Childminding Best Practice Newsletter

Issue 1: December 2013

Outstanding logo

Welcome to the very first Childminding Best Practice Newsletter. I am aiming to produce this newsletter four times a year as a place to promote my favourite best practice topics: diversity and childminding in the great outdoors (Forest Childcare). I will also use it to draw your attention to any aspect of paperwork, legislation or policy changes that childminders hoping for the best Ofsted grades need to be aware of.

I will also be using this newsletter to tell you about any free updates to my products, so please do check carefully to see if there are any updates that affect you or the products you may have bought from me.

Lastly, I want to use this newsletter to spread stories that have inspired me and I hope will inspire you too.

In this issue:

post letter

How to post a letter!

How to catch a woodland fairy

Christmas crafts without Santa

The next issue will be coming out in March 2014 and will feature:

Thank you to everyone who sent in contributions to this newsletter. If your contribution doesn’t appear in this issue then I will most likely be saving it for a later issue. This one is got pretty full pretty quickly!

I welcome contributions from readers on all aspects of childminding best practice, especially diversity and outdoor childminding. I would be especially keen to hear from any men who childmind – what made you choose to become a childminder, and any unique challenges you face?

Thanks for reading,



Forest pic

Think one extra layer for babies who can’t run around to stay warm. 

Forest Childcare Association news

Thank you to everyone who has already joined the Forest Childcare Association and made a commitment to taking children on outdoor outings once a week. That is a fabulous achievement, a big commitment and you are making a wonderful difference in the lives of those children you are looking after. Well done, I hope you are wrapping up warm, still braving the elements even for some very short winter walks, and then enjoying some of the arts and crafts activities in the warmth of your own homes.


Great for business

If you are not already advertising yourself as a Forest Childcare Provider, now is a great time to start doing so. Show parents why they should choose your setting. For some inspiration, take a look at how Dee’s Childcare is using Forest Childcare to promote her childminding business.


Your Forest Childcare Stories

“Only last week, we walked to see some local sheep, who kindly gave us some of their wool, so this went onto the write up too!”

Hi Kay,

We've been doing Forest Childcare now since the beginning of September, and we are out every day, mainly as I have different children nearly every day and I want to ensure they all get the benefit of this great opportunity. Each child has their own file with copies of everything we do, including photos, collages and so on, as well as being able to take copies home. The listening walk went down particularly well. I had my Ofsted inspection last week, and the inspector was very impressed with it all.

Something that the parents particularly like is the little write up I do after each trip telling them what we did, adding photos and things of interest. Only last week, we walked to see some local sheep, who kindly gave us some of their wool, so this went onto the write up too!

Louise from Dorset


“No, not acorns, fairy cups, lots of them in a pile.” 

“Sheena, look what we found.”
“No, not acorns, fairy cups, lots of them in a pile.” 
“Have we missed the fairy party?”
“Yes. The squirrels bought the acorns to the fairies and they’ve all had a party. Look the ground has been flattened by their feet dancing.” 
“What else can we find?  Look, conkers”.
“No, not conkers, fairy chairs. Come on we must be near their homes.”  
“Where do they live?”
“In holes.”
“No, under toadstools but they’ll be hidden.”

And I thought we just were having a walk in the woods!

Conversation overheard from a 6 year old, a 4 year old, a 3 year old and a 2 year old, contributed by Sheena from Bucks


“I frequently take princesses, pirates, spacemen and a variety of superheroes, doctors and nurses etc to the park, usually donned with wellies”

Dear Kay,

I have just read your article in this month’s edition of Home Childcarer (online).

I felt I must contact you to say how I wholeheartedly agree with everything you say! The photographs on the first page stood out to me as I have almost the exact same ones in my setting. I frequently take princesses, pirates, spacemen and a variety of superheroes, doctors and nurses etc to the park, usually donned with wellies (always a good look for a princess!). The number of people who comment saying things like "Oh, won't they get that outfit dirty?" and "What if they get something on it?" and I always reply with "I hope they do. I have a washing machine and I'm not afraid to use it!"

I actually prefer what you describe as wild places. I actively avoid indoor soft play areas. The children in my care are taken to these by their parents so they don't entirely miss out, but personally I think and know they gain so much more from using their imagination playing in the local woods, in the stream, puddles, on broken down tree trunks etc. One of their favourite places is a local nature reserve that has an area with picnic tables and frequently people have had fires lit there. We come across partly charred sticks and logs (totally cold, of course - I am not totally without risk assessment!). The learning opportunities the children get from these, mark making especially with the charcoal like sticks, is amazing. Of course the beautiful pink princess dress looks more like Cinderella before the ball and the doctors outfit would not pass any entry tests onto an NHS ward, but those grubby, blackened children are happy, are being creative and using their own imagination to create their own learning experiences. And all this without a safety surface, ball pool or purpose built equipment in sight.

As Childminders we are lucky we can work in this flexible way, but more to the point, the children are very lucky they have the opportunity to experience this kind of play.

Helen from Leeds


Publicity to get parents looking for Forest Childcare providers

As well as continuing to write articles promoting Forest Childcare in magazines read by childcare providers (such as Home Childcarer Magazine, Nursery World and Elizabeth Jarman magazine) I will also be writing articles for parenting magazines over the coming year. This is to encourage parents to actively seek out childminders who promote Forest Childcare and who take the children on weekly outings. The more that parents are thinking to ask for this ‘service’ then the greater the demand for settings who offer Forest Childcare will become.


Campaigning for children outdoor play

There are lots of great organisations out there doing work to encourage children to spend more time in the great outdoors. Over the next few months I am hoping to get involved with the Children and Nature Advisory Group which forms part of the Save Childhood Movement. The Save Childhood Movement is a growing collaboration of individuals and organisations that share a deep concern about societal values and wellbeing and the current erosion of natural childhood including lack of time spent playing outdoors.   


Interested in 10% discount off Forest School Training?

As a member of the Forest Childcare Association, you can receive a 10% discount if you decide to go on to train as a Forest School practitioner through Archimedes Forest Schools.


Nature Detectives resources
The Woodland Trust suggested the resources on their website could be of interest to Forest Childcare Association members.  The worksheets on the website are free to use.

Art projects

3 New Seasonal EYFS art projects

Download the free templates for these three new seasonal EYFS art projects. Each art project comes with guided EYFS observations, telling you what to look for and record while you do the art project with the child.

Practice counting while making a simple Christmas tree.


Learn about the Christmas story while making a Nativity Scene Christmas card. This simple project is adaptable to any age, promotes diversity and encourages the children to talk about their own families. Cards are by Kacper age 4 and Eva age 18 months. 

Not just another leaf collage, this one was made by the children as they walked along! Using card and double sided tape, this is a very satisfying project the children can make instantly that contributes to children’s understanding of the natural world. Contributed by Christine B, childminder from Kent

Kay Woods

Childminding Agencies – a new perspective – treat or opportunity?

In February this year I went to meet Elizabeth Truss, the Education and Childcare MP, with the results of my customer survey about childminder agencies. Despite knowing very little about what agencies would be responsible for at that time, I reported to her that the childminders who responded were overwhelmingly against the idea.

Other organisations including One Voice (founded by Penny Webb) and Pacey have campaigned against the idea, and despite meetings with Truss and attempts to get childminder agencies dropped from the Children and Families Bill, across the country 20 childminder agencies are being trialled. View the complete list of agencies here on the government site.

But where are the childminder groups that we were promised in the original government report that would be encouraged to run agency trials?  From the very beginning, I expressed my interest in being involved in agency trials. As an experienced, well-connected childminder, I made my interest clear up front about setting up a childminder agency run BY an outstanding childminder. Instead, these agencies are being run by councils, schools and nursery chains. Many childminders don’t want to work FOR the council or become bank staff for a nursery (as one agency is proposing)! 

There is still a vast amount of confusion about what agencies will do, what powers they will have and what will happen to childminders who stay independent. A recent article in Nursery World revealed the full extent of the confusion about what childminder agencies will do and most have so far refused to disclose their business models. One company has published its prices and I was horrified to read figures like £199 or £599 being batted about. What on earth are they ‘selling’ at that price? My concerns is that many childminders (especially new childminders) could end up being ‘conned’ into paying large fees for things they shouldn’t be paying for and don’t need.

But Childminder Agencies, for good or bad, are firmly on their way. While I feel frustrated that there are no childminders running agency trials, I am not going to be put off. As you know, my area of interest is in promoting best practice. Rather than be afraid of childminder agencies I am thinking very seriously about starting one myself. I think that a childminder agency led by a top childminder would offer a unique solution and a unique standpoint.

My plan is to start my own childminder agency in my area (Slough, Windsor and Maidenhead). Anyone who joined would have to be one of the best childminders out there – or a new childminder intending to offer outstanding practice. I would be looking for childminders who would actively promote best practice – outdoors, diversity awareness, and really actually like looking after small children! Maybe they could retain individual inspections and could stay self-employed? In exchange for a small membership fee, I could help them to find children, organise activities, and sort out paperwork and training.

I think there is a lot of scope for these types of “top-end” agencies to be run by other top childminders across the country who are looking to form ‘unions’, ‘childminder associations’ or informal ‘childminder groups’ and who don’t wish to sign up as ‘nursery cover staff’, be employed by a council, or try to remain completely independent if their council (for example) suddenly turns itself into a childminder agency.

Think again about childminder agencies and let’s get in there before it’s too late!  If you read what I’ve just written and don’t think it’s a completely terrible idea and in fact may be interested in starting up a best practice childminding agency in your area, I want to hear from you.

Try to be positive. Childminding agencies are on their way, but don’t necessarily have to be a threat to childminders; in fact, they could be an opportunity.

If you are affected by the childminder agency trials in your area, then please get in touch, I would love to include your thoughts in my next newsletter.

Diversity logo

Burns night

Celebrate Burns Night at lunchtime with haggis, kilts, highland dancing and all things Scottish on Jan 25th. Find out how with my Diversity Awareness CD.

Diversity best practice ideas

I believe that you can and should talk about differences with young children. Children ask questions all the time. If adults avoid children’s questions about race, gender, religion and disability then children will notice. They may come up with their own conclusions, even if those conclusions are wrong. Adults should talk honestly and openly with children about the differences that children see and ask about.

Teaching children about diversity helps them to understand that people can be different and the same all over the world. It also helps them to build character that will last for their whole lives. As childminders, if we talk openly with pre-schoolers about the importance of diversity then children are provided with a model of openness that they will learn to imitate.

“The children really enjoyed making life sized portraits… they took their time over choosing what type of clothing they wore, especially colours.”

“The children really enjoyed their life sized portraits which we did over a week and then put up in the setting. They took their time over choosing what type of clothing they wore, especially colours, and could describe themselves and draw their own features really well from doing earlier activities such as 'What do I look like?' and 'All about me'.

When we did the ‘blindness section’ [of the Diversity Awareness CD] the children really got involved in the 'Eyes are for seeing'. They had to draw their eyes but they wanted skin tone crayons and textured materials for their hair and clothes, “So it looks really like me”. The following day we saw a man with a white cane on the walk to nursery which, as you can imagine, led to a great deal of excitement and discussion. One of the children found a book in the library with a braille letter in it “for blind people”.

Contributed by Paula from Bristol


“Then she remembered one of the words soo soo meaning wee wee

Here is a short story which I hope may make you smile. One of my little ones is Polish and when she started, her mother gave me a few Polish words to help us both out. Recently one of my older girls went on a school trip to Poland and was in need of the loo. Alas no one could understand her needs. Then she remembered one of the words “soo soo” meaning “wee wee”. She said this to a cafe assistant, and was taken to the rest room. All her fellow school friends were most impressed and congratulated her on her Polish. 

Contributed by Barbara from Sheffield


“I decorate a place in my house with fruit, a flag for the kids to paint, the alphabet, animals, clothes, poems, music, dances and famous people.”

I personally respect and value everyone's culture, believes and ability.  I have a year planner on my wall so that I can write down the dates of the celebrations we want to do. A month before the day, I display and decorate a place in my house with (for example) a food recipe from the particular country, fruit, a flag for the kids to paint, the alphabet (if it is different than the English alphabet), animals, clothes, poems, music, dances and famous people.

For example, in black history month I use Nelson Mandela's picture and books. On Chinese New Year, the children and I use chopsticks instead of forks and spoons and we did the same thing in the childminders’ pop-in group. Luckily, in our group there are enough childminders from different cultures to cover most days we want to celebrate and to give us and the children the information and ideas we need.

Contributed by “Z” from London

Best practice logo

Inspirational best practice ideas, stories and links

“My recent outing was to a post box!”

“My recent outing was to a post box! Yes, very simple, yet it took a whole week of activities. My children first learnt about letters (opening junk mail I collected), then drew stamps and finally, posted some of their work to their grandparents. This was the outing to the postbox.

On the way, I had arranged to meet our local postman so they also know what Postman Pat looks like in real life! I like it when an outing is linked to other activities so that all the dots are joined up children’s minds.”

Contributed by Darshna from Harrow


Healthy Eating, Fussy Eating, Health, Growth and Nutrition in toddlers - Factsheets from the Infant and Toddler Forum
This excellent site offers lots of practical advice about feeding small children. It includes free downloadable Factsheets provide evidence-based information and best-practice guidance on the feeding and nutrition of children aged one to three years.


Giant Wiggle March 20th, 2014 – getting children active
Action for Children is teaming up with best-selling children’s book The Very Hungry Caterpillar to get the under-5s active and interacting. The charity is encouraging children centres, nurseries and groups for the under-5s to host sponsored Giant Wiggle walks on The Very Hungry Caterpillar Day, March 20, 2014. The events will bring children together to wiggle and also encourage them to develop their imaginations.


Helping you to stay on top of the paperwork




learningJ logo

EYFS Paperwork, Policy and Legislation News

The following publications have come out in the last three months and all childminders should be aware of them.

Early Years Outcomes
This new, non-statutory guidance was published in Sept 2013 and should be used alongside Development Matters. It aims to support practitioners’ understanding of child development through the early years.  You can download it for free here.


Evaluation schedule for inspections of registered early years provision from November 2013 
The Ofsted new 'Evaluation Schedule for inspections of registered early years provision' came into force on the 4th November. This document affects all childminders and you can read a copy of it here.

One important change is the removal of ‘satisfactory’ from the Ofsted grades. A satisfactory Ofsted report will now be replaced with ‘requires improvement’. In other words, everyone is expected to get good or better at their inspections.

One of the key implications of the judging process is the stress on the importance of collecting information about what children ‘know, can do and enjoy’ when they start at a setting. If you are not collecting information about ‘starting points’ or using some kind of ‘child profile form’ to gather information about children when they start with you then it is probably a good time to start doing so. If you are using my contracts, policies and forms then you already have a child profile form to collect basic information from parents at starting. The Learning Journey Plus contains more detailed forms including an All About Me page for the Learning Journey plus a proper Starting Points form you can use to record your initial learning and development observations. 

Similarly, if you are not already making observations that link into your planning at your setting, then now is a good time to start. It is also really important to make sure that you have everything in place you need to ‘assess’ the children’s progress so that you know where they are in their learning development and if it is in line with, below or above expectations for their age. All childminders MUST be doing a written Progress Check at Age 2.

There is also a new emphasis on ‘teaching’ children and inspectors want to see evidence of how well you are interacting with ‘children of different ages’.  During your inspection it is probably a good idea to have some kind of planned, structured activity in which you set out to teach the children something so that they can observe how well you do this.

Have a careful read of the document, focussing on what the Ofsted inspector will be looking for in terms of the children’s personal development, self-care, free play, structured activities and before your inspection make sure you have in place in your mind some ideas of ways you plan to demonstrate that you are doing everything they are looking for!


Good Practice in Information Sharing in the Foundation Years
This Department for Education and Department for Health document is also worth a read. The information is available to view on the Foundation Years website.


Grants for NEW childcare businesses
The Grant scheme launched in April, is still open to new applications.  Grants will be either £250 or £500, and will support up to 6,000 new childcare businesses, based on £250 for individual childminders and £500 for larger childcare businesses. Click here to find out how to apply for a grant.  This scheme is only open to new childcare businesses, so if you are aware of anyone who may qualify, encourage them to apply at an early stage to avoid them missing out.


Have I missed anything?
Please let me know if you think I may have done. I try to keep up to date on all the changes and new paperwork requirements, but occasionally I do miss things. If you think I may have missed something, new documents, communications from your councils that imply changes that are coming up etc, then please let me know. I like the information that I am passing on to people to be as accurate and up to date as possible. I would rather receive too much information than to miss anything important, so if you are one of those childminders with a mailing list for your area, please put me on it!


Free Product Updates

If you are using any of these products, then please read this section for important product updates:


Contracts, Policies and Forms

If you are making Learning Journeys of the children at your setting, and you like to send GROUP photographs home, then you will need to make the following addition to your childminding contract.

You already have permission to take, use and store photographs in your contract. But if you want to send group photos home then you also need permission for this. In other words if you want to send a photograph of Beatrice and Jack together home to Jack’s parents then you would ALSO need permission from Beatrice’s parents to do that.

Please add this permission to your contract. Or if you would prefer me to simply email you the latest version of the contract which includes this change then please get in touch.

____ I give permission for my child’s photograph to be taken for use in her own and in other children’s learning journey folders.


Learning Journey Plus
This is not a change, just an optional addition to this product.

If you have just bought my new Learning Journey Plus and are having any trouble at all extracting the templates from the long Word document, then you may prefer to receive the templates as individual files? If you would prefer to have each template as an individual file for editing then please ask and I will email them over to you.

There are no updates to my other products at this time.


© Kay Woods – Kids To Go 2013
07866 754144

Kids To Go
28 Phipps Road
Burnham, BERKS