Tucked away in a cul-de-sac, not far from the hustle and bustle of busy roads, noisy cars and large tree lined streets, is a place named Happy House. Perhaps I passed many happy homes as I made my way here, but perhaps it’s rare, if not impossible to find a happy house quite like this one.
This Happy House is quite remarkable, for inside this home and its trinket lined tables, shelves, nooks and crannies, is not just room for the family that rest their heads and sleep here each night. It’s a house full of wonder and magic for other families – children and babies too.
Happy House belongs to Jenny – childminder, trinket keeper, charity shop shopper and elephant collector extraordinaire. The walls of this house have expanded over the twenty years that Jenny has cared for and welcomed children into her home and when you step into the garden you feel the magic from every corner of the garden, from the fairies hiding away beneath the trees in secret-yet-to-be discovered places, to the beach hut, sea shell lined spaces with sand, twigs and objects to tinker, touch and test. A gazebo filled with hay bales, grass and small toy animals waiting to be explored and all of this before you reach the house at the bottom of the garden.
Opening the door to enter this space is as exciting for me as it must be for the little ones that have the pleasure to come here each day! Stepping inside it’s like a treasure trove – you can hear the water feature as it trickles down the pebbles and adds to the sense of peace, calm and possibility. Jenny’s special charity shop collections are carefully organised and arranged on shelves, tables and draws are filled with fascinating objects and provocations waiting for little hands and fingers to explore. From small decorated baby discovery tins filled with treasures to the delightful leather suitcases all containing so much possibility to tinker and treasure, to hope and to wonder, to allow curiosity to ignite and be adored.
When I was a child I was cared for by a childminder, my own mother became a childminder and I spent my teenage years helping my mom care and entertain little ones. Our house was always busy, there was always a den to hide in, a book to read, a little hand to hold. You could say I have a soft spot for childminders and the upmost repect for the work they do. When my own daughter was born perhaps it’s no surprise I began childminding myself, I cherished the time I spent at home with Evie but was it exhausting! If you think going to work in a nursery or preschool is depleting then imagine opening your doors and doing it at home – you give so much – you open your heart, your home and give your all. I take my hat off to special people like Jenny who have cared for children and families in their own happy houses for so many years. When Evie started school, it was time for me to return to work and Evie was cared for by the same childminder that looked after me so many (many) years ago when I was a child. Christine opened her heart and cared for Evie like she was her own and I never ever felt bad or guilty for going off to work to care for other people’s children while Evie was there.
Sadly, the number of childminders within the UK continue to decline. Like so many other Early Years settings, funding challenges have made it sometimes impossible for some Childminders to continue, the pressures and talk of forced childminding agencies to regulate and manage is one step too far for some.
All I know and believe to be true is that as parents we want options, choices and the ability to pick and choose where our little ones can grow, flourish and learn. This means we that we should cherish and celebrate the special talents and skills of childminders, who open their homes and hearts to care for children and provide a vital and much valued childcare option for working parents and places like this Happy Home and Jenny’s unique approach that celebrates curiosity should be treasured and celebrated.
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