Child-minders are generally mothers, who look after other people’s children in their own homes, often alongside their own young children. It allows your child to be cared for in a home atmosphere, and can provide a very cost effective alternative to nannies, nurseries and day care. Additionally, they often provide much more flexibility in hours allowing for you to juggle work or other children’s commitments.

They provide your child with the opportunity to play with a mixed range of children in a family atmosphere; however finding one with similar values and attitudes to childcare is fundamental. Part of process of selecting a good child-minder is to understand their approach to: nutrition, general activities and educational play, discipline, but most importantly their character and personality. A good child-minder will be a positive, patient, motherly woman or man who really enjoys handling the needs of small children.

How you do you go about finding the best child-minder for you?
Here are our top tips:
Research your area: Start by asking around. You will always hear about the best people by word of mouth so ask around your street or immediate area, but remember you may have to travel to find the best child-minders, but the journey will be worthwhile.

Visit some of the local facilities that will be used by your child-minder such as playgroups, pre-school groups, libraries, and health centre or doctor’s surgeries. These are can a valuable source of information.

Online Research: The local council holds an up-to-date list of registered child- minders. This means that they are Ofsted registered, have had basic training in first aid, childcare provision and have been CRB checked. However, these individuals would still need further research by you. Registration is not an automatic badge of quality. Contact Buckinghamshire County Council via the web address www.bucksfamilyinfo.org.  Click on Finding Childcare on the home page. It is best to only type of the first part of your postcode in order to get a wider selection of choices across your area.

The Child-minding Association, www.NCMA.org.uk is the national body representing child-minders across the country. They can help by giving information about where to look in your area, if you are outside Buckinghamshire.

Check the location and journey time: Using a child-minder obviously involves travel time. Do you want your child-minder to live near your home or near your place of work? It may be necessary to spend extra time travelling in order to find the right quality of care and achieve peace of mind.

Choosing a child-minder
Now you have found a range of different child-minders in the area, it is time to access the qualities of a particular individual to help you choose the right person.
Now you have the challenge not only of evaluating her suitability but also their home, how they run it and the other people who share it. Your child will be joining their family and you will therefore have to be prepared to make compromises, to fit in with their rules and routines.

The initial visit is of key importance. Make sure it is during working hours so you can see them with other children present. Remember to take your children with you and watch how they interact with them. How welcoming and friendly are they, can they answer all your questions in a positive enthusiastic manner?

Typical things to ask during your visit would include:
How long have they been a child-minder and why did they start initially?

Ask about the other children in their care their ages?

Learn more about their family. What does their partner do, what are their children like? How supportive are they to her work? What ages are their children? What are they doing at present?

What are their attitudes to diet, play, out door activities, television, discipline and use of praise?

How many children do they have after school and where do they need collecting from?

How safe is the house? Does the house have stair gates, fireguards, socket covers, cupboard locks, and smoke alarms? Check the garden and the toys and see how clean they are?

Ask to see the bathroom and the bedroom where the child might sleep during the day. This will allow you to see if areas of the house are shut off, which might imply how welcome they are as part of the family.

You need to decide if their approach to childcare is similar to yours in general attitudes and values as well as agreeing to their approach to childcare routine. In the end, you need to use your gut instincts. You will be a best judge of what is right or wrong for your child. It is important to note that the good child-minders get very booked up. You might need to put down a deposit to reserve a place for your child in the future.
Start looking early!