Home » Posts tagged 'new to childminding'

Tag Archives: new to childminding

Top 10 threats to childminders going into 2023

Updated 01/01/2023

Note: This blog originally appeared in 2019 and depressingly not a lot has changed since then. However, being aware of the ‘threats’ to your business is the first step to finding ways to deal with those them. I have added lots of tips for you to try and if you have any others that you have found effective please leave them in the comments to help other childminders. Jennifer x

Here real childminders to share what they see as the biggest threats to their childminding business. 

1. Mums and dads doing childcare favours/ granny care – resulting in lots of children using part time spaces

While many childminders do lose business to mums doing each other favours, one childminder writes that “I have a number of my parents who have a similar agreement with friends but over time the friends don’t want to tie themselves to the commitment of caring for someone else’s little one on a regular basis. The casual basis of the relationship means that it can break down easily. I often warn parents that, although favours are a nice idea, in practise these arrangements often break down and this can leave parents in a sticky situation. Grandparents are more of a threat than friends because they are more reliable.”

Another childminder finds that she gets less full time children these days, because people try to mix granny care with a childminder. “I find it rare these days to get full timers as in a lot of families grandma does one or two days a week for them.”

This childminder of 22 years writes: “Me and my co-minder have a lot of kids on our books 22 in all. Not one of them do more than 3 days a week, some only come for 1 day a week. This is very different from how it was even 10 years ago.”

Tip 1: Lots of childminders now work part-time and this can be a great way to help balance work/life responsibilities. If you decide to go part time do some research about your local area first. For example, is there a large local employer that gives everyone Friday off meaning that if you open that day no-one will need you? 

Tip 2: If all of your families are part time but you want to fill 5 days a week why not advertise one day a week as a special outings day? For example, you could offer Forest Childcare Association sessions on a day that is normally quiet and actually charge slightly more for the specialised service you provide. This way you can attract people that do not necessarily need a childminder but love the idea of the children having a special day once a week.

2. Negative press on childminders

Childminders are frequently haunted by people referring to them as “babysitters” in the press and there have been many high profile media moments where childminders are portrayed as unqualified and not as good as nurseries. One childminder writes, “there is just not enough positive press promoting our profession and highlighting differences from nurseries in a positive way.” Another childminder read an article in which childminders were described as “allowing children to eat junk food all day. Utter rubbish. I am complemented by my clients on the meals I prepare. I don’t give them sweets at all!”

2023 Addition: There are definitely lots of supporters of childminders out there and I have been heartened by things like normal run of the mill mums sticking up for childminders on places like Mumsnet. You just have to find them!

Tip 3: Be part of the solution. Visit our Facebook page at Kids To Go and share, share, share the special images we put on there, busting myths and promoting just how fabulous childminders are!

 3. 30 hours “free” childcare

For many childminders the 30 hours ‘free’ funding continues to be the biggest threat to their business with many childminders feeling obliged to offer the funded hours so as not to lose business to nurseries, but then operating at a loss. One childminder writes: “If we don’t offer it then parents look elsewhere. If we do offer it then we are over £1 per hour out of pocket (£30 a week per child).” Many childminders find that children have now reduced their hours to take advantage of the funding. Other childminders find the funding paperwork overwhelming alongside cash flow problems with delays in getting paid.

Tip 4: Read your council funding agreement carefully and see if there are ways you can make funding work for you. For example if you are allowed to specify days on which funding is available you may wish to just offer days that you normally find difficult to fill.

 4. Cheap after school clubs at schools

One of the worst things that can happen to many childminders is learning that their local school is going to open an after school club or a holiday club. One childminder writes: “we have a holiday club here that is £15 per half day but if you use a code to book then it’s half price. So 8-1 for £7.50 Everyone round here knows about the code now and I just can’t compete.”

Tip 5: Don’t compete, stand out from the crowd. Think about all the things you can offer that a holiday club cannot. For example, advertise the fact that you offer outings and a homely environment meaning, for example, that children can have a wonderful day at the beach and then relax on the sofa when they are tired at the end of the day. Many parents do not want their child stuck in a school hall for 6 weeks so try and reach out to parents who want a more premium service – they are out there!

5. Health visitors and other professionals like nursery workers not working with childminders

While some childminders have told me that health visitors have found their Progress Check reports very helpful, there are still many health visitors who treat childminders as unqualified and don’t even read them. One childminder writes: “I would like to recognised as a professional. I would like health visitors to promote childminders to parents, not to brain wash them to think that nurseries are the only and best option.”

Another childminder finds the lack of information sharing between nurseries and herself very hard to deal with which she describes as “professional snobbery, partly due to our title (I feel). There is the attitude that you’re just a childminder and can’t possibly be as qualified as them. So why should they work with you?”

Tip 6: This is a tough one and can be incredibly frustrating. However please stick with it. Sometimes the only thing you can do is to keep trying and advocate for yourself (and childminders in general!) Be olite and professional but do not take no for an answer and hopefully you will change people’s minds.

6. The demands of Ofsted!

how-to-burn-out-at-childminding-image

Many childminders hark back to a time before Ofsted did inspections and feel that it is unfair to be graded on the same criteria as a nursery. One childminder writes: “I would love to be assessed as a home from home, not in line with nurseries.” Another childminder hates the “growing amount of red tape, paperwork, Ofsted telling me I need a policy for example but won’t tell me what I need in it.”

2023 Addition: The paperwork demands from Ofsted are a lot less now which is a great relief. You are required to complete a written Progress Check at Age two and may like to have other paperwork that you find helpful but you are not required to produce the reams of assessments, etc that you were before.

7. The word ‘childminder’ is not professional

Even though the scope of the job of a childminder has come to mean so much more than it did 20 years ago, the word ‘childminder’ remains and many people see the word as part of the problem of being treated unprofessionally. One childminder writes: “I think we should change our name as childminder does us no real justice. Early years practitioner sounds better. The amount of people that say I’m just a childminder or a babysitter, even though we do everything that a nursery would. We offer support to parents that other services can’t.”

8. Lack of support and large training costs

Having a support worker at your council can be very helpful, especially when you are new to childminding or when you want to be kept informed of changes introduced by Ofsted. In many parts of the country, childminders get literally no support at all from their councils. Childminders without local support find the weekly Childminding Best Practice newsletters especially helpful , so please sign up (it’s free).

Training costs of safeguarding and first aid courses are also very expensive especially for new childminders or those who are out of work.

2023 Addition: From April 2023 the D of E’s Childminder Mentor programme goes live. ‘The childminder mentor programme will offer bespoke support by trained early years professionals in the role of area lead and mentor, to childminders across the country.’

To find out more follow this link to the Government Webpage:

9. Strict ratios make it hard to compete with nurseries – unfairness that it is different

forest-childcare-group-photo

Strict ratios on the number of EYFS children that childminders can look after make it very important to really do the maths in terms of taking on part time children. It also seems enormously unfair that nurseries have such different ratios – many experienced and qualified childminders could easily look after more children. One childminder writes: “I think that it’s ridiculous to think that a childminder is unable to care for more than 3 children under 5! you should be able to take on a new family and have 4 children + (not just continuity of care.) An individual childminder knows what workload they can cope with.”

Tip 7: You are allowed to vary your ratios in for a certain number of reasons as detailed in the September 2021 EYFS:

3.43. If a childminder can demonstrate to parents and/or carers and Ofsted inspectors or their childminder agency that the individual needs of all the children are being met, exceptions to the usual ratios can be made for example:

  • when childminders are caring for sibling babies, or
  • when caring for their own baby, or
  • to maintain continuity of care, or
  • if children aged three to five only attend the childminding setting
    before and/or after a normal school day51, and/or during school
    holidays, they may be cared for at the same time as three other young
    children.
    In all circumstances, the total number of children under the age of eight being
    cared for must not exceed six per adult.’

Reference: Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage, Published 1 September 2021

However be careful as you must have good reason for doing so and need to be able to prove that having more children does not affect the care or education you provide them.

10. Nurseries and play groups

Nurseries, play groups and other childcare providers will always represent a threat to childminders as parents have lots of choice. Schools often hand out flyers for the local nursery, but won’t hand out flyers for childminders. One childminder writes, “My biggest threat is the number of cheap nurseries opening near me!!”. Another childminder with a new nursery opening near to her writes, “I live within walking distance to the nursery and I’ve had parents round but have chosen the nursery because they offer more learning experiences. Can’t compete with them really can I?”

Tip 8: Try and get to know your nurseries, schools and playgroups as much as possible. For example, I found that the playgroup I attended actually valued my experience and would sometimes ask me to speak to parents who were struggling with a particular issue with their child. Be friendly and professional at all times – this will help build you reputation with local parents and other settings.

Being aware of threats is important in any business – including childminding

You can’t keep running along with your eyes closed hoping that if you don’t look at a problem that it will go away. Your business is important and I am sorry if you have been or are being affected by any of the issues listed here. Being aware of the competition, knowledge of what issues affect you is generally the first step to finding a solution.


More tips:

Turn ‘threats’ into ‘opportunities’

In business one strategy is to turn ‘threats’ into ‘opportunities’. In other words, if a nursery opens in your neighbourhood, you need to be aware. Then you need to make a plan for how you are going to make sure you don’t lose business to the new nursery. Why is the service you offer BETTER than that nursery for example? How do you communicate this message to parents in your area?

Take control of the issues you can: 

Promote yourself. What makes your business unique? Why should parents continue to choose you over nursery or cheaper option?

Be smart about what childminding paperwork you do. Don’t do too much. Don’t do the paperwork FOR Ofsted; do it because it is useful.

If you want to be seen as a professional by parents, nursery workers and health visitors, your Progress Checks, and other information that you share need to be of professional quality.

Remember that this is your BUSINESS, so do the maths. Check your hourly rate is sustainable. If you can’t afford to take on part time children then don’t let them fill up your spaces. Don’t offer funded hours if you can’t afford to. Write it down properly and work out what you can afford. Don’t be afraid to say no!

Good luck for 2023! And please don’t make a rash new year’s decision to quit childminding until you’ve asked yourself these 13 questions….

Childminding Best Practice Newsletter

Sign up for the free Childminding Best Practice Newsletter here 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).

kidstogo.co.uk


https://www.facebook.com/Kidstogo.CMbest.practice

Eight essential books for childminders of very young children

Books are a must have in every childminding and early years setting. I love children’s books and have a vast collection that I picked up over the years, from classic early years books that everyone will recognise through to rare books that are out of publication and on to brand new books which have just hit the shelves in bookshops. I am still discovering beautiful new books all the time and could probably end up filling my whole house. I think it is very important to introduce books to children as soon as possible so my collection also includes lots of books aimed at the very youngest children. However, if I could only have eight books for babies these would be my absolute essentials:

1) An early years classic to carry on traditions:

One of the very special things about reading books to small children is that it creates lovely memories for both the adult and the child. I read about a question an Ofsted Inspector recently asked a childminder: ‘which books have you read to the children so often that they know all the words?’ This possibly does not apply to our youngest children who are not yet speaking so I would ask, ‘which book have you read so often that the children will remember it when they read it to their children?

You may have a book that you remember reading to your own children or one that you were read as a small child. Ask the child’s parents if they have a special book that they would like to share too. For example:

Part of a childminder’s role is to build relationship with the child and their family and sharing a special story in this way is a lovely way to start. When the child leaves your setting a lovely parting gift can be a copy of your ‘special’ book.

2) An interactive book:

Books with sturdy flaps to lift, textures to feel or holes to peep and poke fingers through are always on my must have list for babies and very young children. For example:

Any of the ‘That’s Not My’ books. I have a small collection of these as the favourite depends on what each child is interested in. Currently ‘That’s not My Car’ is a firm favourite and I have expanded my own car related vocabulary reading this book too!

3) A book about people:

Children are born with an instinctive fascination with other people and humans are programmed to recognise faces from birth. Chose books with a variety of different people so that children can see people that look like them and people that are different. For the very youngest children chose books that mainly feature pictures of faces as this is what babies are most interested in. For example:

Babies love looking at other babies so if you have very young children a book like this is a must. If possible, look for books featuring photographs of babies as this will appeal to very young children more than illustrated versions. One good example is ‘Baby Faces’ by the published DK, which shows babies from different backgrounds, pulling a variety of expressions. This has proved very popular in my setting.

4) A book about the wider world:

Keep this simple. For very young children almost everything is ‘the wider world.’ A good place to start is a book about animals. Young children love animals and some of the first words they speak may very well be animals sounds. Try and choose books with a good range of vocabulary. For example, I recently discovered some lift the flap animal books by Jane Ormes that feature farm animal families including Jack and Jenny donkeys!

5) A book that feature the children’s interests:

From a very early age children will start to develop interests. Even before they can say many words a child may be able to spot a ‘trador’ (tractor) from so far away that you are amazed that they can even see it or will point out every car that goes past. Tuning into these interests and providing books that feature them will help children learn that books are fun. If you are clever with your choices, it can also help children learn other things, not necessarily related to their main passion.

For example, I have recently discovered a book which is an absolute favourite in my setting. It is called’ Rosa Loves Cars,’ by Jessica Spanyol. It features a little girl and a wider cast of diverse friends who love cars and has lots of simple car related vocabulary that the little ones love to try and copy. I love the book because it challenges gender stereotypes and promotes diversity; the little ones love the book because it features cars. Everyone is happy!

6) A nursery rhyme book:

Reading anything to children will help with their language development but some books are more specifically aimed at helping young children with this essential skill. Nursery rhyme books fall into this category.

Traditional Tales are too long and complicated for very young children (although they are FABULOUS a little later,) but nursery rhymes are excellent for helping children acquire language skills. Their rhyming and rhythmic structure helps children remember and learn words and tune into the rise and fall patterns of speech.  

There are lots and lots of sturdy board books featuring nursery rhymes, but my favourites are the ‘Child’s Play’ series. These books keep the rhyme nice and short and do not extend the rhyme with additional verses like some other nursery rhyme books. This makes them more suitable for younger children with shorter concentration spans. They also have lovely illustrations showing actions the children can do to accompany the rhyme. You can often pick these books up in charity shops so keep your eyes peeled.

7) A good quality first words book:

There are lots of these about from short board books concentrating on different topics like colours or numbers (you can borrow these sorts of books by the bucket load from your local library) to longer versions with almost every word you could ever want, accompanied by a picture. However, the most popular ones in my setting have always been those with pictures of scenes with lots of things to look at, spot and talk about. For example, in my setting the favourite is, ‘Thomas’s Word Book,’ featuring the famous tank engine. In fact, this book has proved so popular that my original copy wore out and I had to buy a new one!

8) A homemade book:

Children love stories that feature themselves or people that they know. You can buy books that will add a child’s name into the story but making you own books is easier, cheaper and more effective. Making your own books for or with children really gives them ownership over their special book.  Your homemade books do not need to be fancy. For very young children a short book with some photos of themselves and their family members to look at is lovely. Cover some of the photos with flaps over the top to lift to make the book interactive. Make sure you have a few pages to turn so that children can learn about how a book works and your efforts are sure to be rewarded.


Disclaimer: I have not included number books on this list for a particular reason. I am certainly not saying to share number books with young children, but this is an essentials list. Very young children who do not even have a concept of what a number is are not ready to count so books featuring things to count in sequence are not necessarily the best way to introduce very young children to number. Instead make sure to have books which have number words in them such as nursery rhymes with numbers in them. When children are a little older or more developed and understand that you can count things then your numbers books will be much more useful.

Over to you:

I would love to know what your favourite books are to share with your very youngest children. Share your thoughts in the comments.


Do you want more support and ideas for working with your very youngest children?

I noticed that there isn’t as much support or training available for childminders about very young children under the age of two. This is why I introduced a special section in the Childminding Best Practice Club monthly toolkits which is dedicated specifically to this age group. In it you will find loads of ideas to try out with your very littlest ones.

The toolkits also contain a wealth of other ideas and resources including CPD ideas, inspection support and a themed section every month containing things like crafts, invitations to play ideas, resources and colouring sheets. Best Practice Club members also receive a useful. ‘New Members Welcome Pack,’ containing lots of other resources and a 25% discount off other Kids To Go products.


If you would like more childminding inspiration, free craft ideas, CPD, news and more sign up for the free Childminding Best Practice Newsletters here:


Find us on social media!

Facebook: Kids To Go

Instagram: cmbestpractice

Can you name 10 reasons childminders are better than nurseries?

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

The golden rules for dealing with parents are to:

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

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

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

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

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

 

Communication with Parents Pack

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

Pack includes:

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

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

Childminding Best Practice Newsletter

Sign up for the free quarterly Childminding Best Practice Newsletter using the orange sign up box on my website and I will send you best practice ideas, childminding news, EYFS tips, outstanding ideas, stories from other childminders, arts and crafts project templates, new products, and links.

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

About Kay Woods and Kids To Go

Kids To Go was established by Kay Woods in 2008 and is now run by sisters Jennifer and Amanda. Our products include the Ultimate Childminding Checklist, the Learning Journey Plus for planning, observation and assessment and best practice resources promoting diversity, safety and childminding in the great outdoors (Forest Childcare).

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

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

Things to consider when setting your childminding fees

If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys (for childminders)

Written by Kay Woods Last updated 06/05/2022

I have always hated this expression from when my very first boss would use it. ‘If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys’ he’d say. The problem was, he DID pay peanuts. So every time he used the expression, he made me feel that was how he thought of me. He paid peanuts. He’d hired a monkey. Me.

Childminding prices

Don’t let parents pay you ‘peanuts’

Feeling that you are being paid peanuts is awful. Feeling undervalued in any job is demoralising, but when you are childminding it can feel doubly awful because you are the one who sets your own prices. It is not parents who are paying you peanuts. When you are self-employed, you are the one who decides what you are ‘worth’. You are no longer the victim of a horrible boss.  You have undervalued yourself. If you let these feelings go ignored you can end up resenting the parents, your partner, other childminders and ultimately the children you care for.

But how much is ‘peanuts’? What is a GOOD hourly rate for a childminder?

This is a difficult question because childminding hourly rates vary enormously across the country from as little as £3 per hour (per child) to as much as £7 an hour. If you are childminding in many parts of London, for example, then you may feel you are being paid peanuts if you are paid only £5 per hour, when that same hourly rate would put you near the top of the hourly price range in many other locations across the country.  So when you compare yourself to others, make sure it is to other childcare providers in YOUR area.

When you are just starting out, how should you decide a good hourly rate?

If you are new to childminding the best way to decide on an hourly rate is to look at what other childcare providers in your area charge. This will also give you a good idea about the ‘market’ in your area – in other words – what parents are looking for and what they are willing to pay. You should find out what both nurseries and childminders in your area charge per hour.  As well as looking at the prices, you should also look at what is offered for those services.

Here is an example. It’s actually a real example of how I decided my original hourly rate TEN years ago in Slough (home counties) where I was trying to set up my childminding business.

The very cheapest childcare in my area were childminders who charged between £3.50 and £4.50 per hour. Next on the scale were many mid-range nurseries that charged between £4.50 and £5.50 per hour. The services these nurseries and childminders advertised all seemed very standard. The “best” nursery in our area (with a waiting list) that took the children to swimming lessons, had Ofsted outstanding and cooked lunches on the premises charged £5.50 per hour. The most expensive childcare in the area was an outstanding childminder who had been childminding for 15 years from her farm location outside of the city. She charged a massive £6.50 per hour and always had a waiting list.

So, where I lived, it seemed reasonable that parents would be willing to pay somewhere between £3.50 and £6 per hour for childcare, depending on the type of service I decided to offer.

How do you decide on your ‘price point’?

Once you have the range of prices in your area, you then need to make a decision about how you want to fit in on this scale. You also need to consider your ‘market’. Do you have lots of parents willing to pay high end prices in your area?  Or do most people where you live want the cheapest childcare going?

Suppose you decide to become one of the most expensive childminders in your area? If so, you will be competing with the top nursery, nannies and other top childminders in your area. If you are going in at the ‘top end’ then what services are you going to offer to parents that will make your higher prices justifiable to them? How will you compete with the nursery that offers ‘swimming lessons’ or the ‘growing up on a farm’ experience offered by the top childminder? This is especially difficult if you are new to childminding as many top childminders and nurseries have years of experience and the reputation that goes with it, neither of which you have if you are new. One of the key benefits of deciding to offer a top end service is that you often attract parents who want longer hours for their children. So you get the added benefit of longer, contracted hours at a higher hourly rate. Getting rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted can be a huge benefit if you intend to go in at the ‘top end’ and there is no reason why you shouldn’t try to attract parents who are looking for ‘the best’ even if you are new as long as there are enough parents in your area looking for that service.

Alternately, you may decide to go in at the lowest cost end. You may want to try and offer cheap and no frills childcare – like Easyjet for parents!  Parents bring their own food and snacks and children can come and go flexibly. Many childminders who offer a low cost childminding service are happy to be flexible regarding hours and this suits and helps many parents enormously. The low cost business model for childminding can make it easy to attract many parents, especially parents who have low paid jobs themselves where they are making only marginally more per hour than they pay you to look after their child.  The downside is the lower rate, and the risk that taking children for five hour slots in a day can make it impossible to take on full timers.

Other childminders decide to go ‘middle of the road’ on their prices. Childminders who choose this option are not trying to compete with nurseries or nannies, or with childminders who offer low cost. If you go middle of the road with your prices then finding ways to stand out is crucial if you want to attract parents. You have to think very carefully about what makes your service unique.  If you are neither the cheapest, nor the best, why else should parents call you, instead of the next childminder on the list?

When I had to make this decision ten years ago now, I decided that I wanted to go ‘top end’ and offer a quality service. I couldn’t possibly compete with the childminder with 15 years’ experience who raised children on her farm. But I felt that by having all-inclusive prices, home-cooked meals and weekly outdoor ‘Forest Childcare’ outings, I could easily compete with the top nursery in our area. So I matched my hourly rate to theirs offering ‘all the benefits of a nursery but in a home environment’. That was my tagline. And it worked for me.

Are parents really looking for the “cheapest childcare”?

Don’t get me wrong. Many parents really do choose a childminder because it is the cheapest childcare can they find. But for the vast majority of parents, price is only one small factor in the decision. Parents will pay more for childcare if you give them a reason to. They will find money if you give them a reason to spend it. So don’t start off by assuming that the only way you will attract new parents is by undercutting the competition. Setting your prices too low can result in you regretting it later on by feeling undervalued for the work you do.

Low prices may actually put some people off

Many parents think that they are looking for cheap childcare. But really they are looking for ‘the best childcare they can afford’. Many parents (people) believe that if they pay more for something that it must be better. They may actually seek out higher hourly rates because they will feel that if they are paying more, then what they are getting must be better.

Recently I had to buy a new toaster. I walked up and down the rows of toasters in the shops horrified at the range of prices and weird and wonderful extras I could get for an appliance that I essentially wanted to be able to ‘heat bread reliably at breakfast’. Did I buy the cheapest toaster? Even though it did exactly that? No, because somehow I allowed myself to believe that some of the extras I was being offered might be worth it. But more importantly because when I looked at the cheapest toaster I thought to myself ‘what’s wrong with it?’ Why is it so cheap?  It must not be any good if they are selling it that cheaply. It will probably break in a year.

A parent who pays peanuts can get a childminder who feels underpaid and undervalued

Feeling respected is very important to people’s wellbeing. When you feel that you are being paid less than other childminders, this can seriously harm your enjoyment of the job. If other childminders in your area charge more than you, then think about the impression you are giving parents about the service you offer and consider putting your prices up.

Many childminders still charge the same fees per hour as they did 10 years ago. It is easy to say be brave and tell parents that you are putting your prices up. But this is so much easier said than done.

Give yourself a clause in your contract about reviewing your prices

If you are starting out, then make sure you put a clause into your contract that tells parents your prices are renewed annually at a certain date (1st April for example). Then it will come as less of a shock to parents that your prices are being reviewed and are going up. And you won’t feel guilty asking because it was in your agreement.

How to put your prices up if you don’t have a review clause in your contract

Putting your prices up takes a lot of nerve and you are right to feel nervous about it. You don’t want to upset families and drive them away. But you also don’t want to grow increasingly resentful of them (and their child) which can happen if you ignore your feelings.

If you look after just one family, then you may want to discuss your feelings regarding the pay rise with them and come to a mutually agreed amount. If you explain how you feel, perhaps in a letter, not in the morning as they are rushing to work, or when they are tired and their child is whingy at collection time, but when they can sit down and discuss this together, then you may all be able to come to an agreement that is reasonable and will keep everybody happy.

If there are multiple families involved then I wouldn’t ask their permission if I were you. Imagine if you were a nursery. Would a nursery send a letter home asking ‘look, I hope you don’t mind but I’m thinking of putting my prices up’ and it is demoralising to ‘ask them for a pay rise’ when you are self-employed. Just make the announcement like your nursery or any kids sports club would do. Parents will moan and groan, like you would do. But unless you are being unreasonable, they are very unlikely to actually leave you over a small price increase; they will most likely grumble, then do it, and then forget about it.

pile-of-peanuts

Don’t feel like a monkey by offering your service for peanuts

I have carried that expression on with me throughout my life. When I left my first job I made a promise to myself never to work for someone who ‘paid peanuts’ again because it left me feeling very bad about myself, including when I started childminding and became my own boss. When you are not being paid what you feel you deserve for your work, it can really get you down. If this is you, it’s time to take the brave step of asking for the money you feel you are worth. Good luck!


Childminding Best Practice Newsletter

Sign up for our Childminding Best Practice Newsletters 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.


Kids To Go

Kids To Go was established in 2008. Our products include the Ultimate Childminding Checklist, and best practice resources promoting diversity, safety and childminding in the great outdoors (Forest Childcare).

%d bloggers like this: