At the recent Nursery World Awards 2019 held in London, Katherine Cooling-Smith, owner of Kayte's House Childminding became Childminder of the Year 2019. We recently spoke to Kayte about her win and what her plans are for the future.
How do you feel about being Nursery World’s ‘Childminder of the year 2019?
A few weeks later, and it still hasn't really sunk in yet. Obviously I am over the moon, and so pleased to have won. I never even expected to be shortlisted, which is why we booked a family holiday which clashed with the awards ceremony, so to have actually won is completely surreal!
Why did you become a childminder?
I had finished university and was crippled with anxiety, shortly after being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder which had started during my childhood. On graduating, I'd turned down jobs in the media in London and was just generally in a bit of a blip wondering what to do with my life. My wonderful friend Kathryn rang me one day and suggested I trained up alongside her, after noticing I enjoyed my time with children. It was a complete unknown for me as I didn't have any background in child development or education, and no children of my own. I don't think I can ever convey to her how much that leap of faith meant to me. In one phone call she changed my future, and here I am today! In turn, working with children has meant my anxiety has done a complete u-turn, and I have used my condition in benefit of my practice, focusing strongly on capability, confidence and independence for the children in my care.
How long have you been childminding?
Just over 3 years now.
What are your favourite activities to do with the children?
Anything to do with nature, and real outdoor natural play! I love just being outside in natural spaces with the children and seeing where the day takes us. I have a real passion for connecting children to their natural world, getting down in the mud and undergrowth to see what we can find!
Kayte recently did a blog with PACEY all about getting outdoors with your little ones, read it here.
What are your never fails, the children-always-love-it activity?
Just being outside in the fresh air. All of my indoor resources are in movable baskets, so that everything can be taken outside. I find that any activity done in the open air with no walls, offers much greater engagement, and is easier for the children to naturally extend. We use a lot of natural loose parts which helps the children to build on their creativity and imagination, and because the opportunities for play outdoors are endless, it's a fail safe way to guarantee a successful play session.
What is the best thing about being a childminder?
I have just seen my first group of children, who started with me three years ago, go off to school, and it has got to be that feeling of pride and wonder looking back at their journey through their most important years. Being able to support children to be away from their parents at such a young age will shape who they are for the rest of their lives, what a privilege to be part of it.
…and the most challenging?
My main challenge has been the constant fight to change the perception of childminding. I feel really strongly about the #notababysitter movement, having been called a babysitter on so many occasions. With the the role having changed so greatly over the years, and with the leaps forward in acknowledging how crucial the influence of an early years professional is on a child's development, the term 'childminder' no longer reflects we do. With the new addition of language such as 'Curriculum' and 'Quality of Teaching' in the new inspection framework, I feel it's time that we were given a new title to represent the true nature of our role.
What advice would you give to a childcare professional who is just starting on their childcare journey?
That's a really hard question, as there's so much advice I'd want to give. I think, for me it has been having the support and friendship of another minder; Kathryn. This job is all-consuming and very isolating, and so to find someone to talk to, meet up with and generally put the world to rights with is really beneficial. There are so many ways of connecting with other professionals now, and I think just finding links to others will give you the opportunity to feel supported.
Why not think about joining one of PACEY's Facebook groups 'Ideas for Creative Childcare' and 'First Steps to Childminding' for additional support.
What do you wish others outside the childcare sector understood about the profession?
That it is a profession. That we are skilled in what we do, and that we offer an 'education' to the children in our care. Even after just three years practising, I have grown tired of having to deliver the same old monologue; that we are Ofsted registered and inspected, that everything we do is tailored to the development of the individual child, that we must plan and assess etc, and hearing people exclaim, 'oh, I had no idea you had to do that'. It can be very demoralising.
How long have you been a PACEY member? What is your favourite aspect of your membership?
I actually completed my Level 3 HBCA with PACEY back in 2015/16, and have been a member ever since. The biggest benefit to me has been the training and CPD, but also the advice line which offers brilliant support. I also feel that PACEY have our back in the fight for understanding and recognition, and it feels positive to belong to a body which quite clearly has our interests at their core.
Find out more about PACEY membership here.