Choosing childcare for your child can be a difficult time for many parents and carers.Care for a child from birth

To help you make informed choices, we have put this page together to give you some background of what a childminder is and to give you some ideas on how to choose a childminder that is right for you and your family:

What is a registered childminder?

  • All childminders must be registered with either a Childminder Agency or Ofsted in England or CSIW in Wales.
  • Registered Childminders are professional child carers, who work in their own homes to provide care and learning opportunities through play for other people’s children in a family setting.
  • Just like all other childcare settings (nurseries, pre-schools, foundation stage units in schools) all childminders have a legal duty to follow the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) when caring for children under the age of 5.
  • Childminders are generally self-employed and are responsible for their own tax and national insurance.

Whether registered with an Agency or Ofsted, all Childminders will have had a minimum of:

  • An enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check (as must everyone else aged over 16 who lives or works in the childminder’s home).
  • First Aid training specifically for children and babies (12 hour Paediatric First Aid).
  • Introductory Training
  • Their home inspected by a Childminder Agency or Ofsted to ensure it is safe and secure for children.
  • Their own Public Liability Insurance
  • A completed medical check

Childminders are usually registered to care for up to three children under 5 and three children aged 5 to 8, including their own children. They may also look after older children up to the age of 16.

Childminders registered with an agency

Childminder Agencies are registered, inspected and graded by Ofsted. They are a one stop shop that registers childminders, provides their training, supports them to improve their practice, inspects them and offers business support and advice.

In their first year of registration, childminders that are registered with a Childminder Agency will be visited a minimum of 2 times and in subsequent years at least once.

Childminders registered with Ofsted

Childminders could choose to be independently registered with Ofsted (they cannot be registered with both Ofsted and an agency). If registered with Ofsted, they will be inspected once per inspection cycle (every 4 years) and childminders will be given an ‘outcome/grade’.  Inspections would be available for you to view if you have the registered childminders Ofsted Unique Reference Number (URN).

Childminding Matters believe in choice for childminders and therefore will continue to offer support to independent Ofsted registered childminders as well as to childminders that have elected to register with an agency.

Why choose a registered childminder?

Childminders are able to offer the most flexible and stable form of childcare. Whether for babies, pre-school or older children, full time, part time or unsociable hours, childminders can generally fit into a family’s existing routine. Childminders offer full-time or part-time day care as well as wrap-around and holiday care for school aged children.

Childminding suits children’s needs at every stage of their life: It is possible for your child to stay with the same childminder from birth to starting senior school and beyond. Siblings can be cared for together which makes life easier and helps your children feel more secure. They have a continuity of care that is not matched by any other form of childcare. This allows your child to build strong and lasting relationships with their childminder who offers a welcoming home from home environment. Childminding also allows parents to form a stable, ongoing relationship with their child’s carer.

What identifies a good childminder?

A good childminder:

  • Can offer flexibility in the hours that they care for children. Many look after children from early in the morning, late in the evening, overnight or at the weekends. This flexibility fits around parents with shift patterns. Childminders can also be willing to take children to school, clubs, pre-schools and playgroups and to collect them.
  • Can be spontaneous, an unexpected snowy or rainy day can be turned into a learning experience. Equally when children feel tired they can cuddle up on the sofa and take it easy just as they would at home.
  • Offers real life activities, meal times, shopping, gardening, cooking, trips to toddler groups, soft play area, library and parks, from these comfortable home life experiences children can learn social and language skills, basic science and maths.
  • Will further their training and development.

Help with childcare costs

Childminders can also offer funded sessions for 3 & 4 year olds and qualifying 2 year olds and may accept childcare vouchers or offer tax-free childcare.Further details on getting help with childcare costs can be found at:

Finding a childminder

You can find out the details of registered childminders in your area through the following:

Family Information Service: The National Association of Family Information Service www.familyandchildcaretrust.org/nafis. Ask for details of local Childminder Agencies and also of independent Ofsted registered Childminders

Children’s Centre: If you are lucky enough to have a local Children’s Centre, ask to see if they have a notice board for childminders, if they keep details of local childminders or if there is a childminder’s drop in you could attend to meet local childminders.

Word of Mouth: Ask friends, family or work colleagues if they can recommend a childminder. Other parents at the pre-school or school may be able to suggest a childminder. If the childminder hasn’t got a place available they may know of another childminder who does.

Internet Search: Look on the internet for Childminder Agencies in your local area

Ofsted: www.ofsted.gov.uk You will be able to carry out a search for childminders’ reports within a certain distance of a given postcode. You will also be able to search for Childminder Agencies in your area – and their Ofsted reports.

Choosing a childminder

Remember – choosing a childminder is a very personal thing. Recommendations are important, but your child is unique and the childminder must suit you and your family.

Many Childminders will be able to show you lots of information about the service they provide. It is a good idea to visit the childminder armed with a list of questions that you would like to ask. You can download our free list of potential questions: Using a Childminder Questions to Ask. The childminder will expect you to ask lots of questions and will be happy to answer them.

Leave plenty of time It may not be possible to find the right childminder straight away. You may also want to give your child plenty of time to settle in with their new childminder. It is therefore, a good idea to start looking for a childminder at least a couple of months before they are needed.

Getting in touch Childminders are generally out and about during the day and are too busy caring for children to be able to have long conversations on the phone and therefore keep your initial enquiry short and organise a time it would be best to call back. If the childminder seems suitable then make an appointment to arrange a visit. It is ideal to visit more than one childminder as they are all different and offer a diverse range of services. This will then provide you with a fair comparison.

Interviewing Tips To get a better picture of what the childminder is like arrange an initial visit when the childminder is working.  Remember that it may be difficult to go through all the details as the childminder’s priority is to the children in their care. However, you can always arrange another visit during a quiet time to discuss things further.

If possible, then take your child so you can see how the childminder interacts with them and to see how they fit in with any other children. Taking a partner will also save time in the long run or arrange another appointment for them to meet the childminder. Their input is important too.

You could also ask the childminder if they can show you around the part of their home they use for childminding including where your child may sleep and the garden. When looking at the toys and resources make sure you look to see if everything is safe and clean.

Download our free useful checklist for you to print and take with you when you go to meet the childminder: Using a Childminder Questions to Ask.

Next steps

When you have chosen your childminder then you must take time to complete the paperwork. This should include a minimum of a childminding contract, a child record form and permission form(s). If you are signing the contract then make sure you are clear about:

  • Any retainer fee or deposit that is required to secure your child’s space
  • The amount that you are paying and what the childminder is providing inclusive of their fee (e.g. food, nappies, wipes, days out etc).
  • The hours and days your child will attend the setting.
  • The childminder’s procedures regarding sickness (for child and childminder) holidays, training days, lateness, complaints, problems and child protection.  Don’t feel afraid to ask for a copy of their policies.
  • Emergency back-up procedures the childminder has in place.
  • How to terminate the contract if the childminder’s services are no longer required.

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