One of the many questions asked by pre-registration childminders is “what are your essential resources, toys, equipment?”
This question is often answered in the First Steps to Childminding Facebook page by the helpful, experienced childminders but suggestions will vary from setting to setting.
Responses to this type of question will often include the staple toys such as home corner resources – kitchen, pots and pans, dressing up clothes or they may mention the wide variety of outdoor toys they have found the children in their settings enjoy the most.
All these suggestions are great but when you’re starting out, the costs soon mount up, so what are the priorities and how can we keep costs down?
Home-based childcare is in your own home and parents often choose your setting because it is a home from home experience and not a nursery. It’s worth bearing this in mind when deciding what toys and resources you want to provide as you may have to consider things such as space, storage and budget.
A good starting point is to have a look around your home and see what you already have – you’ll be amazed at what’s there. Children don’t necessarily need “state of the art” educational equipment but there are some lovely pieces of equipment that can be purchased should you find you need them in your setting
I mentioned home from home, so what do you have? Children love using “real items” so why not sort through your cupboards to see if you have things like wooden spoons, cups, plates, bowls, saucepans etc you no longer use but would be great to use in your setting. You could also have a look around your local charity shops or ask family members/friends if they are having a de-clutter.
Do you have cardboard boxes? How about making them into a cooker for your home corner? photo supplied Or just have a pile of boxes available for the children to role play with. My assorted boxes have been cots for the “babies”, part of a train with added cushions, a boat and so much more. All you need to add is a child’s imagination.
A variety of experiences is important – children learn so much from touching, smelling, using natural materials, so it’s helpful to have different resources available.
Some of these can be found in your kitchen cupboard e.g. cornflour to make gloop (it’s just cornflour and water mixed together), rice and pasta can be used to make simple ‘musical instruments’ if you have a handful of dry pasta and some empty containers. Rice especially can be re-used in so many ways. Recently, my granddaughter asked for rice to be spread out so she could feel it with her feet and she pretended she was on a beach! The beauty of using dry rice too is that it can be used again and again so you dont need to worry about wasting food.
How many of us remember grandma’s button box and spending hours sorting buttons or just feeling them, rattling the tin? Why not make your own button tin? A great sensory tool as well as a ready made instrument!
Do you have pieces of material stored away or curtains, duvets you no longer use? These would be great for imaginative play – dressing up, making dens, quiet reading corners etc.
But what if you don’t have buttons, material oddments etc?
Ask around - friends and family will be more than happy to help you out when they are de-cluttering.
Try your local charity shops – it’s amazing what a treasure trove these can be.
You may also have a Scrap Store in your area – they collect re-cyclable items usually from local industries and offer them to local groups/childcare practitioners for little or no cost.
It’s amazing what you can find in your local High Street stores. I’ve found cheap bags of buttons in a well-known craft shop, fabric remnants and other bits n bobs which children find fascinating, so keep your eyes peeled when you’re out shopping – you never know what you’ll find.