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.

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 with the Super Summative Assessment and Gap Tracker Kit.

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.

Find us on social media!

Facebook: Kids To Go

Instagram: cmbestpractice

Don’t quit childminding until you’ve asked yourself these 13 questions

Last updated 16/02/2023

All childminders have those days when you wake up and think: I can’t do this anymore. But what about when that feeling of gloom goes on for weeks? Or months? When you reach the point where you just feel utterly miserable and can barely make yourself open the front door on a morning. If this is you, please don’t quit before you’ve asked yourself the following 13 questions:

  1. Are you just over-reacting to feeling a ‘bit down’?

Down patches happen to everybody, in ANY job. I don’t know a single childminder who leaps out of bed every single morning rearing to go. Long spells of bad weather can make you feel awful. Small children can be vile. But do you really feel miserable? Has this feeling been going on for a long time? Or is this just a blip? If it’s just a temporary down patch, don’t do anything hasty. Most childminders will tell you to hang in there and you’ll probably feel better again soon.

2. Are you sure it’s childminding that’s making you unhappy, and not something else?

When you have a lot of stress in your life, it can affect your outlook on EVERYTHING. If you are dealing with big, real other problems in other areas of your life (spouse, finances, children, illness) then even things you normally enjoy (like your work) will feel like more than you can handle. So before you quit childminding, first do some proper soul searching and make sure that it is really childminding that is making you miserable and not something else. Otherwise, if you remove childminding from your life, but it is not the real cause of your feelings, then it won’t solve the problem.

3. Do you have another job to go to?

I believe you should never give notice at a job until you have something else to go to. Unless childminding has made you fantastically rich and you plan to live on your savings (or your partners) in my opinion, you should be sure that you have a plan for what you will do ‘next’ before you quit.

4. Is your new idea really going to make you happier than childminding?

You know what they say about the grass being greener on the other side. Stop and look again at childminding. Is it really all that bad? You can make a decent amount of money, especially if you’re at the point in your life where childminding means you don’t have to pay for childcare for your own children. It’s fun and rewarding when it’s going well! And do you really want to work for someone else again when you’ve been your own boss?

5. Is it just the paperwork that’s getting on top of you?

childminding paperwork

Paperwork is one of the main reasons childminders quote for giving up childminding which I can understand but is a real shame because it is a problem that is easily solved. It is easy to get to the point where you feel so stressed about the paperwork that you don’t even know where to begin. Please don’t feel overwhelmed about paperwork. You are probably overcomplicating things. There are lots of companies who sell paperwork solutions especially for childminders (including me)! Before you quit childminding over paperwork, please at least take a look at some of the helpful Kids To Go paperwork products which I promise will help you.

6. Are you lonely?

Talking to small children all day can be lonely, repetitious and tedious, and leaves many childminders longing for the adult company their old day job gave them. People always suggest going to childminder drop-in groups, which is great if you live somewhere that runs them, but hard if you’re somewhere that has less going on. It is also hard if you’re shy at those sorts of things and find it difficult to walk into a group of people who already know each other and make friends. Facebook has many groups where you can meet other childminders and talk online. My favourite is “Childminding For You” with 10,000 members chatting about their lives and sharing problems and successes. However, I do feel that if you have tried groups, and tried social media and these don’t work for you, then childminding is a lonely job and this is a very valid reason to move on to something new.

7. Can you reduce your hours?

If you can afford to reduce your hours, many childminders will tell you that this has been a life saver to them. One way to do this is that when someone leaves just don’t replace them straight away. Or switch entirely to before/after school care so you have some time in the day to yourself. Reducing your hours affects everybody and when I did it I hated letting the little boy’s parents down. However, I helped him settle into the nursery he would attend on the days I was to be ‘closed’ and did my best to make the transition smooth. In the end going from full to part time was the best decision I made. I had time to go to the gym again and energy to develop my business ideas so I didn’t feel so “trapped” any more. Trapped is a horrible feeling, so don’t quit until you’ve tried to free yourself a little.

8. Did you have a bad Ofsted inspection?

Not getting the grade you were hoping for at your inspection is really demoralising, but I don’t think you should quit over it. Being inspected is horrible but try to put Ofsted in perspective. They come once every 5 years or so. In between Ofsted, childminding goes on as it always has done. That’s a long time until you need to worry about them again.

9. Are you bored?

bored childminding

Can’t face getting the paint out again? Can’t think of anything more tedious than pushing ANOTHER child on that swing, AGAIN? Then do something different. Try a new park, try a new activity. Challenge yourself to come up with interesting new activities to do with the children. Try teaching the children something that will matter to their lives, like activities that promote diversity or safety and health. This is something I can really help you with and not a good reason to quit childminding. You will never be short of ideas if you check out our printable arts and activities packs.

10. Is it one particular child or one particular family that is upsetting you?

One of my favourite things to do each week when the children were small was Teddies Music Club. We danced, played instruments and I used to have loads of fun there with the children. Then we got a little boy, a one-day- a-weeker, who was just miserable. He clung to me and cried when the music started. He wasn’t settling and I was out of patience. I came to music club to dance and laugh with the fun children. And this boy was spoiling music club for me and for the others. I was so glad when he left because it stopped me from having to make a difficult decision. Was his £50/ week worth it, to totally spoil my Tuesdays and turn Teddies Music Club into an occasion that made me feel miserable and trapped? Sometimes you have to put yourself first. If you can pin it down to feeling miserable about behavioural problems from a particular child, or a horrid rude family, then don’t quit childminding until you’ve given that particular child’s family notice.

11. Do you just need to take a break?

childminding holiday

Are you taking your holidays? I hear from far too many childminders who will tell me they haven’t had a proper holiday in years. Even if you do take holidays, you can’t put all your hope in holidays to take a break. What about the weekends? If you are looking after children all week, it is natural that on the weekends you may sometimes feel less than enthusiastic about spending yet more quality time with your own kids. One childminder friend of mine would get up at 4am every day just so she could have a bit of time to herself before the day started. That worked for her, and I tried it once, but I turned into a zombie by day 3. It is easy to get to the point where you feel you will actually explode if you don’t get some time to yourself for a while. Be honest with your friends, family and most importantly try to get your partner to understand your need for some time “off” children at weekends.

12. Are you feeling undervalued and underpaid?

If other childminders and nurseries in your area charge more per hour than you do, this can really get you down. Many childminders still charge the same fees per hour as they did 10 years ago. Be brave and tell parents that you are putting your prices up. You will feel a lot better about your job if you feel are being paid more fairly for the work you do.

13. Is your house a mess and full of baby things?

house full of plastic toys

Your own children have grown into teenagers and yet childminding leaves you permanently stuck in the toddler years. There are plastic toys jammed into all the storage spaces and your spare bedroom is STILL crammed full of two cots and a change table. You’ve forgotten that doorways could ever exist without baby gates blocking them. This can be really hard to deal with. The constant feeling of never being away from work, and feeling stuck in time. If you’ve tried storage, if you’ve tried clearing things out, then this, in my opinion is one of the most genuine reasons to quit childminding because this is a feeling that builds up over time, a gradual feeling of just having had enough of it. If this is you, this really could be a sign that you’ve simply had enough and really are ready to move on and do something new. A deep feeling that you and your family have now outgrown childminding.

Hopefully after reading this you won’t give up after all, but maybe reading this will make you feel that it is in fact time to move on to something new. If it really is time to quit, then give yourself a quitting time scale and an ‘exit plan’, perhaps when your own child starts school or one of your mindees leaves for nursery. Having an exit plan with a time scale attached can help you to keep going until it really is time to move on to something new.


Childminding Best Practice Newsletter

Sign up for the free Childminding Best Practice Newsletter 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, and best practice resources promoting diversity, safety and childminding in the great outdoors (Forest Childcare).

www.kidstogo.co.uk