Billie Ward, originally from Macedonia, is a registered childminder in Chingford, Essex. She belongs to a very active childminding network as well as Chingford Children and Family Centre (Wyemead). She believes that childminders are an excellent choice for funded two-year-olds and addresses some common worries from parents. Here is her story:
I love the job I do and I enjoy being with the children. I’ve been working as a childminder since 2010 when I noticed a neighbour having different children at her house each day and I asked her about it. I’ve been hooked ever since.
I’m not sure about my child being looked after by just one person. What happens in an emergency?
Although I work alone as a childminder, I socialise a lot with other childminders. I belong to a very active childminding network, which is fantastic. There are about 20 of us who hire a hall every week and plan activities together. We do forest school from there and we do indoor activities too. Not only will your child get to know other childminders and children in the area and have fun with them each week, if there is an emergency, I can call on them to help and your child will already be familiar with them.
I can’t afford to pay any extra money for trips or anything like that. Will my child miss out?
Some childminders charge for extras (for example, nappies or meals) and some don’t. So check with your childminder. But whatever happens, there will be an alternative so your child doesn’t miss out. For example, you could provide a packed lunch instead of paying for the childminder’s food, if they do charge extra.
I love taking my funded two-year-old boy out on trips and organise them specially on days that I know he’ll be with us. I want him to have the same opportunities as the other children, even though money is tight in his family. At the moment, I’m planning trips to The National History Museum and The National Science Museum in London. I don’t charge extra for these trips. I see them as part of my childminding service.
My two-year-old doesn’t sit still for a minute. It’s exhausting. How do you manage the needs of demanding two-year-olds?
Two-year-olds go through so many changes in such a short space of time. It’s a challenge looking after them but it is also lots of fun and rewarding too as they learn so much every day. Two-year-olds enjoy the company of other children and they thrive with some structure and routine in their lives, which is where a childminder can help.
At the moment, the funded two-year-old boy I take care of, is potty training. When he first came to me, I noticed he was ready, I had a chat with his mum and we worked out a plan together. He’s doing very well so far. It can be exhausting for parents though and it’s important they get a break, which is why the funding works so well. It can be used to work, study, look after other children, get some shopping done or put your feet up for a well-earned rest.
I’ve never met any childminders before. How do I know I can trust them?
Look out for us in parks, children’s centres or drop-ins. Watch how we take care of the children, come up and say, ‘hi’ and ask us any questions you can think of. We’re used to it! Our children’s centre has a special session for childminders which parents can join to meet us. Ask at your children’s centre to see which sessions the childminders tend to go to.
The mum of the funded two-year-old was very nervous about leaving her son with me, she is Greek so we are from a similar culture, which helped. Not all childminders are the same and not all childminders will be right for your family. Talk to a few before making up your mind. I always offer a settling-in period and the chance to talk to existing parents to help reassure new parents.
The most important thing is to give childminders a chance! We work really hard to give children the best start in life.