tips for finding a childminder

So, you need to find a complete stranger to come into your house and be solely responsible for your children while you're not there. Scary stuff. Looking for a childminder* can be a very daunting challenge.

When I was starting to think about this, a good and wise friend met me for coffee to pass on tips that she had picked up through her own search.

So below I'll try to pay it forward by listing these tips, along with my own learnings from my mistakes....

1. Where to look

Personal recommendations are great, and there is nothing more secure than knowing you're hiring someone with whom a friend has had a good experience. However in reality, most people don't have a friend who just happens to be finishing up with a childminder at just the right time, so don't despair if this source doesn't work out. Nevertheless, do ask around:
Websites are a fantastic resource for childcare; post an ad for free on one or all of the following sites, or just have a read through the people who are advertising their services.


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2. Advertising online

If you're posting an ad, make sure to include your most important requirements close to the top - it sounds obvious, but it's something we didn't get right at first:

We needed someone who would drive our car to bring the kids to school, so the prospective childminder would have to have a full driver's licence. We put this in the ad but not in any particularly prominent way, resulting in not one, not two but three face to face interviews here in our house with people who we eventually discovered did not drive at all.

As a parent of small kids, you already have no time for ANYTHING EVER, so doing interviews with people who will never meet your basic requirements is a soul-destroying waste of time.

So think about the key points to include in your ad:

Do ask for a CV!

3. Phone-screening

Logically, you need someone who can speak the same language as you and your kids do, to a good standard. You need to be able to communicate what you need done, and very importantly the kids need to feel that they're being understood when they talk to their childminder. So do specify this in your ad, and do screen by phone before doing face-to-face interviews.

At least you can assess for yourself if the candidate speaks English or whichever language you need to a level that you're happy with. Bear in mind that a phone interview is more difficult than a face-to-face meeting for the prospective childminder, so don't write people off too quickly.

Phone-screening is also a way of double-checking key criteria, such as a driver's licence in our case (we eventually figured this out...)

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4. Meeting the kids

There's an argument for meeting the candidate somewhere other than your house, partly because if it's not going well, it's easier to finish it up.
However, I felt that I wanted the applicants to meet my kids so that I could see how they interacted with them.

Again, don't judge too harshly - it's a stressful context for the prospective childminder. But it's a good way to differentiate between those who have a natural ease with children and those who don't.

5. The interview

Be upfront about what you need in terms of all of the following:

6. Qualifications & Experience

Do you want someone with formal childcare qualifications?
Would you like if the person had looked after children here in Ireland or does that matter?
Should your childminder have had first aid training?
Are you happy to consider those with creche/ Montessori experience?

Consider how you feel about all of the above, but perhaps don't rule candidates out unless you feel very strongly about your requirement for a particular qualification.

7. The housework question

My feeling is that if you want someone to carefully look after, educate, interact with, stimulate, entertain, and form a bond with your kids, it doesn't make sense to throw a lot of housework in the mix - it will just pull the childminder away from the core job of being there for your kids when you can't be.

But it's fairly standard for childminders to look after child-related housework:

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8. The serious stuff

If you hire someone to work in your own home, you are obliged to register with Revenue and pay PRSI - this is one reason why many people opt to send their children to a childminder outside the home (in this case, the minder is not your employee therefore you have no tax obligations).

9. The nice stuff

If you get the right person, this can be the start of a wonderful experience for you and your children. We've been lucky - we had some teething problems (see more here and here) but now we've reached a point where it's all working really well.

My kids don't have to rush out of the house in the morning at the same time as we go to work - they have breakfast at home and the childminder takes them to school and pre-school.

They spend the afternoon in the familiar surroundings of our house and garden, they can have playdates and do after-school activities, my daughter does her homework in our kitchen.

And when we come home, they've had dinner, my lovely childminder has cleaned up, and there's always plenty left over for the two of us. Actually I think not having to cook after work might just be the best bit....

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If you have any questions, feel free to post them as a comment below, or on Twitter or Facebook.
I was glad to have help when starting my search, and I'm happy to pass on the favour - it's a BIG DEAL taking someone into your home to look after your smallies!

*Childminder technically means someone who minds children in their home, whereas if you hire someone to come and work in your home, the term is nanny. However because most people use "Childminder" to mean both, this is the term I used in the post.

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