A bright start

Childminder Elisha Rawle on creating a ‘home from home’ for children and the benefits of early learning

Islington-based childminder Elisha Rawle is dedicated to providing a ‘home from home’ environment for the children she looks after. She talks about the specific benefits of childminding and how all children can benefit from early learning.

What does a childminder do?
We look after children in our own homes, creating a home from home environment. We use the children’s interests as a starting point and then plan activities using the seven areas of development outlined in the Early Years Foundation Stage framework. We might plan a whole week around sharks, for instance, building in water play and circle time with shark songs. We look after children of a range of ages, so we make sure activities are tailored to suit the group. I work with two assistants and with careful planning, we use the whole house, making activities fun and safe.

What do you enjoy about your work with children and families?
I enjoy having the flexibility. I have worked in nurseries and schools where I felt a little restricted about what we could do. But as a childminder, if we want to get out and about, spending the morning at the farm or going to a music group, we can do that.

I also like being able to build my work around my own children’s needs. I can still do school pick-ups and my children can enjoy being with the other children I look after. Parents say that my children are like big brothers, and my mother-in-law has become ‘nanny’ to all the children. I run it like a little nursery, with a big family vibe. Parents seem to like this.

Describe a typical day.
We have breakfast ready for when the children arrive around 8am – usually cereal or porridge. Then we’ll go out for the school run and on to the local park or library. We head home for about 10am. The children hang their coats, wash their hands and then we sit down for a healthy snack time. After that we have free play, which might include sensory or messy play. Sometimes we build this around a theme like Valentine’s Day, with squeezy bottles full of pink paint!

We sit down together for a home cooked lunch around 11.45am and then it’s nap time, when children can sleep for as long as they need in cots or on sleep mats. We have a routine, but being in a home environment, we can be flexible. When the children wake up, they’ll have another snack and more free play before we head out for the school run and some outside play in the park. If it’s wet, we can come home and play in my covered outside space. We prepare tea and then have story time before the children are picked up around 5.30 to 6pm.

What do you think parents are looking for when choosing a childminder?
They are looking for a safe home environment where their child can socialise and where they can get a nursery feel, but on a smaller scale. Safety is a parent’s first concern, so they ask about our Ofsted registration and all the safety aspects. They also want to know that we are cooking healthy food and what mealtimes are like. They often ask about the age range of children and how we cater for all ages.

Why do you think it’s important for children to have early learning opportunities before they start school?
As a parent I used the free early learning hours for my children. I was terrified to let my children go but found that they ended up being better able to socialise and were so much more ready to start school. It also gave me time for myself. There are lots of studies to show that children who take up early education from a young age do better in school. Childminders can offer the free hours so children can get the same opportunities as at a nursery, but in a home environment.

How does Bright Start Islington support you as a childminder?
I have always been a strong advocate for Bright Start; it changed my life as a parent and has given me the confidence to be a childminder. I did the childminding pre-registration course through Islington and the childminding team and the Family Information Service (FIS) has been brilliant at supporting me. I can also share details of the FIS with parents, so they can find out about the childcare bursary and other support available to help with the costs of childcare.

The Bright Start childminder groups provide ‘stay and play’ sessions, enabling us to connect with each other and share good practice. I’m always looking at ways to improve. I’m also a Bright Start parent champion, because I want all parents in Islington to know about the great services we have here for under-fives!

For information about finding childcare, or if you are interested in becoming a childminder, contact Islington Family Information Service, 020 7527 5959 or visit the FIS website.

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