Starting your own daycare center can be both exciting and daunting. Many of those who choose to pursue this step in their career do so out of passion for helping children develop and reach their full potential.
While passion and child care experience are musts when opening a daycare, it cannot be overlooked that child care and daycare centers need a solid business plan. Therefore, the opening of your daycare center must be approached with a careful strategy in place to ensure success in the early make or break years. This combination of a clear mission and a carefully constructed business plan will greatly increase the success of your child care business.
At Procare, we want to encourage and enable child care professionals with all of the tools they need to enrich the lives of their students. That is why we have created this outline of important business needs to consider when starting a daycare center. The following information will provide aspiring daycare owners with direction throughout this challenging process.
The “Why” Behind Opening Your Daycare Center
Starting a business, especially one as demanding as child care, is a huge time and financial commitment. It’s a good idea to examine the reasons driving your decision to open a daycare center, or “your big why.” Make sure you have a clear understanding of the time you will be required to devote before and after opening.
You should also consider your previous child care experience. If you have been in this field for years and know it is what you want, then you can move on to the business planning stage. However, if you have relatively little experience in the field, it might be prudent to gain more experience at an independently owned center or even franchise. Think about why you want to open a daycare and the specific attributes that make you uniquely qualified for this filed.
Assessing Your Market
Once you are committed to opening your own daycare center, you will have to do research to determine how competitive a marketplace your community currently is, and how sustainable an environment it will be for your business in the future.
First, are there already daycare centers open in your community? If so, you will want to look at things like:
- What kind of center are they?
- What age groups do they accept?
- Where are they located?
Another good indicator of the need in your community is whether these child care centers have waiting lists. This information can help you determine if there is enough demand in your community to open you center there.
Another research strategy is to look at the current demographics in your neighborhood. If there are a lot of young families or newlyweds, this indicates that there will continue to be a need for your services in the future.
Differentiating Your Daycare Center
Once you are familiar with the current child care landscape in your community, you have to think about how you will differentiate your program to fill a need not currently being addressed.
Look at the hours of operations for the other centers in your community. Perhaps there is a timeframe early in the morning or late in the evening during which these centers are not open. Filling this need could make your center a valuable resource for parents.
Additionally, if there is an age group that is not being served, such as daycare for infants (newborns to a year) or after school programs, your center could establish a foothold by filling these needs.
Bonus Tip: Talk to parents in your community to find out what they need most from a daycare, and aim to address these needs at your center.
Once you have done this initial research into whether your daycare business will be viable in your community, you have to begin compiling a comprehensive business plan that maps out your objectives and the strategies by which you will bring them about.
Child Care Center Business Plan Checklist
Here’s a checklist recapping some essential steps of putting together your child care business plan:
- Competitor matrix
- Financial Planning: Funding and budgeting
- Location of your business
- Staffing needs
- Licensing requirements
- Materials, equipment, and program agenda
Bonus Tip: As you go through creating your business plan, it is a good idea to mark down important deadlines and milestones on a calendar. This will ensure you have an accurate timeline for how long planning and preparations will take, and a strong estimate for when your business will be able to open.
There are many legal regulations to consider when opening your center. License requirements are typically determined by states, and therefore will vary based upon where you live. You will have to make sure your business is in compliance with these regulations by acquiring the proper licenses. Child Care Aware offers a licensing resource that directs you to the proper licensing authorities by state.
It is important to note that child care licenses and business licenses are not the same. You will likely have to acquire separate business licenses and child care licenses to legally operate your business.
Starting a business is financially demanding. For your endeavor to be successful, it is essential that you accurately assess how much it will cost for you to open the center, determine where that money will come from, and then budget and plan to ensure your financial structure will sustain your business as it gets off the ground.
During this process, you should consider initial expenses, and how much it will cost to run your business on an annual and monthly basis. Consider how much you will pay your daycare staff, what your tuition structure will be for parents, how late fees will factor in, and how much property rent / cost is in your community.
Potential Costs of Opening a Daycare Center
A few examples of the costs associated with opening a daycare center are:
- Property renovations
It is important that you don’t begin the business process until you know how it will be paid for. This is money can be accrued from a variety of sources including your personal savings, loans from friends, loans from the bank, government programs, or grants.
It is important that you keep track of your expenses and cash flow for multiple reasons. First, it will help you to track and pay back any loans in accordance with the agreement you made with the lending party.
Second, tracking cash flow ensures that you don’t overspend, or create a payment structure that will jeopardize the financial stability of your business on a month-to-month basis.
To be aware of when money comes into and leaves your center monthly, you should be tracking: the number of tuition payments you get per month, how many times a month your center pays employees, how many enrolled children you are permitted to have, and how many of those slots will be filled.
Bonus Tip: Doing these calculations by hand leaves room for error, so we recommend a child care accounting solution that will track financial information for the center and the families you serve, as well as tracking bookkeeping, tuition payments, and cash flow.
Choosing a Location
The first thing to determine when choosing a location for your daycare center is if you want to run the center from your own home, or in a commercial space. This will affect your expenses and licensing requirements.
The location of your daycare center will be subject to many licensing regulations, including building safety, zoning, physical space requirements, emergency preparedness, and more. Many of these are to ensure that the environment in which you run you center is healthy and secure. This includes things like proper waste removal and having fire alarms.
Two important location licensing requirements to keep in mind are zoning and physical space requirements. Zoning refers to a permit from the proper authority that allows you to run a business, or be zoned for business. The physical space regulation refers to the requirement that child care centers must have 25 square feet available per student. Therefore, you have to keep in mind that the size of your space will determine how many students are allowed to enroll.
For parents to feel comfortable leaving their children at your center and confident that they will get the developmental stimulation they need, you staff has to be well trained and experienced. Additionally, you must have enough instructors to provide quality group and individual care, as well as meet ratio requirements.
When hiring staff for your center there are three key features to keep in mind:
- The student-to-teacher ratio
- Licensing requirements
The student-to-teacher ratio refers to the number of instructors that must be present based on the number of and age of the students. The National Association for the Education of Young Children provides recommended ratios based on age and group sizes.
Staff Licensing Requirements
Professional certification requirements and licenses vary by state; however, child care providers are often expected to have a high school degree or secondary degree. Common certification requirements are the Child Care Professional certification and the Child Development Associate certification. These require a certain number of hours of experience in different child care fields.
You should also make sure that your staff has training in safety courses such as CPR and first aid, as well as how to asses and document child development to report to parents. Child care instructors can provide important information to parents about where their children are developmentally, and where they may need individualized attention. That is why it is important to have reporting and parent engagement processes defined at your center, to simplify communication between caretakers and parents.
Bonus Tip: The interview and review process to find the perfect candidates for your center can be time consuming, so you will want to start the hiring process at least two months prior to the opening of your center.
With financing, licensing, location, and staffing researched and prepared, you are almost ready to open your child care center. Final steps will be getting the necessary equipment and supplies, and setting an agenda for your daycare programs. You will need kid sized tables, furniture, and cots, as well as toys, crafts, and games. You will also need cleaning and administrative supplies.
When setting the agenda for your program you will want to establish routine daycare schedules for each age group. These schedules should incorporate activities that promote early child care development in major areas such as cognitive, emotional, and physical development.
As you get to know your students better, you will be able to cater the activities and learning programs to their specific interests.
The processes and planning that go into starting a daycare center can be overwhelming. However, with a defined mission and strategic business plan in place, it can be a successful and worthwhile endeavor. Following the guidelines above will give you the structure you need to build a thriving daycare center with an environment that fosters healthy, happy kids.
Looking for ways to automate and organize administrative and business functions at your daycare center? Learn how Procare can help!
Want more tips and resources to help start your daycare center? Check out these related articles:
Creating and adhering to a consistent daycare schedule is essential to running a successful child care center. This is important for both staff and children for four key reasons. First, these schedules ensure the necessary staff is available to provide group supervision and individualized care. They also establish daily routines for young children, and help to build trust between each child and their caregiver. Finally, consistent daycare schedules make it easier to clearly monitor and encourage child development.
The Importance of a Consistent Daycare Schedule
From a staffing perspective, having a consistent daycare schedule in place ensures that each team member understands what resources will be required for the day. It’s essential to know which activities are planned for each age group, how much supervision is required, and if any children require individualized care. This will ensure there are enough staff members to meet required child-to-staff ratios, and provide quality care.
Aside from simplifying operations from an administrative perspective, following a daycare schedule is necessary to establish order in children’s lives. Parents and caregivers should establish this regularity as early on as possible. These routines remove unknowns from children’s daily lives that cause undue stress. A reliable daycare schedule helps to regulate behavior, as children know what to expect at each part of the day. This understanding and consistency makes kids more confident and bold in pursuing their interests. Schedules also help children build an understanding of patterns.
Furthermore, being provided for regularly will build an essential trust between the child and their caregiver. Following routines ensures that children know their caregiver will be there to address any needs that arise. This knowledge fosters stability and builds the comfort level the child feels toward their environment.
Finally, a regular daycare schedule makes it easier to encourage and monitor each child’s development in critical areas, namely: emotional, social, language, cognitive, physical, and motor skill development. A defined schedule helps instructors incorporate activities and exercises to foster this early development. Instructors can then coordinate with student’s parents for the best course of action based upon their developmental progress.
With these benefits in mind, we’ve built out some examples of daily daycare schedules for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, to help daycare owners build quality programs.
Infants are typically categorized as newborns to one year old. A little more flexibility is needed within infant daycare scheduling, as it will largely be based around their biological schedule of when they need to eat and sleep.
Toddler Daily Schedule
Toddlers typically range from ages one to three years old. As toddlers may be new to daycare environments, it is a good idea to encourage parents to incorporate some of this routine into their kid’s daily lives at home as well. This will establish normalcy and make sure their kids do not feel overwhelmed by the change in routine.
Preschool aged children typically range from three to five years old. As you get to know your preschoolers’ interests and personalities better, it is a good idea to plan some activities or projects that encourage and stimulate kid’s individual interests.
When it comes to running a daycare center, consistency is key. Having an established schedule that addresses major developmental goals, even if the specific activities vary day-to-day, allows for the highest quality care. Also, having a consistent routine allows instructors to monitor each child’s progress, and coordinate with parents on daily care plans.
Procare’s Family Data solution assists daycare providers on a daily basis, acting as a central hub for important student information, and student and teacher scheduling. Within Family Data, instructors can monitor each students schedule, ensure proper student-to teacher ratios, and account for any individualized attention a student requires within their day.
Additionally, by incorporating KidReports classroom management and parent engagement, parents and caregivers can communicate with each other directly every day to give daily reports on daycare activities and schedules, as well as to share pictures, and more.
Having a daily routine can foster comfort, trust, and confidence in young children, while developing their core physical and cognitive skills. By building out daily, age appropriate schedules, daycare providers not only simplify their administrative and staffing tasks, they also ensure happy, healthy children, and engaged parents.
Looking for more information on how to simplify your daily daycare schedules? See how Procare can help.
After school programs are more than just a resource for busy parents who need extra child supervision later in the day. They are another way for children to socialize with their peers, learn new skills, and gain new experiences. When selecting an after school program in which to enroll their child, parents look for a well-organized, well-staffed program that offers a slew of activities that are both fun and foster early child care development.
Key Challenges of After School Programs
Delivering high-quality after school program activities is often easier said than done. If program directors add multiple new activities without consulting enrollment numbers, available staff, or additional necessary resources, they risk being over / understaffed or spending money on programs that parents don’t want.
Even with a well-assigned staff and high enrollment, there are still many organizational and administrative factors that have to be considered before the fun can start. These include:
- Enrollment forms that inform instructors on each child’s health or specific needs must be submitted.
- Schedules for children and staff have to be created and updated.
- Attendance must be tracked and promptly reimbursed in order to ensure regular cash flow.
Moreover, after this is all taken care of, instructors should keep track of recurring trends and the overall efficiency of their after school program management plan, and make adjustments accordingly.
These back-office functions are incredibly time-consuming, especially when you have to be looking after a large group of active children. After school program management software is necessary to complete these tasks in an efficient and detailed way, ensuring a high-quality after school program that parents trust.
How After School Program Management Software Supports Your Activity Offerings
With after school program management software, you can automatically complete and track administrative tasks to see where you have the time and resources to add more activities to your program. The right after school program management software should address a few key functions: attendance tracking, scheduling, registration, and billing, to streamline your back-office functions. This also gives instructors and parents a central information hub that they can update and get alerts from in real-time.
Using a software solution will help to organize the activities you offer, or want to offer, at your after school program in two key ways.
First, it will ensure that for each activity you offer at your program, you have all of the necessary forms, meet staffing requirements, and have an updated roster of children who are participating.
Second, the solution will show you trends in the types of activities that get the most sign-ups, allowing you to make informed decisions on the kinds of experiences you should add to your program that parents are interested in. You will also better understand how much it costs to add another activity based on staffing and supply costs, and how much money you have coming in.
Key Features & Benefits of After School Program Management Software
Here are some of the key benefits and features after school program management software offers:
Before the first day of your after school program, you have to collect all pertinent personal information about students and their families, such as information on allergies, or emergency contacts. This information has to be updated and available even when offsite.
Procare’s Family Data module provides standard child care forms that are easily available and printable to track child and parent information at a moment’s notice. Instructors can also create their own custom forms and permission slips to easily email or print and distribute to parents. This ensures that no matter the activity, or where it takes place, instructors have all of the necessary permissions and are alerted if a form is out of date.
Attendance & Scheduling
Incorporating an Attendance Tracking feature into your after school program management software allows you to record the hours each child spends in your care. Tracking each child’s hours based on digital check-in and check-out cards allows you to accurately bill parents on attendance-based fees.
Additionally, you can track and account for extra days, late pick-ups, and overtime. The attendance tracker simplifies communication by enabling after school program instructors to send messages to parents, as well as allows parents to view their child’s schedule and account balance.
By adding the Employee Data module to attendance tracking, you are also able to view staffing and attendance trends and keep track of student to teacher ratios, allowing you to adjust your scheduling plans accordingly to any missed opportunities.
Finally, monitoring children live at check-in and checkout also adds a level of security to your program, as there are controls to ensure only authorized guardians are dropping children off and picking them up.
By tracking employee hours and attendance, you have a better understanding of the resources you need to run your program, and are better equipped to bill for the actual number of hours spent caring for each child. This also gives you a better idea of how to allocate resources for future scheduling of activities.
A standardized billing process ensures parents are aware of their account balance and history, and assists in collecting payments on time. Family Accounting software simplifies your program’s bookkeeping tasks. This solution automatically records financial reports and histories, allows instructors to track deposits, and prints receipts for parent’s tax purposes. Additionally, within the Family Accounting platform, you can track charges, set up recurring fees, and automate billing in conjunction with the number of hours recorded by Attendance Tracking.
To further simplify billing for your program and for parents, you can incorporate Tuition Express to the family accounting module. This gives parents and easy way to automatically pay their bill online and on time, every billing cycle. This is convenient for parents, and ensures a steady cash flow for after school programs to pay for supplies and pay roll.
Billing is one of the clearest benefits of after school program management software. Without a solid structure in place to make sure you are receiving payments on time consistently, it will be impossible to improve your program with new activity offerings.
Parents’ expectations of a high-quality after school program have shifted to include a myriad of activities and learning experiences. While after school caregivers are eager to provide their students with these abilities, it’s essential that there are enough students enrolled to fill the programs and enough staff to supervise them. You also must confirm there is a strong billing structure in place to have regular cash flow to pay for supplies and space.
Ensuring all of these tasks are managed and updated on a regular basis can result in hours of extra work. But, using after school program management software brings automation and organization to your processes, so your students and their families have the best possible experience.
Are you interested streamlining your after school program with a management software? Learn more about how Procare can help.
It is a common practice in many countries for parents to enroll their young children in early education programs. There are many factors that motivate parents to leave their children in the care of education professionals for a portion of the day outside of school hours. A common reason for this is scheduling. If both parents work, it can be hard to provide the stimulating, nurturing environment children require. This is one way after school programs can be a valuable resource to parents.
While it is, of course, important for parents to know their children are safe and being cared for while they are occupied, this is not the only reason they will enroll their kids an after school program. These programs offer active, social environments that can greatly benefit early child development.
Parents expect after school programs will offer a curriculum of activities that promote early child care development to keep their children on track, and developing at the right pace for their age. In order to create an after school program that incorporates all of these important elements, providers must understand what early child care development is, and why it is important.
In this post, we’ll clarify exactly what we mean by early child care development, explain why it’s important, and provide some ideas and activities for provider to more successfully promote it.
What Is Early Child Care Development?
Early child care development is the educational foundation children receive between birth and eight years old, which can have a lasting impact on their performance in school and professionally for years to come. These programs give children the opportunity to develop greater social and cognitive skills among other children and adults. Successful programs promote emotional, linguistic, cognitive, physical, and motor development.
Why Is Early Child Care Development Important?
Early development initiatives make for happier, healthier children who are better equipped to have success in their education, professions, and relationships.
Over one million neural connections are formed every second in the first few years of a child’s life. Social and emotional abilities developed through the activities and interactions experienced in early education assist in the formation and development of cognitive skills. This lays the groundwork for further brain development moving forward.
Early child development initiatives are also important because experienced childcare professionals are able to closely monitor their students to ensure they are developing at the proper pace. If it appears that a student is not learning or moving at the same rate as their classmates, instructors can coordinate with parents to give the student individualized attention in that specific area.
Seeing each child interact with their peers gives early educators a unique perspective for how to best monitor and enhance their development.
10 After School Program Activities to Promote Early Child Development
To ensure children get the most out of after school programs, the activities offered should facilitate their development in one or more of the fundamental areas previously mentioned (emotional, linguistic, cognitive, physical, and motor development).
We’ve outlined ten ideas and the specific developmental functions they augment to help busy childcare providers better manage after school programs. With this information, early educators can ensure the highest quality care, as well as happier, healthier kids.
Emotional and Social Development
These areas of child care development require children to learn impulse control, form positive relationships with kids and adults, and how to articulate and respond to their emotions and the emotions of others.
1. Mood Charades: This is a fun, active way to teach kids what different emotions are, and how they are often physically expressed. Write out different emotions so that each student gets the chance to act out one or more emotion. A few examples are hopeful, confident, nervous, etc. Have kids raise their hands when they have a guess as an additional way to incorporate impulse control.
2. Inside Out: The recent movie Inside Out is a valuable resource for educators to teach children about emotions, impulse control, and social cues. Watch the movie with your class and come up with discussion questions using the characters and their actions for examples to help kids understand how they should respond in similar situations.
Language Skills Development
These skills help kids understand how to communicate with others by recognizing what words mean, articulate thoughts, and understand communication and direction from others.
3. Perform Skits: Acting out everyday scenarios using descriptive language and talking through each action you are performing can help students learn normal conversation patterns and social cues in everyday situations. For example, have a “dinner” or go on a picnic. While sitting around the table or have the kids describe their favorite and least favorite things to eat.
4. Guessing Games: Being descriptive can help kids better understand the meaning behind speech. Put students in pairs and give them an object, scene, or person to describe and have the other students guess until they get it correct.
Cognitive Skills Development
Cognitive skills help kids to reason, focus their attention on a task, and remember past activities.
5. One of These Things is Not Like the Other: Dolphin, Whale, Crab, Cow. These kinds of games help kids discern patterns and understand how things associate. Bring in props, like stuffed animals to give visual examples. Then have students explain their reasoning behind their choice. Cows are not aquatic, so they are not like the other.
6. Hide and Seek, Simon Says: These games help kids develop their problem-solving skill, in addition to expanding their attention spans and focus, as they concentrate on the rule of the game and completing a specific task.
This refers to developing the large muscle groups that allow children to perform large physical movements, like walking down stairs, or running.
7. Races: Have students compete is small races doing different movements such as hopping, skipping, or jumping to a certain point. These different types of movements will improve their balance and coordination.
8. Freeze Dance: Put on a song for the students to dance to. When the music stops, they have to freeze and be perfectly still. This is a fun and active way to improve balance.
Motor Skill Development
Motor skill development refers to the smaller, more detail-oriented tasks done with your hands, such as writing, or tying a shoe.
9. Art Projects: Doing art projects like drawing with chalk, sculpting something out of Play-Doh, or cutting out shapes with scissors is a good way to strengthen kid’s hands and fingers, and make them more self-sufficient when performing smaller, more delicate tasks.
10. Building Blocks: Another way to facilitate the development of fine motor skills is building with smaller blocks or Legos. Give kids a specific design or shape to make and have them build it by piecing together each properly shaped block.
When parents enroll their children in after school programs, they trust that a professional staff is giving them the mental and physical stimulation they need. Because of the lasting impact early experiences have on children, it is important that the curriculum of these programs is designed to foster and monitor early development to ensure children are on the right track. By following these examples and targeting these areas of development, childcare providers ensure a fun curriculum that will make their students happy and healthy.
Looking to simplify your after school program operations? Learn how Procare can help with everything from enrollment and scheduling to payments, billing, and more.
All of us here at Procare would like to personally thank you for making the noble and selfless decision to teach and nurture today’s youth. We honor your dedication and acknowledge the long hours and sacrifices you make to ensure top-level care and education of the children.
Keep on being a superstar—working for what’s important—the children.
You are greatly appreciated!
Your friends at Procare Software