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How NOT to receive a “Thanks for Being A Great Babysitter” Mug this year

A post on Facebook broke my heart the other day from a childminder who had been given a mug for Christmas that said “Thanks for being a great babysitter”. Upset, insulted, underappreciated, and angry don’t begin to describe the range of emotional responses from other childminders. Of course the parents didn’t intend it as an insult. But it would be really hard not to take it that way. How can you make sure you aren’t the next victim of a ‘thanks for being a great babysitter’ mug?

thanks for being a great babysitter mug

Get paid in advance

Babysitters are paid when you get home tipsy after a night out. This allows you to round their pay up (or down) depending on how generous you are feeling at that point in the night. In most cases this is a terrible business model for a childminding business. Ultimately it gives parents the power to decide how much they can afford to pay you this week/month based on how much money they have left.

In my opinion, childminders should insist on being paid in advance, ideally one month in advance. This is how most nurseries are paid; why should childminders do things differently? If you offer flexible hours, why not charge a flat rate upfront, and then offer refunds or charge a surplus at the end of the month? This allows you to be flexible but doesn’t leave you entirely at the mercy of parents. Put yourself in charge of the money.

 

Get a contract in place

A written contract signed by both parties keeps things formal right from the very start and sets the professional tone of your relationship with the parents. You are not offering “casual care” like a babysitter. A contract shows that you offer a regular service for a set number of agreed hours.

If you allow parents to use your service too flexibly, to sometimes use you and sometimes use the grandparents or the church summer club, in other words if they can come and go as they choose then they hold all the power in the relationship. Set up with a proper, written contract from the very start. Parents should feel you are doing them a favour if you occasionally allow them to break their contracted hours with prior mutual agreement. A written contract shifts the power to you, rather than giving it all to the parent.

 

Offer “Exceptional Educational Programmes” in your living room

No, I’m not kidding. At their own homes with their own parents, small children ‘play with blocks’. At your setting they are ‘engaged in mathematical play’. Parents and babysitters let their children ‘paint’. You offer ‘messy play’ as a ‘structured activity’. Yes, of course it’s the same thing. But your attitude towards it, and what you call it in front of the parents alters the parents’ perception of the activity and their perception of you as a caregiver.

A few well-placed educational posters will transform your living room into a ‘highly stimulating learning environment’. Throw in some themes and make sure the parents know what you have planned. This week we are exploring ‘stranger danger’ with the children, or learning some Polish as part of our ‘diversity awareness programme’.

Practice saying "blocks are part of our educational programme" without smirking

“Blocks are part of our educational programme”.

Practice saying this a few times in front of the mirror so you can say it to parents with a straight face without smirking!

 

 

 

Show off your knowledge of child development

When new children start at your setting, wow the parents by making some starting point assessments on them within the first few months of them starting. Create learning journeys and make sure parents read them. Dazzle parents by casually dropping some of the characteristics of effective learning terminology into your conversation! The trick is to keep your knowledge of their child’s development just a tiny fraction ahead of their own.

 

Be an authority figure

Many childminders were parents first, and not only that, they were most likely parents who were good at it, and who enjoyed it. You certainly don’t go into childminding if you were one of those parents who spent the first year tiptoeing around your baby in case you broke it, or second guessing every disciplinary decision you made for your toddler! You were probably one of those parents who had most of it under control and took a lot of it in your stride. Otherwise you were probably unlikely to choose a career that means looking after other people’s children as well as your own!

Whether you were a parent first before you became a childminder or not, most likely you have more experience than many parents in dealing with children. You have probably potty trained a child before, whereas they haven’t. Whatever the issue, you have probably seen it, done it and had the t-shirt vomited on before!

Share your knowledge about healthy eating, exercise, first aid, food allergies, special educational needs. Often you have that little extra experience than they do to reassure parents that everything is normal, or have that little extra knowledge about ‘the system’ to point them in the right direction of the speech and language support in your area for example. The more that you act like an authority figure, the more this role will come naturally to you. Ultimately parents are often happy to take advice from their childminder, but nobody takes parenting advice from a babysitter!

 

Publicise your successes

Don’t be modest. Make sure that parents are aware of all the great things you do because their children won’t tell them anything you want them to! When the parents come to collect the child it is hugely important not just to tell the parents what the child ate and how he slept and what his nappies were like… it is also a brief but crucial opportunity to show the parents all the great things you are doing with their child. Put up photos where parents will see them. Some childminders use daily diaries. Newsletters are a great way of spreading your success stories. Babysitters don’t write newsletters.

 

Treat parents as if they are valued customers of your business

Babysitters don’t ask for feedback on their service. They don’t evaluate and reflect on ways to improve the service they offer or ‘treat parents as partners’. They don’t send home questionnaires about ways to improve their service or offer parents a chance to help plan for their children’s time. They definitely don’t have a plan in place for their continual professional development. Good childminders do all this stuff, because we are childcare professionals.

 

“Subtly” remind parents you are a childcare professional at all opportunities

“During today’s fire drill we ….”

Enough said.

Parents and babysitters definitely do not do fire drills!

 

Don’t become a victim of a bad mug. Always remember the childminder’s daily mantra (to be chanted on the school run): I am not JUST A BABYSITTER. I am an Ofsted-registered childcare professional, paediatric first-aid certified, DBS checked, potty-training certified, heathy-snack provider, licensed double-buggy driving CHILDMINDER.

 

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

Kay Woods Kids To GoKay 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, safety 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.

www.kidstogo.co.uk

Planning Checklist for Childminders

Is your childminding planning system simple and structured? Do you feel your plans are actually useful to your setting, or just another Ofsted chore? Keep the following in mind when you write your childminding plans:

 

If you feel you are wasting time with planning, then you probably are.

GOOD planning is not a waste of time. It shows parents that you are a childcare professional – not ‘just a babysitter’. Good planning helps you to stay organised, ensures that you are providing a balanced and varied experience for the children you look after, and that you have the resources you need to offer the experiences you have planned.

 

Don’t overcomplicate things or you won’t be able to use your system.

Whatever system you are using for your planning needs to be usable by you every single week. The more complicated you make it, then the less likely you will be to use your own system. If the system you are using currently feels too complicated for you to maintain, then it may be time to try a new system.

 

Involve the children and the parents in writing plans for your setting.

Ofsted loves it when children are involved in the planning for your setting. It’s great to ask older children to help think of activities for younger ones. It’s also nice to ask parents what activities or themes they might like you to explore with their children. Getting parents involved in celebrating festivals that are relevant to the children in your care (like planning to celebrate Diwali if you look after a Hindu child) allows you to tick off the ‘diversity’ and ‘parent communication’ boxes in one seriously-Ofsted-impressing-activity that everyone will enjoy!

free-diversity-planning-calendar-2017-kidstogo

 

 

Plan to do something NEW this year.

Planning new things is a great way to keep yourself fresh and to keep things interesting for the children too. You might want to celebrate a festival like Diwali or Easter or Eid that you’ve never celebrated before? My free 2016 Diversity Calendar could inspire you? Or teach the children about stranger danger, or mini beasts using ideas from the Be Safe Be Healthy Pack. Whatever theme you are planning to do will require a little preparation on your part, so if you put it into your written planning then it is more likely to happen.

 

Your planning system needs to work for your whole setting AND for each individual child.

If the system you use works for your setting, but does not take into account the needs of different children in your setting, then your system needs a rethink. A planning system must work for your whole setting AND take into account the needs and interests of each individual child.

 

Learning and development observations must link into your planning.

Writing observations and next steps into your learning journeys is pointless if you don’t have a method to put those ideas into your planning. All of the ‘next steps’ you record in your learning journeys MUST link into whatever planning system you are using.

 

Get the right mix of planned activities and unstructured free-play time.

childminding free play

Children need daily opportunities for free play indoors and outdoors so that they can engage uninterrupted in activities that interest them. They also need you to organise learning activities and outings for them that address the different learning and development areas and characteristics of effective learning. Making monthly and weekly plans will help you to get the balance right.

 

What are your plans for improvements to your setting, and improvements to yourself this year?

Part of creating a year plan is to think about what new equipment, training and other resources you may want to buy for your setting this year. A formal list of this kind, made once a year, is a great way to make sure you think about your setting as a whole.

It’s also a great time of year to make plans for your own Continual Professional Development (CPD).

You might think about more training you would like to receive? You might think about getting training for special needs children or becoming a Forest Childcare Provider? All of these things directly benefit all of the children who attend your setting.

Your long term planning is a little like a performance review. It is a chance for you to take a step back and ask yourself what you do well in your setting and what could be improved. What could you buy or do differently that would help you to improve what you could offer? If you want to become a Forest Childcare Provider, for example, how would you work in weekly trips to your schedule? How would you make time? What special equipment (outdoor gear, reflective jackets, off-road buggy etc.) might you need?

 

Do you want help with planning for your setting?

Is the planning system you are currently using is too complicated? You may want to simplify things to make it easier for yourself? My Learning Journey Plus workbook takes you step by step through creating a workable, flexible and ongoing planning system for your setting. Use it to create a complete planning system from scratch or to fill in gaps and improve any system you are already using.

 

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

Kay Woods Kids To GoKay 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.

www.kidstogo.co.uk

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