Written by: Toni Foot
Are you thinking about how to become a childminder? Childminding can be an incredibly rewarding and flexible way to balance caring for a family and earning an income. Although its not all plain sailing (there will be days when you see more bodily fluids than you thought it possible for little bodies to produce), taking care of children is an inspiring and heartwarming occupation that anyone can enjoy.
Firstly I’d like to dispel two huge preconceptions people often have about childminders. No, childminders do not just plonk children in front of the T.V all day and no, it is not just a job for women who can’t do anything else. Childminders are registered childcare providers and as such are required to meet the same standards of education and safety as any other childcare provider (such as a nursery).
They have to plan and provide learning opportunities, assess children’s progress, and report to parents, just like any nursery or school. Many childminders are highly qualified and experienced individuals. Local authorities are encouraged to help all childminders achieve NVQ level 3 (at least) and many go on to achieve degrees and post-graduate qualifications whilst caring for children.
Who can be a childminder?
More or less anyone over the age of 18 can become a childminder. You do not currently have to have any formal qualifications and you do not need previous experience of caring for children (although many childminders have or are working towards qualifications in childcare). You will be caring for children in your own home, so you must be able to provide a safe environment, although it is not necessary to own a mansion!
As long as your contract allows it, it is possible to provide childcare in a rented home or flat. Childminders are required to provide access to outside areas but having your own garden is also not necessary – it is possible to use parks and other public areas to meet these requirements.
Weigh up the pros and cons
As with any business there are ups and downs in childminding. It can be challenging to continuously keep your activities fresh and stimulating and some people find the paperwork involved daunting (records concerning child development, attendance, safety measures and daily routines must be kept regularly as well as financial records for HMRC).
Although it can be a fantastic way to earn some cash whilst looking after your family, there are limitations here too. For example, your children are counted in the number of children you can care for which means that your earning potential is limited. You may also find that your own children find your minded children intrusive in their family and home.
Where do I start?
The first step towards becoming a childminder is contacting your local authority. Before you can register with Ofsted you must complete basic training which will ensure that you understand the requirements you must meet. You will be introduced to the EYFS as well as getting advice on how to set up and run your business (childminders are self employed and must comply with HMRC’s guidelines too).
Once you have completed this training, you will need to apply to be registered with Ofsted. You will be expected to complete a Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check and a ‘suitable person’ inspection, where you will need to show that you can meet the requirements set out in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) framework. You must also have up-to-date certificates of pediatric first aid training before your registration is complete. In many areas you can become part of a childminding network that will offer support and training as you go through the registration process.
What is involved in being a childminder?
One great thing about being a childminder is that you can choose how and when you want to work and look after your ownchildren at the same time. You may choose to take on the maximum number of children (currently three children under the age of 5 at any one time, one of which may be under one year old), or you may just want one or two. Days and hours are yours to decide too.
Some childminders like to stick to caring for under-fives, where others like caring for older children, preferring to provide afterschool and school holiday childcare. You can currently care for up to six children under the age of 8 (children over 8 years are not included in the ratio and may be cared for as long as the childminder can show that the needs of all children can be met).
Of course the one thing you really need to be a childminder is patience and a love of children. If you are prepared to provide an interesting and loving environment then you will be rewarded with children who grow into interesting and loving people who can brighten your day.