How to get started as a childminder

With families now struggling to cope with two working parents, child minders are much in demand. There is no doubt that looking after children, watching them grow and develop, can be a rewarding career but it's also a good deal of hard work.

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If you are considering becoming a child minder, here's what you need to do to get started.

Registration and training
A childminder is a self-employed childcare professional who looks after other people's children in a home setting, usually their own. Anyone being paid to care for children under the age of eight must be registered with Ofsted and undergo regular inspections - to assess the quality of care you are offering and to make sure that your home is free from safety hazards and is stimulating for children.

Registration is the first step and it is possible to apply without the necessary qualifications. Newcomers signing up for a career in childminding should attend a childminding pre-registration briefing session via their local Families Information Service. Once registered, training must be undertaken within six months and this includes a 12-hour Paediatric First Aid Course as well as further childcare course, as recommended by your local authority. You must also have an enhanced Criminal Records Disclosure.

When you have qualified, there may be restrictions on how many children and of what age you can care for at any one time, but there are a number of helpful online resources for new childminders, including and (the National Childminding Association), both of which offer advice on all of the above.

Finding work
Even once you're registered and qualified, it's unlikely the work will come flooding in straight away. While many families will turn to the local council's list of registered childminders, there are other ways to network and find parents desperate for someone reliable to look after their child.

The NCMA has a similar listing which will enable parents to search for a childminder by area, but getting some professional-looking flyers and business cards printed up is also a good idea.

Ask if you can put a flyer up at your local primary school, parent and toddler group or family clinic. If you have young children of your own, the chances are you will know plenty of parents so it's always worth doing some networking at the school gates.

If you are struggling to make ends meet and the work isn't coming in, consider a job at a nearby nursery where you will gain valuable experience and meet plenty of mums and dads who may well take advantage of your services at a later date.

The pros and cons - is it for you?
There are many obvious advantages of becoming a childminder. Since you will likely be working from home, there is no more commute to the office (or the expense that goes with it), and a job with children means no two days are the same so you are unlikely to get bored.

You have the flexibility to set your own hours and days, and if you have children, you are also able to spend more time with them or be at home should they be home from school for any reason.

However, all jobs have a downside and childminding is no exception. Most charge between £3.50 and £4.00 an hour - a wage which can quickly mount up if you are able to take on a few children - but you will need plenty of equipment to keep the kids entertained.

Bear in mind too that the hours can be long and may include school holidays, and there may be times when you have to deal with difficult parents as well as difficult children.

Staying on top of the paperwork is also essential as you will be responsible for your own tax returns and national insurance payments.

But a good childcare professional will play an important part on in the growth and development of their charges, and for many, that makes it a most rewarding career.

Are you a childminder? What would be your best advice for anyone considering a career in childcare? Leave your comments below...