If you’re mulling over options for childcare when you go back to work, then it’s likely you’ll consider a childminder among your other choices.

There are certainly many advantages to using a childminder over other types of childcare. With a childminder you’re likely to get:

  • Small groups (strict ratios are applied) so that your child should get individual attention
  • It’s likely there will be a mix of ages, which can help children learn how to socialise
  • A home-from-home environment
  • Flexible drop-off and pick-up times
  • Childminders are generally less expensive than other types of childcare
  • Childminders are often part of a network which means that they can arrange cover for when they are sick or on holiday, meaning you are less likely to be left in the lurch.
  • OFSTED or the appropriate body will regularly inspect your childminder to ensure that they are providing an appropriate setting for your child, and putting in place proper observations and safety measures to ensure your child is getting a high level of care.

On the other side of the balance sheet, you may have issues finding alternative care if your childminder isn’t available for one reason or another, you won’t be able to send your child if it’s poorly and you may find that your childminder looks after their own child at the same time, which could potentially cause issues.

What qualifications should a childminder have?

There are no formal qualifications needed to become a childminder, although  many will pursue them in their own time in order to make their offering more attractive.

All wannabe registered childminders are required to attend a pre-registration session that covers the basics of what they are expected to offer, such as health and safety and child nutrition. They will have to complete a paediatric first aid training course before they are registered.

What is a registered childminder?

Childminders in the UK need to be inspected and registered with the appropriate body for their country.

England: Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education)

Scotland: Care Inspectorate

Wales: CSSIW (Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales)

Northern Ireland: local Health and Social Care Trust

As well as this, all adults in the household must go through a relevant criminal records check, and the house must be inspected for safety and suitability.

What qualities should I look for in a childminder?

As the childminder will play such an important and influencing role on your child’s development, it’s essential that you take the time to find someone that you really trust. Allow plenty of time for the process as you may need to speak to several before finding ‘the one’. You will also want to allow for settling in time before you start so remember to build this in as well.

Look for someone with plenty of enthusiasm and experience, and who exudes an air of calm  – you want to know that they will cope well in a crisis.

Ask them what sorts of activities and excursions they run and see if you can potentially see examples of observations that they have made of other children (although this may not be possible due to privacy concerns).

Consider how you feel about their family pets, and if you have any concerns then raise them at the outset.

Ask for references from other parents and make sure you follow them up, have a good chat with them to find out about their experiences.

Consider other practical issues, such as where the childminder lives, and if getting your child to and from their house is going to be an easy part of your daily routine.

Visit the childminder a couple of times before making your decision. Take your time to study the house, its safety features and toys and activities on offer. How do the other children seem – are they happy and content on the whole?

What should I be asking a potential childminder?

It’s really important that you and your childminder have a similar outlook so that you are happy with the way they look after your child. Before you go to meet them it’s a good idea to write a list of questions so that you can review them afterwards and compare them with other childminders that you visit.

Some typical questions to ask might include:

  • When going on trips how will you transport my child?
  • Do you provide meals and snacks as included in the hourly rate?
  • What sort of meals and snacks would you typically serve up?
  • Do you provide nappies, cream etc as included in the hourly rate?
  • How do you like to discipline the children when needed? What do you consider to be bad behaviour?
  • Where would my child be able to have a nap?
  • How often do you take the children outside and what sort of outside space is it likely to be?
  • What will a typical day be like?
  • How often will my child have to be taken out to pick up / drop off other children?
  • Are you part of a childminding network?

Don’t worry about seeming too inquisitive – a helpful and experienced childminder will understand that you have concerns and should be more than happy to address them.

We have a list of local childminders in our business directory if you are looking for a place to start your hunt.