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Communicating and building relationships with children and their families in a home-nursery/childminding setting

I arrive at my son’s day-care and through the window, I see that he is having a great time with his Early Years Practitioner and the other children in the role play area.

The day-care setting is language rich, and high frequency key words and labelling are situated on the walls and creatively hanging from the ceiling. A very organised and well utilised space, with the different learning areas, thoughtfully arranged to provide the children with an environment to explore and play.

It is a home from home; happy, warm and welcoming, the best choice for our son and his needs.

My son attends the day-care part-time, therefore I am still able to provide him with an early years education at home, within my well-resourced home-nursery. Between the two early years settings, there is a continuation of his learning. The synergy between the parents (myself as an Early Years Educator and Tiney childminder) and the Early Years Practitioners at the day-care. This synergy also extends to my son's support network of his grandparents, who are involved in his upbringing and learning.


Communicating with my child and the Early Years Practitioner

As the day-care door opens, my son excitedly tumbles out from behind this rainbow bright rectangle, into my arms. The playground is dimly lit as it is the late afternoon and the sky is darkening, but my son is the ball of light, bursting with energy and joy.

He's so excited, that when asked about his day, this usually chatty boy has no words to communicate to me what happened at the day-care. Instead, he stuffs his pages of art into my hand, points to his hair and then runs around the playground, flapping his arms like a bird.  

The Early Years Practitioner has a short conversation with me about his day and explains that he has a head full of brightly coloured clips because he was at the ‘hairdressers’ with his friends. He wanted to undo his braids, to have his curls fluffed out to put these clips in. He loves his long afro hair, and I didn't mind the fact that he chose to undo his hair (which took me close to half an hour to create in the early morning!) to take part in a role play activity with his friends and Key Person.  

Hair care is a Caribbean cultural, bonding tradition that encourages talk and I have passed down this tradition to my son. In this diverse multicultural day-care, there would be other children who can relate to this as part of their own hair care routine. It’s moments like this - a simple everyday task that is carried out at home and is then recreated in the early years setting and opens up various opportunities to expand upon his understanding of the world, communication & language, social and emotional skills.

My son didn't want to verbally communicate to me that he had a great time, but I knew it was a special day for him. With great pride he wore the clips until bedtime.

I've written about this experience of my son's day-care, to highlight that communication is integral between the childcare provider and the parent/guardian. This level of importance should be the same between the childminder and the parents/guardian.

There are other methods of communication that the day-care utilises. They include the digital journals on ‘Tapestry’, journal books and newsletters. I am invited to contribute to these journals by providing evidence of fun activities carried out at home and photos of family life. Myself and my partner also provide the day-care staff with any updates about family life, new routines and interests or changes which may affect my son’s behaviour.

The day-care staff supported us during the early days of our son's toilet training. We worked collaboratively to keep the successful methods consistent. Our son is now a confident little boy, who proudly wears pants and can independently use the toilet.

As a childminder, I curate my home-nursery, as a space where the children see themselves. 

My home-nursery is a representation of the children in my care. Representation equates to a child knowing and feeling valued. I talk to the parents/guardians to learn about their at home routines, their culture, faith, traditions and interests, to then use it within my daily planning and running of my home-nursery. It is detrimental to assume that every child has the same home life/ routine, therefore it is important to include key information that is provided by the parent/guardian. Continuity and consistency are key when working collaboratively. Let's also highlight the importance of the child communicating their needs, whether it be verbal or non-verbal; we listen. 


The process of finding families and children choosing me as a childminder

I have been able to gain interest from families, through word of mouth, and social media. Tiney is a trusted Ofsted registered, early years agency, that gives me extra prominence in this sector. An Ofsted registered independent childminder, is a trusted childcare option, who can provide excellent care. An independent childminder will need to work on ways to stand out to build a credible reputation within their community. 

An idea would be to have a specific niche and to showcase childcare experience, education knowledge, background, skills and interests to stand out amongst other childminders and childcare providers. All childminders have to be savvy at the various ways that they can promote and market their services. A great way to promote childminding is by advertising on childcare websites and producing flyers to pin up on bulletin boards at venues that host parenting classes or children’s activities. I have friends who found their childminder by coming across a flier on a bulletin board at the local supermarket.

You can market yourself in the most unexpected ways. For example, my excuse to release my inner child at the park with my son, meant that all of a sudden I became the "Pied Piper" with the children gathered around me to engage in play. This then became an unexpected opportunity to talk about my childcare service (and then became an opportunity for the adults to have fun with the children on the massive slide!).

You are your business and brand. It's important to remember this in your local area, so that you can become that trusted childminder who is popular and will be the talk of the town! 

Nowadays the settling-in period (to limit footfall in the home, due to the pandemic) might be carried out over a video call where the childminder, parents and children can introduce themselves and get to know each other. This is where a short Storytime can take place, or a family art activity facilitated by the childminder is a lovely way to break the ice and begin the rapport between all involved. Important conversations about the child's needs and interests take place during this visit.

My favourite and most recommended way of getting to know families is at the park, because children love the outdoors. It is an EYFS statutory requirement, that all children play outside on a daily basis; therefore it will demonstrate how you will interact with the child away from the childminding setting. The outdoors is a wonderful place for a child's development and mental health. You really get a good insight into the child's imagination (and your own) and creativity when in nature. 




Finally, after the play date or/and video call, arrangements for the introductory visit to the nursery will take place. Over a consistent few weeks, the childminder will have more time with the child without the parents present, to establish a strong rapport with each other and to gain reassurance and confidence. This is when you can then establish if it is a good match for all.

Here, I have outlined the Tiney protocol for the settling in period, but some independent Ofsted registered childminders may have a different way of settling in (for example, over a few days consistently in the same week). The settling in period is a gradual process that should not be rushed, and the purpose is to ease everyone into this new routine with the child as the central focus. If the childminder and the parent/carer feel as if the partnership is a good fit, it is down to the child to choose the childminder.

Contracts and fees are discussed to establish the type of childcare needed. For example, morning school drop offs, after care, full day or half day, flexible contract etc. The contract talk I can honestly say can be an awkward part of the process, but it is necessary for the childminder and parents to be precise with the expectations, rules and regulations. 

As it's a professional service, this is a process that should be as thorough as getting to know each other. Both parties also agree on the boundaries of communication and discuss aspects of the contract that are unclear before signing the agreement.

In my home nursery setting I use the Tiney app to enable parents to access the observations written about the child on the digital journal, along with anything relating to billing, payments, contracts, policies and Tiney community news. As it is my own business, I send out a digital or hard copy newsletter to the parents as a way to inform them about the fun and exciting activities that take place and will be taking place in the future. The children will most likely have produced an art piece or written work to take home to show their family.

Most parents want to be updated daily via a text message just so that they are kept in the loop with what fun activities their child is engaged in. This would usually be once a day and I feel this is a nice way to reassure the parents who may feel anxious about not being present with their child. I know exactly how this feels during the first few weeks of this new change and I want to best support all parents and to gain their trust, that I will provide excellent childcare for their child in my home that is full of love.

Trust is a wonderful thing. When you see that the child fully trusts and feels safe and confident within the setting, this is where the magic resides. We cannot reach this without the communication between the child, parent/ guardian and childminder. The child's trust is a foundation that opens up a whole new world of opportunities for them to flourish.

Alicia Wilkins
Mother, Early Years Practitioner, writer, singer and personal trainer Alicia Wilkins has taken a break away from primary school teaching to focus on her fitness business and Artistry. Alicia leads voluntary community fitness and Early Years mummy and baby workshops in partnership with the NHS. With a passion for child-centred learning, wellness, creativity, inclusion and representation in all educational settings, she aims to amplify the voices of those who face adversity and celebrate and elevate all of our beautiful children, who all have unique qualities to offer the world.

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