How to become a childminder
There's a lot more to being a childminder than "simple" babysitting – but what does it cost to start a childminding business? And how much can you expect to earn?
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As with starting any childcare business, you will be most successful as a childminder if you enjoy the company of children, and will relish helping children to learn, grow, and develop.
Becoming a childminder is typically a more flexible and short-term option than the heavily regulated alternatives, such as opening a day nursery. Also, you can become a childminder in your own home, and charge hourly or weekly – rather than termly – childminder fees.
Key skills and requirements
- Patience and effective communication skills
- A background in childcare is ideal (but not a necessity)
- Good organisation and administration skills
- You need to be motivated by more than money
In addition to these skills, you need to be aged over 18 to become a childminder. You’ll also need to use your home, or have a domestic premises to host children.
Patience and effective communication skills
Premises to host children
You will need a house or flat with enough space to host and look after multiple children – a good garden is normally a selling point for many childminders. It also helps to be near local primary schools, too, as part of your role is likely to involve dropping off and picking up any older children from school.
Experienced in childcare
Part of your role will be teaching children under five basic literacy, numeracy, and other skills – essentially fulfilling the role of a parent, and preparing them for school – so you should ideally have previous experience of looking after children.
Good organisation and administration skills
You should also be aware that childminding is not babysitting. Despite becoming a childminder having less requirements than opening a nursery, you will still have to undergo a rigorous and long-winded registration process, as well as keep records about the children in your care.
Childminding legal requirements
To become a registered childminder in England, you will need to register on one or both of the following Ofsted registers:
- The Early Years Register – it is compulsory to register on this if you will be caring for young children up to the age of five
- The Childcare Register – this is compulsory if you are caring for children aged five to eight years old
The registration process varies in other parts of the UK – make sure you check out the dedicated resources and registration processes for your location.
|Northern Ireland||Northern Ireland Childminding Association||Northern Ireland childminder registration|
|Scotland||Scottish Childminding Association||Scotland childminder registration|
|Wales||Care Inspectorate Wales||Wales childminder registration|
How many children can a registered childminder look after?
In England, the legal limit for the number of children a registered childminder can look after at any time is six children under the age of eight.
There are further regulations and guidelines that you have to follow, depending on the childrens’ ages and the type of care that’s being provided. However, the overarching rule is no more than six children under eight years old can be cared for under any circumstances.
For more detailed information, see the PACEY guide on childminding ratios in England and Wales.
The steps you need to take to become a registered childminder in England
There are a number of obstacles you need to overcome in order to become a registered childminder in England. The training and registration process will likely be the most onerous and expensive part for the majority of people. Consider contacting your local authority to find out if any support is available.
1. DBS checks
The first step you’ll need to take is undergoing criminal record checks – you’ll need to apply for enhanced DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) checks for yourself, as well as for everyone aged 16 or above that lives with you or works in your home.
If you’ve spent time living overseas in the last five years, you’ll also need to provide a certificate of good character from the relevant embassy. This also applies for any other people who need to apply for DBS checks as part of the childminder registration process.
2. First aid certificate
Paediatric first aid courses are widely available, and there are a huge variety of providers. While the choice of provider is up to you, note that it must be a full course, and must meet the EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage) requirements. You’ll also need to renew this training every three years.
Your local authority might offer its own scheme, but popular UK-wide options include St John Ambulance, which offers blended online and in-person learning, and the British Red Cross, which operates a classroom-based training course that takes place across two days.
You need to complete a childminder training course that’s suitable for the register(s) you intend to apply for, e.g. the Early Years Register and/or the Childcare Register.
Generally, you’ll achieve a Level 3 qualification; more specifically, it might be a CYPOP5 or an HBCA award. Your local authority will normally be able to offer advice on suitable courses, so it's a good idea to get in touch with them to discuss how to become a childminder before enrolling.
There are a range of providers available, and some local authorities run their own childcare courses too. The professional body PACEY also offers its own online training that’s suitable for childminding in England and Wales.
Childcare courses follow a broadly similar structure, offering assessed modules on areas such as the basics of setting up, ensuring the safety of children, play and activities, offering an inclusive environment, and working with parents.
Many courses are delivered online, although some providers may offer face-to-face training where possible.
4. Health declaration
You will need to complete a health declaration form. While you have to fill in the relevant parts of the form, your GP has to complete section C – note that the doctor may well charge a fee for this.
As part of the application, you’ll need to provide the contact details for two people who can provide references for you.
6. Apply for registration
The next stage is joining the Ofsted register(s). As part of the application, you will need to pay a fee, which comes to around £35.
7. Home inspection
If you’re applying to be registered on the Early Years Register, Ofsted will contact you and arrange an inspection.
This is where an inspector will visit you to check your identity, qualifications, and English language ability, as well as to check that your home is suitable for childcare. They will also ask you questions about your plan for your charges’ learning and development, including about the EYFS requirements.
Ofsted has prepared an in-depth guide to help you prepare for a registration visit, which you should read and understand thoroughly before the inspector calls.
It’s really important that you’re completely ready to become a childminder at this point, as you're usually only allowed one registration visit.
Note that inspections only apply for the Early Years Register application process. If you’re only planning to care for children over the age of five, you won't need to prepare for a registration visit.
8. Receive registration certificate
After this process is complete, and Ofsted has conducted the necessary checks and approved your application, you will receive a certificate of registration from Ofsted. Only once you’ve received this certificate will you be ready to take on your first child.
You’ll also receive a URN (Unique Reference Number), which will be published online, along with your inspection reports. Your name and address will also be published, although you can ask Ofsted not to do this.
Once you’re registered, you’ll need to get public liability insurance immediately. Morton Michel specialises in childcare insurance, but there are a number of options to choose from, including those from PACEY, SCMA, and Childcare.co.uk.
How long the above process takes depends on a number of factors, including the childminder training course you enrol on – some are for a fixed period, whereas PACEY’s is completed at your own pace – and the Ofsted registration process, which the body says can take up to 12 weeks to complete.
To recap, the nine steps to becoming a childminder are:
- Complete enhanced criminal record checks for yourself, as well as anyone aged 16 and above living with you or working in your home
- Get a paediatric first aid certificate
- Complete a childminder training course that matches the register(s) you intend to apply for
- Complete the health declaration form
- Source referees
- Apply for Ofsted registration
- Prepare for the home inspection (Early Years Register only)
- Receive your Ofsted registration certificate
- Obtain relevant public liability insurance
Once the above steps have been completed, you can then start childminding!
Your responsibilities as a childminder
As a registered childminder on the Early Years Register, you will need to track the development of children under five under the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) course. This is essentially a pre-school curriculum programme which aims to teach and track the development of children from birth to age five.
Broadly, the curriculum aims to give children the basic skills they will need to start primary school, such as the ability to count to 20, basic reading, and social and emotional development.
It will be your role as a childminder to assess children on their EYFS development periodically, and keep records on their progress.
Apart from this, your role will include taking school-aged children to and from school, as well as entertaining all the children you care for more generally with toys, activities, and trips. Childminder network The Childminding Forum has a dedicated board in which members share activity ideas, while PACEY has a page on activities and ideas, so check these if you find yourself short of inspiration.
Once you've got your childminding business off the ground, you may also want to consider adopting apps like Connect Childcare’s Foundations and ParentZone apps. These allow you to share photos and updates on children’s activity, and enables their parents to remotely keep up to date with their child's development while in your care.
SEND stands for special educational needs and/or disabilities. As a childminder, you may care for a child/children whose SEND requirements have already been established, or these may arise during the time period that you provide care for them.
One requirement of the EYFS is to do a progress check when children are aged two. This is a short written summary that outlines each child’s strengths, as well as any areas that may require support, including if a special educational need or disability is identified.
If this is the case, a support plan would need to be put in place, in consultation with parents/carers and other relevant parties, such as a Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) or health professional (if applicable).
As a childminder, you are encouraged to have a SENCO. If you’re registered with a childminding agency or are part of a childminder network, the role can be shared.
If you receive funding from the local authority to provide places for early years education, then the EYFS states that you “must have regard to the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice”. This is a statutory code which applies in England. Your local authority may have an Area SENCO, who can offer advice and support.
In Wales, the term additional learning needs (ALN) is used to refer to people with special educational needs or disabilities. The Welsh Government site has a dedicated in-depth page with a range of resources about additional learning needs.
Looking after children with dietary requirements could help you to expand your knowledge, although there are a number of things that you should know.
As well as complying with the EYFS guidance for food and drink more generally, information about allergies and dietary/health requirements must be obtained before you start looking after a child. You will need to record and act on the information about dietary requirements that’s provided by parents/carers.
It’s likely that you’ll provide food as part of your childminding business, so you’ll need to abide by food hygiene laws and regulations, as well as ensure that you’re registered with environmental health.
This includes providing information about allergens in the food that you offer – you can find more detailed information in the government’s guidance for early years settings menus in England.
The Food Standards Agency offers a comprehensive ‘safer food better business for childminders’ guide, which can help you to ensure that your food preparation is compliant.
For childminders in Wales, the Welsh Government has guidance for food and nutrition for childcare settings.
You could also complete food hygiene training to enhance your understanding. PACEY has a food safety and hygiene for early years settings course, while Childminding UK offers a food hygiene course that’s specifically for childminders.
Business paperwork to become a childminder
The paperwork isn’t just limited to the EYFS, either.
As part of your business, you will need to develop a list of written policies and consent forms that parents must sign before they leave their children with you.
How much does it cost to become a childminder?
Compared to many other business ideas, the startup costs of becoming a childminder are quite modest – and this leanness can be a key advantage.
You shouldn't be spending more than £1,000, but if you need to hire premises and don't want to (or can't) become a childminder in your own home, then your costs will naturally increase.
Pre-registration training costs vary according to the provider – PACEY’s HBCA training option costs £294 currently, but local councils may charge less, and you should certainly check with your council about training options.
The Gov.uk site advises that first aid training courses will generally cost between £60 and £200. British Red Cross’ option is available from £126 (excluding VAT) for a two-day paediatric first aid course. Again, check with your local authority, as they may be able to refer you to the most cost-effective option.
You must pay a fee each year to be a registered childminder. The Ofsted registration fee is currently £35 to look after children aged five and under only, and £103 for caring for children aged five and above only. If you wish to care for children of all ages, then the fee is £35 (which is the same price as registering to care for children aged five and under only).
Ofsted will continue to inspect your premises as part of this process. The government offers a full outline of how the process works after you're registered as a childminder. If your initial registration inspection is successful and you become a registered childminder, you can then expect another inspection within 30 months of registering. If you’re only on the Childcare Register (as opposed to the Early Years Register), you could be inspected at any time.
Childminder insurance varies in price. Some examples include Morton Michel, which charges £59.50 per year, and PACEY, which charges £29.43 per year for public liability insurance. The latter is only available to PACEY members though, and membership costs £67.42 for childminders.
If you plan to use a vehicle as part of your childminding business, then you’ll also need to have the appropriate cover in place. You should check with your home insurance provider whether your policy covers business use, or if there are any additional charges that you’ll need to pay.
If you're starting your childminding business from home, brush up on the insurance cover you'll need for a home-based business here.
If you don’t have children of your own, you will need to buy some toys and games appropriate to the age groups you will be looking after. You will also need to pay for certain adaptations to your house for the purposes of safety, such as fire safety equipment, as well as plug covers and stair gates, plus any necessary external repairs.
To summarise, here is a rough guide to how much it will cost to become a childminder:
|First aid training||£126|
|DBS check |
(Note that you, and anyone aged 16 and above that lives with you or works in your home, will each need to pay for a DBS check.)
|Ofsted registration fee|
(This depends on the age group of the children that you intend to care for, and if you join one or both registers.)
|£35 or £103|
|ICO registration (for keeping digital records of the children that you look after)||£40|
|Safety adaptations |
(This depends on the level of safety adaptations you need for your home.)
|Toys, food, and snacks to get started |
(This depends on the number and ages of children that you’ll be looking after.)
How much do childminders earn?
If you’re thinking about how to become a childminder, it would be fair to say it isn't exactly the road to untold riches – but it can be extremely rewarding.
Your earnings are dependent upon parents needing their children looked after regularly – a situation that can change at a moment’s notice.
The average amounts UK registered childminders earn
The Department for Education’s Survey of Childcare and Early Years Providers: Local Authority Fees Statistics, England, 2019 found that the mean hourly fees for care provided by childminders and by child age groups was as follows:
- £4.92 for children under two
- £4.88 for children aged two years
- £4.80 for three to four year old preschool children
- £4.84 for children of school age
However, the amounts do vary depending on where you're based. The survey found that the mean hourly fee for looking after three and four year old preschool children was the highest for childminders based in London (£6.24), while it was the lowest for childminders in the East Midlands (£4.08).
While the information above is based on what childminders can expect to charge parents, you should also consider how much it costs you to offer childcare. PACEY offers a childminding costs calculator that you can use to help work this out.
For additional context, Adzuna currently states that the average childminder salary stands at £21,288.
Setting up a childminder fee scheme
If you want to guarantee yourself some financial security, it’s possible to insist that parents pay a full fee if a child falls ill or goes on holiday. You can also specify that the fee doesn’t apply if the same happens to you.
This is a sound idea in principle, but check what other childminders are doing in your area before insisting on such a scheme, as you may be putting yourself at a competitive disadvantage – especially when you're just starting out.
Remember that one of your key selling points as a childminder, as opposed to a day nursery, is your low cost and flexibility.
Although your earnings will increase with every child you take on, the total amount is restricted by how many children your premises will fit, and the legal limit regarding children that you can care for (which in England is six children under eight years old). More generally, you should consider how many children you can reasonably expect to look after by yourself.
You can enlist some help from other childminders or childminding assistants, but if three or more childminders or childminding assistants are responsible for childcare provided in your home, you are seen by Ofsted as ‘providing childcare on domestic premises’. This has a whole different set of rules to being Ofsted registered childminders, and you would need to register as a daycare organisation.
Across the UK, the government offers funded early years places. In England, this is only available via approved providers for three and four years olds, and certain two year olds.
The eligibility for two year olds includes if a child has additional needs or is in/has left care. Their family’s income could also determine their eligibility e.g. if their family is on a low income or receives benefits that are based upon their income.
As a registered childminder, you are considered to be an approved provider, so you can sign up to offer funded places (although this isn’t compulsory). The Gov.uk site provides information about the Tax-free Childcare offering, while PACEY offers an in-depth guide for practitioners that focuses on 30 hours places. The latter refers to the funded places that are available to some three and four year old children whose parents are in work, depending on their income.
If you choose to offer funded places, you’ll receive payment via the local authority, with rates based upon a national funding formula. You’ll also need to review your public liability insurance, as the amount of cover that’s required in this instance may be specified by your local authority. You can contact them for more information.
While providing funded places offers a way to potentially increase the reach of your childminding business, there are several implications for offering this type of care. This includes the amount and way in which you’ll receive payment for them, along with potentially having to ensure that your public liability cover is in line with any relevant local authority guidance, so think about whether this is right for you and your business.
Marketing your childminding services
Initially finding children is normally the most difficult part of becoming a childminder. A good local childminder can quickly become known in the local area after parents have come away happy, and will refer your services to other families looking for a childminder.
You should make sure you have your childminding services listed on Google My Business with a free Google listing so that parents and families can find you.
If money is your primary motivator, you would be better off looking into other business opportunities – but if you love working with children, want a low-cost business idea, and care more about purpose then profits, then becoming a childminder could be the ideal venture for you.
- Ofsted – The main resource for registration as a childminder in England. This includes information on registration and forms
- PACEY – The Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years, this is a charitable organisation for childcare professionals. It offers advice on how to become a childminder, training courses, insurance, and membership options
- The Childminding Forum – The largest online community of registered childminders in the UK, with information on becoming a childminder, training and courses, insurance, and activity ideas
- Childcare.co.uk – Networking site to match parents with childcare providers. Creating a profile is free!