Thinking of becoming a childminder in the UK? Childminding can be a really rewarding and fulfilling career choice. We’ve got you covered with the ultimate guide to getting started.
What is a childminder?
Even if you’ve heard of childminding before, the role is easily confused with nursery work and nannying. If you’re just starting your journey towards becoming a childminder, you’ll want a clear understanding of the role.
Childminders are self-employed and usually work from their own homes. Every childminder in the UK needs to be registered, either with Ofsted or an Ofsted-registered childminder agency. And, to secure your registration, you have to have a background check, a reference check, and be checked with social services. This strict vetting process is to ensure the children in your care are safe.
Childminders are a hugely popular form of childcare. Sitting somewhere in between nannies and nurseries, the small adult-to-child ratio and personalised setting make childminders really desirable to parents. If you become a childminder, you’ll find no shortage of families in need of your services.
How is a childminder different to a nanny?
Nannies and childminders are different. A nanny cares for children from a maximum of two families at the same time, and the care must take place in the home of one of the children.
A childminder can look after children from multiple families, and cares for them in the childminder’s home. A childminder runs their own business, in their own home, but making sure it stays their own home too.
How is a childminder different to a nursery?
Nurseries are usually much larger than a childminder setting and the care doesn’t take place in a home. A nursery will usually have quite a big staff, with a manager supervising the nursery assistants and room leaders. There are larger groups of children in a nursery, separated from each other depending on age.
A childminder will have a smaller group, and the children tend to be mixed ages, so it’s more like a second family than most nurseries.
What traits and skills do childminders need?
The biggest thing you need to have to be a successful childminder is a genuine interest in children! You’ll be spending all your working hours with tiny humans, so it’s essential that you enjoy their company and are passionate about their development.
The basic requirements to become a childminder are:
- To be over 18.
- To have a home environment you can use—it doesn’t need to be big, but you do need permission from anyone else who lives there and your landlord, if you rent.
- You and anyone you live with that is over 16 will be DBS checked, so anything on a criminal record will come to light.
- You need to be fit and well enough to work with children, confirmed by a health declaration from your GP.
Some of the other key skills you need to be a great childminder:
- Plenty of patience.
- Generally good organisational and administrative skills – although a childminder agency can help with all the paperwork.
- An interest in early years education and child-rearing philosophies.
- Being adaptable and flexible when it comes to your home environment and space.
- Effective communication skills with people of all ages and backgrounds.
What is Ofsted?
Ofsted is the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills, and it is a Government department. They don’t just oversee childminders; they are responsible for inspecting educational services across all age groups and sectors (including schools).
Ofsted vs Childminder Agencies
If you’ve decided to become a registered childminder, you have two options—you can register as a childminder directly with Ofsted, or register as a childminder through an accredited agency. Agencies have the statutory power to carry out inspections and manage our childminders to the required legal standards.
Is registering with Ofsted better?
Ofsted are a busy department that don’t only work with childminders. If you choose to register with them, you’ll need to:
- Arrange your own DBS checks and your own training. This includes paediatric first aid, safeguarding, the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), food hygiene and working with children with special educational needs or disabilities. This will cost several hundred pounds.
- Get your home ready. You’ll need to take out professional childminder insurance, purchase equipment and toys and make it safe for young children. This again could cost several hundred pounds.
- Wait for approval. Once you’re ready to be inspected and you’ve submitted your application to Ofsted, you may need to wait a few months for a visit from one of their inspectors who can sign you off as a qualified childminder. You have no idea if you are good enough to pass until the day itself.
- Do your own paperwork. Before launching, you’ll need to put together a comprehensive set of policies, contracts and processes to make sure you stay compliant with Ofsted, the EYFS and to protect yourself. You’ll also need to pay for and register with the ICO (Information Commissioner’s Officer.
- Finally, you’re ready to go. Next step – find some children to look after. You’ll need to do your own marketing to reach local families.
Ofsted childminder requirements
Childminders can choose to register with Ofsted or an agency (more info on that here). Either way, you will need the same background checks and documents to apply. If you choose a childminding agency, they support you through the process. These checks include:
- Health declaration. The childminder health declaration is a form you fill in and bring to your GP to sign. Many GPs will charge for this service, so keep that cost in mind before you apply. You need this to show Ofsted, or your agency, that you are healthy enough to look after small children. Koru Kids reimburse the cost of your health declaration after you have cleared our background checks. So, it’s not an expense you need to worry about if you choose to become a childminder with us.
- Enhanced DBS check. You’ll also undergo an ID check and other background checks. Most people have heard of the DBS check—the ‘Disclosure and Barring Service’, sometimes called a ‘Criminal records check’. You need this to prove that you have no criminal history that would stop you from working with children. When you apply, you will need your home addresses for the past 5 years. If you are planning to register via Ofsted directly, you will have to pay for it yourself. It costs about £48.00, but if you register with an agency, they sometimes cover the cost. Make sure to check this before you apply with an agency.
Prior experience in childcare
It’s important that childminders enjoy working with children, but it’s equally wonderful if a childminder has prior experience. It’s not necessarily a requirement to have worked in childcare—often childminders have children of their own and love being a parent. It’s wonderful to use that hands-on experience to help other parents. And your own kids get new playmates too!
- Teachers and nursery practitioners. Early years teachers and teaching assistants (TA’s) in primary school have excellent experience working with young children. Nursery assistants and managers are already qualified, and used to large groups of small children and high noise levels. It might be nice to transition into their own homes with more control over the daily activities, a smaller group, more time outdoors, and—relative—quiet.
- Nannies and family members. Childcare experience also applies to nannies. Nannies usually look after one or two children, but might like the chance to work from their own home, and increase the group to three. If you are a grandparent or an uncle, aunt, or older sibling, you probably have recent childcare experience too. So, take those skills, and brighten the day of other little children that need someone fun and caring around.
- Education and interests. Even if you have no experience, you might have a great academic background in education, childhood development, paediatric health, or child psychology. Becoming a childminder is a wonderful step out of the academic world of children and into their real world. It also gives you the chance to make a profound impact on their wellbeing and future.
How much does it cost to register as a childminder?
If you want to become an Ofsted-registered childminder, you’ll need to pay Ofsted a yearly registration fee. This is £35 if you’re caring for children under 5 years old, and £103 if the children you care for are over 5 years old.
Aside from the Ofsted childminder registration fee, there’s other costs to consider. DBS checks, training courses and setting up your home are some important ones to consider. If you go direct with Ofsted, you’ll have to cover these costs yourself.
Agencies will have different fees or deposits to join.
Read our handy guide about applying to become a childminder with Ofsted.
What support does a childminding agency offer?
The difference when registering with an accredited childminder agency is they should make it as simple as possible for you to successfully qualify as a childminder and get your business up and running.
Agencies may offer different additional training beyond what Ofsted requires. Make sure to do your research about the pros and cons of each agency before you apply.
For more details on working with an agency vs Ofsted, read our guide here.
What childminder courses do I need to complete?
Before embarking on a formal training course, you might want to take an introductory course, to see if childcare training is something you enjoy.
You do also need to complete specific training courses to become a qualified childminder. Before you can register, you have to pass:
- Safeguarding training
- A paediatric-specific first aid course
Childminders also need to understand the EYFS, and be well versed in food hygiene, so should consider at least:
- A childminding course that meets EYFS (and your local council’s) standards
- Additional training in food hygiene
If you’re looking for these yourself, there are a number of providers who offer standalone childcare courses. The content of the courses—and the cost—can vary wildly. Sifting through your options can be overwhelming.
Some of the basics you’ll cover in safeguarding training are:
- Becoming familiar with the ‘safeguarding spectrum’ and how children can be harmed
- Recognising and describing indicators of child abuse and neglect
- Understanding your role and responsibilities in safeguarding and promoting children’s welfare
- Knowing what to do if you are concerned about a child
- Knowing how to share concerns about another adult’s behaviour
Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) training
EYFS training will ensure you:
- Understand the principles of the EYFS and how they apply
- Know the learning and development requirements of children, applying a sequenced approach
- Identify appropriate activities for children at every age
- Properly prepare your home learning environment
Paediatric First Aid
Your final course, Paediatric First Aid training, is 12 hours in total: 6 hours in person and 6 hours online. The course covers choking, seizures, burns, bleeds and shock, meningitis, minor injuries and extreme temperatures.
How much does a childminder earn?
Childminder income varies, but the average (mean) hourly fees childminders charge across the UK (as of 2019) are:
- Children under 2 – £4.92
- Children aged 2 – £4.88
- Pre-schoolers (3-4 years) – £4.80
- School-age children – £4.84
Childminders in London, the South East and East of England typically charge more.
Of course, it’s not just about the fees you charge. There are many factors that affect how much you can earn as a childminder. We think it’s easiest to think about your operation size and whether you look after your own children or not, which is an important factor.
Small Childminding Business
This applies to someone who works alone, caring for 2 pre-school children (under 5’s) all day, 4 days a week, alongside a toddler of your own. In this inner-London scenario, you would earn £25,000, with none of your own childcare costs to pay. If you work 5 days a week you could earn more.
Medium Childminding Business
If you work alone and don’t need to factor in your own kids, you will have the capacity to care for 3 pre-school children. If you take them all day, 4 days a week, you would earn £37,000 in inner London. Again, if you work full time you would earn more.
Large Childminding Business
If you’re willing to work with a childminding assistant, you can care for more children at a time. With 6 pre-school children attending all day, 4 days a week, you would earn £60,000 in inner London. And, with that extra 5th day, you could earn more.
For context, job search engine Adzuna suggests that the average childminder earnings are £25,100 per annum.
Childminder earnings and the legal limits
Essentially, although your earnings go up with each child that joins your setting, you’re restricted by the number of children you can fit in your home or domestic premises. The legal limit for the number of children you can look after in England is 6 children below 8 years old (and just 3 under 5 years old).
To expand your business, as above, you can work with a childminding assistant. Anyone who works with 3 or more other childminders or assistants is classified as providing childcare on domestic premises and must register this with Ofsted. However, it’s great that you can even take on two assistants and still be registered with Koru Kids!
For more details on childminder earnings click here.
How do you set up your home for childminding?
If you’ve just started to think about becoming a childminder, your home set-up may not have crossed your mind. However, providing a safe and suitable environment for children is essential.
Can a childminder work from a small house?
Your house doesn’t need to be huge to be suitable for childminding. Ofsted sets out clear guidance on the amount of space you need per child, and it’s surprisingly minimal.
The indoor space requirements for childminders are:
- Children under two years: 3.5 square metres per child
- Two-year-olds: 2.5 square metres per child
- Children aged three to five years: 2.3 square metres per child
Your space limitations will affect how many children you can look after (and therefore how much you could earn). However, even a modest area can make an excellent setting if you equip it with suitable furniture and toys. Most homes are well within the requirements. There are lots of other considerations for your home, like safety requirements for appliances, controlled substances, food safety and more. You’ll need to ensure your childminding setup meets the legal requirements.
It’s worth noting that although the space requirements are quite minimal, parents want their children to be in a comfortable setting and usually prefer a garden.
What equipment does a childminder need?
Your space needs to be clean, calm and professional.
Here’s what you might need:
- A welcome/greeting area with a peg rack and space for children’s belongings
- A noticeboard at your entrance to welcome parents and display information
- Space to play, with toys in containers that are at the right height for children to access
- Designated zones for different types of play
- A tuff tray, which is great for messy activities
- A suitable dining area, either a standard table with high chairs or a low table and chairs for the children
- Mattresses, beds or travel cots to provide a safe sleep space for naps
- A full first aid kit and fire blankets
- Tabards or wrist bands with the childrens’ names and numbers on to keep track of them when out and about
We suggest the following types of toys for childminders:
- Soft toys
- Wooden stacking rainbow
- Lacing beads
- Simple wooden peg puzzles
- Shape sorter
- Wooden blocks
- Shape stacker
- Cars & vehicles
- Musical instruments
- Small world – House/Garage/Transport/Farm
- Lock board
- Learning how to count table top
- Wooden people
Wooden toys are great for childminders because they are durable and encourage open-ended play. They’re also a more eco-friendly choice!
Managing your childminding business
As a self-employed worker, becoming a childminder means running your own mini business. So what do you need to consider?
How does a childminder find families?
Working as a childminder is the same as running any business – you’ll only succeed if you find the right customers. It can be daunting to think about finding families in your area. You might have questions like, ‘where do I start looking for families?’, ‘how can I market my childminding business?’, or ‘what happens when one of the children I care for leaves?’.
Many independent childminders rely on word of mouth in their local community to find families, or they might advertise by putting flyers at community centres and in local shops. While it’s true that top childminders are often in demand, this can still be a stressful way of running your business, especially if you have to fill a sudden or awkward gap. It’s not like a conventional job role – you can’t really Google “childminder jobs near me” and find work. You’re self-employed and it’s down to you to make sure your business succeeds. And, there’s a level of uncertainty to going it alone.
Marketing your childminding business
There are some things you can do to make your business more visible. You might want to:
- Set up a website, showcasing your setting and what you offer, with a contact page
- Set up associated social media pages (just be careful about sharing pictures of the children you care for – you must have their parent’s explicit consent)
- Pay for advertising on childcare websites or social media
- Have flyers printed and post them through letterboxes in the local area
- Set up Google Business so you can be found on local searches
Choosing a pension when you’re self-employed can be difficult. We’ve partnered with Penfold to offer our childminders a simple, easy to manage pension service. You can read our about our childminder pensions.
Leaning on your childminding agency
If all of that marketing activity sounds scary (and potentially costly), that’s where childminding agencies come into their own. The popularity and strong reputation of an agency, and their existing network of parents, means they usually expect to be able to fill places quickly once you launch.