Thursday, 20 December 2012

a taste of Christmas

Christmas for everyone is a busy time of year. For childminders the run up to Christmas is full of glitter, handprints and parties......children's parties that is. 


Running our childminding businesses single-handed (without a committee or management to oversee the business side of things) means we are generally run ragged by the end of term, and if we've managed by some stroke of luck to avoid the seasonal illness that always come just as the festive season is gaining momentum then we count our blessings.

I say 'we', I know I have been lucky (touch wood) because I've just had the sniffles . The children have had heavy colds from ....half term, and I've been busy blowing noses and washing my hands almost non stop since then.


I will sigh a big sigh of relief once the door closes at the end of the day tomorrow, not because I will be glad the children are gone- far from it. I will be relieved that the planning and execution of Christmas went off without a hitch. Not only will the children be taking home all the crafty bits & bobs they have been doing over the past 3 or 4 weeks, but they will have made a present for their parents and have a disk of photo's of all their activities over the past term to share with them.
Every parent has been consulted about their child's progress and a review has been produced which will inform the planning next term. Their Learning Journals/Journey folders are up to date and brimming full of their achievements both great & small.

When I close the door on Friday I will have a few days of not thinking about childminding (well not much) then once the festivities are over the playroom will be getting a deep clean and I will begin planning (loosely) for the next stage of Learning and Development.
The doors open again on the 8th.


Merry Christmas everyone.  

Saturday, 8 December 2012

chaos, craft and camaraderie

Its really nice to meet other childcare practitioners and share practice and ideas. Even when we come from such diverse settings there is a camaraderie and willingness to listen and learn from each other.
I'd never heard of Placing and Arranging before, but while on a course the other day the ladies on my table got chatting during the lunch break and it came up.
Our conversation had moved from subject to subject and then someone mentioned Placing and Arranging. I found out that it is literally placing and arranging small object. Beads, paperclips, pom poms, buttons etc (in fact any sort of small embellishment) is placed onto a surface of either card, fabric or cork and once completed the arrangement can be recorded (photographed) and the child can start again if they wish. As I'd never heard of it before (although we have done something similar with sticky-backed-plastic) I wondered how the children felt about not being able to take their arrangement home, but apparently no-one had ever had a problem. It sounded like a nice creative activity and said I would be trying it with the children, which I did as you can see. I have since learnt that it the term is used when working with a light box too, but as I do not have the budget for a light box it is something I didn't know about.
Anyway the subject of Christmas then came up. The general consciences was that doing crafts over the Christmas period that can then be used as gifts for parents is quite difficult these days without the old style production line of prepared activities. You know the type of thing; a Father Christmas cut-out, neatly painted and stuck on a greetings card perfectly central and upright- allegedly produced by a 2 year old.
The line of acceptability in craft activities these days is quite clear; shapes that have been cut-out by an adult and are placed to produce a recognisable object ie Father Christmas is frowned upon, but something that a child has created from resources that an adult has prepared/sourced so the child can create something original is valued. If you look up the word 'creativity' you will find it means 'originality' and as each child is as individual as a flake of snow then their creations should be equally unique and valued. But while some may value the brown splodge because we know the process of creating it was long and involved and it consisted of many layers of primary colour paint, others may just see a brown splodge. The key is ensuring that the child's creativity shines through.

Someone on the table bemoaned the loss of 'circle time' at her setting. She said it makes it very difficult to produce the end of year nativity as the children never get enough time to learn the carols or practice sitting still. Which lead on to whether or not a pre-school or nursery room should look and sound chaotic, or should there be some order? Being a childminder without the first hand knowledge or experience of working in chaos I was interested in this debate but couldn't really offer my personal opinion....(although I feel nothing worthwhile can be produced in a chaotic environment)....but I kept quiet because some practitioners were obviously convinced that free-flow play is always chaotic. One lady was very adamant that free-flow shouldn't be chaotic and that resources should be tidied away as they go. I think all settings agree that getting the balance right is proving tricky.
At another gathering I was talking to a childminder about planning. She was a teacher before becoming a childminder so I thought I'd extract some expert opinion on the subject. It turns out she is just as undecided as the rest of us on how to approach planning, but admitted she has squirreled away her folder of themes- just in case one day they become acceptable again.
I'm not making any particular point other than it is obvious we are all doing the best we can to implement the EYFS as we understand it, but also as we perceive Ofsted will view our efforts.
But I do wonder sometimes if we throw the baby out with the bath water and focus too much on the froth left behind.    

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Christmas starts here


Sara finds another use for milk bottle lids

(we do send them to charity too)




stained glass Christmas tree

Thursday, 29 November 2012

crossing the road to a new toddler group

We did something different today. We visited a toddler group that I have not visited for over a year or more and that the children with me have not been to before. I felt we needed a change.

The old toddlers had become stale and I felt the children were not really getting anything out of it. Every week they would disappear into the playhouse and spend the whole morning playing in there. I wasn't so unkind as to try to coax them out of there, or to push my way into their game although I did offer ideas, such as fetching paper and pencils so they could write shopping lists when they were emptying the kitchen cupboards in the playhouse. But their play remained stubbornly inside the playhouse and I was surplus to requirements (after sitting outside a few times listening and taking notes, and occasionally peeking over the top of the playhouse). It was time to consider the benefits of attending the group.

So this morning after explaining to the children that we would visit a 'new toddlers' and reassuring them that it wasn't very far away and that I knew the lady who runs it....we set off with the baby in the pushchair and the two children walking. In the village we crossed the road, as usual there were lots of questions....'Sara what that?' 'can I help **** when we get to the prickles?' (a few stray twigs overhang the footpath here) 'where is the toddlers?'....and then as we walked past  the school 'we haven't been here before have we Sara?'. Which was odd as we have, but we always walk on the other side of the road and I suppose it all looked very different, so we had a conversation about that, and about the school having the same name as the village, and which school the children would be going to when they are old enough. And then we arrived at the new toddlers. 

As expected one child dived right in and the other child followed a little reluctantly but determined not to let the friend out of her sight. Within a short space of time the more confident child was chatting to the helpers and settling down to do some if we had always gone there. The other child followed her lead and was obviously taking it all in and quietly confident, confident enough to welcome help getting her apron on. The baby smiled at everyone who came close. And then it came to me, the children were having such a great time because of positive relationships, even after such a short space of time the staff had learnt the children's names and this showed they were welcoming and available. The environment is unexpected too- for a church hall. Enabling is the right word. Enabling environments isn't just about having the right equipment and access, it can also be about atmosphere and feeling comfortable enough to use all of the space in any way that you might want to use it. Even when that means spreading toys and biscuit crumbs everywhere. Yes, the only thing wrong with this toddlers is they still provide biscuits instead of the 'healthy option' .....oh well, I'm sure the parents won't mind.

Thursday, 22 November 2012


I got myself into a right tiz recently. So much so that I found myself almost buying a EYFS activities book! Yes shocking I know.

It all started with the revised EYFS. You know the promises of reduced paperwork? boy I was looking forward to the reduced paperwork.
Well they lied.
It took a while for it to register because in readiness for the revised EYFS I had written a 'list of things to do' and was up to my eyes in revising policies and changing observation forms, writing articles for the newsletter to tell parents about the change, devising a 2 yr record check form...etc etc.

Once I had done everything on my list up to a certain point I realised that I was in fact adding things to my list and it was running away with me. And when I looked at the way I was implementing the revised EYFS on a day to day basis my list started to grow again- why? because I realised that the focus of the EYFS has changed. There has been a fundamental shift to teaching and school readiness and an expectation that I will do Planning (with a capital P) and 6 to 8 week assessments and next steps etc etc.


I have been registered for over 20 years. I 'minded' children in the beginning. You know the old one about children learning at their mothers knees (or apron hem) by counting and sorting socks into pairs. That was the line spun to me when I started childminding, it was ok to do a certain amount of housework because I was only 'minding' the children and they could help me by counting the socks I was pegging out on the line. (What is it with socks?).

So the first few years of 'minding' were spent being a mum with an extra child or two around. Slowly the idea of providing educational activities as part of childminding crept in (no doubt someone will disagree and say I was always expected to educate, but that's not how I remember it). No one said I had to do any further training. In fact I had been minding some years before it was even compulsory to have a first aid certificate (although I got together with other childminders to provide first aid training years before that because it seemed the sensible thing to have).
Slowly training did become available, the first was child protection. Then, as it filtered down from more progressive areas of the country a Level 3 Certificate in Childminding Practice came along, and I was one of a group of childminders in my area to be the first to sign up to take this recognised qualification. I loved going to college and one tutor in particular had a profound effect on me and my attitude to childhood.
It wasn't long before I was Planning. I have very fond memories of those themed based activities. The Three Billy Goats Gruff. The 12 Days of Christmas. Gradually though I stopped 'doing' themes and started truly following children's interests. In recent years I have relaxed into PLOD's. The children are doing well, ok sometimes I seem to lose the plot and we drift but on the whole learning takes place anyway without me even thinking about it- because the children are doing it naturally (autonomous learners).


Cue the revised EYFS and me reading the Statutory Framework and losing all confidence in what I am doing!

My one sheet of retrospective planning and simple observation form that did me so well for at least the past 5 years started to flow into individual planning sheets, group planning sheets, parents planning sheets, 3 different types of observation sheets, tracking, assessments, medium term planning sheets etc etc and I began to worry that I didn't know what I was doing anymore! so I started hunting round for a system that would help and I had the crazy idea that what I needed was a book of EYFS activities all neatly categorised and full of learning intentions. Until I clicked on an example page, and it took me to a page of wavy lines for children to trace.....and Bang it dawned on me that this was the very thing I had decided years ago that I was Not going to do. I do not do colouring in sheets, worksheets and tracing, unless a child asks to do one....and they rarely have because they are too busy learning through play.  

So the panic over. Sense, common or otherwise, has been restored. I will continue to follow the children's interests and I will stand back to give them space to go where they want to, and we will drift occasionally. I am not a 'get children ready for school' farm. I am getting children ready for life, to be confident, kind, honest, fair and respectful individuals. 



Monday, 19 November 2012

forums and time

Last week I lost one of the childminding forums I visit, it was a bit like having the rug removed from beneath your feet or finding the wrong filling in your sandwich.
But another one came along to fill the void so all's well and good. I have many online friends and luckily a high proportion of them have found it too. I find online communities a very useful support system, as I mentioned before living here and being a non-driver I sometimes feel cut off from the rest of the childcare world.
But in this world of faceless communication I am very careful not to get lulled into a false sense of security when visiting the forums. I know it is important to be on guard for 'trolls' or worse, and for that reason I have a robust internet policy in place and (hopefully) my wits about me. And of course I never divulge any personal information about the families or children I care for.

Over the weekend I have been busy creating a sleep corner for the babies who come here. I found a small cot that would fit into the available space, it came with a cute quilt but no sheet. I have since discovered why. Small cots do not take standard cot sheets! and small cots sheets are not easy to come by. Thankfully I'm handy with the sewing machine.
I hunted around for a theme to decorate the space and found some really lovely wall stickers with rabbits, owls, and stars......the choice was seemingly endless and after some hours of searching and not being able to make up my mind, I decided I would paint a design free-hand and keep things simple. Because by this time it was late afternoon and I was literally running out of time!


That's the problem with the internet, you can spend hours on it without realising the time is flying by.

Still, I am a procrastinator so that's ok :)


Monday, 12 November 2012

new storage

Yesterday I succumbed to temptation and bought a new storage unit. We had been to our local discount store the day before and happened to see it while shopping for bird food.
Now there was nothing wrong with the toy storage in the playroom, I have an Ikea Expedit unit which as all childminders know is probably the best toy storage unit available in that price range. But alongside it we also have a mix-match of units and tables in white melamine finish and fake oak.
Anyway, I happened to see this unit.
It has the Expedit  'look'. And at £49 it was a steal. So yesterday we returned to the store, and then spent the rest of the day putting it together and rearranging the rest of the room.
My playroom is a good size but even so when one new piece of furniture is added every other piece of furniture has to be rearranged to accommodate it.
I'm happy with the playroom. The far wall is now completely lined with units, and I now also have a forward facing bookcase thanks to Steve.
Ever since attending an inclusion training last year I have been planning to get a forward facing bookcase. I even had the idea of using the spice rack that I'd seen online as a cheap alternative to the real thing. But I think everyone else had the same idea because when I went to buy one they were out-of-stock.
In the end all it needed to turn an old shelving unit we had in the kitchen to the famous forward facing bookcase was a piece of dowel.
The children are going to love it!

Friday, 9 November 2012

the season

Just a couple of photo's today.
Our horse chestnut is almost bare of leaves.

Heuristic play with pumpkins.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Computer issues, birdwatching and painting

That horrible feeling that hits you when the computer throws a wobbly and you suddenly realise it isn't going to come back.
And not just any computer (we are lucky enough to have a very beat-up laptop in the house and a very old computer sitting in one of the spare rooms). No, this is the Work Computer.
Every document I use was on that computer, and they have been developed individually by me for my business. My logo, accounts and childminding paperwork. Then there are the scores & scores of other documents from every conceivable childcare source that I filed away for reference. And photographs. Nightmare.
The diagnoses was a hard drive failure, thankfully everything was retrievable. And so I have a new computer and everything is back to normal...except it will not allow me to upload photo's to my blog. So this is coming to you via the very beat-up laptop that is literally held together by a clamp.....
I looked out of the window today and saw a Blackcap. I'm talking birds here. I don't ever remember seeing one before so I rushed to take a photo of it while it ate the purple berries of the Callicarpa bush. The photo was blurry, my work camera isn't designed for that kind of photography, its great for observation photo's as I can print directly from the camera, but low light or small birds in the distance is not its strong point.
Living here on the edge of the village means we do get a good variety of birds visit the garden, and I do enjoy feeding them.

you might just be able to make out the starling on the window feeder

I was visiting a childminding friend way back in the Spring when I first saw birds actually using a window feeder. Previously to that I had dismissed them as a gimmick after buying one for my mother-in-law and her saying she hadn’t had a single bird visit it. But then I couldn’t resist buying a little cup feeder from shop in Hay-on-Wye, not because I thought the birds would use it but because I thought it looked sweet.
The birds didn’t use it, and it fell off the glass.
But remembering my visit to my friends and watching half a dozen starlings squabbling over the raisins she was putting in her feeder I thought I would try again, this time with a different model. I found quite a selection of sturdy looking feeders on a well known online store and it arrived within a week.
I still wasn’t entirely sure that the birds would use it but I attached it to the playroom window, and to tempt the birds close I bought a tub of dried mealworms. I also hung a feeder from the small hibiscus tree that sits close to the house.
Within a day the starlings found the window feeder. They don't seem put off by the children pointing and running up to the window at all, even though the playroom is a conservatory with floor to ceiling windows.
I'm lucky that we have a fairly large garden and we have room for a bird table in the wild garden and another bird feeding station half way up the garden. We have the usual birds visit: great tits, blue tits, starlings, blackbirds, robins, sparrows, dunnocks, magpies, greenfinch, chaffinch and long-tailed tits. We have also had yellowhammers that look for all the world like budgies from a distance. We also have squirrels. They sit on top of the wooden post which holds all the feeders and help themselves to the birdfood. They also dig up the grass to bury cob nuts. The children like to watch them and I must admit they are comical little things even though I know some people class them as vermin.

Friday, 2 November 2012

I forget to mention....

You may remember me getting all irritated and tetchy about childminders only being allowed to borrow items from the CFC Toy Library for a fortnight. And I pointed out that originally we had been allowed to have items for 6 weeks like other professionals. Well it seems my CFC have made a mistake, they should be lending resources for 6 weeks to childminders. I have been told to tell them. I will smile sweetly.
My other bit of news is I have Penny Tassoni’s latest book Practical EYFS Handbook, which I’m busy reading. The layout is the same as the old one so it is reassuringly familiar and she has a very easy to read style of writing (unlike me) and I love the way she understands childminding. I have also ordered The EYFS: A Practical Guide for Students and Professionals by Vicky Hutchin. I have been good recently so deserve a treat – or two.
I have been told off again for my rambling way of expressing myself in words.
In all honesty it is the only way I can write. It’s the way my brain works, totally inefficient, longwinded and rambling, and yes I'm like this in real life. 

a different day

Today things were slightly different than they usually are.
For a start it is half-term which more often than not means less work for me as the majority of the children are term-time only. And as it happens I have only worked one day this week. However I have still been busy with ‘things’ and I’m not sure where the time has gone....

Today for example I had some family visitors, namely an 8 year old girl and a 10 year old boy. I’m quite comfortable dealing with this age group but in my working life all the children I care for are under 5 years of age, and most of them are under 3. So my resources reflect the age range I childmind for, but as I must also consider a slightly older age range and how I might meet their needs (not that I have any intention of having older children but you never know when disaster will strike and I will be called on- well that’s how I look upon it) I do have a box of what I call the ‘older child bits and bobs box' stored just in case.
So getting back to my visitors.
What to do with them. Well my box of bits and bobs came out, and as I know one of the children does enjoy craft I raided my sewing room too before they arrived. Yes, I have a sewing/craft room, but I’m afraid it is much underused these days….but one day…….
Anyway the box of bits and bobs box was ignored, but the collection of card and embellishments was immediately taken to the table and the 8 year old started decorating a card for a friend and was happily engrossed for about an hour. I thought the 10 year old would like to play on the Wii, but instead he asked if he could use a camera as he wanted to make a video.


He used Star Wars Lego figures and vehicles in the making of his video, but he also created an animation by taking a photo, moving the figures slightly then taking another photo and repeating the progress. The finished ‘film’ was amazing, and so full of his sense humour. 

Monday, 29 October 2012


I met some relations today. People that I don’t remember ever meeting before. Although that’s not to say I haven’t met them, for a start they are all older than me by at least 10 years so who is to say they didn’t visit me when I was small? They may have.

My day started by me sharing a car with my cousins (who I've known all my life- just in case you thought these were the relations I didnt know). Anyway, we had 40 miles to travel and my younger cousin had made scones for the journey but alas did not bring a thermos of tea. Tea drinking is almost an occupation with me and I must admit I was gasping for a drink by the time we had arrived at our destination. I should have thought about bringing a flask myself but I had spent the morning before I was picked up deciding what to wear. I never quite know what to wear at a funeral but I think I made the right choice today. Sometimes you get instructions 'wear bright colours' or 'so & so wanted informal wear'. But this time there were no instructions so I decided to wear black.
A childminder doesn’t often wear black. It picks up fluff and shows other unmentionable stains. But I rummaged through my wardrobe and came up with a black skirt I haven’t worn in at least 6 years, and a black cardi.
Today’s family gathering was a sad affair. However it was also a celebration, this lady had lived a long, full and worthwhile life. I have good memories of her.
The relations I met for the first time today were – I was going to say ‘like family’ but of course that’s what they were and greeted me with warmth and affection.

The reason I’m mentioning it here is that one of my interests is genealogy which is the study of ancestry, but my interest goes further than just pushing back the family tree as far as I can go in terms of years.
I am fascinated by the people who came before me, who they were, what they did, how they lived and who they married. It’s the nosy parker in me. I get ridiculously attached to these people long dead and search each census with trepidation of what I might find. A child appearing as a baby in one census but disappearing from the next too often means death at a young age. A husband with a new wife and children but missing the children from the previous marriage is also disturbingly common, it often means the first wife has died and her children may have been dispersed among other relatives, or sent to work as servants and farm labourers. They may even be found in the Workhouse. When life seems to have dealt them a raw deal I weep for them even though I never knew them.

Family is very important to me, living or dead. And I can now add faces and personal memories to the names of the people I met today because they are in my family tree, and that means so much to me.



Sunday, 28 October 2012

Bug hotel Ⅱ

We spent the morning building a new bug hotel after the first one was demolished by a cat jumping on to it from above!….I hope mark two is sturdier.
Unfortunately as I dismantled the old one into the wheelbarrow a large number of minibeasts were disturbed and they scurried around in the wheelbarrow trying to find a new hiding place.
Hopefully most of them went back as I rebuilt it. And they certainly need a warm dry hiding place with the weather we've been having recently!

Friday, 26 October 2012

the plan today...


Its been one of those dull, grey, chilly autumn days with intermittent drizzle that makes me want to stay indoors. But the EYFS says children should be outside….no what its actually says "Providers must provide access to an outdoor play area or, if that is not possible, ensure that outdoor activities are planned and taken on a daily basis"
And we all know that a good outdoor environment supports children’s learning and promotes a healthy lifestyle. Of course it doesn’t have to be ‘an outdoor environment’ as in nursery garden or back yard, it can just as well be the countryside, park or the new fangled ‘forest schools’. And who ever wrote ‘outdoor play area’ in the EYFS has a sadly limited idea of children’s play if they think children only benefit from ‘play areas’.
My plan (not written, just a vague thought) was to take the children down to the play park in the village. We would walk because if you remember I do not drive. And it would have been nice to do the circular route with the children although I have to be careful which roads I use when they are with me, some are just too dangerous. That’s the trouble with the countryside, no pavements. But to get to the village we can walk across the field or along the main road that has a pavement.
So today started like any other. Except it was very dark this morning which meant putting the playroom lights on which is not usual but I suppose it will become the norm from now on….


So I had a plan of sorts.
Written planning: there are two sides of the argument. On the one hand written planning may have ensured I had lard in stock to make bird feeders this morning. However on the other hand I would have completely wasted my time planning an outing to the park that didn’t happen because a child arrived with a cold.

Good job that 'going with the flow' is my second name. I just so happened to have an idea floating about in my head....and the children loved it. I'll work out the learning intentions later- or not. This activity was loosely linked with the activity we didn’t do because I didn’t have any lard. And loosely linked with a childs interest, in case you were wondering. The children did a great job using the bird stencil with kitchen sponges and pink paint, and glueing bird cutouts on their paper. 

One child told the other that the birds were 'polka spots'. The other child (younger too) positioned the birds using the whole space available. One identified that the red pattern was like a ladybird and said 'that’s funny (& giggled) ladybirds are not birds Sara'. (more giggling)

Then we went into the garden where they used their child sized brooms to sweep leaves. One child knew how to use a broom efficiently, the other child couldn't quite work out how to push the broom. We spent some time feeling the objects in the sensory box and using descriptive language 'soft' 'cold' ‘hard’ 'smooth' ‘tickly’.

So that was my day. I have since spent around 3 hours doing paperwork. Even without formal written planning I seem to spend far too much time doing paperwork. And I’m tired but I think my blog entry shows this, so I apologise for waffling.


This is the sensory box, the photo was not taken today because the children were in the way when I tried to get there with my camera :)

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Eating humble pie/chocolate cake

The highlight for the children today has been a Birthday celebration, although I think the chocolate birthday cake at lunch was the best bit for them. As one of the parents put it, isn’t Steve lucky to spend his birthday with a group of 2 & 3 year olds…... (Steve is not a childminder, he is my husband and bravely decided to take the day off to share his birthday with us all).

Now, I was a little harsh yesterday. Looking back over my last post has made me realise that I was being unfair on the CFC. I focused on two negatives because I was disappointed about losing the childminding book. But of course I do get a lot out of using the centre, for a start they allow us to hold a childminder drop-in there, and they are always welcoming and happy to help where they can.
My husband has commented that my previous post was full of unnecessary words. I think he means I was repeating myself, which is probably true. I do not find writing comes easily. I usually have to edit things many times before I’m finally satisfied that my writing makes sense, is spelt correctly and that I actually have something meaningful to say. Grammar is not a strong point either so I will move swiftly on.
This blog is a warts and all reflection of me. Sometimes I’m a bit grumpy, although I hope never with the children because that just wouldn’t do. But sometimes I am exasperated about what you might call the politics of my job. I did think about deleting yesterdays post. But I decided not to because I want the freedom to be honest here, and that means I will be expressing all my frustrations, triumphs and the total enjoyment of my life as a childminder- warts and all. (And no doubt I will be eating more humble pie in the future when I realise my words were written in the heat of the moment, and on reflection things are not half as bad as I paint them.)

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

zips and attachments

We went down to the Children & family centre this morning. The toddler with me was demonstrating a persistent interest in zips on the walk down there by unzipping the cosy toe cover and struggling to zip it up again, and again. I had only put the cosy toes on the pushchair this morning as a bit of protection from the foggy/mizzle that was falling. Well this little one is usually pointing to dogs or birds or anything that moves. But today was completely absorbed in working out how a zip works, so I thought we'd see if the Children & family centre’s Toy Library had something with zips. After scouring the catalogue the only item that I could find with zips turned out to be a frog and monkey dressed with in clothing with hook & eye fasteners, buttons, laces and a very short zip on the shoes. There were a few other bits in bobs in the bag with them but frog and monkey have been a total success and have spent the afternoon in the den with the toddler zipping and unzipping their shoes. We did go into the garden today too, the toddler wore the all-in-one suit with a long zip…….


When I first joined the toy library as a childminder we were allowed to have each item for up to 6 weeks, we paid slightly more as a joining fee than parents who could only borrow each item for 2 weeks. As with all things, for reasons that I can not understand, they took away the 6 week borrowing period and so now childminders must return items within 2 weeks. I really don’t understand the thinking behind this, most of our children are part-time these days, in fact if I borrow an item on a Tuesday the children have at most only 4 sessions in which to play with it before it has to be returned.

Over time some of the benefits attached to working in partnership with the Children & family centre have reduced or disappeared. For example, the notice board at this particular CFC had space for childminders to pin their business cards. Eventually that facility disappeared to be replaced by a book. Childminders were asked to write a piece about themselves and the service they offered for the book which was keep on display. Now the book was never highly visible, it sat amongst the other booklets and leaflets. But it was there. It's now been removed and parents enquiring about childcare must now phone the Family Information Service number or go online.

The beauty of the book was that it was in the very place that the local parents used, it contained information about the local registered childminders and the services they provided.
I do at times feel quite disheartened.



Monday, 22 October 2012


There are fireworks in my garden. The natural type that Mother Nature gives us every year. Wonderful.

And there are masses of fallen leaves everywhere so the display will not last long. But while it does, and while the leaves continue to fall the children can have fun sweeping them up. Child sized brooms are quite expensive but all it needs is a cheap adult size broom cut down to child size, which is what my husband did for us today.
The children will be happy.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Only just realizing how difficult it is to find a photo for the blog that doesn't show the children's faces, and that still conveys some significant meaning. The impact seems to be in the expression on the face of the child. So my next challenge will be taking photo’s that tell a story of (mainly) child initiated learning without identifying a single child. A tall order.

So back to the beginning, why The Isolated Childminder I hear you ask.

Well childminding can be quite isolating. I work alone all day. I do get out & about and of course I do have company in the form of children, primarily under the age of three. My conversations with them are for the most part wonderful, whacky and occasionally baffling.

Childminding is a complex job that is a simple as ‘playing’ and as complicated as trying to decipher Ofsted talk. The two seem worlds apart at times and that makes my job challenging, and also makes it imperative that I have support from other childminders, early years services, my family and the families using my service. If one of those elements is missing or weak then childminding can be the most isolating place to be in the world.

The truth is I also find myself isolated by where I live, but not because I am on an island in the Outer Hebrides, or half-way up a mountain. I’m sure there are childminders living in those sorts of places because every neighbourhood needs a childminder, and I’ve no doubt they don’t feel isolated at all by their location surrounded as they are by their close-knit communities.

But I live on the south coast in a village, in fact on the edge of the village. Village life is not always what it is cracked up to be. Another cause of my isolation is transport. I do not drive, and buses are not the easiest things to get on & off with a pushchair & a toddler in tow. It would be easier if they could be guaranteed to provide accessible buses, sometimes they do but you never know until the bus draws up in front of you if it’s an ‘accessible type’ and whether you are actually going to be able to get on, or not.

When I lived in a city I took the library for granted, I had half a dozen play parks to choose from and a toddler group for every day of the week if I was so inclined. My world has shrunk but the result has been my childminding practice has changed. We stroll instead of charging around from place to another (although honestly I don’t think I ever charged anywhere) we stop and look at interesting things- or stop to discuss the best way to blow ones’ nose- we stand under the same horse chestnut tree every week to observe the change, stroll down a country lane chatting about the birds we see, guess if we might see the ponies in the stable or are they already out in the field? I spend more time experiencing life instead of filling time.  

When I was thinking of a name for my blog The Isolated Childminder sort of fitted, I am isolated by circumstance, profession and location. But I’m not isolated from anything important.


Thursday, 18 October 2012

nose blowing

The other day we were out walking. Me and two little children. There was a slight chill to the air although it was sunny and as happens at this time of year for some reason my nose needed blowing. The children stood patiently waiting while I found my tissue and gently blew my nose. Then a little voice said “Sara you do it like this”, and the little one gave a good hearty demonstration of nose blowing.

I was surprised for two reasons. Firstly she didn't have a tissue in her cupped hands and I wondered if I needed to find another tissue quickly. Secondly this was the first time this child had volunteered to teach me anything- knowingly. She has taught me plenty in the months she has been here but she is completely unaware of that fact. So I looked down at this little upturned face, checked if I did indeed need to find another tissue which I didn't, and followed her instructions on how to blow a nose. I tried really hard to match the noise and actions being demonstrated and thanked her for her help. She looked back at me with all the understanding and empathy of anyone who has ever tried to teach that lesson to another person. There was no smugness, no sense of pride that she had done something helpful. Just an understanding that sometimes we all need a bit of help.


I arrived home to find a parcel on the doorstep. My ream of paper has arrived and I am ridiculously happy. Any childminder who finds themselves almost out of ink or paper will no doubt understand my feelings.

Now this is a first post of my new blog but I have a ream of paper calling me. So although I would love to write more about why I am the isolated childminder, it will have to wait. Till next time.