An overview of the role

The role of a childminder is to care for babies, toddlers and young children, while engaging them in activities and supporting their learning.

A childminding qualification entitles the holder specifically to:

  • Care for children under the age of eight
  • For more than two hours a day
  • In the childminder’s own home

This focus on the childminder’s home differentiates them from nannies and au pairs, who work with children in their own home environments, sometimes even on a live-in basis.

What are the responsibilities of a childminder?

The basic responsibilities of a childminder include:

  • Facilitating the children’s play by providing interesting activities indoors and outdoors
  • Tutoring children and helping them with their homework
  • Taking children on outings to teach them about the world
  • Dropping children off and picking them up from school or afterschool clubs
  • Preparing meals and cooking for children, taking into account health as well as any dietary requirements
  • Bathing children and changing nappies

What are the key skills required by a childminder?

Key skills required by a childminder include:

  • Excellent interpersonal and verbal communication skills
  • A love of young children
  • Patience and kindness
  • The ability to be fun, inspiring and engaging
  • Diplomacy
  • A mature and responsible personality

As it is a freelance role there are also many required secondary skills, such as record keeping, that are essential to childminders.

What qualifications does a childminder require?

A childminder needs a variety of qualifications in order to be legally permitted to look after children. These include:

  • A childcare qualification related to childminding or home-based childcare
  • Training in safeguarding specifically aimed at young children
  • Certificates in basic first aid for children (paediatric first aid)
  • Certificates in basic food hygiene

All these qualifications must be kept up to date. Once a childminder has fulfilled all of these requirements they can register with OFSTED.

Prior to becoming an OFSTED-registered childminder, candidates will also need:

  • A medical check to ensure that they are in good health
  • An interview and home inspection
  • A Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check. Anyone else who is over the age of 16 and going to be in the house while children are there must also be DBS checked
  • Two references

OFSTED will perform inspections on childminders every four years to check that all is well.

Do I need relevant work experience to become a childminder?

No official experience is necessary, only the necessary qualifications. However, childminders will find it easier to get jobs once they have some experience.

Occasionally other qualifications are specified by the employer. For example, some parents also require a certain amount of experience driving, if the childminder is going to be picking up and dropping off their children in the car. If the family has a pool, it may be vital that the childminder knows how to swim so that she can safely supervise the children.

What are the prospects and salary of a childminder?

The going rate for a childminder by hour is usually between £4 and £6 an hour per child. This may be more in urban areas such as London, where pay is usually higher.

Childminders can increase their salary by learning other specialities, such as tutoring; for instance, if a childminder has a degree they can tutor older children in their degree subject, or even train to teach trainee childminders.

Childminders can also move into full-time live-in nanny work which can be exceptionally well-paid, although it is a highly demanding role and not everyone is suited to this level of contact with the family.

Childminders will have to pay for insurance as well as all necessary food, toys and cleaning materials, which is a drain on the salary.

Is the role of a childminder right for me?

There are both pros and cons involved in the role of a childminder.

Pros of being a childminder include:

  • It can be a hugely rewarding job to help children learn and develop
  • If you love children and want to work with them but do not want to do so within the constraints of a classroom environment, childminding is ideal
  • A highly social job that involves getting to know the children you care for well
  • Your job will usually follow the typical Monday to Friday schedule to cover working parents, meaning that you get weekends to yourself
  • You can work mostly within the comfort of your own home
  • You have great control and flexibility over the activities you do with children and do not have to adhere to any curriculum
  • You may be able to take children on activities that you will find interesting too – such as museum trips – making the role a stimulating one

Cons of being a childminder include:

  • Pay is low and there are constant expenses of providing food and toys for the children, petrol if you are doing the school run, insurance and renewing your OFSTED registration and necessary certificates
  • You will have to deal with upset, disobedient or otherwise frustrating children on a regular basis
  • You have no control over the children that you care for – if you really dislike a child or find them very difficult, you must put up with it unless circumstances are truly exceptional
  • Caring for other people’s children is perhaps the ultimate responsibility and this can be stressful
  • You may have to work 12 hr days or longer in order to keep up with the parents’ work schedules – starting before they go to work and finishing after they return
  • It can be difficult negotiating with parents and managing their expectations
  • Many parents also expect you to perform other services, such as cleaning and tidying and if you purely want to care for children you must make this clear upfront
  • Expect to deal with a lot of mess feeding and changing children
  • You will need to lift and carry children and this can be physically demanding
  • If you don’t like spending large amounts of time in the house, the role could become claustrophobic

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