A childminder cares for children in their own home. Childminders are registered with Ofsted and are inspected at least once every 12 months. Because of the nature of childminders they are generally the most flexible option in terms of hours etc. However, you must bear in mind that if your childminder is ill you may lose your child carer.
The following points aim to help you choose a childminder;
First point is really about if you like them. Do they have similar values to you? Do you trust them to look after your children?
You may also want to ask if they have had any formal training. Many qualified nursery staff offer childminding after having a family. A childminder should have a file to show prospective parents which tells you all of their policies such as discipline, emergencies, child protection, risk assesments etc.
Ask to see the childminders registration certificate. It's illegal to professionally childmind without being registered. As part of this process the childminder will be Police checked to ensure that they have not been convicted of any child or sex related offences.
You should look around the facility from a child's viewpoint to see if there are dangers where your child could get hurt.
How clean and tidy is the home, what's the garden like, if its on a main road can the children get out etc.
Check whether the children have access to the kitchen and whether there are safety guards on cupboards and drawers.
Is there an upstairs? Check if there is a stairgate at the top and bottom.
Has the house had a fire safety and enviromental health check.
Number of children
Childminders can look after up to 6 children who are under 8. However, a maximum of three can be under 5. Also, normally only one baby is allowed (i.e. under a year old) unless there are two children under one in the same family in which case an exception can be made.
If a childminder has children of her own they have to be counted in her numbers.
Childminder's can also look after children aged 8 -14 if they can demonstrate that it does not hinder the care of the others. Ask how many children are looked after?
A childminder can take advantage of local facilities such as libraries, soft play, play areas, parks, beaches etc.
Take a look around the area to see what's available.
You may want a childminder nearer your work so you don't pay for travelling time.
Ask about what activities are undertaken. Check what the other children are doing. Are they focused on learning or playing or are they just running riot?
Ask whether the childminder would take your child to groups such as mother and toddler or music and singing.
If the childminder takes your child out for the day will you need to pay extra money to cover expenses.
Check what records the childminder will keep on your child and also whether they will do the Individual Learning Journal which should be kept on preschool children as part of the Early Years Foundation Stage.
Will the childminder do a daily diary of what your child has done with photos to show you.
Ask to see a childminders liability insurance and check whether their car is insured properly for carrying childminded children.
Fees and Contracts
Ask the childminder what their fees are and when they will be due ie weekly or monthly. This is usually an hourly rate but check whether the childminder only charges hourly whether you use a whole hour or not. Also ask a childminder what their prices are for unsocial hours if you need them as this maybe a different rate.
Check how flexible the childminder can be ( if she has a few children she might not be able to be flexible as this would affect her numbers).
Ask the childminder what is included in the fees for example, meals and snacks or if they are paid for as extras. Ask what you need to provide for your child i.e. nappies and wipes.
You should always sign a contract with your childminder which states hours, fees, holidays etc so that everything is clear up front and avoids any later arguements.
The most important question to ask yourself is do the children look happy. The childminder may try and tell you how wonderful everything is but the looks on the kids faces will rarely lie.