|Flat Head Syndrome|
|After the Birth|
|Cows Milk Allergy|
|Stillbirth And Neonatal Death|
|Food Glorious Food|
|Health and Illness|
|Money, Money, Money|
|Twins and Multiples|
|Hair and Beauty|
|8 Out Of 10 Mums Say|
Mark Harding and his wife Debbie, with help from their childminding assistant look after 16 children at different times throughout the week.
"I first met Debbie in 1995 when she used to run a small business with a children's play gym and disco parties for kids. I started helping her with the gym and the discos and found I really enjoyed working with young children. That's how we got together. We married in 1997 and started our own family and in 2001 we moved to a farm in Devon."
"Before I met Debbie I used to live in Horsham and then Dunsfold in West Sussex. I worked as a hydraulics design engineer for agricultural vehicles cutting lettuce and spinach(!) I've always been involved in agricultural things. When we moved to Devon I used to divide my time working in Cambridge for 4 weeks at a time doing the hydraulics job and then helping out with the farm the rest of the time. Then we just started looking after a couple of children here and there and it's just snowballed.
Both Debbie and I are constantly training and updating our skills so that we can provide the best possible service. At the moment we have a child who has difficulty with language. She was born and brought up in a French community with parents who spoke no French. She has very little language skills, but we are getting through that with her, and her parents are very pleased with the progress we are making.
Our parents find our services very reasonable. When they come to visit us and see the facilities we offer, the training and our professionalism, they feel it is great value for money! They like the fact that we are a husband and wife team who work together as it feels like one big happy family!
We are also involved with our Forest School- an after school-club. The local schools have welcomed it and we recently held a Forest School taster day. Forest School is about teaching children outside by allowing the children to follow their own instincts. A Forest School leader supervises the children, making sure they are safe and offering suitable advice, equipment/materials and training/guidance. A letter went to all the local schools, which they happily gave to pupils. There is space for 12 children and this is already over subscribed.
The children's ages range from 5 to 11 years, with two of us running the course. Activities may include making a bridge to cross a small stream, building a camp and a fire and learning about the environment/animals which the children love. We've been given 100 rooted trees by the North Devon Coast & Countryside Service, which we can use for a Forest School type activity.
I want the kids to have fun together! If they have fun then so will we. We 've both been through Forest School training and Debbie has been part of the Scout movement, so we 're dab hands at the outdoor play ideas."
When asked about being a male childminder, Mark said
"I don't really think about it to be honest. It's a business that Debbie and I run and we really enjoy our work. It doesn't make a difference as far as our parents are concerned either."
Theresa Counsell is just one of those parents.
Theresa has three children, two of whom have been cared for by Mark and Debbie. Her youngest child is 4 and her eldest, now at school is five and a half.
"I really didn't think about whether Mark was a male childminder or not. Mark and Debbie were just there and a big part of our village life. When I took my children to parent and toddler group, Mark was there with some of the children he was caring for and that's how we met.
I wouldn 't have discounted Mark as a male childminder. It doesn 't make any difference to me as long as the children are happy and well cared for. Mark is great with the kids. My eldest child used to be fascinated by Captain Hook and so he used to dress up to make her laugh. He even bought a Captain Hook hat for her birthday which she absolutely loved. At toddler group, you 'll always find Mark under a pile of children! They absolutely love him as he always comes down to their level."
NCMA has produced a film and leaflet to show you the benefits of using home-based childcare. The leaflet and film Home from Home are available from the NCMA website: www.ncma.org.uk