Keeping Children Happy
Allison Lee has written this book as a companion to her first book Starting Your Own Childminding Business. She has been minding children herself for over 11 years and is employed part-time by the National Childminding Association as a Support Childminder giving help and advice to other practitioners. Allison has also written childminding courses for ISC Learning Direct and for UK Open-Learning Direct.
Unlike parents, children are relatively easy to keep happy! They will not make any unreasonable demands on you and will not expect you to perform miracles. Children are usually happy and content if they feel safe, valued and are offered appropriate activities to stimulate their minds. It is of course your duty as a childminder to enhance this and encourage them to achieve to their full potential – and to ensure that they are loved, welcomed and valued.
In order for Ofsted to make their judgement about the overall quality of your childminding setting the inspector will ask the very important question: What is it like for a child here? The inspector will judge how well you meet a series of outcomes for children that are set out in the Children Act 2004. These outcomes are as follows:
- How do you help children to be healthy?
- How do you protect children from harm or neglect and help them to stay safe?
- How do you help children to enjoy themselves and achieve their full potential?
- How do you help children to make a positive contribution to your setting and to the wider community?
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is an international treaty which applies to everyone under the age of 18 years and consists of 54 agreed articles. There are certain Acts of Parliament which are in place to promote the equality of opportunity and to prevent discrimination. The Acts include the Children Act 1989 which requires that the regulatory body has a set of policies in practice for equality of opportunity and that these policies are reviewed regularly. All childcare practitioners should receive regular updates relating to equal opportunities and they should be provided with details of any relevant training as and when necessary.
The Children Act 1989 acknowledges the importance of the child’s wishes and opinions. The Act emphasises the need for parents and carers to be responsible for their children rather than to have rights over them.
It is because children cannot always stand up for themselves and be heard that this set of rights has been made and they take into account a child’s vulnerability. Almost every country in the world has agreed to and signed the United Nations Convention underlining its importance.
PROVIDING FOR CHILDREN’S NEEDS
Children have five basic needs. These needs are illustrated in Figure 1.
The basic human rights of children entitle them to things such as food, health care and protection from abuse. However a child’s rights are different from those of an adult as children cannot always stand up for themselves. Children need a special set of rights which take into account their vulnerability and which ensure that adults take responsibility for their protection, stimulation and development. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child outlines the basic human rights of all children everywhere.
All children have the right to:
- protection from harm, abuse and exploitation;
- develop to their full potential;
- participate fully in social, cultural and family life;
- express their views;
- have their views listened to, valued and taken into account;
- play, rest and enjoy their lives.
There are certain rights outlined in the UN Convention which relate particularly to childcare and education and it is these rights of the child that childminders should be most concerned with. The rights which affect childcare are as follows:
- Children have the right to sufficient food and clean water for their needs.
- Children have the right to appropriate health care and medicines.
- Children have the right to be with their family or those who will care for them best.
- Children have the right to play.
- Children have the right to be safe and free from harm and neglect.
- Children have the right to free education.
- Children should not be exploited as cheap labour or soldiers.
- Children have the right to an adequate standard of living.
- Disabled children have the right to special care and training.
MISSING MUMMYOR DADDY?
It is probably true to say that the most difficult time for a childminder to keep a child happy is when the child is new to the setting and is missing their parents. This is particularly true for a young child who has been with their mother from birth and who may now need a childminder in order for their mother to return to work. You will not be able to take the place of the child’s mother whilst they are in your setting, and you should not be striving to do this. It is your job to reassure the child, offer appropriate activities and comfort them when they are upset.
You will have to adjust your usual routine to cater for the new child and to offer additional support until they have settled into your setting.
In some ways it is easier to settle a young baby into your setting than an older child. However babies, when they get to the age of around eight months, start to become aware of strangers and may well go through a phase of missing mummy. Babies of this age can often become upset when being left and you would be wise to prepare the parents for this possibility.
Likewise the parents of the child may be very likely to miss their baby and may also need your support and reassurance.
Ideally before a child starts their placement with you, you will have had the opportunity to meet them on several occasions. You may decide to arrange to visit them in their own home and to get to know them on ‘familiar territory’ or you may prefer to arrange short visits at your own house so that the child can get used to their new setting; you may even decide on a mixture of both. It is important to discuss with the parents which strategy they feel will work best for their child.
Prior to a baby or child starting in your care you will need to gather from their parents as much information about them as possible in order to prepare yourself for the task ahead. The more information you have about a child – their likes, dislikes, fears and anxieties – the more equipped you will be to deal with any scenarios thrown at you.
It is important to remember that parents may feel equally, if not more, anxious than their child. They may have feelings of guilt about leaving their child. Reassure them that these feelings are all perfectly normal and offer them the support they need.
Tips for settling children into your childminding setting
- Arrange short visits prior to the placement commencing, in order to allow the child time to get to know their surroundings.
- Encourage parents to stay with their child for a while, particularly during the first few days, if this is possible.
- Offer support and encouragement to both the child and their parents.
- Encourage the child to bring a special toy or comforter from home.
- Avoid forcing the child to join in activities or games. If they prefer to sit and watch for a while, allow them to do this and to mix only when they are ready.
- Offer cuddles and reassurance if the child becomes distressed; remember to allow the child to take the lead on this level and never force a child to sit with you and be cuddled if they do not want to do so.
- Offer simple, straightforward activities immediately after their parent has left to take their mind off the separation. Ideally you will have discovered what particular activities the child prefers and will be able to offer these. Avoid anything which requires a lot of concentration.
Once a parent has decided they are going, encourage them to do just that! Long, drawn-out goodbyes are not a good idea, and can be stressful for everyone. Encourage the parents to establish a routine for saying goodbye and to stick to it. Children may become very upset if the departure is delayed and a child who is not crying at the start of the farewell may well be hysterical by the time it has finished! Always encourage the parent to actually say goodbye and kiss the child. Never allow them to sneak off without telling their child they are going. This may result in the child becoming clingy as they will come to expect their parent to disappear. If a child does not understand where their parent has gone they may suffer unnecessary distress and become distrustful.
Below is a routine which you may like to encourage parents to follow when saying goodbye to their child, particularly in the early stages of the placement when the child is still settling into your setting.
- Parent and child arrive at your house.
- Greet both the parent and child warmly as they come in.
- Either you or the parent takes the child’s coat off.
- Ideally, in the case of an older child, you will already have a suitable activity prepared and you should then tell them about it.
- Prior to the child commencing the activity, encourage them to kiss their parent and say goodbye.
- Encourage the parent to tell their child that they are going and that they will be back at lunchtime/teatime etc.
- Allow the parent and child to say goodbye in their own way.
- Parent leaves.
Obviously the above routine will differ if the child is a young baby but, as with an older child, encourage the parents to say goodbye and allow the baby to see them leave rather than them sneaking off.