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What you might ask a potential childminder

Many parents like the personal care offered by a childminder, whether in their home with a handful of other children, or minded in your own house.

Childminders can, of course, get sick, which means you could get a phone call some morning telling you that they've had to take to their bed. That will never happen with a creche, however your little darling will likely be sent home from creche numerous times in their first year after picking up bugs. If a childminder comes to your home, most will happily care for a sick child as part of their job, which means no interruption to your work schedule.

The guidelines for hiring a childminder are the same whether you plan to drop off your child in their house or expect them to come to your home.


You want to find a friendly, organised, trustworthy individual that your child will feel content and secure with. For this reason personal recommendations are always best. People finish with childminders all the time (changing job, starting maternity leave, child starting school, etc), which means there's often a wonderful and experienced carer out there looking for a new job.

Talk to friends, colleagues and neighbours with younger children. If this yields nothing then check out the childcare ads on www.rollercoaster.ie; www.childminding.ie and www.childcare.ie.

Make a shortlist of local minders and arrange to meet them.

If they'll be looking after your child in their home, ask to visit when they are minding children. This will give you a good sense of how they interact with their charges and whether the other children seem happy and relaxed. You will also be looking at their hygiene, facilities, discipline and security. Finding the right childminder is key to your child's happiness and development, so don't be shy about asking questions. Ask about qualifications, such as first aid and childcare studies, and what motivated them to become a childminder. You also need to establish how many other children they mind and how old they are.

A good childminder will have a routine that encompasses lots of varied activities. Ask them to describe a typical day, and list any outings the children can expect to go on, from the park to the library. Establish how they manage holidays -- both yours and theirs -- and mealtimes. Ask to see a copy of a week's menu, so you can be sure your child will be served healthy and nutritious food.

Before hiring a childminder, watch how they interact with your child. If you're happy then follow up on references. Don't be afraid to ask if the discipline is good, the environment happy and the childminder professional to deal with.

5 essential questions:

>Can I see the playroom, sleep room and outdoors play space?

>Are you fully insured to mind children, both in the home and on outings?

>What do you consider unacceptable behaviour, and how do you deal with it?

>What would you do in an emergency involving yourself or one of the children?

>Are you Garda vetted? (It's free and a legal requirement for those minding four or more.)