An interview with Helen Fairbank Childminding
Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself and why you decided to become a childminder?
I live in Abergavenny with my two children and our friendly dog. I've lived here for five years and love it here. I've been childminding for three years and before that I was a primary school teacher. I decided to become a childminder after my second child was born as I wanted to work from home. I enjoy looking after young children and the fun and laughter they bring every day.
Why do you believe parents choose a childminder over a nursery for their kids?
When I returned to work after having my first child, I looked at childcare options. After considering nurseries and childminders I chose to send my son to a childminder as I felt that it offered a more nurturing environment for him.
Childminders care for children in a home-from-home setting. This offers many advantages, including more flexibility and personalised care for the child. Routines are flexible and are adapted daily to meet the needs of the small number of children in my care. I think it is important that children are able to form a bond with a single childcare provider so that they are happy and confident. As a childminder I develop close relationships with the children in my care and the families I work with.
How do you ensure care is specific to each individual child’s needs?
I work hard to ensure that each child's individual needs are met. Looking after a small number of children means that I have a very good understanding of each child's character, needs and stage of development. I have experience of working with children with specific needs, ranging from dietary requirements to speech and language challenges and ASD (autism).
Learning opportunities are provided to extend physical, language, mathematical and emotional and social skills of the children. Their development in each of these areas is monitored so that further development of skills is ongoing.
What is a typical day like for you and the children you look after?
One thing that I love about childminding is the flexibility of our routine. When planning activities I look to further each child's development as well as personal and social skills. I follow a child-led approach to my daily routine, allowing children to experience a range of activities and experiences appropriate to their developmental stage and preferences. Children are encouraged to make decisions about what they would like to do, where they would like to go and what they would like to eat. Children are given a range of choices e.g. go to the park, play in the garden or do some craft.
The children in my care regularly visit toddler groups, music groups and the local parks and forests, as well as places further afield such as castles, farms and zoos to extend their learning experiences. I like to spend plenty of time outdoors with the children, whether that's in the garden or out on our adventures. We're often out on nature trails in the woods or den building on the Sugarloaf!
How do you ensure the safety of the children in your care?
The setting in which I work is clean, welcoming and suitable for the care of young children. Children have access to a range of appropriate toys and resources and are free to choose what they would like to play with. The children have access to a safe, enclosed garden which offers resources such as a climbing frame, mud kitchen, water wall and ride on cars/bikes.
Risk assessments have been carried out to minimise risk both within the home environment and when on outings. I also carry out regular fire drills and smoke alarm checks, maintain up-to-date risk assessments, check cleanliness and safety of toys and equipment and have gas safety checks in the house.
How do you keep parents informed?
Daily diaries and an informal chat at collection time are used to share information with parents. I also provide daily diaries which include photographs of the child engaged in activities. The children themselves enjoy looking through their diaries and ask me to write in their books so they can show their parents. I also post updates on a Facebook page for my business and send photographs to parents during the day.
What is your approach to discipline?
I would describe my own parenting style as 'gentle' and this also applies to my childminding. Children in my care are encouraged to treat each other with care and respect. As a small group of children, of mixed age, they form close friendships and learn to play together. We discuss the importance of being gentle, kind and polite and these positive behaviours are praised.
In terms of discipline I work with parents and schools to ensure a common approach. Any negative behaviour is discouraged by ignoring and focusing on positives, or where necessary, gently removing a child from a situation which is causing stress.
What professional qualifications do you have?
As well as being a qualified primary school teacher, I have undertaken qualifications specific to childminding and caring for young children. I am also qualified in paediatric first aid, safeguarding and food hygiene.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
As a parent myself, I understand how important it is to choose the right childcare for your child. My advice to parents would be to visit nurseries and childminders before making a decision. Get a feel for the different settings and try to find a childcare provider who will work with you and your child.
If you'd like to contact Helen she can be reached on 07779 663 564. You can also find her on Facebook at Helen Fairbank Childminding.