaves grow you can show the children how to pick them and put them in hot water to make mint teas. DO NOT plant directly into soil in your garden unless you want it to take over, keep contained in a pot instead.

Windowsill plants

9. Cress. This is often grown with young children as it grows so quickly, meaning that impatient little ones do not have long to wait until they can see the fruits of their labours. You can plant directly onto a thick sheet of kitchen roll as long as you remember to keep it well watered or make things like decorated cress heads made out of empty eggshells.

10. Salad leaves. You can find seed mixes of salad leaves in lots of garden centres. These can be planted in trays on a sunny windowsill and should provide a good selection of leaves that children can pick to eat with their lunch. Look for cut and come again varieties which will provide a continual supply of leaves.

Whatever you decide to have a go at growing, whether it be potatoes, strawberries or just lots and lots of hungry mini-beasts, have fun!

If you enjoyed this please comment below and share with your friends!

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Forest Childcare Association

The Forest Childcare Association is a best practice initiative for childcare providers who want to demonstrate their commitment to taking small children outdoors on a regular basis. By making a commitment to regular outdoor outings you can make a discernible difference to your children AND your business. When you join you will receive a Forest Childcare Starter Pack containing training information as well as business tools, a certificate to display and 50 Crafts and Activities to get you started.

Britain doesn’t have a lot of really nasty poisonous plants, but as childminders there are a few you should be able to recognise. Some plants can make you very ill if you eat them or give you a nasty skin rash if you touch them. Do you know which ones they are?

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5 Nature-Related International Days To Mark With Kids

By Guest Blogger, Elizabeth Borley.

Written 23/02/2023

There are so many benefits to outdoor outings for carers of young children – both for you as a childminder and for the children you care for.

And there’s a lot to be said for familiarity of the same woodland walk.

But if you’re looking for new ideas to expand what you talk about when you’re outdoors, then maybe linking your childcare activities to the many international global awareness days will help you approach outings with fresh eyes.

Here are 5 nature-related international observances that are easy to incorporate into your childminding practice.

1. World Wildlife Day

When: 3 March

World Wildlife Day is an opportunity to be thankful for the diversity we find in nature. It creates a talking point for how we live with and interact with nature, and how we use the natural resources around us.

What to do

Who lives here?

Go for a nature walk. Spot minibeasts and find the habitats they live in. Talk about the different bird species you can see and hear.

Make posters of your favourite animals and talk about how important it is to look after the nature around us.

This is quite a well-known and popular event, so you might find local groups doing something like a litter pick that you can join in with (or why not organise your own?).

2. International Day of Forests

When: 21 March

International Day of Forests is the perfect moment to take the children in your care out to the woods! It’s a day that emphasises sustainable forestry and the management of woodlands as being crucial to well-being – something that Forest Childcare Association members won’t need convincing about.

What to do

Take a tree identification guide printable out on a walk and see what species you can find in your local woodland.

Make bark rubbings. Try to find the largest leaf. Talk about the trees that lose their leaves and the ones that keep them during the winter.

Look for evidence of things that live in and use the forests, like animal footprints and droppings, nests and minibeast homes. Talk about how we use the forest for walks and exploring.

3. World Water Day

When: 22 March

World Water Day is really close to International Day of Forests, so it might not make sense to mark them both in the same week with the children you childmind. You can always do an activity related to a global awareness day at some point in the same month if you can’t manage to tie it in with the exact day.

This event focuses attention on fresh water (so not oceans). It’s about raising awareness of the need for sustainable management of water resources.

What to do

Make a rain gauge from a bottle and put it outside. How much water can you collect while the children are with you?

Invite the children to make their own flavoured water to drink: add raspberries, cucumber, mint or orange slices to a glass of water.

Visit a reservoir or put your wellies on and splash in a stream! Talk about what lives in the water and how water is used.

4. World Migratory Bird Day

When: 13 May and 14 October

World Migratory Bird Day is marked twice in a year, so if you miss the opportunity to do something related in May, you can catch up in October! Different birds migrate to different places at different times of the year, so there are two moments annually for focused activities.

It’s a day to raise awareness of the need to conserve the habitats of migratory birds and the threats facing them.

What to do

Go bird watching! Find a hide at your local nature reserve and break out the binoculars. Look at library books that are a guide to the different species of birds and see which ones you can spot.

If you can’t get to a nature reserve, you can lie in the garden or in a park and look at birds flying overhead.

Draw pictures of birds, look at their flight paths on a map and talk about where they migrate to and why they go. How many countries do they cross?

5. World Soil Day

When: 5 December

Need something to do during December? How about marking World Soil Day?

Soil is essential for so many things: growing food for humans, sustaining plant life, as a habitat for worms and minibeasts and much more. The day is all about raising awareness of the nutrients in soil and how poor soil management strips out what is naturally occurring, leading to nutrient loss and lower quality food for us all.

What to do

The obvious thing to do today is go and play in the mud! Make mud pies and sculptures, splash in muddy puddles, dig holes and get dirty!

For a cleaner alternative, plant some seeds. Broad beans and onion seeds are good for this time of year, or look for quick growing hardy salad leaves like lamb’s lettuce. Alternatively, just ditch the soil and go for a classic runner bean in a jam jar or some cress!

You could also visit a local farm and talk about how they use the soil for growing crops.

Make it your own

You don’t have to mark an awareness day on the actual day. If it’s easier for you and the children you mind, find an alternative moment to do some of these activities, or create your own.

There are awareness days every month, so if you would like some new ideas for activities to do with your children that get them outdoors, take some inspiration from the international events calendars on the UN and UNESCO websites.

About the author

Elizabeth Borley is a member of the Forest Childcare Association and administrator at The Practical Forest School, a Sussex-based provider of afterschool clubs and in-school forest school activities.

Forest Childcare Association

The Forest Childcare Association is a best practice initiative for childcare providers who want to demonstrate their commitment to taking small children outdoors on a regular basis. By making a commitment to regular outdoor outings you can make a discernible difference to your children AND your business. When you join you will receive a Forest Childcare Starter Pack containing training information as well as business tools, a certificate to display and 50 Crafts and Activities to get you started.

Sign up for the free Kids To Go Newsletter for Childminders 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.

Communication, Language and Curriculum according to Ofsted- a childminder’s perspective.

Observations from the North-West Ofsted Big Conversation January 2023.


This blog was originally going to cover the whole Ofsted Big Conversation event. However, after trying to fit in all the information and re-writing it several times I have decided, to provide you with concise and useful information, this particular blog will just cover Ofsted’s main focus at the event – Communication and Language.

On the 28th January 2023, along with around 700 other attendees I took part the Northwest Ofsted Big Conversation. The main theme from the Ofsted section centred around communication and language.

Amanda Spielman, Head of Ofsted, was the first Ofsted member to speak, followed by Ofsted colleagues from the Northwest Region, Kirsty Godfry, Head of the Curriculum Unit who spoke about communication and language curriculum requirements, and Rachel Flesher, a Senior Ofsted Inspector who spoke about how Ofsted look at communication and Language during inspections.

Amanda spoke about the importance of rebalancing the curriculum to give greater weight to communication and language. She emphasised, that as far as Ofsted are concerned, spoken language and communication is the most vital area in Early Years. I can see where Ofsted are coming from given the impact of the pandemic lockdowns seen on children’s speech and language abilities, however I think it is very important to judge your children’s skills and needs yourself as not every child has been affected in the same way. I also think it is a mistake to forget about the holistic needs of the child. I have worked with children with communication difficulties, but this does not mean that the other two prime areas of learning, personal, social and emotional development and physical development, were not equally as important to their development. I am glad that the Early Years Alliance have been challenging this with Ofsted and the Department of Education.

The Curriculum for Communication and Language

After Amanda’s speech, Kirsty Godfry, spoke about the curriculum for communication and language. These are the main points:

  • The curriculum for communication and language underpins all areas of learning. This is now re-iterated in the EYFS: ‘The development of children’s spoken language underpins all seven areas of learning and development.’ Statutory Framework for Early Years Foundation Stage, Page 8.

(While this is true, I would personally also argue that all three prime areas perform this function and if you neglect one area you will find children struggling in the others.)

  • Your communication and language curriculum MUST be based on the education programme laid out in the EYFS. (The section under the Communication and Language title on page 8 of the EYFS in case you are wondering. You can find links to the EYFS and other important documents on my Official Documents Links page here:
  • Leave the teaching of formal reading and writing until reception. There is no need to be teaching phonics to the children. I would agree with this. The way phonics is taught can be complicated and can differ from school to school so unless you have specific training that matches the school your children will move onto and work closely with the support and blessing of the school I would leave formal reading and writing alone.
  • It is important to give children words so that they can express their thoughts and feelings.
  • Activities are not enough. This is the second time I have heard this new Ofsted mantra. Kirsty explained it by giving an example of a group of children playing at a beautifully resourced mud kitchen. She argued that a child without appropriate speech and language skills will be less keen to get involved and will therefore not learn as much as the other children. I do not necessarily agree with this. I had a little one with severe communication difficulties who would happily get stuck into any activity with their peers because their personal skills were strong, this in turn meant that I could support them with their language development as they were engaged and happy. Again, I personally feel, it comes back to a combination of all the prime areas. However this is the position that Ofsted are currently taking so be aware of it.
  • The difference between curriculum and pedagogy. (For anyone who has not heard this term before, pedagogy refers to how you teach something.) Curriculum is what you teach. Pedagogy is how you teach it. Your curriculum must come first. Put simply, decide what you want to teach and then how you are going to do it.

How Ofsted look at communication and language in inspections

  • Ofsted have laid out how they inspect in the Early Years Inspection Handbook. (You can find a copy here:)

Early years inspection handbook for Ofsted-registered provision – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

  • Ofsted will look at what it is like to be a child in your setting.
  • They will talk about how you decide what your children need to learn, what you do to help them learn it and how you know it has worked. (In other words, intent, implementation and impact!) This will probably form part of your learning walk. (Or learning ‘sit’ for childminders as Rachel referred to it.)
  • Your inspector will be observing how you use things like storytelling, role play, conversation and sensitive questioning to support the children’s language development.

Your Inspector will also be interested in finding out:

  • How all the children benefit from your curriculum.
  • What topics or themes do you use, what vocabulary you want the children to learn, is it age appropriate and how will you share this with their parents?
  • How do you encourage children to use new vocabulary and how do stories, rhymes and songs link into what you want the children to learn?
  • What are you doing to help any children who have fallen behind catch up?
  • Are you giving the children enough time to speak and practice new vocabulary and language structures?
  • Are you giving children enough exposure to new language as well as repeating new vocabulary so they can learn it.
  • Are children demonstrating that they have remembered vocabulary by using it in their free play?

You may find the Kids To Go Guided Self-Evaluation Pack helpful to help you think about these sorts of questions. You can buy it on its own or save yourself £6.50 by buying it with the Ultimate Childminding Checklist as part of the special Inspection Pack:

I hope you find this information useful. What do you think? Did you attend too? Do you agree with my points, or have you got another point of view? Let me know in the comments below.

Although I have included a lot of information here this is a very condensed version of what was discussed. As I mentioned in the introduction, far more information was shared during the event than is sensible for me to include in one blog. Therefore, please look out for further blogs about the event from me coming really soon.

The Big Conversation event has evolved since the Covid Pandemic and it is now possible to attend either in person or buy an on-line ticket. I opted to join in via the computer as living in West Cumbria means getting anywhere takes hours, not to mention factoring in things like childcare, transportation and accommodation costs, etc. I hope the organisers continue to provide this option as it really does make the event more accessible to different people. If you have always fancied taking part but find the travel part of the procedure too daunting then joining in on-line may be the way forward for you too.

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Learning with Traditional Tales – Sharing stories with my childminder

Written 07/01/2023

This time of year when the excitement of Christmas is over, but the weather is still cold and grey is a fantastic time to create a bit of cosiness by curling up with a traditional tale or two. Reading stories to children is an essential activity to help children learn speech and communication skills and helping children learn new stories also enhances their cultural capital. Sharing traditional stories can help us feel connected to our own childhoods and are part of our wider cultural heritage. There is also a fantastic wealth of life lessons that can be learned by thinking about the messages contained in these stories.

When choosing a traditional tale to share with your children it can help to think about the following:

  1. What stories do the children already know? Do you want to focus more on one you have already read so that all the children can get to know it really well, or do you want to introduce a completely new story?
  2. Consider the cultural background of the children you care for. Do you share stories that reflect their culture and history? Perhaps the children’s parents can suggest some stories that they shared when they were little.
  3. Have you got any learning intentions you want to be able to tie into the story, for example learning about sizes or stranger danger with ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears,’ the importance of helping out with ‘The Little Red Hen,’ or simple counting skills with ‘The Three Billy Goats Gruff.’
  4. Are you going to read the story from a book? If so think about the language in the version you have chosen. Do they have any repeating phrases that can help children learn language? Is the language challenging enough with different words to learn but not too hard to understand that the children loose interest? There tends to be lots of different versions of traditional tales so you can find one suitable for the age and developmental stage of the children in your care.
  5. Do the children actually like the story? A story can fulfil all of the above requirements but if the children do not engage with it then it is pretty pointless!

Tips for getting the most out of the story when reading it with the children:

  1. Read the story several times until the children get to know it. (This can be done over a few days – you do not need to sit there reading it on loop!) Make sure all the children know the story well. By doing this you are helping increase each child’s cultural capital.
  2. When the children know the story well enough to anticipate which part of the story comes next encourage them to join in with repeated phrases and new words.
  3. Get the children to act out the story while you read it to them. Can they make up different actions to go with different parts or characters of the story?
  4. Can the children think of simple changes they would like to introduce to the story. For example if you are reading ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears,’ maybe the bears have pancakes for breakfast instead of porridge? This helps children take ownership of the story and also begin to understand the structures of storytelling.

Tips for telling the story to children instead of reading it from a book:

Although reading books to children is important there may be times that you simply want to tell the children a story instead. Telling a story without having a book to hold means you can have your hands free to use puppets or gestures to emphasise the words. It also means that, if you have a larger group of children that have to sit in front of you while you read, that there is no physical barrier between you and the children, meaning that you can relate more directly to them and their responses to the story. (In childminding settings with just one or two children this isn’t such an issue as they will normally be sitting on your knee as you read to them.)

  1. Use your body language and gestures to help tell the story. If a character is feeling cold, wrap your arms around yourself and shiver dramatically, if a giant appears, shade your eyes and peer upwards as if looking at them. Using gestures like this to emphasise your words will help children understand the story even if they cannot see any pictures. Encourage the children to copy your actions. In this way even non-verbal children can join in and show their understanding of the story.
  2. Think about how you can use your voice as you tell the story. Use a quiet voice when a character is creeping up to someone or a loud voice if you are pretending to be a giant! Children love it if you use different voices for different characters but don’t make voices too silly as this will distract the children from the story itself.
  3. Don’t think that you can’t move about. Why not tell a story outside and when the characters move – so do you! As long as the story remains the main focus you can act out running from a dragon, trip trapping over a bridge or climbing up a beanstalk.

Things to do so that children and parents can extend their learning:

  1. Provide puppets and props (don’t forget dressing up props if they are suitable for the story and you have them!) for the children to tell the story themselves during free play.
  2. Leave the story book somewhere accessible to the children so that they can request it when they want you to read it to them even when you have moved onto other books or stories.
  3. Share versions of the story with the children’s parents so that they can help continue the learning at home. (Worried about lending out your precious books to forgetful parents? Check out the solution below!)

Products that can help you explore traditional stories with your children:

Members of the Childminding Best Practice Club receive monthly toolkits bursting with information, ideas and support. These include special Traditional Tale focused Toolkits.

These toolkits have a wealth of resources to help you share traditional tales with your children. Including things like:

Specially rewritten and illustrated childminder friendly versions of different traditional tales. Print out as many copies as you need to share with parents.

Resources to compliment the story such as posters or games.

Ideas for crafts and activities you can do to go with the story theme.

Full set of planning covering every area of learning.

Hand drawn colouring sheet

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