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What Ofsted call your ‘childcare setting’ is probably what you call your family home. And deciding how much ‘work stuff’ to put up on the walls of your home can be tricky. Some childminders seem happy to turn their houses into mini nurseries. Others feel very strongly that they don’t want to feel they are still at work when they sit down to watch TV on an evening. First, let’s find out which type of childminder are you?
Which statement best describes you?
A: This is my family home. At the end of the day, every day, I tidy all the plastic away. I hate educational posters on my wall – I am not a nursery – and I don’t want my living room walls covered in art work drawn by other people’s kids!
B: I like to strike a balance. I don’t mind having some posters up in the playroom, but never in the living room and I certainly don’t want hand washing signs in my bathroom. This is my family home first.
C: I frequently run out of wall space for all of the kids art projects that I want to put up. I get ideas for displays by peering into school classrooms! My house looks like a little nursery and I don’t mind a bit.
Type A Childminders: I am NOT a nursery – this is my home!
There is no need to compromise your principles regarding your home, but especially when Ofsted are on their way, then it may be worth putting up a few posters. Ofsted likes to see welcome posters, for example, and samples of the children’s art work. It’s also nice for the children to see some of their artwork on display and a few well-chosen educational posters can benefit their learning.
However, you and your family do not want to still see this stuff once the children go home. And Ofsted doesn’t mind what your house looks like when the children aren’t around either. So the solution is a simple one: if you’re a Type A Childminder, everything you put up, needs to be removable at the end of the day.
When you work as a childminder there are a few things that you are supposed to have on display at all times: your registration certificate, paediatric first aid certificate, and the Parent’s Poster showing the phone number for Ofsted etc. If you put these things onto a bulletin board, then you can take it all down each night and your front hallway doesn’t have to look like you are running a B&B.
Hang posters on strings that can be easily lifted down when the children leave, or put photographs into hanging plastic wallet displays that can be removed. Aim to spend no more than 5 minutes preparing your walls for the children in the morning, and have the whole house back to adult space 5 minutes after the last one leaves at the end of the day!
Even if you don’t put up anything else, here are a few key posters to consider:
- Welcome poster in many languages
- ABC chart
- Counting poster
- Diversity Awareness Poster – you can download mine for free here
Type B Childminders: I don’t mind having some stuff up on my walls, I just can’t bear seeing it EVERYWHERE!
Many childminders are also parents or grandparents, and so the crossover between work and home is more blurred. You might as well keep some posters up because you’d have them up already for your own children. And you might as well put artwork up, because your house is already covered in paintings your own children have done.
Many childminders start with a bulletin board that quickly becomes tatty and overcrowded as more and more certificates and notices are added to it. One solution is to frame some of the important documents like your registration certificate and parents poster and first aid certificate. This stops those documents from getting tatty and leaves your bulletin board free for notices that may change. You can also laminate important documents which makes notice boards look tidier.
Remember, that ultimately, this is your house and your choice and don’t be ‘bullied’ into putting up more stuff than you want. Parents have chosen you because you are a childminder, and they chose a home, not a nursery.
Type C Childminders: I have run out of wall space and love new ideas!
If you run out of wall space, try using the backs of doors for displays. I like to make seasonal displays and the backs of doors are great for giant trees where you can glue down all those Autumn leaves you collect.
Think about displays that include every child in your setting. If you can find a way to get everybody to contribute to the project then it is everybody’s display. For example, with the tree project, you can draw a tree outline, the older children can paint it or colour it in, and the little children can glue on the leaves. Try to make sure that parents SEE your best displays by putting them in places where parents will see all the wonderful things you do with the children. Displays make a great impression on visiting parents (as well as Ofsted inspectors).
One type of display I especially enjoy making are ‘talking displays’. I combine photographs with examples of the children’s developing speech. This display from our trip to the zoo combines photographs with artwork and little quotes from the children about things they remembered from our outing.
I think a laminator is a great investment for a childminder who likes making displays. You will feel more satisfied with the finished results if you laminate stuff you are intending to keep up for a while.
Thoughts before your inspection
Whatever type of childminder you are, before your inspection, really think about your childminding space both from a child’s point of view and from the inspector’s point of view. Is it tidy? Is it clean and safe? Will the children learn things here? Can the children reach the toys? Are the toy boxes labelled so they can find them? Is the children’s art work on display? Does the setting feel welcoming? Are there plenty of photographs up celebrating achievements and the sorts of activities you do? If not, then you may want to invest a few new posters and resources that will give that ‘outstanding’ impression to the Ofsted inspector.
Do you want some printable posters for your childminding setting?
My Posters Pack is a collection of printable posters for your childminding setting including educational posters (ABC charts, days of the week), bulletin board signs and notices, things Ofsted likes to see (welcome posters in many languages, diversity poster, house rules, ‘who is here today’, areas of learning and development poster, characteristics of effective learning poster) plus toy box labels and display ideas for all types of childminders. I have posters for large spaces and tiny spaces and it’s all available as part of my Posters Pack. You can customise the posters for your own setting before you print them.
You can also see inside other childminders’ houses so you can get ideas of how to use small and large spaces effectively. The prize piece from the pack is a totally unique ABC chart (printable in 3 different sizes) designed by 26 childminders from across the UK.
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About Kay Woods and Kids To Go
Kay Woods has been writing and selling childminding resources through her company Kids To Go since 2008. Her products include the Ultimate Childminding Checklist, the Learning Journey Plus for planning, observation and assessment and best practice resources promoting diversity and childminding in the great outdoors (Forest Childcare). She is the author of the Start Learning book set published by Tarquin and she writes the free quarterly Childminding Best Practice Newsletter.
Lots of places offer help to childminders. I provide solutions.
One of the saddest types comments we see are childminders who feel they were the ‘victims’ of a bad Ofsted inspection. “It wasn’t fair that she didn’t…” people will say. Or “she just didn’t understand that…” Horrible, unfair Ofsted inspections (like bad job interviews) do happen and when they do are you are well within your right to make a complaint. But don’t set yourself up to be a victim. With a bit of planning you can “manage” your Ofsted inspector and take control of your inspection so it goes the way you want it to.
Tip 1: Modesty has no place on your Self-Evaluation
If you want the Ofsted inspector to think your setting is outstanding, then don’t rate any sections of your practice ‘good’ or ‘requires improvement’ and hope that she will ‘read between the lines’ or realise that you want outstanding really but are being modest. People (including Ofsted inspectors) are very impressionable. If you tell your inspector that she can expect to see an outstanding setting, then she will come looking for excellence. Tell her you ‘require improvement’ and she will arrive looking for flaws.
Tip 2: Control those vital first impressions
Those first few moments when your Ofsted inspector arrives are crucial because she is using that time to form instantaneous impressions about you, your setting and your children. So, think carefully about how you will manage those first few minutes. As she walks through your front door which way will you lead her? Will you invite her to sit at your dining table or on the couch? Will you offer her a cup of tea? If she says yes, will you really leave her alone with the children while you make her one? What if she says no to the tea? Yikes! Remember that you are actually in control of this time. Like any guest she must be polite and respectful of your home, will follow where you lead her, and respond to your social prompts. It is your house, so you have the advantage here. Use it!
Tip 3: Don’t let the problem child mess this up for you
You can’t lock them in the shed when you see her car pull up for your inspection, (tempting though this may be!) so the best thing to do about ‘Problem Child’ is to make sure the inspector is aware right from the start that Alexander has ADHD/ has dad in jail/ is completely new to your setting etc. Call it to her attention so you can show how you are planning to ‘narrow their attainment gap’ to help them catch up with the other children as soon as possible.
Tip 4: Make sure you know what your local safeguarding procedures are
You KNOW how important safeguarding is. If you don’t know what to do if you suspect that a child in your setting has been abused then you are throwing her ammunition, she will definitely use against you. She won’t care how great your setting appears or anything else you’ve been doing if you appear in any way ignorant about safeguarding.
Tip 5: Clean and Tidy Your House
Does your push chair look like a biscuit barrel and your highchair look like a science experiment in growing mould? Does your fridge look like an E-coli outbreak just waiting to happen? These sorts of things make a really bad impression and are well within your control to get cleaned prior to your inspection.
Tip 6: Don’t wait to be asked about the great things you do
Don’t spend your inspection thinking, ‘I wish she’d ask me about this,’ or ‘why is she all focused on THIS thing, when I’ve been doing lots of THAT thing really well?’ If she doesn’t ask about something you are proud of, just bring it up. Under no circumstances should you allow her to leave until you have told her everything you wanted to! Plan how you will remind yourself about important things to tell her during the inspection even if it means sticking post it notes on your arms.
Tip 7: Prepare three structured activities
During your inspection your inspector will want to see you doing some structured activities with the children. Prepare three so you have more than you will probably need – under scrutiny of the inspector, you don’t want to seem stuck for ideas. While you are doing these activities, she will be watching you like a hawk and making judgements on everything you do from how you talk to the children, to what they are learning, to how well the children behave to you and each other. To avoid becoming a victim of ‘bad luck’ plan the activities you will do carefully and well. And read the Early Years Inspection Handbook which spells out exactly what the inspector is hoping to see from you.
Tip 8: Train the children
The earlier you start training the children to behave well for your inspection, the better it will go. If you want them to sit still for your structured activities, and eat a healthy snack, and put their own shoes on with the Ofsted Inspector watching then you need to train them how to do these things well in advance of your inspection.
Tip 9: Focus your attention on the children, not the inspector
She is most interested in how you interact with them. She won’t really care if you don’t offer her a chair. She will care if you forget to shut the safety gate because you are talking to her about your ratios or forget to wash the children’s hands before snack time because you are offering her a cup of tea. (Probably best to just forget the cup of tea).
Tip 10. Appear to know EVERYTHING about the children in your care
There is no excuse for you not to know each child’s development inside and out. You know that she is going to expect you to know this stuff, so make sure you do. You need to know those learning and development areas by heart so read documents like Development Matters. Don’t know the Characteristics of Effective Learning? That’s like handing her a loaded gun. Make sure you know your children’s starting points and review any written observations, planning and learning journeys that you do so that you can talk to the inspector about where each child you look after is in terms of his or her development, what you can expect them to do next, and most importantly how you are planning to help Problem Child to catch up with the nice, easy ones you look after.
Don’t become a victim of a bad Ofsted inspection! With careful planning you can take control of your day of judgement and help to manage your inspector so that she sees what you want her to see and gives you the grade you deserve.
For more tips and pointers including a Count Down to Your Ofsted Inspection Checklist, get your Ultimate Childminding Checklist for only £12.50 from the Kids To Go website today.
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Sign up for the free Childminding Best Practice Newsletter here 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.