Choosing a Childminder

Become a Childminder

What is childminding?

Under the Children [NI] Order 1995 a Registered Childminder is defined as:

"A person acts as a childminder if – (a) they look after one or more children under the age of twelve for reward; and (b) the period, or the total of the periods, which they spend so looking after children in any day exceeds two hours."

In order to achieve registration a Childminder is required to comply with specific standards. The home environment is checked to ensure that it meets the standards required and that it is a suitable environment to care for children. References and health checks are required, as are vetting checks on all individuals in the household over the age of 10. A Childminder may be registered to care for 6 children under the age of 12 [including their own children], of whom no more than 3 are under school age.

The purpose of registration is:

  1. To protect children
  2. To provide reassurance to parents using childcare
  3. To ensure that Childminding services meet acceptable standards

Relatives are not required to register in order to care for related children. Click here for more detail to What is Childminding.

What Childminders do

Being a registered childminder requires many qualities and skills. It includes:

  • Having a love of children and a commitment to providing a high standard of childcare
  • Having patience and a good sense of humour
  • Caring for children of diverse age ranges
  • Providing a safe and secure child-centred physical environment
  • Promoting each child’s development by meeting their individual needs
  • Working in partnership with parents;
  • Having good communication skills
  • Providing flexible working hours to meet parent’s needs
  • Managing the business side of childminding; and
  • Meeting Minimum Standard requirements.

What does a quality childminding setting look like?

Features of quality of care

  • Positive Relationships with parents
  • Training and Qualifications
  • Flexibility
  • Policies and Procedures
  • Quality interaction with children
  • Safe physical environment
  • Children’s individual needs are met
  • Inclusive

In order to provide a quality setting a childminder will…

  • Provide a warm, caring, loving and trusting environment for children where they can develop friendships and feel protected and secure
  • Plan a routine, activities and experiences around the children’s interests and individual needs to ensure you are promoting all aspects of their development in an informal manner
  • Follow an approach to childcare that enables each child to reach their full potential in an holistic way
  • Provide an outdoor environment which provides as many learning opportunities as the indoor environment. Let children play in the wind, rain and snow!
  • Provide a range of age and stage appropriate activities and experiences to promote children’s learning and development; Encourage children to participate in planning so they can come up with ideas and suggestions and view their opinions
  • Put children’s needs first at all times and encourage children to be confident and assertive
  • Provide a safe learning environment where children can talk and are listened to and where their confidence and self-esteem is promoted
  • Support children in making good choices about a safe and healthy lifestyle and encourage them to discuss any concerns they have about their health and emotional well-being
  • Keep all children safe which includes minimising the risk of harm and accidents and taking action to tackle health and safety concerns; Follow health & safety procedures at all times, including carrying out regular risk/fire risk assessments
  • Provide healthy and nutritious meals/snacks for all children
  • Promote positive behaviour at all times
  • Build relationships with parents and keep the lines of communication open to encourage working in partnership
  • Have all required policies in place that will be shared with parents. Sharing policies with parents gives added protection to a childminding arrangement. When the childminder and parents sign and date the documentation both parties have agreed on all procedures listed. This gives less of a chance of both parties having conflicting views and opinions on any aspects the childminding arrangement and avoids a breakdown of the childminder/parent relationship.

NICMA supports parents by providing…

Childminding Advice & Vacancy helpline

We offer a FREE information helpline to assist parents in choosing the most suitable Childminder and keeping that relationship going. The helpline is available Mon – Thu 9.30am - 4.00pm and Fri 9.30am - 1.00pm and offers information on all aspects of childminding including registration, fees, contracts etc. It will also provide you with access to childminding vacancies to meet your specific needs and will give detail on the individual childminders e.g. Will they be able to collect my child from school? Do they provide an after school service? Do they have any pets? This Childminding Vacancy search facility is also available on-line

Choosing a childminder

For many parents, selecting the right childcare for their child is one of the biggest decisions they’ll ever make. The first step is to decide what type of childcare would best suit your child and your needs. Childminding suits parents who want a high quality, affordable and flexible childcare option, and who value a childcarer who can give their child individual attention in a ‘home from home’ setting.

If you opt for a childminder, do make sure he or she is registered with their local health and social care trust; unregistered childcarers don’t have insurance and haven’t been inspected. It is also against the law.

NICMA – the Childminding Association has a dedicated telephone helpline and website search facility. Our services will help you to find a registered childminder almost anywhere in Northern Ireland, and they’re staffed by friendly experts who know how overwhelming the search for childcare can be.

Once you’ve narrowed down your search, it really is worth taking a little time to visit a number of childminders and to do some research. You can be assured that any childminder who offers good quality care will quite understand why you want to ask questions and ensure that you make the right, considered choice.

NICMA would recommend these tips to help make your final selection:

  1. Arrange a visit when at least some of the children the childminder looks after are there – do the children seem happy and at ease?
  2. Make sure the childminder has adequate insurance cover – ask to see his or her insurance certificates.
  3. Check what food is provided and whether any snacks are healthy.
  4. Find out about the daily routine followed by the childminder, the activities he/she provides, and any outings or trips.
  5. Ask about outdoor play - make sure there’s either an outside play area or a park nearby.
  6. Check plenty of books and toys are available.
  7. Make sure there’s somewhere quiet for the children to rest.
  8. Make sure you’re happy with the childminder’s approach on behaviour.
  9. Ask to see any parts of the home and garden which the children use.
  10. Decide if you feel comfortable with the childminder– is he/she someone you feel you could trust? Does he or she seem approachable – someone with whom you could raise any concerns?
  11. Once you’ve selected your childminder, ensure you sign a contract with him or her – it provides a vital safeguard for you both.

For more information download ‘Choosing a Childminder – a guide for Parents’ below

Choosing a Childminder – a guide for Parents

One step towards finding the best care for your child is by contacting NICMA - the Childminding Association which was set up to provide a wide range of services for Registered Childminders and parents.

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