Nursery World Awards 2021 - Childminding Business of the Year

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Playhood, Crouch End, London

You can download the digital Awards book here

Playhood is a unique Montessori home-based setting with an adjacent co-working space for parents, run by two co-minders, Laura Perfetti and Karen Partridge.

Launched in the height of the pandemic in June 2020 in a period of almost unprecedented parental stress, anxiety and burnout, the setting offers the co-location of work and childcare to enable daily connection between children, parents and educators.

Playhood says it is ‘a petri dish for a post pandemic childminding model; a response to changes demanded by parents and driven by social and environmental drivers’.

With just three members of staff, the setting is small enough to offer a truly personalised, collaborative educational approach. Staff’s close relationships with each child and knowledge of their interests and development informs all decision-making, while vertical grouping creates a family structure where older siblings teach younger and vice versa.

The purpose-designed space caters to the EYFS and Montessori curriculums, providing an enabling environment for independent children. Staff learn alongside children and role model manners and positive behaviour rather than correcting, shaming or dictating.

The door to the classroom is always open, giving outdoor access all day. Each EYFS area has its own shelf and group activities both indoors and outdoors, along with materials for additional Montessori areas. All areas intersect with each other to support social development, motor skills, independence and confidence.

Playfulness is valued across the setting and uninterrupted free-play is prioritised above all else. Staff do not interrupt, only joining in when invited or if an extension is possible.

Children are active, valued and respected members of the community. Discussions are democratic and children often vote on plans such as the day’s cooking activity or play equipment design. Children regularly make requests for activities like litter-picking in the neighbourhood, and know their ideas are regularly actioned and always valued.

Parental involvement is core to Playhood’s offering. As parents work on the same site, there is the opportunity for constant dialogue between them and staff, and they are invited to attend regular workshops on topics ranging from anti-racist parenting to schemas. Daily teacher-parent conversations take place over a coffee, and everyone downs tools to eat a chef-prepared lunch together.

Parents and staff send weekly observations between each other and plan together in three-monthly cycles using shared online mapping tools. Families contribute themes, activities and celebrations important to them, building in cultural and social traditions and topics relevant to each child.

Parents also share their professional skills in fields such as education, strategy and journalism, in order to support the setting’s development. For example, a parent who works as a designer has created a book celebrating the children at Playhood, while another who works as a sustainability consultant is developing a sustainable curriculum. The setting is also hoping to work towards OMEP European Bronze and Silver Awards in sustainable education.

The setting has a partner school in South Africa, where one child’s attendance is fully funded for every child that attends Playhood.

Despite a backdrop of continuous decline, the pandemic has created the conditions for childminding at Playhood to thrive. Parents looking for small, homely settings with accessible gardens and seeking flexibility to suit unpredictable work patterns have found a true home away from home at Playhood.


Julie& Jo’s, Cambridge

Catherine and Laurence, Cambridge


Open to settings where childminders are working with other childminders and/or assistants, including those registered as ‘childcare on domestic premises’

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