I’m able to sit here and write this post at the moment because my eldest is with my childminder and my youngest had a bottle before we left so is currently snoozing in the pram next to me whilst I sip on a relished coffee. Even though I am on maternity leave at the moment and money is more than a little bit tight, I have decided to keep my eldest with my childminder for two mornings for a few hours. I did this for a few reasons: so I can attend baby sensory with my youngest; to give myself a small break; to not disrupt the close bond he has formed with his childminder and her assistant; but most importantly of all because they know him and the time he has with them allows him to continue to thrive, develop, gain independence and build on his social skills.
If you’ve read any of my other posts, you might have picked up that I am a Head of School and have been a teacher for 13 years.Whilst I am not flashing phonics cards and starting on the Oxford Reading Tree series yet (you can decide if that is a joke or not), I believe I can set up stimulating activities and go on outings which allows my little boy to thrive yet I learn heaps from my childminder who has been doing the job for only a few years. Experience counts for a lot in education but the continuous learning and pinching ideas from those around you, mean you will continue to develop to be an excellent practitioner.
When my eldest was 5 months old and I was thinking about returning to work part-time, I started the hunt for a childminder. I briefly considered a nursery but I knew they tended to have less flexibility, a higher staff turn-over and there was the possibility my child could have an 18 year old key worker who might not be sticking around as their situations changed or they decided not to stay in childcare. Plus, as this being the first time I entrusted someone other than grandparents to spend quality time with my son, I wanted it to be someone I could build an understanding relationship with so thought that would be easier with a childminder.
I used childcare.co.uk to find childminders near me and spent an hour or so reading all their profiles. By 5 months, my eldest had indicated to me the sort of things he really enjoyed – being outdoors, noise and he was really enjoying our baby sensory classes and the elements of that I had copied and made a part of his play area. This is what formed the basis of which profiles resonated with me. After 45 minutes or so of reading, I came across some key words which got me reading deeper ” I am a Forest Childcare Provider and I believe that spending time outdoors contributes to a healthy lifestyle. The children go outdoors here every day, at least once a day, no matter what the weather”. The long list of qualifications mattered but not as much as this one sentence to me. I booked an initial meeting with this childminder and a week later, set off in trepidation for her house.
She greeted me warmly and invited me into her home to see the play room and outdoor area. I could see how well resourced she was, could tell she loved her job and noted the summer term plan on the wall for the topic she intended to weave into each day. But the biggest test for me was still to come, how she interacted with my son. Halfway through a cup of tea, he woke up in the buggy which was in the hallway. I remained on the sofa wanting to see what she would do. She asked if she could go and get him. She returned with him in her arms and settled on the sofa with him. Soothing hushes and gentle talking interactions followed whilst she held him in a cradle pose but what she did next sealed the deal. She got up and got a soft bristled paintbrush from a nearby chest and started to gently run it over his arm. He settled immediately. She hadn’t enveloped him in a massive cuddle, not thrust her face into his, not covered him in kisses instead she had chosen a gentle way to interact with him and start building the close bond they have now. My son had his first full morning the week later.
I do nickname my childminder ‘Mary Poppins’ as she seems pretty perfect. My husband and I get photos in our whatsapp group when our son is with her, we get a thorough breakdown in the daily log, a monthly journal filled with photos, observations and creations and we also get email newsletters as well as charting his progress and reporting using the Early Years framework. Judging by some of the meals he has, I think she might also be vegan which means my son eats things like okra and chickpea curry with wild black rice….who knew! I certainly wouldn’t. My one year old has tried vegetables which I haven’t in his time with her!
I was lucky and the first childminder I viewed, seemed like the right fit for us. If I had had any doubts, I would have kept visiting others until I found the right outlet for my son and his interests. My parenting skills have improved because of ideas I’ve nicked from my childminder and her assistant and it’s another cog in the support network around my son and he is thriving as a result. You know your child best and whether a nursery or childminder setting would be best for them. But you must consider what the needs of your child are and find the setting which best reflects them – not what an Ofsted report says or the reviews on a website. My chosen childminder had one glowing review. Saying that, my childminder has her Ofsted visit today and I know she is going to get the judgement she deserves!