Childminding: A Family Affair

Interview with Nathalie Duffy Saive by Lara Hughes

Nathalie is a busy childminder multitasking the children she minds, her own children and two additional jobs!  She minds five children at different times who are a mix of pre-schoolers and after-schoolers. Nathalie’s mum was a childminder, so she grew up in an open home where she shared everything with the girl her mum minded for 12 years.  The beauty of this lives on – this girl is like a sister to Nathalie today.  It makes is easy to see why she wanted to work as a childminder when she had her own children.  

As a patient and understanding person Nathalie is on good ground to be an excellent childminder.  She loves observing children’s interaction with each other and loves seeing how they learn from each other.  Nathalie claims the secret to her success as a childminder is her organisational skills – she describes herself as ‘super organised’.  She always prepares and sets up the children’s space before they arrive.  The way it is set up depends on which children are coming to her that day.  Often, she will set up on a Sunday with the help of her own children. For example, one boy loves dinosaurs, so they are always in the window waiting for him to come in and play.  Another little boy loves building things so Nathalie will have wooden building blocks from a beautiful old floor, coffee cups, kitchen rolls and previously used Actimel cartons.  He is an engineer in the making!

Nathalie frequently makes a den with the couch, blankets, and fairy lights. Sometimes she will put a surprise in it like a sensory toy with bubbles and fish and just wait for the children to be in awe.  She is making memories for these children!  She also rotates toys to keep things fresh and interesting for the children.

Nathalie’s own children love role playing with the children she minds.  They will set up lots of scenes from movies and books and sometimes they record these too so that Nathalie can share them with parents.  All the children learn from this experience including the older ones – things like sharing, interacting with others and organisation skills.  The younger ones really look up to the older ones and they learn some of the same life skills too.

Last year Nathalie had a snail hotel in her garden and the children loved it.  They kept the snails in it and gave them grass.  Then they would take the snails out and see which one could move the fastest – giving them country names like France and Spain!

Nathalie finds working as a childminder to be a rewarding job and loves the variety of different things every day.  She enjoys being at home with her own children and gets contentment from knowing that she is sharing her home, helping her community, and helping other parents. Childminding also gives her a sense of belonging and she explains that her own children have learned so much too.

Nathalie’s husband and children are a huge support for her with her childminding service, they really are wonders and she would be lost without them.  They are very involved in the day to day running of her service and also help in the background too.  For example, her husband made an outdoor zen area with a hammock and white magnetic board for her mindees, and the children adore this outdoor space.  It’s clear that Nathalie’s childminding service really is a family effort which they all enjoy!

Nathalie’s Tips for Childminders

  • Have clear boundaries – for example in her house the children she minds are not allowed upstairs but everything downstairs is theirs too.
  • If you think you have seen it all, think again! She explains that she will never know it all and says she is still learning.
  • Childminders need to set a good example – she says ‘we are role models’.
  • Send photos every week – parents love to see them and they build trust too.
  • You don’t need expensive toys – stones, shells and cardboard work wonders and provide endless hours of fun!
  • Be open to conversations, don’t be judgemental – there is more than one way to do things.
  • All children are unique and develop at their own pace. Don’t be overly worried if they are not doing things in the expected timeline.
  • As a childminder you are bringing your work to your house and you are giving up some of your home. This means you need your family to be bought in to childminding too.

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