It is always a good idea to think about and compile a list of questions for a childminder before you visit them. But what questions should you ask?
The sorts of things you want to find out from a childminder, about the care that they will provide for your child, will depend very much on your child’s and your own needs, so they could be different for each parent.
Here are some possible childminder questions for parents, which you may like to consider.
It is important that you check the childminder has the correct registration, so ask to see their registration certificate. You can also search for registration, and read Ofsted Registration Reports online during your decision making process.
Almost all childminders will look after more than one child. It is a good idea to ask how many children the childminder looks after, what ages they are, and from what backgrounds. You may wish to ask for contact details for parents whose children you look after, so that you can obtain references.
You may also wish to find out which schools the childminder does pick up and drop offs from, even if it is not an immediate concern for you as you are seeking childcare for a baby. At some point it could be relevant, and it would be a shame to move a child to a different childminder once they are settled in.
It is a good idea to work out exact costs and payment terms in advance. Find out how much the childminder charges, and how regularly they ask for payment (for example is it monthly or weekly?). Some childminders are registered to accept childcare vouchers, so this is worth checking if your company runs a childcare voucher scheme as this can help with costs. Find out if they accept direct payments from your employer, if this is something your employer offers.
You may also wish to find out what their terms are if your child is sick, or on holiday. Different childminders will have different rules. Some will charge the full fee for the usual hours, even if your child is sick or you go on holiday. Others may offer a reduced fee during these times.
If you wish to retain their services, then confirm if they require a deposit, so you are fully aware of the upcoming costs. Also check what notice period they require if you need to terminate the agreement.
Childminders will have different approaches to activities and play, but you can make a more informed decision for you and your child if you know what these are. Ask what activities they provide, and if there is a safe outdoor space for them to play. You should also find out what their policies on discipline are, and how they manage children’s behaviour. Finally it is a good idea to check how you will be informed of your child’s progress in terms of learning and development. It may be informal reporting, or some kind of written update. It will depend on the childminder, but it is good to know at the outset.
Some childminders provide all meals and snacks as part of their fee. Others ask for pack lunches to be brought along each day so the parents remain in control of the food for their child. If the childminder provides food, ask what kind of meals they provide and at what times. Don’t be afraid to specify any dietary requirements or preferences you have for your child.
Smaller children who still have nap times will need an adequate space to rest. Ask to see where the children sleep, and find out how they manage nap times.
It is a good idea to ask who else would be present in the house while they are looking after your child. Do they have children of their own? What other adults live at their property? Are there any pets?
You may choose a childminder, and it may not work out. The arrangement has to work for everyone and so it is a good idea to agree a settling in period – whereby you agree a set length of time, during which all parties can assess whether the childcare arrangement is working for everyone, and if appropriate, end them without the normal notice period.
There are lots of other questions you may think of once you have read through these ones. Remember, don’t be afraid to ask! A good childminder should be happy to answer any relevant questions you have about the care of your child.