Kathryn and I live and work in a very small town in North Essex. We are independent childminder’s, with our own home settings, and we share our area with two other minders; Sarah and Lynelle, both of whom we also know well and are on great terms with.
All four of us feel that to work successfully, we need to be positive in our practice, and so we all strive to respect each other, to support each other and to be each other’s biggest cheerleaders. With this united front, we combat the most common stress that unfortunately comes with the territory of childminding; a feeling of isolation and loneliness.
Although Kathryn and I work independently, we spend a lot of time with each other, either by planning group outings or by visiting each other in the day with our little ones, usually once a week. We have compiled a list of five reasons (we could have listed far more!) as to why we think working closely together is brilliant for business!
Our top 5 benefits of buddying up!
1. The Children
Our biggest priority (of course) is always the children in our care, and we have found that they benefit so greatly from our blended sessions. Not only does it give them richer social opportunities that supports their personal, social and emotional development (PSED) and communication skills, but playing at each other’s houses gives them a change of scenery and an excellent chance to use different toys and resources, enriching their play significantly.
Over the two and a half years that I have been registered and we have been working alongside each other, we have been on so many adventures together that we might have felt too daunting to do as a lone adult with a group of small children of varying ages and abilities. For example; venturing off the beaten track and into the woods to build huge dens, to the seaside on the bus, the river for fishing, trips out on the rowing boats, and even just to toddler groups and stay & play sessions at our local primary school. The children absolutely love their time together as mini adventurers in our blended group and always ask when they are going to see each other next.
2. Self Evaluation and Improving Practice
Alongside the obvious benefits to the children, working so closely together also brings with it a whole host of other advantages to our practice. Kathryn and I are very similar in our beliefs and ethos with regards to how we work. We both have a love of natural, practical play and active learning, and we both believe strongly in letting children ‘have a go’. We spend a great deal of time learning from each other and bouncing ideas off one another. We have found it such a big advantage to our overall practice in that we can utilise each other’s strengths to benefit our own work.
We are able to ask opinions of each other, critique, evaluate and offer advice, meaning that our practice is always evolving, and we are always striving to better ourselves.
3. Continued professional development (CPD)
In any sector, CPD may be a chore to some, but being able to venture out to workshops and seminars together gives us the motivation to actually make plans, and to book onto face-to-face or group courses, where in the past we might have been intimidated to go on our own. We always come away buzzing about the things we have learned and shared during CPD sessions and can’t wait to make changes or implement them in our own settings. Our most inspiring adventure was to London earlier this year to hear Elizabeth Jarman speak about the Communication Friendly Spaces Approach, we still talk about it now!
4. Positives for Parents
With regards to the parents of our little ones, they love that we work so closely together, and that our little groups blend so well. We make sure that we protect ourselves and our children with strong policies and procedures that include time spent with each other and in each other’s settings, and we are very open with regards to how closely we work. Feedback from parents has been brilliant, and Ofsted loved to see how we support and work alongside each other.
One of our parents, Nikki, comments; ‘My daughter loves the regular interaction with children from other settings, I believe this has helped prepare her for the larger groups she will be part of at school, and it has helped her to learn how to interact with a greater variety of personalities’.
5. Cups of Tea
We aren’t saying it is always super easy to find the perfect fit with a fellow minder, but with a good amount of respect for each other, working together means childminding becomes far less isolating and far more motivating, with massive benefits for the children in your care. Plus, the biggest advantage of all; working together means you’re more likely to make it to the end of a cup of tea, before it gets cold!
As much as this is a competitive industry, especially at a time where numbers of childminders are rapidly dropping, and government funding has thrown a cat amongst the pigeons, we feel that it is totally possible to work closely and positively with others, without treading on each other’s toes.
We’d love to hear how you work with other minders and the benefits it brings to your setting. Is there anything that you would add to our list?
About the author
Kathryn Miller (My Little Playhouse)
I have worked with children since becoming a residential social worker for children with SEND and completing my NNEB over 20 years ago. I have also worked as a private nanny and have completed my Montessori teacher training to become the manager of a Montessori children’s Centre. Following this, I moved on to register as an independent childminder in 2010. Kayte became my assistant in 2015, where I mentored her for a year before she began her training with PACEY. I have always enjoyed my time working with children and couldn’t imagine doing anything else!
Kayte (Katherine) Cooling-Smith (Kayte’s House)
I have been a registered childminder since June 2016. I completed my Cache HBCA Award with PACEY back in 2015, and was graded Outstanding at my first Ofsted inspection in May 2018. I had no prior experience working with children before training, and have relished the challenge of learning everything from scratch with the most brilliant hands-on training from Kathryn. I find my role as a childminder completely fulfilling, and a real privilege, and am so glad Kathryn made me take the big leap into changing the path of my career!