Hello! It seems to have come as a surprise to many of you that I work part-time as a childminder. I guess I don't share a lot about that side of my working week online, but it plays an important role in my business as it is what keeps me in touch with young children's needs and interests. All of the activities that I prepare and share with you in my digital resources have been tried and tested over the years, either in my classroom or with the children that attend my childminding setting.
Reopening Post Lockdown
This past few weeks has seen me reopen my childminding setting after the forced closure imposed by our government to reduce the spread of Covid19. I have to confess that I found the decision to reopen a tricky one, with so much to consider. I don't have any pre-existing health conditions that might make me more vulnerable if I were to catch the virus, but my daughter does. I'm also a lone parent, so I needed to consider who might look after us both if we were to become unwell.
My decision to reopen was partly financial (few of us can manage long term without an income, especially those of us parenting alone) but I also felt that I could keep the risks to a minimum by offering 'holiday club' sessions to existing families with school age children, just one child at a time. So, I've had just the one child, from one family, attend for two weeks. Then I deep cleaned my home before inviting another child, from another family, for the next two weeks. In September I will be resuming settling in sessions for my one special early years child.
Early Morning Preparation
6.30 am - My day starts early because children arrive from 8.00 am. As well as getting myself up and dressed, I need to get my daughter ready for the day, prepare us both breakfast and have a general clean and tidy up. I pay particular attention to my entry hall, making sure that the space is clean and free from clutter. These children haven't attended my setting since Christmas, and have been isolating at home during lockdown, so making sure that my home feels safe and inviting is especially important.
I then set up a few simple invitations to play, in the key areas of my home... on the carpet in our living room, at the kitchen island and dining table, and in the garden (weather permitting). When children arrive, I find that it is helpful to have something enticing for them to do, to ease their separation from their primary caregiver. This is true for children of all ages, and is an important part of our daily rhythm.
8.00 am - My mindee arrives and usually settles straight down to play with whatever I have set out. This gives me a chance to chat briefly with the parents about their morning, and discuss our plans for the day. Sometimes, if something significant has happened for the child at home, it will impact on our plans for the day, so this handover time is really important.
9.00 am - Our mornings vary greatly. Sometimes I will plan a trip out with the children, in which case we usually try to head out shortly after rush hour to make the most of the morning, when young children tend to be at their best. Sometimes we play in the garden, or get stuck straight into an activity that I have planned, such as cooking or baking, arts and crafts, a building project or science experiment.
Oftentimes, I find that the children become deeply absorbed in free play at this time, and it is often mid-morning before they come seeking something new to do. If this is the case, I take this time to clean, prepare for morning snack/lunch/dinner and set up other activities for them to discover at a later date. My role is to observe and to be available, but not to interrupt or direct them while they are at play. Sometimes that means creeping in, and whispering that I have left a drink and snack for them on the table!
11.30 am - Lunch time is flexible, but I find that young children are often ready to eat an early lunch if they've been up at the crack of dawn and had a busy morning. If they are particularly involved in their morning play, snack often goes unnoticed too. I provide home cooked meals for everyone and we eat together at the dining table, or in the garden. This time together is such a lovely opportunity for us to reflect on our morning and plan for our afternoon.
12.00 pm - After lunch, everybody needs time to rest and digest. Little ones have naps, and older ones listen to audiobooks, play board games, work on jigsaw puzzles or lego, watch television etc. I take this time to clear the dining table and set up our afternoon activities, then I usually join the children with my basket of books. It doesn't take long for them to gravitate towards me with eager hands, ready to riffle through my little library.
Our afternoons are spent in much the same way as our mornings. Very occasionally we might walk to one of our local playgrounds, but ordinarily we stay at home, playing in the garden, cooking or baking, working on art or craft projects etc. I aim to have 4-5 activity ideas up my sleeve for any given day, based on the children's current interests and developmental needs. Some days we work our way through them all. Other days, the children are so busy following their own deep interests that we don't get to any of them. I am always led by the children.
3.00 pm - At some point mid-afternoon, I creep away to make myself a cup of tea and prepare everybody an afternoon snack. We usually have something sweet at this time of day, because I feel like I'm going to fade away otherwise, and whatever I want to eat I have to be prepared to share! This often leads to some physical activity, such as scooting in the street, building obstacle courses or dens, or having a dance party.
Early Evening Activities
4.30 pm - At around this time, we try to have a bit of a tidy up together, and pack away the toys and resources that we are finished with. I don't expect the children to tidy up everything if they are still absorbed in play, but everybody understands that this is an important part of our count down to home time.
5.00 pm - Dinner time is pretty fixed, as I need to provide an evening meal before the children go home. Again, I provide a home cooked meal for everyone, and we all eat together at the dining table.
6.00 pm - After dinner, we pack away the last of the toys and gather up all the child's belongings and creations ready to go home. Everybody has left by 6.00 pm. Bean watches television for an hour or so while I wash dishes, paint pots, put away the last of the toys and resources, clear up the garden etc. then I think about bathing my daughter and getting her to bed.
Childminding and Home Educating
So, how does childminding fit in and around home educating my daughter? At the moment, it is August, so I am childminding full time to make the most of the opportunity to earn an income running 'holiday club' sessions. The children who attend are the same age as my daughter, and she knows both children very well as they have been attending my setting since they were 2 years old. These circumstances are temporary, but hugely beneficial in terms of our financial situation and the opportunity for my daughter to have some fun after months of social isolation.
In September, I will resume my normal childminding routine, which is working just one day a week. I've found that this is the right balance for us, enabling me to meet my daughter's needs and interests, and arrange trips and meet ups with our local home education community. This academic year is looking to be quite uncertain for us, with very little set in stone, but my daughter is very much my focus.
I hope this answers some of your questions about our childminding day. As always, if you have any more questions, please send me a message and I'll do my best to answer them. If you're interested in reading more about me