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Choosing a childminder
Arrange to visit the minder in their own home. Try and do this during the day, when the childminder has own children and other minded children around. The environment in which your child is minded will influence him/her and parents should be able to imagine themselves as children spending each day with this person, in this house.
Don’t rush through the visit to the prospective childminder’s home. If they are the right person to care for your child, they will fully understand your need to take your time. If the childminder does not make you feel welcome and relaxed, you have no reason to think that your child will feel any different. The interview should be a pleasant and informative experience for you, and you should be shown around the house and see the area available to the children.
Untidiness is perfectly acceptable to children because it is a by-product of their play activity. Danger, dirt or chaos is a different matter. Are there toys, books, musical instruments? Is the house obviously geared for children, with guards on fires, potties and a child-step for using the toilet and a gate at the stairs? Is there a quiet room for children to sleep during the day, with clean bedclothes? Is the garden secure, with a sand pit, swings or slides, or climbing frames? Is there a pot-guard on the cooker and a fire blanket or extinguisher in the kitchen? Do you notice any over-loaded sockets or trailing flexes?
Is the minder is ‘mobile’ – i.e. able to take the children to the shops, or for a walk, as this is one of the great advantages of family care. Children learn about the world by being taken to the shops, the bank, the library, the hair-dressers, the post office. Like adults, they need variety in every day-life.
Be observant. What sort of person is this childminder? Can s/he make conversation easily? How does s/he interact with the children? You must allow that children ‘act up’ when visitors appear – can s/he cope calmly? Is s/he a good listener and make eye contact?
What Questions to Ask
If you are at ease with the potential Childminder and are satisfied with the house, you must ask some questions. They will expect this, and should not appear to be defensive.
Here are some questions which a good childminder would expect:
1. What experience have you had as a parent and childminder? 2. Can I have a reference from parents of other minded children? 3. Are you insured for childminding? 4. Have you attended any courses in child development or First Aid? 5. How many under-sixes are there in the house, including your own children? 6. What are your rates? 7. What is included in your charge – e.g. meals, making up bottles, some laundry? 8. Are you notified or a member of Childminding Ireland? 9. Are you and other adults in your home Garda Vetted? 1o. Will you bring and fetch older children to and from play-school or big school?
Practical experience and the right temperament are the most important requisites for undertaking child care. If you notice a shelf of books on child care and development and the house contains some obviously well cared for children, with plenty of toys, play materials, books, dressing-up clothes and baby equipment – don’t press too hard for qualifications. You could ask what she would do if a baby swallowed a penny, or started to choke, or developed a high temperature to check first aid awareness.
However, if you feel you may have found the right person, you should follow up any references before setting up a working agreement and getting the child settled in.