How to become a childminder
It's not just babysitting; what does it cost to start a childminding business and how much does a childminder earn? Startups.co.uk investigates
What is a childminder and who is becoming a childminder suited to?
If you don’t want to commit to opening a day nursery, in which a team of trained carers look after a large group of children on adapted premises, then becoming a registered childminder could be the perfect business idea for you.
A childminder is defined by industry body PACEY as someone who looks after one or more children under the age of eight for more than a total of two hours a day in exchange for payment.
Becoming a childminder is typically a more flexible and short-term option than the heavily regulated alternatives – you can become a childminder in your own home and charge hourly, rather than termly, childminder fees.
For these reasons, becoming a registered childminder is a popular option for those looking to supplement their income between jobs with a part-time business or if you're looking for a low-cost business opportunity. Becoming a childminder is especially popular for people who have an enforced lay-off or are taking a break from their regular job, most commonly for pregnancy and childbirth.
Faye Burton set up her own childminding business, Tiddly Winks Kids, after taking some take time off from her job in the police force when she fell pregnant. Burton says that becoming a childminder “has been convenient, as I’ve been able to raise my own daughter alongside the children I look after and earn a bit of extra money,” she explains. “Going from having very serious conversations about police work to spending my working day with young children did take a bit of adjusting, though!”
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.
Childminding also benefits from having very low start-up costs compared to similar alternatives, you can become a childminder for less than £10,000. The most expensive part of becoming a childminder will normally be the initial certification and registration process.
Need help staying organised?
Starting any business takes time, and there a number of steps and processes to keep track of.
Project management software is a useful tool for keeping everything on track. Whether you're starting your childminding business alone or with help, it can help you to create timelines and streamline workflows.
How to become a childminder: Key skills
- Firstly, you need to be aged over 18 to become a childminder
- Patience and effective communication skills
- Premises or a home to host children, ideally in a good locale
- A background in childcare is ideal (but not a necessity)
- Good organisation and administration skills
- You need to be motivated by more than money
- You need to be registered with Ofsted; The Early Years Register and/or The Childcare Register
Patience and effective communication skills
“It goes without saying that to become a childminder you will need a good manner with children, and the ability to stay patient and upbeat. Not every child you look after will be well-behaved. “It sounds obvious, but the most important thing is you really need to like kids,” says Stacey Baker, a childminder working in Droylsden, Manchester.
Premises to host children
You will a 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 you are likely to drop off and pick up any older children from school as part of your role as a childminder.
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 – so you should have previous experience of looking after children. “Experience is important,” explains Tiddly Winks founder Burton:
“Although I was raising my first child when I started and learnt on the job, there was a 12-year age gap between me and my little brother growing up so I did kind of know what made babies and children tick. I would imagine childminders who don’t have their own kids would have some sort of nursery or daycare background.”
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 have to undergo a rigorous and long-winded registration process and the teaching element requires you to keep ongoing assessment records for children under five.
“A lot of people who start out as childminders don’t realise just how much paperwork is involved,” explains Baker. “You need to be a fairly organised person to become a childminder as there’s a lot of day-to-day administration you have to do.”
Don't have money on your mind, do it for the love
Becoming a childminder is also not the best option if money is your primary motivator – as you will see from our guide to how much childminders earn, the money you earn can fluctuate wildly with parents’ childminding needs constantly changing. “There’s no doubt that the money is the most stressful thing about becoming a childminder,” admits Rachel. “But seeing the children grow and develop under your care is a really rewarding experience.
“Often, you spend more time with them than their own parents do – every day is different, with a different set of challenges, but I’ve enjoyed it immensely.”
Childminding legal requirements
To become a registered childminder, 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 reception-school age.
- The Childcare Register – this is compulsory if you are caring for children aged five to seven years.
For those of you reading this in Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland looking for advice on how to become a childminder, the registration process varies from the UK and you should review the following Registers:
- Wales Care and Social Services Inspectorate Register
- Scotland Childminding Association Register
- Northern Ireland Childminding Association Register
How many children can a registered childminder look after?
Most childminders will only look after a few children at any one time.
The legal limit for the number of children a registered childminder can look after is six children under the age of eight.
Of these six children, no more than three children can be between the ages of birth to the date of the August 31 following their fifth birthday. Normally only one baby under one year can be cared for.
If you're looking after children aged four to five and you're only caring for them before and/or after a normal school day, and/or during school holidays, then they may be cared for at the same time as three other young children.
These numbers will include your own children and any children you are responsible for such as foster children.
On occasion, variations to the number of early years children a registered childminder can be made, for instance if you are caring for twin babies.
Ready to get started? Find out everything you need to know about how to start a business of your own here.
Courses and regulations to become a registered childminder
So, what qualifications do you need to become a registered childminder?
In order to legally look after children under the age of eight, there are a number of obstacles you need to overcome. The training and registration process will be the most onerous and expensive part of becoming a childminder for the majority of people.
The steps you need to take to become a registered childminder
- Before you register with Ofsted, you need to get a paediatric first aid certificate. Paediatric first-aid courses are widespread and there are a huge variety of providers. Your local authority is likely to offer a scheme, but popular UK-wide options include St John Ambulance, which offers one-day training at centres across the country, and the British Red Cross, which operates a similar scheme.
- You then need to complete a local authority-approved childminder training course (sometimes known as CYPOP5). 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. Many local authorities run their own childcare courses, but professional body PACEY also offers a UK-wide option, approved by the vast majority of local authorities (although, again, you will need to check with yours before you apply). 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 and working with parents. Many, including PACEY’s, are delivered online, although some authorities offer additional face-to-face elements.
- When you have completed this stage the next step is joining the Ofsted Early Years register. This will be the longest and most difficult part of the registration process and normally takes a few months. As part of the application you will need to pay a fee (see the costs of becoming a childminder here) and apply for a DBS check (a criminal record check) for everyone over 16 living with you. You will also need to get a medical check from a doctor to show you are fit to work as a childminder – the doctor may well also charge a fee for this.
- After the checks are completed Ofsted will call you and arrange a home inspection, where an officer will come and check your home is suitable for childcare and ask you questions about your plan for your charges’ learning and development. Ofsted has prepared an in-depth guidance document to help you prepare for the visit, which you should read and understand thoroughly before the inspector calls.
- Before taking on any children you will also need your own childminder insurance. Morton Michel is known as the UK’s leading childcare insurance provider but there are a number of options to choose from, including PACEY, UKCMA and Independent Child Minders.
- After this process is complete, you will receive a certificate of registration from Ofsted, and you will be ready to take your first child on.
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.
“The training and registration process took me about five months, but I did muddle around a bit,” recalls Faye Burton of childminding business Tiddly Wink Kids. “The longest part was waiting for the criminal record check. That was frustrating as I was already fully vetted as a police officer, but Ofsted insisted on it anyway. It took about five weeks.”
So, the six steps to becoming a childminder are:
- Get a paedatric first aid certificate
- Complete a local authority approved childminder training course
- Join the Ofsted Early Years Register and complete a criminal record check for anyone over 16 living with you
- Undertake a home inspection
- Get childminder insurance
- Receive your Ofsted registration and host your first child!
Becoming a childminder: insurance and other paperwork
Your responsibilities as a childminder
As a registered childminder, 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 toddlers in your care.
You will find the statutory requirements of the EYFS here, which you should read and understand – and develop a plan to put into practice – before the Ofsted inspector visits. Broadly, the curriculum aims to give the 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 folders on their progress. “For me, this has been the most challenging part of becoming a childminder, as there is a lot of paperwork,” says Stacey Baker.
“Working eight hour days with children and looking after your own kids in the evening means you can be struggling to find the time to deal with it all.”
Once you've got your childminding business of the ground, you may also want to consider adopting apps like ParentZone which enable parents to remotely keep up to date with their child's development while in your care, allowing you to share photos and updates on their activity.
Business insurance to become a childminder
The paperwork isn’t just limited to the EYFS, either.
As part of your business insurance policy you will need to develop a list of written policies and consent forms that parents must sign before they leave their children with you. “
There are a load of policies and procedures you have to put in place – parents even have to sign a consent form so their children can use the garden equipment!” says Faye Burton. “However, I’ve found my insurance provider [Morton Michel] to be really good in this regard as they can give you templates for everything.”
Apart from this, your role will be to take children to and from school and entertain them more generally, with toys, activities and trips. Childminder network The Childminding Forum has a dedicated board in which members share activity ideas, so check there if you find yourself short of inspiration.
If you're starting your childminding business from home, brush up on the insurance covers you'll need for a home-based business here.
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.
“I tried a number of different approaches when I started: putting up flyers in the doctor’s office, putting an advertisement on the Kent County Council website and putting an advertisement on the Childcare.co.uk network,” says Faye Burton. “The only thing that worked was the Childcare.co.uk advertisement; in fact, that is how I found all the children I look after.”
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 when searching for your childminding services or childminders like you. You should also consider setting up a website (details on how to build a website can be found here) and having a social media presence to raise awareness.
For more advice on how to market your childminding business, view our free guides to marketing.
Tips and useful contacts on how to become a childminder:
- Ofsted – The main resource for registration as a childminder, this contains information on registration, forms and helplines to contact.
- PACEY – The Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years, a standard-setting organisation for childcare professionals. Contains advice on how to become a childminder, training courses, insurance and membership options.
- The Childminding Forum – The largest online community of childminders in the UK, with boards on becoming a childminder, training and courses, insurance and activity ideas.
- Childcare.co.uk – Networking site to match parents with childminders and carers. Placing an ad is free.
How much does it cost to become a childminder?
Compared to many other business ideas, the start-up costs of becoming a childminder are quite modest; a key advantage is it is a lean start-up.
You should be spending less 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 increase.
The start-up costs to become a registered childminder
The most expensive outlay you are likely to face is the cost of becoming a registered childminder.
Pre-registration training costs vary according to provider – PACEY’s HBCA training option costs £238.80 currently, but local councils often charge less.
First aid training courses generally cost between £100 and £130 for a 12-hour training day. British Red Cross’ option costs £110 whilst St John Ambulance costs £115. Again, check with your local authority as they may be able to refer you to the most cost-effective option.
You must pay a a fee to be a registered childminder. The Ofsted registration fee is currently £35 for the Early Years Register and £103 for the Childcare Register (compulsory or voluntary). You will also need to pay an annual fee to remain certified if you continue looking after children under eight, which is £35/year. Ofsted will continue to inspect your premises about once every three years as part of this process. The government offers a full outline of how the process works after you're registered as a childminder.
Childminder insurance varies in price, and some premiums carry extra benefits such as legal expenses and loss or damage to third party property. Morton Michel has a flat rate of £59.50 per year (rising to £68 if you're based in Northern Ireland or reduced to £54.42 for the Channel Islands and Isle of Man), PACEY costs £93.23 for membership and public liability insurance, along with a £5.95 one-off joining fee.
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 purchase certain adaptations to your house mandated by Ofsted safety and inspection requirements, such as plug covers and stair gates. “There are lots of bits and pieces you have to buy – I had to buy a fire extinguisher, for example, which cost about £150,” says Faye Burton.
“All in all I would say starting up cost me in the region of £600″, adds Burton.
After starting up as a childminder your ongoing costs should be fairly low; they can be limited to the day-to-day costs of food, transport and entertainment for the children. “I normally spend about £15-£20 a week on snacks, food and other things for the children,” says Faye Burton. “Costs can be higher in the holidays as you have to entertain them for longer.”
You will also have to factor in the cost of any further childcare courses you undergo to improve your quality of care.
To break it down, this is a rough guide to how much it will cost to become a childminder:
- £238 – pre-registration-training costs
- £110 – first-aid training
- £35 – Ofsted Early Years register
- £59.50 – Childminder insurance
- £150 – Safety adaptations for your home such as plug covers
- £100 – Toys, food and snacks to get started
- Total cost = £692.50
Separate your personal and business finances
How much do childminders earn?
If you’re thinking about how to become a childminder, it would be fair to say it is no route to riches, but it can be extremely rewarding.
Your earnings depend upon parents needing their children regularly looked after, a situation that can change at a moment’s notice; a mother may fall pregnant, for example, or either parent could lose their job.
The average amounts UK registered childminders earn
The government's Childcare and Early Years Provider 2016 survey found that, on average, childminders make £16,800 a year. Although 51% of the childminders it surveyed received less than £15,000 in income over the year.
However, the amount you can earn as a childminder does vary depending on where you're based.
The survey found that childminders can often charge higher childminder fees if they're based in London, with the average income for childminders in London being £21,000; with 20% of childminders in London receiving £35,000 or more a year.
“I couldn’t give [prospective childminders] any kind of estimate of what they could expect to earn in a year, because it’s so precarious,” explains Faye Burton of Tiddly Wink Kids.
“School holidays can be a peak time – but you can’t even count on that, because parents will often whisk their kids off on holiday on short notice, sometimes all at the same time, and you’re left in the lurch!
“I ask for two weeks’ notice as a rule, but that’s the most you can reasonably expect in this business.”
Setting up a childminder fee scheme
If you want to guarantee yourself more financial security, a number of registered childminders insist on a childminder fee scheme whereby parents pay a full fee if the child falls ill or goes on holiday (but the fee is waived if the same happens to the childminder).
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 just starting out as a childminder.
Remember that one of your key selling points as a childminder, as opposed to a day nursery, is your low cost and flexibility. “I make it clear before parents leave their children with me that they will pay the full fee if the child can’t attend due to illness or is away on holiday – but I’m part of a network of local childminders that do the same, and we’ve been going for years,” explains Stacey Baker, a registered childminder working in Manchester.
Although your earnings will increase with every child you take on, the total amount is limited by how many children your premises will fit and, as explained here, the legal limit of how many children a childminder can look after at any one time is six.
More generally, you should consider how many children you can reasonably expect to look after by yourself; although you can enlist some help, if more than three people are responsible for childcare you are seen by Ofsted as operating a ‘childcare operation on domestic premises’, which has a whole different set of rules to being simply Ofsted registered childminders.
So if money is your primary motivator, you would be better off for other businesses 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 business for you.
Ready to get started? Find out everything you need to know about how to start a business of your own here.