Sunday, 1 September 2013
Childminder Part One – Choosing
Daisy has been with her childminder for nearly a year now and although I miss her everyday I feel really happy with our choice, so thought I would write about some of the decisions we made when choosing her childcare and offer some tips for parents who are perhaps considering a childminder for their little one.
Firstly we needed to decide what kind of environment we wanted for Daisy, she was less than a year old when I returned to work so when weighing up the nursery vs childminder options we decided we would prefer her to be in a home environment. We didn’t consider a nanny for cost reasons but in hindsight I feel the social aspect of her being with a childminder or nursery would have led us to the same conclusion even if money hadn’t been a factor. We did visit a couple of Nurseries. Some were absolutely lovely (some weren’t!) and we particularly liked the way a nursery can prepare a child for the schooling environment. However with my big bundle of chub only just crawling at the time school seemed as very long way off, Daisy wasn’t even walking so it all felt a bit big and scary for her, and when I say her I mean me!
So childminding it was, we visited a few in the area, thankfully there were quite a few available in the village and as soon as news spread around the childminding circles that there was a baby up for grabs, we realised we were in demand and consequently we were in control. We narrowed our choices down, visited the final 2 a couple of times, discussed it, discussed it again and then some more. Both our final choices ticked all the practical boxes we required so it was down to one thing – we followed our instinct – never a terrible choice in parenting I like to think!
And thankfully it worked out great, Daisy loves her Childminder, has lots of fun with all the other children there and her development came on leaps and bounds with all the socialising. I still feel that little wrench in my tummy every morning when we drop her off but seeing her run into the house (sometimes barely looking back to say goodbye) it's so so clear she has a great time.
So my tips...
· Visit as many childminders as you can and go during work times where possible to see how he or she interacts with the children in her care
· I know it seems obvious but take your baby with you, it’s really important to see how they respond to one another
· Try and see where the children will eat, sleep, what the car/carseats are like.
· Find out what kind of activities they do, whether they attend groups, spend time outside, bake, draw (whatever is important to you)
· Ask for examples of menus if food is provided or talk about how meals are dealt with if not.
· Ask for references and actually contact them.
· Check the Ofstead report and not just the rating – it may be that the reason for the childminder being rated a good rather than excellent isn’t actually something you feel that strongly about and if you are happy with the childminder in every other way you may be happy to compromise.
· Arrange a couple of visits and try and do some settling in days to see how baby reacts to being left alone with the childminder.
· Check how they report back to you each day, do they do a diary, send photos, report on eating, nappy changes etc.
· Ask questions, lots of questions and be very clear from the offset what is important to you as a parent. The childminder can’t read your mind so if you feel very strongly that your child isn’t left to cry make sure the childminder knows this. If you don’t feel they will comply, then they are not the childminder for you. There is always an element of compromise with a childminder as they will almost always have other children to consider but you need to clear what can and can't be compromised.
Finally once you’ve made a decision, leave it and enjoy the final few weeks or months you have left of your maternity leave. I remember spending a lot of my final few weeks thinking and worrying about leaving Daisy, when in hindsight I should have just enjoyed that time I had with her. I remember so vividly taking Daisy to the park on one of our last days but I couldn’t get parked and I was getting more and more upset - I ended up calling Mr R in floods of tears as I had so wanted this day to be a special one as it felt like one of our last together. I was so preoccupied with the thought of needing to enjoy the last few days that I probably didn’t enjoy them as much as I could at all. I should have just hung out with Daisy, having lazy daytime naps together (something I miss so much now) rather than trying to go for days out when she was far too young to remember them anyway!