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What does ‘Cultural Capital’ mean childminders should DO?

Updated 06/08/2022

The first and most important thing to say about “Cultural Capital” –  is DON’T PANIC.

  • You do not need to attend a training course on cultural capital.
  • Ofsted does not want to see a poster up in your setting labelled cultural capital.
  • You do not have to start taking childminded children to the opera.

Cultural capital is defined in the framework as ‘the essential knowledge that children need to be educated citizens’ and what is necessary to ‘prepare them for future success’.

Some children arrive at your setting with different experiences than others. The experiences they arrive with are their ‘cultural capital’. All children have SOME cultural capital when they arrive with you at your setting. But for some, this cultural capital is not enough to narrow the gap and get them ready for school. The curriculum you plan for that unique child can make all the difference to his or her future.

Your job as a childminder is to find ways to establish what a child’s ‘weaknesses’ are, and then plan your curriculum to help the child in the area that he is missing or behind.

A key example is talking. Some children arrive at your setting speaking really well with great vocabularies because they are exposed to lots of words and their parents read loads of books to them at home. Research has shown time and again that this gives them a massive advantage in school and in life. Other children come from much less fortunate backgrounds where they are not read to so much at home and know far fewer words. If you identify talking and vocabulary for example, as a child’s weakness, then your job as their childminder is to find ways to enhance it. In other words, you should make sure to plan a curriculum where you read a lot more and talk a lot more to children whose parents do not read to them at home.

The same rule applies right across the areas of learning and development and would also apply to the characteristics of effective learning.

Another example is a child who knows everything about dinosaurs, but nothing about plants. In this case, you could enhance his learning by teaching him about plants.

A characteristic of effective learning example might be a child who is never given any choices at home and who appears to passively take everything he is given. You can enhance his learning and prepare him for school by encouraging him to make choices while he is with you.

None of this is anything you are probably not already doing!  It just has a special name and is in the Inspection Handbook to draw your attention to the sheer importance of doing the utterly obvious!

Here is what you need to do to ‘do’ cultural capital:

  • Do starting points observations on all new children across all the learning and development areas and the COEL. This will show you the child’s strengths and areas of weaknesses.
  • Ask yourself what you would do to improve the child’s area of weakness.
  • Make a plan for each individual child. What can you develop? What can you encourage?
  • Follow through on your plans.
  • After you’ve been doing your plans for a while, check that your plans are having an effect. (What has been their ‘impact’?) Has the child started to catch up? Have you broadened their cultural capital from when they started with you?

All children arrive in your setting with a different background and different skills.

Ofsted’s buzz word is just another way of asking childminders to help to reduce disadvantage when you see it.

Remember that what you do for that child can potentially make all the difference.


One way of making sure children are exposed to plenty of new ideas and concepts is by planning around themes. Childminding Best Practice Club members receive a monthly ‘toolkit’ containing loads of planning, crafts, activities and colouring sheets all around a different theme each month. To find out more the information page here:

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

Updated 03/10/2022

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

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

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

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

A small boy climbing a tree

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

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

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

4. Reward children who never give up

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

5. Teach children to love learning

Concentrating on the balls

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

6. Help children to concentrate

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

7. Encourage children to keep on trying when challenges occur

A special certificate for trying

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

8. Teach children to think their way through problems

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

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

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

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

creating and thinking critically for childminders
Building a tower

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


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

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


10 Minute COEL CPD Activity


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