It’s a familiar scene for modern parents. One minute you were holding your brand new baby and suddenly you find yourself surveying the minefield of childcare. What are the options and do we fully understand them?
Annelize Cruz has been finding out. The registered childminder and mum of two has recently launched freerangechildcare.com, designed to help parents find out about childcare, specifically childminding and link them to suitable childminders in their area. She says, “We’ve been conducting research to find out just how much parents know about childminders and the results are shocking. Many parents are unaware that childminders are qualified, registered, inspected childcare professionals. Some even liken us to babysitters.”
The nature of childminding means that it comprises thousands of small businesses, most sole traders, with no central organisation or communal voice to speak up for childminders and generate awareness. Annelize is one of a band of professionals who are trying to change this. They are passionate about their businesses, passionate about childcare and desperate for parents to understand the richness they can bring to the childcare table.
Childminding serves the practical needs of working parents and the developmental needs of their children. Despite the herd-childcare that the government seem to be pushing to the forefront, with proposals for higher child-carer ratios and schools expanding facilities to take children as young as two, it is actually possible, and affordable, for children to be cared for in the loving, caring home environment that they deserve to be in when so young.
Childminders, as individuals running their own small businesses, are often a much more affordable option than nurseries, yet can provide the same professional and quality care with so many added bonuses.
Being with a childminder is like being part of an extended family in a home environment. The numbers are much lower than those in a nursery so there can be more time for 1:1 care. Childminders provide a real-life learning experience. They are qualified, registered and inspected childcare professionals and generally a parent themselves. Children benefit from sharing the family setting with peers of different ages, allowing them to learn from each other. Children enjoy a range of activities and outings, from visiting the parks and playgrounds to attending toddler groups and taking trips to local attractions. Childminders can also offer flexible childcare for parents who do not work 9 to 5, with options to provide care in the early morning, evening, weekends and overnight, term-time only, holiday cover, school pick ups and ad-hoc care.
When using a childminder you can grow a relationship with them where they truly become like extended family and often continue to care for your child even after they start school.
Annelize believes that childminding is the ‘Free Range’ choice when it comes to childcare. “Your children are in the safe, trained hands of professionals, yet are enjoying the nurturing care of a home environment, a loving relationship with their carer and the freedom to learn from real life, outside the bounds of a childcare institution.”