If you’ve got or had small children yourself, or tried to juggle looking after the children with a job, you’ll know that good childcare can be difficult to find, and also expensive. So how about exploring the opportunity behind this and setting up as a childminder yourself?

How To Become A Childminder

Looking after children involves much more red tape than most other businesses, with good reason of course. But it’s not as complicated as you might expect. In this article, I’ll run through how to start up as a childminder.

What you need to be a childminder

Maybe it’s stating the obvious, but you’ll need to like children – and not just children but other peoples’ children. You’ll need adequate space in a child-friendly home (or one that can be made child-friendly). You don’t need any formal qualifications as such to start – but more info on training and courses on this shortly.

What does childminding involve?

From a business point of view, childminders aren’t the same as nannies. They’re self-employed individuals, working for themselves and running their own small business. You can run the business yourself, or take on up to two assistants if you wish.

Childminders are permitted to look after anything between one and six children from birth onwards in the childminder’s own home. You are free to decide how many children you can comfortably look after and your own working hours, depending on what suits your customers too of course. And you can choose to mind children either all-day or just part of the day, e.g. just before and after school and term time only if you like.

Childminding also involves a bit more than minding. They’re expected to offer plenty of learning opportunities in a stimulating environment – and help further the early years education of the children in their care.

What approval do you need?

Although childminders don’t currently need a formal qualification in practice they need, by law, to be registered with Ofsted (and be inspected by Ofsted from time to time).

First of all, check with your local authority about the help they can offer. See if they hold Childminder Briefing Sessions – these are short introductions to what the work involves so you can get an idea if it would be for you. Then you’ll need to enrol for a Preparation for Registration Childminding Course. You can do this part time over several weeks and it will cost around £100. You’ll need to study paediatric first aid and safeguarding children.

Once you’ve done the course, you (and members of your household over 16) have been CRB checked, your home is approved and you have insurance, your Ofsted registration can be finalised. Then you’ll be ready to welcome your first children!

Finding customers and running your service

Given the shortage of good quality childcare in most places it shouldn’t be too difficult to find customers for your service. But it would be a good idea to ring round some existing childminders in your area and find out whether they have unfilled places or not before you consider starting up.

Medium-term you’ll probably get all the business you need from word of mouth, but short term try some local ads., window cards, school gate leaflets and circulars to local playgroups. Your local council might also have a register of childminders you can get listed in, which will link you up with parents looking for childcare.

You can charge your customers whatever you like and whatever they’re willing to pay – again check locally to find out what the going rate is for childcare in your local area.

Tip. Don’t set your rates too low. You’re not charging for just your time. You’ll need to allow for overheads like extra heating used at home, wear and tear, insurance, further training, the cost of any toys/craft materials needed and the cost of any drinks and snacks you provide as well.

More information

* Check with your local council. Most provide a variety of support services for childminders.

* The National Childminding Association (NCMA) is the professional association for registered childminders and can give lots of help and information. Their website is here: www.ncma.org.uk

* Ofsted can provide information about the rules and regulations and about registration: www.ofsted.gov.uk