Make sure you're happy with your childminder by carrying out some checks...
It sounds obvious, but visit at a busy time of day, so you get a decent idea of how their home is used, what the atmosphere is like and who the other children are. If the minder does school pick-ups, the vibe may be quite different in the afternoons to the mornings.
Check if anyone else is there during the day – husbands or assistants, for example?
Look at the rooms the childen will be using, as well as outdoor areas, so you get a good picture of the facilities. Are there plenty of interesting toys, and zones for creative or messy play? Trust your instincts – if you find it a happy, cheerful space, chances are your child will too.
Don't be embarrassed to ask to see necessary documents – evidence of up-to-date Ofsted registration and reports, public liability insurance and first-aid certificates. Can you see written references from other parents?
While Ofsted should check for health and safety measures, make sure you're happy too. Do kitchen cupboards have safety locks? Do corners of glass tables have protectors? Are the stairgates correctly in use?
Are the kitchen surfaces clean? Does the nappy changing area look hygenic? (The home of one childminder I visited had overflowing bins, which needless to say put me off!)
Think about the area where the minder lives - will you feel safe walking or driving there every day? What about if your child is taken out for excursions in nearby streets?
Are they near a nice park, or public transport? Will you be able to park your car nearby? (I was put off another childminder because I needed daily parking permits.) Is there someone secure to store buggies? Will your baby be able to sleep in a cot in a separate room? (If so, check there's a baby monitor). Or does the minder only offer sleep mats? If your child will be driven about, ask to inspect the car and car seats.
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