So, you need to find a complete stranger to come into your house and be solely responsible for your children while you’re not there. Scary stuff. Looking for a childminder (or nanny to use the more correct term) can be a very daunting challenge.
When I was starting to think about this, a good and wise friend met me for coffee to pass on tips that she had picked up through her own search.
So below I’ll try to pay it forward by listing these tips, along with my own learnings from my mistakes…
1. Where to search for childminders
Personal recommendations are great, and there is nothing more secure than knowing you’re hiring someone with whom a friend has had a good experience. However in reality, most people don’t have a friend who just happens to be finishing up with a childminder at just the right time, so don’t despair if this source doesn’t work out. Nevertheless, do ask around:
- Real-life friends
- Online friends (I was recommended my childminder in response to a post on Facebook)
- Other parents at the school gates
- Work colleagues
- Childminders of friends (not to poach them! to ask if they have friends who are looking for work)
Websites are a fantastic resource for childcare; post an ad for free on one or all of the following sites, or just have a read through the people who are advertising their services.
2. Advertising for a childminder online
If you’re posting an ad, make sure to include your most important requirements close to the top – it sounds obvious, but it’s something we didn’t get right at first:
We needed someone who would drive our car to bring the kids to school, so the prospective childminder would have to have a full driver’s licence. We put this in the ad but not in any particularly prominent way, resulting in not one, not two but three face to face interviews here in our house with people who we eventually discovered did not drive at all.
As a parent of small kids, you already have no time for ANYTHING EVER, so doing interviews with people who will never meet your basic requirements is a soul-destroying waste of time.
So think about the key points to include in your ad:
- Hours/ days of work (full time/ part-time)
- Your location
- Number of children, ages of children, mention if they’re in school
- General idea of what is expected (school runs, meal preparation, after-school activities…)
- Driver’s license/ car if this is a requirement
- Language requirement
- Experience: if you need someone who has experience here in Ireland, mention this,
Do ask for a CV!
3. Phone-screening your applicants
Logically, you need someone who can speak the same language as you and your kids do, to a good standard. You need to be able to communicate what you need done, and very importantly the kids need to feel that they’re being understood when they talk to their childminder. So do specify this in your ad, and do screen by phone before doing face-to-face interviews.
At least you can assess for yourself if the candidate speaks English or whichever language you need to a level that you’re happy with. Bear in mind that a phone interview is more difficult than a face-to-face meeting for the prospective childminder, so don’t write people off too quickly.
Phone-screening is also a way of double-checking key criteria, such as a driver’s licence in our case (we eventually figured this out…)
4. Meeting the kids
There’s an argument for meeting the candidate somewhere other than your house, partly because if it’s not going well, it’s easier to finish it up.
However, I felt that I wanted the applicants to meet my kids so that I could see how they interacted with them.
Again, don’t judge too harshly – it’s a stressful context for the prospective childminder. But it’s a good way to differentiate between those who have a natural ease with children and those who don’t.
5. Interviewing your (potential) childminder
Be upfront about what you need in terms of all of the following:
- Hours of work and requirement for flexibility – will you sometimes be late home from work?
- Babysitting / overnight work – do you need this?
- Activities – what kind of activities would you like your childminder to do with your kids – baking, arts & crafts, taking them to playgrounds and playdates?
- Cooking – if you need this, ask if the candidate can cook, and what kind of meals they’ve made in the past for children
- Housework – do you expect your childminder to do some housework? See point 7 below
6. Qualifications & Experience
Do you want someone with formal childcare qualifications?
Would you like if the person had looked after children here in Ireland or does that matter?
Should your childminder have had first aid training?
Are you happy to consider those with creche/ Montessori experience?
Consider how you feel about all of the above, but perhaps don’t rule candidates out unless you feel very strongly about your requirement for a particular qualification.
7. The housework question
My feeling is that if you want someone to carefully look after, educate, interact with, stimulate, entertain, and form a bond with your kids, it doesn’t make sense to throw a lot of housework in the mix – it will just pull the childminder away from the core job of being there for your kids when you can’t be.
But it’s fairly standard for childminders to look after child-related housework:
- Meals and clearing up after meals
- Helping kids to tidy up toys
- Keeping kids’ bedrooms tidy
- Children’s laundry is also an option
8. The serious stuff
If you hire someone to work in your own home, you are obliged to register with Revenue and pay PRSI – this is one reason why many people opt to send their children to a childminder outside the home (in this case, the minder is not your employee therefore you have no tax obligations).
9. The nice stuff
If you get the right person, this can be the start of a wonderful experience for you and your children. We’ve been lucky – we had some teething problems (see more here and here) but now we’ve reached a point where it’s all working really well.
My kids don’t have to rush out of the house in the morning at the same time as we go to work – they have breakfast at home and the childminder takes them to school and pre-school.
They spend the afternoon in the familiar surroundings of our house and garden, they can have playdates and do after-school activities, my daughter does her homework in our kitchen.
And when we come home, they’ve had dinner, my lovely childminder has cleaned up, and there’s always plenty left over for the two of us. Actually I think not having to cook after work might just be the best bit….
Sample Interview Questions:
For a printable set of questions to ask when interviewing childminders, click here: Office Mum Nanny Interview Questions
Good luck with your search!
*Childminder technically means someone who minds children in their home, whereas if you hire someone to come and work in your home, the term is nanny. However because most people use “Childminder” to mean both, this is the term I used in the post.