At the start of this year, I promised my daughter that I would help her find childcare. Like many of today’s parents, she needed to go back to work after taking maternity leave. While many of her peers had found place in local nurseries for their offspring, our thoughts were to find a childminder. In a time when parents need childcare and when some childminders find it hard to fill vacancies, it came as a surprise to find that marrying the two was not as easy as it should have been. Happily, but with some effort we have found a wonderful childminder, but these are the tips that I would pass on to anyone starting out as a childminder or finding themselves with unfilled vacancies.
How parents look for childcare
If you are an internet ‘dinosaur’, be aware that times have changed. The days of looking at a postcard in the local newsagent for a childminder have long gone. This generation of parents grew up with the internet and have taken to smart phones like ducks to water. Two clicks and they have instantly ordered a takeaway! They expect to find childcare in the same way and are most likely to type ‘childcare’ or ‘childminder’ and their location into a browser such as google. It is worth doing this for your local area and see what comes up. Interestingly, most nurseries have it covered as do some commercial listing sites. You may also see that the local council’s childcare website appears as do some savvy childminders.
Help parents to find you
There are different ways in which you can build up an internet presence although some will be more effective than others.
Opportunities for listing
Firstly, you can make sure that your details are up to date on the local council’s childcare website. You could also join other listing websites, but watch out for fees. For any listing, take up the opportunity to write as much as you can about your services. The more information, the better. Think too about what parents are looking for. Words such as ‘professional’, ‘nurture’ and ‘qualified’, often carry more weight for parents who are not in the sector than ‘caring’ or ‘looking after’. Make sure that you include your hourly fee or if this is not fixed, the range of fees that can be charged as parents need this information as well as the hours that you offer. Think too about putting an e-mail address as well as a phone number. Some parents may like to e-mail you as a first step rather than directly calling you.
Appearing on a map
In addition, you could also make sure that you childminding business appears on the local google map. This you can do for free. Type in childcare and your area into google and the scroll down the list of other providers. At the bottom, there is an option to add in ‘missing place’. You can add in the name of your business and as many details as you feel comfortable with including a website if you have one.
Open the door to what is on offer
While an internet presence is one thing, the next step is to make sure that parents can gain more information about what you offer. This is where a website comes into its own. For parents, websites are important because they can look at what you offer without having to commit themselves to a visit or phone call. This has often been a barrier for parents. A good website has plenty of photographs that show the type of resources and activities that are on offer and text that explains how children’s development and well-being is supported.
Think about including the following:
- Why childminding is special and the benefits for children and their families of choosing this type of childcare. You could emphasise the ‘family feeling’ and the individual attention that children will have.
- Details about your childminding business including your experience, qualifications, Ofsted report and why you enjoy this work. It is also worth reassuring parents that you are DBS checked and have paediatric first aid.
- Your approach to working with children – this would include the type of play and experiences that children and like nurseries and pre-schools, you work with the EYFS as a curriculum.
- Practical information to include hours that you work, fees and arrangements for school collection
- Gallery of photographs with captions –activities for different ages and at different times of the year
- Testimonial from parents
- Contact details including an e-mail and phone number
If you are starting out with a website, look out for low cost or free webbuilding sites such as wordpress or square space. It is also worth looking at nursery and childminders’ websites for ideas.
Step by step
Once parents have looked at your website, they should have a good idea as to whether your setting feels right for them. You can help them navigate the process of visiting and signing up for a place by creating a simple step by step guide as to how it usually works e.g.
- Call or drop us a line to find out more. The best time to call is x or you can leave a message
- Come for an informal visit and see what you think
- If you are interested, we will talk about the practicalities including settling in, hours and fees
- Once you are ready, we sign a contract and your place is guaranteed!
Finally, as we have seen, unless you have no problem in finding parents, the chances are that you will need to embrace the opportunities that the internet brings. Having said this, there is a balance to be struck between providing information for potential parents and compromising your personal data. You may wish therefore to consider the following:
- Give your childminding business a name as this will provide you with some anonymity or only use your first name
- Keep a mobile number and an e-mail address that is only used for your childminding business
- Give an approximate location rather than an exact address
- Choose photographs that do not identify where you live or the faces of any children
- Avoid detailed information such as your age, the ages of your children and your marital status. Instead write things such as ‘I have been working in early years for 12 years and have children of my own’.
About the author
Penny Tassoni is PACEY's President. A well-known author and trainer, Penny has written over 20 books, including the best-selling Planning Play and the Early Years. Penny has long championed the importance of supporting childcare professionals to develop their skills and knowledge. Her books are known to anyone who has studied child development.