How to choose a Montessori childminder

I had the pleasure to chat with Sonia Quinn from the ​Red Door Montessori Childcare

I interviewed her for the Montessori Parenting conference.

She is a Montessori teacher and used to own a Montessori Preschool. For more than 10 years now, she is a childminder and uses the Montessori principles in her setting.

In the UK, there is specific Montessori training for childminders and a Montessori association for childminders.

More and more parents choose a childminder or at home daycare over a busy daycare setting.

In this guest blog post, Sonia gives us more info about her job and how to choose the perfect childminder for your child.

Do you feel overwhelmed by your child's behaviour? Not sure how to handle tantrums? You know that Montessori is all about freedom but what about limits?

My Montessori and Gentle Discipline Course will help you to understand your child and to bring peace into your home.

Montessori Childminding and How to Choose the Perfect Setting for Your Child

Everyone knows what a childminder does, right?

They look after your child in their own homes while you go to work.

child girl and teacher playing with color dough at home

 A home from home. A small number of children.

This is true but is only a tiny part of what has become a profession.

Childminders in the UK are now regulated by Ofsted, in line with all other educational establishments from nurseries to further education colleges.

They have to deliver the EYFS, the government created curriculum for children from birth to the end of Reception year.

They provide educational experiences for the children in their care.

With this comes lots of paperwork; observations of your child’s developmental achievements, their two-year check under the integrated review with their health visitor and planning their next steps in order to challenge them and follow their interests, to point out a few.

Then there are the regulations to adhere to; GDPR, public liability insurance, etc, etc, etc.

Ok, so now do you know what a childminder does?

So let’s add Montessori to all of that.

I became a Montessori childminder after I had already trained as a teacher and had run my own nursery for thirteen years.

Others go straight from training to childminding as it fits in with their family needs at the time. Still others are childminders first and discover Montessori pedagogy, going on to train while they work.

However we come to it, there are not so many of us around, but the number is growing. We are a strong voice within the Montessori community nationwide and have a presence within the Montessori Schools Association.

When I became a childminder I had none of the materials, so how could I call myself a Montessori setting?

Female couple watch proudly as their baby son crawls along the floor

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 I went back to my Montessori texts and realised, after so many years, that it wasn’t all about the Pink Tower or the Short Bead Stair.

I realised that while I still had to provide an engaging environment for the children, it was more about my own preparation, to be able to live in the moment with each of the children. After ten years my setting is well stocked with Montessori materials, but I now know that in a holistic sense Montessori is more of a way of life. And I think that this is something that Montessori childminders offer that most nurseries miss.

The children I have had in my home, and those I have met at other Montessori childminder settings, feel like they belong together.

The vertical grouping is usually much wider than in nurseries, from babies to school aged children, the older ones looking out for the younger, showing them how to do the ordinary, but necessary, everyday jobs; wiping down the table, putting out the knives and forks, making sure that everyone has a glass of water, serving dinner.

The relationships become that much closer. And like a family, the children have their good days and bad days. But with respect and compassion we show them how to get through it.

Bearing in mind that there are only a few Montessori childminders out there, I would like to champion those childminders who are not Montessori trained but are brilliant, nonetheless. There are many highly trained childminders and those who are instinctively attuned to young children who offer a fantastic environment and flexible childcare.

So how do you choose the right childminder for you, whether they are Montessori or not?

Firstly, do you feel comfortable in their company? This is so important. You must feel at ease that this is the person who will be looking after your child. Can they reassure you when you feel anxious about the process? Will they go that extra mile? Most childminders understand that leaving your child with someone else is a very difficult thing for you to do, much harder for you than for your child, and will offer a settling in period that can be tailored to your needs.

Is the childminder relaxed? Remember, people get nervous when they are being interviewed but most will relax into it after a short while, especially when they know they can do a good job.

Is the environment clean? It may not be tidy or uncluttered as the children will demand a lot of attention from the childminder, but it should be comfortable, child safe and well-kept.

Are the other children happy? And if not, is the childminder attentive to them? Remember, you may arrive on a day when children are teething or just not feeling well. This may make it difficult to chat for long periods but be reassured that the childminder is doing their best to care for a grumpy two-year-old.

It is also important to ask questions when visiting any setting. Here are a few to get you started:

  • What are the childminder’s qualifications and experiences? They should have their registration certificate, along with their first aid and possibly safeguarding certificates, on display. If you haven’t noticed them then you can ask to be shown them.
  • How many children are currently on roll? Some childminders work with assistants, so numbers will be higher, but the ratio will always be the same at 1:6 children under eight. Childminders can also care for children over the age of eight outside of these ratios.
  • What kind of activities and experiences does the childminder provide? Lots of childminders take children out and about so it’s good to know where they go. For example, I always took the children to Chinatown to celebrate Chinese New Year.
  • What methods does the childminder use to keep the children safe? It’s important to know how the childminder risk assesses situations.
  • What kind of food does the childminder offer? Do they cater for children with allergies or those with religious prohibitions? Most will offer a varied and healthy range of meals and snacks. Some, however, will ask the parents to provide their child’s food.
  • What methods of behaviour management does the childminder use? You will want them to be in line with your own views so that you don’t come into conflict.
  • How does the childminder share information about your child’s day? There may not be time at the end of the day to talk about everything your child has done so many childminders use a variety of systems to let you know everything from nappy changes to developmental observations. Some will send you information via WhatsApp, others use written diaries. There are also a variety of online systems such as Baby’s Days, Tapestry or Kinderly. If this is the case, they should briefly show you how it works.
  • What do the fees include? Most childminders will include everything but ask you to provide nappies, wipes, cream, etc. It’s good to know if you will be asked to pay for any extras.

Once you have chosen your childminder, signed the contracts, policies and permissions, and everything is going well I ask only one thing. Remember that the childminder doesn’t work for you. They are self-employed and providing a service. I feel so lucky to have worked with the families I have. They have made me feel cherished. So please, cherish your childminder. They do an amazing job with little recompense or recognition. If society valued its children more highly then childminders, who at the moment are at the bottom of the educational ladder, would be right at the top.

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About the Author Carine Robin

Carine Robin has a Master’s Degree in Psychology, specialising in child psychology. She worked for various social services in her home country of Belgium, before moving to Ireland in 2006. It was there that she started working in a nursery and discovered Montessori education. After having her first child, her passion for the philosophy grew and she qualified as a Montessori teacher and managed a preschool. Carine has been running a Montessori based parents and toddler group and coaching families for 9 years. She now also runs an online group for over 14000 parents, sharing her knowledge and passion with people from around the world. In 2018, Carine realised families needed more support and launched her popular online parenting courses and monthly subscription boxes, full of personally designed Montessori materials.

  • Leonie says:

    I am a childminder. I have completed my HBCA level 3 and have a very long list of all the requirements needed to register as required by OFSTED, as you stated. I am registered through an agency and so have an assessment of my home every year, unlike OFSTED which can be as long as 5 years between visits. I won’t be found on the OFSTED site but as you say in this interview, I have a presentation folder with all my qualifications and certificates in as well as a welcome pack about myself and what I offer. Every month I add at least two more certificates to my ‘Continuous professional development’ (CPD) log as this profession is continuously adapting with laws, legislation, and learning.

    I think communication and your relationship with the key people in the child’s life are very important to ensure consistency in the child’s world. I feel a home setting makes this easier.

    I attended a Montessori as a child so I understand the concept. When I studied my HBCA, I wrote an assignment about Maria Montessori’s philosophy and felt this is definitely the way I would like to work in my setting as it is how I also taught my own children and it was very successful. I have only just started childminding and I researched how to become an official Montessori pedagogy, which I am going to enroll on but we are currently moving home. I have signed up to Carine’s course to help with my own children’s development and to also guide me in setting up my business with resources, approaches and ideas. I look forward to earning my official Montessori IMAC and displaying it in my presentation folder.

  • Fiona Gray says:

    Thank you. I’m a childminder and this gives a realistic vision of both childminding, and montessori practice.

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