First steps to a job in childcare

Do you love the time you spend with little ones and have thought about working with children, but you don’t know where to start?

Try doing something you love for a living and take your first steps to a job in childcare with a childminder or nursery. Try taster days, work experience, childcare apprenticeships or become a childminding assistant. Plus, we hear from a childminder and childminding assistant about how being an assistant can be a great first step. 

Here are some first steps to take to help you decide if a job in childcare is a good fit for you:

Talk to people who already work in childcare

Nurseries, pre-schools and childminders are used to visitors asking questions and when you're looking around childcare settings for your 2-year-old, you can also ask about how they got started, and whether there is any training they'd recommend. Toddler groups, playgrounds and soft play centres are also great places to meet childminders and nannies.

Taster days

You might find your local authority or adult education college offers taster days on working with children. They are good places to ask questions too.

Work experience

You don't need to be at school to do work experience. Once you’ve found somewhere you’d really like to work, use the time when your 2-year-old is at childcare to offer to do work experience there for a few sessions to see what it’s like. While you’re there, ask about the best way to get started working in childcare. If you enjoy it, keep in touch in case any vacancies come up.


Apprenticeships combine practical training in a job with study. They are not just for teenagers and can be a good way of getting paid while you gain the qualifications you need to work with children. There are lots of childcare apprenticeships advertised, but even if you don’t see a vacancy, the employer you want to work with can take you on as an apprentice with support from the local authority. Childminders can take on apprentices too.

Become a childminding assistant

Working with a childminder can be an ideal introduction to working with children as you get their one-to-one support, a comfortable home setting and a small group of children. You can even bring your funded 2-year-old to work with you as long as they aren’t also related to the childminder.

Childminders are well qualified childcare professionals who work with the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS in England) and will be able to help you take things one step at a time. You will need to take first aid training, have a DBS check and learn about child development, safeguarding and the EYFS. But the childminder will be able to point you in the right direction for what you need to do.

Even though there are some things you need to do for a job in childcare to keep the children safe and help them develop well, every day is different, and often fun and rewarding! You could be preparing snacks, playing in a sandpit, cutting and sticking, or joining in with a group singing session. How many jobs can you say that about?

Becoming a childminding assistant - Kara and Lisa's story

Becoming a childminding assistant is a brilliant way to get started in working with children. Childminders can support you on your way to a job in childcare as they have lots of experience, training and they work with small groups of children. We spoke to Kara Jewell who employs Lisa Jarmola as her childminding assistant. Lisa had run a parent and toddler group and she had an idea she’d enjoy working with children but wasn’t sure where to start until she spoke to Kara, who encouraged her.

Kara started her childcare career as a childminding assistant and she says, “I know what it’s like. I really appreciated the support then and I’m really happy to be able to support someone else on their journey as well as to get more help with the children I look after”.

If childminders employ an assistant they can look after more children and expand their business. Kara says, “it’s great to have the extra pair of hands. It means the children have more choice too. They can stay at my house with Lisa and play while I pick up the older children from school, for example”.

It’s great for parents too; it means there is more than one childminder available at drop offs and pick ups to find out about the day and share information. Lisa loves the way that childminders build up a bond with each family, something that might not happen in quite the same way at a nursery. “Being invited to family parties and special events is great as it shows how well the families relate to you,” says Lisa.

But it’s not all parties! Importantly, childminders are trained professionals and Kara supported Lisa with her knowledge of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). Lisa says, “Kara explained the EYFS and how it all worked. Once I was more confident and knew my role, Kara encouraged me to undertake a qualification, which I enjoyed. I am now having a short break and then I will work on the next level”.

If you have a 2-year-old who is eligible for government funding, the good news is you can still be a childminding assistant, take your child to work with you and get the funding, as long as your child isn’t related to the childminder.

If you are interested in becoming a childminding assistant, find out who the busy local childminders are and either contact them directly and ask if they’ve thought of employing an assistant. Or see if you can meet them at local drop ins, toddler groups, library sessions, children’s centres, or the local park and have a general chat about their work. Mention you’re interested in working with children and see what they say.

Lisa gives good advice, “just ask. The worst case is that they say ‘no’. But you will have met some childminders along the way, which is definitely a good thing!