By Little Chickens Childminding
I’m a childminder who works by herself, and after 10 years of childminding I had lost the joy in my job. My setting was full of all the usual colourful plastic, noisy light-up toys, separate baby toys and preschool toys all designed with one purpose in mind, colourful displays on the walls with the children’s identical craftwork. Outside was set-up with more laminated displays, and bright toys - the nursery look that seemed to be expected. I was feeling claustrophobic and overwhelmed with it all, the children weren’t even engaging with anything and were flittering between toys, not interested in the carefully laid out tuff trays. there would be a chaotic ‘mess’ at the end of the day. I was struggling to switch off when not working, the playroom wasn’t being used by my family, and it had become a separate entity within our home. I was feeling under pressure planning activities - my work, life, and home was completely out of balance, and I wasn’t even finding time to enjoy my hobby of gardening. I needed to make changes to continue in a healthy manner and to not burnout.
I started researching ideas on how to integrate my setting back into my home, to make it all family used space, to make it a calmer place while working for me as well as my mindees who had their own busy family life. Importantly I sought to rediscover the love, I had when I first started childminding. I also needed to reconnect with nature, the outside and some how bring it into the everyday, to help the children’s and my health and well-being. I made a start on decluttering, removing resources that were weren’t open ended and restricted to ages. I discovered loose parts and ethical resources that could be adapted to all ages and abilities, and would meet the children’s curiosity. I undertook my CCLD level 3 course, and during that discovered the Reggio Approach which inspired me to make changes to my setting connected to that. I was particularly keen after discovering how popular the loose parts and a tinker tray were, and watching the mindees free to explore them. The idea of a child-led activities and in the moment planning that could potentially reduce planning paperwork sounded wonderful.
I was stuck though knowing where to go next, and that’s when I discovered Hygge in the Early Years Accreditation. During the course I’ve continued to add natural resources and charity shop finds which all ages have the chance to independently explore due to room re-arrangement and less clutter. Although I change resources around with the seasons, the same basic resources are there for the children to repetitively access. I’ve changed my lighting, not just using the bright ceiling light but introduced gentle light in different areas which along with comfy cushions, giving children the opportunity to separate themselves and have a moment of calm. I have added an essential oil diffuser to add the health benefits of aromatherapy.
I have noticed the children are much more engrossed in their play as they have time to just explore their curiosity instead of me rushing them to do a planned activity that ticks the box for their next steps. They interact with each other beautifully being caring to each other and have close bonds, there’s also less arguing about who plays with one particular toy.
We also spend more time outside, I take mindees out for local forest walks as we don’t go to playgroups but we meet other childminders while walking. The mindees love visiting places they recognise seeing the changes through the seasons, and especially love finding treasures to bring back to either display, explore, or take home.
The biggest change outside in my setting is the addition of a garden room ‘The Nook’ that I was lucky to purchase via a grant. This has allowed me to create an indoor/outdoor space giving the children free access to the garden, gain a connection to nature, plus the experience of playing outside in all weathers but with a space to retreat to. A space to nap, play or to just daydream. Listen to the wind, and birds singing. My garden is very wildlife friendly, and full with a variety of flowers, herbs, fruit and vegetables – some the children have sown and planted themselves. The garden’s contents are picked by the children to use during their play, making potions, to eat and use as loose parts.
After making changes my home feels reconnected. It’s still not perfect but I’m going to continue working on that, there’s a greater sense of calm as a family, I’m happier and not stressing about things I think I should be doing, and have more family and hobby time.
I’ve had new starters settle in calmly a noticeable improvement on previous experiences. Mindees are much more engrossed in their play as they have time to just ‘be’ and explore instead of me stopping their play previously to complete the next activity I had planned out just to tick off their next steps. I’ve taken a while to get the written side of this course done as I am very much a procrastinator when it comes to the written word, but I have found alot of joy putting the changes into practice, and even my husband has commented on how lovely and calming the playroom is. I’m really proud of what I have achieved my mind feels free and doesn’t have the nagging voice telling me I need to be doing more paperwork. I’m going to keep adding to my knowledge learning both from my mindees and future courses. I’m also going to keep reassessing every month I make additional changes. The decluttering is continuing throughout my house my own family are taking on the Hygge way too, especially helpful with teenagers and their mental well-being. Most importantly, I have completed a unique and lovely setting that I love, and I will be heading towards my next inspection a lot more confident that I am doing the very best for my mindees.