Childminding Best Practice Newsletter

Issue 12: Autumn 2016

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Welcome to the Autumn 2016 Childminding Best Practice Newsletter. I produce this newsletter four times a year to promote childminding best practice topics with a focus on safety, health, diversity awareness and childminding in the great outdoors (Forest Childcare). I also use it to highlight any changes to legislation or policy that may affect your childminding business. .

Download this newsletter as a pdf

In this issue:

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First Aid Pop Quiz – what should you do when back slaps don’t work for choking?

Art project ideas for Autumn

Schematic play article and special offer by Kathy Brodie

The next issue (Winter) will be coming out in December 2016

Thank you to everyone who sent in contributions to this newsletter. I welcome contributions from readers on all aspects of childminding best practice.

Happy reading!



Could you make a commitment to weekly outdoor outings?















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Forest Childcare Association news


Members of the Forest Childcare Association commit to taking the children on an outdoor outing to a ‘wild’ place once a week. It’s a wonderful opportunity to do something worthwhile for the children while boosting your childminding business.

How to use a Facebook page to promote Forest Childcare – contributed by Kirsty Marriott

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“I have a child who has now made 75 Forest Childcare trips.” 

My name is Kirsty Marriott. I have been childminding since 2007. In November 2015 I received an outstanding rating from Ofsted. I have been a member of the Forest Childcare Association since 2014; it has helped to grow my business and the parents of my minded children love the fact that the child gets a certificate when they have achieved a certain number of trips to the woods, and so do the children. I have a child who has now made 75 trips. All the children ask if they are going to the woods today. When we go, we are always exploring and finding lots of different things, such as climbing on logs and trees. This helps the children to build up their confidence. I love this time of year as there is so much stuff to collect and make things with. Check out my page ‘Kirsty’s Forest Childcare’ on Facebook.

Why I promote myself as a Forest Childcare Provider – contributed by Kay Hartburn

I am still quite new to childminding but I was a nanny for over 20 years. I have always taken the children I look after on outings to woods, parks, walking and feel it’s really important for their development. Although all the parents I work with and those that come for potential childcare know that I do these types of activities, it never occurred to me to advertise myself as “offering Forest Childcare” before. Thank you so much. Tonight I plan on writing down lots of ideas to display the great pictures I have of the children while we are in the woods. 

How to write a Forest Childcare blog – contributed by Decima Isles-Broughton

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Children enjoying themselves outdoors make the nicest types of photographs you can take to show parents that children are happy in your care. It is a great way to advertise the service you provide and promote your business! Childminder Decima Isles-Broughton from London writes a blog about her Forest Childcare adventures which she shares with the parents. Check out her blog to see how she does it.

Learning in a Puddle 

I quite enjoyed this gentle blog article from Storypark with lots of ideas of activities you can do in puddles

Why Forest Childcare impresses parents– contributed by Rachel Tanswell  

I love the outdoors and nature so the Forest Childcare pack was perfect for my setting. It has been well received by the parents and all the children and has inspired us to go on lots of woodland walks, make dens, hunt for mini beasts, pond dipping and climbing trees. I have even bought a mud kitchen for my garden and the children love making mud pies and mud potions


Art Projects for the Autumn  


Here are some activities sent in by childminders for Autumn. 

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Painting with acorns. Contributed by Kirsty Marriot. The tree template is from the Forest Childcare Pack.
These Autumn wreaths, contributed by Kirsty Marriott, are made from paper plates with real leaves and other objects stuck on.
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Invitation to play set up by Amanda Calloway  

For Bonfire Night

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Bonfires by Rachel Lambert

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Firework cookie pops from Clare’s Little Tots. Follow the recipe from her blog. Breadstick sparklers made from dipping breadsticks in chocolate and sprinkles by Emma Bates
























Kay Woods - Kids To Go on Social Media

10 Frequently forgotten things childminders should include on your Ofsted SEF   

Understanding the COEL is vital for every childminder. Not only will you be expected to know this information during your Ofsted inspection, it is also a huge benefit to the children you look after if you can help them to acquire the skills in the Early Years that they will need to help them to succeed in school and become learners for life… [read more]

10 Ways for childminders to put the Characteristics of Effective Learning (COEL) into practice

Understanding the COEL is vital for every childminder. Not only will you be expected to know this information during your Ofsted inspection, it is also a huge benefit to the children you look after if you can help them to acquire the skills in the Early Years that they will need to help them to succeed in school and become learners for life… [read more]

How to ‘do diversity’ with childminded children without getting it wrong  

So, you want to show Ofsted that you are “doing diversity” in your childminding setting…. [read more]

Getting childminded children back to nature – my guest blog on Clare’s Little Tots

Many adults would simply rather their children played inside or in their own tiny back gardens and were ‘safe’, than ‘risk’ letting them play outside alone as they might have done when they were children themselves…. [read more]

Like me on Facebook and enter my prize draw!

Please like me on Facebook. When I reach 1000 likes three lucky childminders will be selected to win vouchers for my products. When you like my Facebook page you are helping me with my small business and I really appreciate it. Thanks for taking the time!

NEW: Forest Childcare Facebook Page

The Forest Childcare Association now has its own Facebook Page. Please like my page and enjoy the links and inspirational ideas I share.

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NEW: Forest Childcare on Pinterest

The Forest Childcare Association is also on Pinterest. With the help of Clare Maher, we try to collect and ‘pin’ interesting outdoor crafts and activity ideas here.

Bee Safe Bee Healthy

Get art projects, colouring pages and activities for 15 safety and health topics for childminders with a Be Safe Be Healthy Pack.















































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Safety and Health

First Aid Pop Quiz

The child is choking on a boiled sweet. You have tried five back blows but this has not dislodged it. What should you do?

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CLICK HERE or scroll down to reveal the answer

Do you know what you are allowed to do when you take childminded children to the woods?

How much do you know about what you’re allowed to do and what you’re not allowed to do when you are taking childminded children on an outing to the woods? [read more]

Keeping children safe from button batteries  

The BBC has recently highlighted the issue of the possible dangers of button batteries to babies and toddlers. Button batteries and lithium coin batteries are the small, round batteries you find in lots of toys and everyday objects. They can be extremely dangerous for children if swallowed – especially lithium coin batteries –and can kill within hours. Most button batteries pass through the body without a problem. But if a button battery, particularly a lithium coin battery, gets stuck in the throat or gullet, energy from the battery can make the body create caustic soda (the chemical used to unblock drains!). Read what you can do to help at the Child Accident Prevention Trust.

Physical Activity in Under 5s Infographic  

The Department of Health has published an infographic promoting physical activity in under 5s. It highlights the benefits of being active and the range of activity to achieve this recommendation. Physical activity has been shown to help maintain a healthy weight, improve concentration, health and fitness, improves sleep and builds social skills and confidence. The infographic t is designed to help early years practitioners, health visitors, and doctors to talk with parents about the importance of young children being active.  


Pokemon Go: a parent's guide Tips and advice for keeping children

There are loads of good things about the game, and there's a reason it's become so popular. But it's important to learn the risks involved. Read this guide from the NSPCC.

Have you read the government’s “Obesity Strategy”?

Not exactly surprising information in these documents, but you can read how the government plans to tackle childhood obesity here and read some practical information from the Infant and Toddler Forum here.

First Aid Pop Quiz - Answer

The child is choking on a boiled sweet. You have tried five back blows but this has not dislodged it.

The next thing you should do is to stand behind the child and do five abdominal thrusts.

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If the abdominal thrusts do not clear the obstruction, then do five more back blows, then five more abdominal thrusts. Keep alternating between abdominal thrusts and back blows until you clear the blockage or until the child becomes unconscious. Please note that there is a different procedure for babies under one year.

Follow the video and instructions on the St. John’s Ambulance website to remind yourself how to do abdominal thrusts and how to treat choking in an infant.

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My new Characteristics of Effective Learning Pack tools and activities to put the CEOL into practice


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Inspirational best practice - ideas, stories and links

Which are more important: the Learning and Development Goals or the Characteristics of Effective Learning (COEL)?

Many childminders spend a lot of time learning about the seven areas of learning and development and most of your learning journey observations will relate to them. However, I feel that really we have this the wrong way around. And that fostering the COEL in children is actually far more important than what that child knows or what that can child can do when he starts school.

For example, a child can either count up to ten blocks when he starts school, or he can’t. He can either write his name. Or he can’t. Those tasks can be taught to him by his teachers. However, he will find any task he has to learn easier if he is able to make himself concentrate or persevere at a task he finds challenging.

The COEL are not a series of goals to be achieved in the EYFS. They are lifelong skills. By helping children get the right attitudes and dispositions towards learning when they are in pre-school you’ll be setting them up on track to succeed in school and in life. It really doesn’t matter if a child starts school unable to write his name or do simple sums. It does matter if he already believes himself to be a failure, if he gives up easily when facing challenges and if he can’t motivate himself to learn.

As a childminder having an understanding of the terms of the COEL (active learning, playing and exploring, etc.) will help you to pass your Ofsted inspection. But don’t do lip service to the COEL. They are far more important than that. Help a child to develop the COEL and you can make a real difference to that child’s future.

For tools, activities, CPD and ideas to put the COEL into practice in your childminding setting check out my new Characteristics of Effective Learning Pack.

What would you do if this happened to you: child isn’t settling – would you lie to the parents? 

Imagine you look after a little boy who comes just once a week and doesn’t seem to settle. You are honest with the parents and tell them that he has been miserable and clingy most of the day. But after 4 months, and things aren’t really improving, the parents take him away. Would you be so truthful next time? Or would you lie to the parents so they don’t worry?

Here’s what other childminders say:

I had a very similar experience. I was too truthful and the parent became more and more demanding and acted as though it was my fault that the little one was finding it hard to settle.

I have always been truthful although I try to start with a positive and end in a positive but the truth has to be told. I have learnt some words such as “adult support was needed” and "X has been unsettled on and off today and needed lots of cuddles but we made it through".

I’m always honest. As a mummy I would want to know if my child has cried all day. I tell my parents everything, even if it costs me their business. Surely it’s the children’s best interest that come first.

I tell the truth but I am also upfront if a child is coming just one day a week as they find it harder to settle and explain that to parents. To be honest I have stopped doing a day a week due to that very issue. Some nurseries in our area only allow parents to sign up for two sessions minimum to avoid the issue.

I recently lost a child through NOT being wholly honest with the parents. He had been with me for four weeks and screamed the whole time. Instead of telling the parents the truth I just told them he ‘wasn’t as settled as I’d expected him to be.’ Anyway, after four weeks, it was all too much and I had to tell them the truth and they were mortified I hadn’t told them earlier and withdrew him from my setting.

Justine Emma Marriott writes: “I think there's a big difference between telling lies and being a little tactful with what you tell parents. I was a teacher for many years and you know what are the important things to tell people. Sometimes if you worry parents then a situation can become a self-fulfilling prophecy almost through a parents anxiety. Eg if a child wasn't particularly the most popular child I wouldn't tell a parent that because they'd then become anxious and pass that onto the child and the issue would potentially get worse… In my childminding experience, by telling the parent (who was a first time/very anxious type of parent) exactly what had happened all day I felt that I aggravated her anxiety which made her more controlling and critical which made me feel more uncomfortable and the end result was a more anxious child and a negative relationship between myself and the parent. I tend to do things differently now, just not being quite so descriptive and detailed about the issues. I always try to allay the parents ‘concerns – I just try to be more tactful about it for everyone’s benefit. I just don't think it's as black and white as telling the truth or not - more being more relaxed about what you say and how you say it.”

Kindness Tree – contributed by Ann Ross

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I am really pleased with our Kindness Tree. We all wrote kind things about the people in the Childminding setting. Every time someone says something kind about someone else or has a kind thought or deed we are going to put it on the tree. I'm thinking of doing mini ones about each child's family to take home. 

5 simple ways to improve how you write your learning journey  

1. Keep parents at the heart of your learning journey because they will read it more than anybody else
If you are writing your learning journeys primarily FOR the Ofsted inspector then you are wasting your time. Think about who will read your learning journeys the most: the parents. So always remember to keep parents at the heart of the work you are doing.

2. Take better photographs
Take a look back through some of the photographs in your learning journeys. Lots of learning journey photos are taken from behind showing the back of the child’s head or looking down on them on the floor but for most parents, a photo of the back of their child’s head is not very interesting. Whenever possible get right down at eye level when you take the photo.

3. Tell better stories
Pages of very dry observations written in pseudo-scientific language are not very interesting for parents to read. Think carefully about what ‘story’ and ‘message’ you want to tell parents in your learning journey observations. How can you enhance the basic observation with its relevance to parents?

4. Treat learning journeys as advertising material
Taking great photographs and writing observations in interesting ways is a great way to show parents why they have chosen the best childminder in town! Use your learning journeys to remind parents about your ‘unique selling points’ – the things about your business that make you different from your competitors (other childminders and nurseries in your area.)

5. Use your learning journeys to show parents that their children are happy in your care
Parents want to believe that their child is happy in your care. So if the child looks unhappy then retake the photograph. When you have to write about bad or worrying behaviour it is really important to learn to do so in a way that doesn’t sound overly critical of the parents or the child.

Want to improve how you write your learning journey observations?
I am now offering an 8 module distance learning course for childminders to improve how you write your learning journey observations. I will look at what you do and offer you suggestions on how you can improve it. The course also covers the following topics:

  • Writing next steps and linking them to planning
  • Writing observations in different Learning and Development areas including Physical Development, Personal, Social and Emotional development, Communication and Language, Mathematics and Creative development
  • Writing and observing the Characteristics of Effective Learning
  • Improving the ‘story’ and ‘message’ of the observation
  • Sharing learning journeys with parents
  • Linking learning journeys to whole child assessments
  • Using learning journeys to promote a childminding business
  • Writing about ‘bad’ and ‘negative’ behaviour in a positive way

A focus on Schematic Play - by Kathy Brodie

Schematic play is fascinating to watch and can be a very informative way of analysing children’s thinking. Schematic play is now identified in the EYFS and can be a powerful learning process for young children. For this article, I’m going to focus on one very typical type of schematic play – Transporting.

When you are looking out for a particular schema, you must observe children’s behaviour and see if that behaviour is repeated in many different areas of play, such as drawings, physical activities, 3D modelling, role play and sand play. Using the Transporting schema as an example, do you see the children:

  • Moving things from one place to another, in bags, buggies, trucks or just carrying toys with them
  • Use different containers in their play – shopping bags, buckets, tins, baskets, purses, scoops, trays
  • Enjoy playing bikes to transport toys and friends, diggers in the sand or soil
  • Have high levels of involvement with activities such as packing up a picnic to go somewhere, playing at being a postman, milkman or truck driver

As children develop their skills and their thinking progresses, you are likely to see the following stages:

  • Sensory motor – this is physically playing with the toys, transporting around the setting
  • Symbolic – using something standing for something else, for example wooden blocks being parcels for the postman to deliver
  • Abstract thought – the children can explain and expand to someone else verbally their actions and thoughts about the schematic play

Children with different schematic play will be learning different things through their play. Those children who are investigating transporting will be learning about things such as capacity (how many things can we fit in this container?), weight, size and interlocking shapes. They may well be learning about cooperation as their friends share the load or accept lifts on the back of the tricycles. This is all through their self-motivated schematic play, so is deep level learning with high levels of involvement.

Transporting is only one of many schemas. You can use this intrinsically motivated, deep level learning in planning for the children by including suitable activities. All in all, being able to identify and understand schematic play can be a very powerful way of helping your children to make progress in their learning and development.

My new online Schema Short Course explores in detail the nine most common schema, how to recognise them, the types of activities that support them and the learning opportunities these give children. This will help you to personalise your provision for children’s interests, make your planning quicker and easier as well as help you understand children’s thinking processes.

For your free downloadable guidelines to schemas, resources to use to support schema and learning that is taking place, please click here. As a special offer for Childminders, if you enter CMGroup in the discount code box on when you buy a product, you will get a 20% discount. This will work for any product. For more articles, podcasts and free downloadable material, visit

1001 ways to fail your Ofsted inspection

Please send your own funny photos of ways to fail your Ofsted inspection to If you include photos of children who aren’t yours please make sure you have asked permission from the parents for me to put them into the newsletter. If I use your photo you’ll get a £25 voucher to spend on my products.  

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Number 140: It is generally considered best practice to create written learning journeys on paper, rather than by writing directly onto the child. Number 346: While very practical and great for the environment, this is not an Ofsted-appoved potty training method.

“Wind the Minder Up”

This made me laugh so much when Jo Morris shared it on the Facebook group: Childminding for You that I asked her permission to repost it here. Thanks Jo and Jo’s assistant. To the tune of ‘Wind the bobbin up’ of course!

Wind the minder up, wind the minder up. Whinge, cry, crap crap crap.
Wind her up again, wind her up again. Run, squeal, refuse to nap.
Point to the ceiling, point to the floor, slip where the baby just vommed by the door.
Clap your hands together one, two, three, wear a Tena lady cos you can't hold your wee.”

Helping you to stay on top of the paperwork

Ultimate childminding checklist

The Ultimate Childminding Checklist is 3 checklists in 1 including a count down to your Ofsted Inspection.

EYFS Paperwork, Policy and Legislation News


Inspecting Safeguarding in Early Years Settings – document updated  

This document was updated in August 2016 with some minor changes. The main changes affect childminders who employ staff. There is a summary of the changes to the document here.

Not sure if you are using the most up to date documents?

This page has all the most up to date links to useful documents for childminders including the Statutory Framework, Parents Poster, What to do if you are worried a child is being abused, etc. If you bookmark this page and follow my blog then you can refer to it to check when things change.

Tax Free Childcare

Tax-Free Childcare is a new government scheme to help working parents with the cost of childcare. Parents will be able to open an online account, which they can use to pay for childcare from a registered provider. All eligible parents will be able to join the scheme by the end of 2017. You’ll need to sign up to receive payments from parents. Throughout September and October 2016, letters are being sent to regulated and approved childcare providers across the UK, asking you to sign up online for Tax-Free Childcare.






Free Product Updates

There are no updates to products at this time.


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