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Checklist: 6 Essential Steps for Starting a Preschool That Parents Will Choose

Put yourself in the parents’ shoes by asking – what would you want from a preschool? Ultimately, the conclusions you reach should drive your strategy for getting your preschool started.

In order to start a preschool and put your business on the path to success, you need to focus on creating a positive experience for everyone involved, including yourself, your staff, the students, and the parents.

Here we have identified 6 essential steps for starting a preschool that parents will choose over other options.

6 Essential Steps for Starting a Preschool

1. Learn the Trade

Child care isn’t an entry-level profession, and parents need to know that they are trusting the development of their child with a licensed professional. For this reason, it’s especially important that you do your research to fully comprehend the industry you are entering.

Understanding the business practices and strategies behind opening and managing a preschool will set you up for success in both the short-term and long-term. It’s a complicated business and spending the time to peel back the layers will be beneficial for your preschool

2. Choose the Right Location

Starting a preschool in an area where there isn’t a need for one can end your venture before it even begins. However, there are a variety of factors to consider other than local demand. 

Parents will look for a preschool that is easily accessible and safe. You should also be aware of state standards for how much space will be needed for the number of children you will have enrolled.

3. Create a Culture of Learning and Growth

Developing a culture that focuses on growth and improvement can become a marketable asset for your preschool from day one. A positive reputation makes word-of-mouth referrals a powerful tool when parents get together and the topic of preschool comes up in conversation.

Regardless of what role you take within your preschool, you represent and embody it’s values and goals starting the moment your doors open. Parents will look to you as the person who sets the tone on a day-to-day basis through your decision-making ability. This includes staffing, structuring, and facility management. 

4. Hire Premier Child Care Professionals

At a minimum, your preschool’s staff must reach the requirements held by the state, and proper screening should be in place. Verify their past and help them build for the future.

The culture in your preschool extends to the type of hires you make. Starting slow and expecting to find your footing in the industry is an easy way to fall behind. Proactively appeasing any concerns from parents and building trust is made easier by employing a capable staff that shares a passion for child care. You need parents to trust you and the talent you have on your team.

5. Open Lines of Communication with Parents

Getting your preschool up and running can be a slow process, but once you get it going your best resource for improvement is the parents. They should be involved in your processes to a certain extent, especially in the early stages.

Field their questions and put the effort into calming their concerns, whatever they might be. Encourage your teachers to do the same. Giving parents the chance to direct your classroom management is not the goal. Instead, absorb their opinion and use it to create the best experience for the children in your classrooms.

6. Build Strong Promotion and Marketing Networks

While getting your preschool up and running it’s important to identify what your strengths are. Preferably, these are tangible benefits that parents experience. Pristine facilities, prime location, or professional staff are just a few examples of what will carry a lot of weight with parents.

Without returning customers and referrals your preschool could flounder. Promotion is necessary and having the awareness of what your most marketable features are will help fulfill parent’s needs.

Final Thoughts

The essential steps that we have outlined above will ease the potential strain of opening any new business. Structuring your preschool appropriately and placing value on the input of parents creates an inclusive environment that, when done properly, helps you hit the ground running.

Looking for ways to simplify preschool administration while you get it off the ground and build it up for the long-haul? Check out Procare’s preschool management software for more information.

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How to Optimize Your Daycare Schedule for Staff, Parents & Children

Daycare centers are nothing without the caring staff that run them. A committed staff of instructors ensures your child care business can thrive, as staffing is of critical importance to daycare owners, parents, and children.

As a business owner, you need these qualified professionals to provide high quality care to the students that attend your center every day, as well as to ensure your center is meeting state licensing requirements for student-teacher ratios.

Staffing is also critical to enrollment, as parents will be assessing the level of care their child can receive, ensuring that staff is qualified and available to provide their child individual attention. Also, children build a trust and relationship with the caregivers they interact with each day, meaning a level of consistency is important.

How to Optimize Your Daycare Schedule

There are a variety of reasons why keeping an organized, informed daycare schedule is integral to the long-term success of a childcare center. As daycare centers plan out staffing schedules to ensure consistent care and sustainable hours for staff, while maintaining a reasonable budget, here are essential tips to consider:

Track Daily Attendance

To ensure your daycare is not spending money unnecessarily, it is important that only the required number of staff is scheduled each day to meet student-teacher ratio requirements. This means that staff will need to have some flexibility, as there may not always be the same number of children in attendance each day.

For the most part, your center will be able to establish its peak hours and schedule staff accordingly. To do this, centers need to keep accurate attendance logs. Each day at check in and check out, have parents record the exact time their child arrived and left. From there, you will be able to determine when you will need to schedule more staff. Make sure to do this for each enrollment cycle, as peak and off hours may shift.

Once these hours are established, try maintain consistency with the day’s and hours you assign to each caregiver. This will help them plan their week, and will ensure they are available when needed. It is also a good idea to have a staff member on standby, in case there is unexpectedly and greater number of students.

Track Employee Hours & Off Time

Of course, there will be time when your staff needs to take time off or is sick. It is important to try to track planned vacations and other employee off time so that schedules can be altered in advance. This will save you from scrambling to find a substitute at the last minute.

Keeping employee records for hours and off time will also help you to accurately calculate payroll.

Centralize Communication

If hours change, someone calls in sick, or more children are dropped off than usual, your center should have a central hub for communication so that all staff remain updated and on the same page. When leaving coverage up to individual staff members, centers risk being understaffed or having too many employees arrive for the shift, which is inconvenient for them and you. Having a central email or central document can ensure this does not happen.

Be Consistent

In addition to providing a more manageable week for your staff, it is important that there is a level of consistency in your scheduling for the children at your center. It is important for children to develop a relationship and comfort with their caregiver. Therefore, centers should try to ensure that the same instructors are paired with the same children each day when able.

Final Thoughts

Having a consistent organized daycare staff schedule is integral to running your business as well as to the happiness of your staff, parents, and children. Following these tips will ensure your center is always properly staffed, meets ratio requirements, and remains within budget.

Learn how Procare can how you track staffing and daycare schedules.  

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 Interested in learning more about managing daycare schedules? Check out these related articles.

 

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Child Care Forms & Other Items You Need for The First Day of School

The first day of a new year or term at your child care center is both exciting and hectic. As a child care provider, chances are that as this day approaches you are busy getting the supplies you need, organizing daily daycare schedules for each class and age group, and coming up with activities that will engage and develop your students.

Daycare Center

However, in addition to these child-focused preparations, there are a lot of logistical tasks that must be taken care of before the children arrive on their first day. When parents drop their children off on their first day at your child care center, they need to be assured that you and your staff are fully prepared to care for their child’s needs, and that they will be secure in your care.

As a result, they are required to fill out multiple child care forms for you and your staff to have on hand. In addition to child care forms, there are multiple personal items that parents should bring on the first day to ensure their child is healthy and comfortable while away from home.

The First Day of School: Child Care Forms & Other Items

Keeping track of all of the forms, information, and additional items that parents need to bring on the first day can be difficult. To make this easier, the Procare team has outlined a list of everything a daycare provider needs before the first day of the school year, including free child care forms and templates for child care providers to download and use.

child care management software

Child Care Registration Forms

This form should include personal and medical information for the child, as well their parent or guardian’s information. Child care providers should give parents plenty of time to fill this out, and arrange any doctor’s visits that might be necessary.

It’s important that the form includes information like the child’s birthday, medical information, and allergies. This ensures that arrangements can be made to accommodate each child’s health needs prior to the first day. For example, if a child has a peanut allergy, you might choose to make your care facility peanut free.

Following information on the student, this form should include the names and contact information, including home, mobile, and work numbers for primary and secondary guardians. Finally, this form will include the best person and number to contact in the event of an emergency, as well as any other people the guardian wants to authorize to pick up their child.

Attendance Tracking Forms

Daycare Bus Run Forms

Child care providers have to know where each student is while in their care. That’s why attendance tracking sheets are necessary to manage each child from the moment they are dropped off in the morning until they are picked up at the end of the night. To account for this, child care providers will need daily sign-in sheets, roll call sheets, and bus run sheets.

Daily sign-in sheets can be filled in each morning by parents as kids are dropped off at school, while roll-call sheets can help you keep track of attendance between activities, such as if your care center has outdoor time during the day.

If your child care program uses a bus or another transportation system to pick up and drop off at the beginning and end of each day, daily bus run sheets can help you and your staff ensure each child is on the correct bus, gets on and off safely, and meets their guardian.

Meal Tracking Sheets  

daycare meal tracking

Child care meal tracking sheets are especially important if your child care center relies on the USDA’s Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) which requires centers to track how many meals are claimed at your centers. Aside from CACFP, tracking the meals each child eats during the day is an important part of reporting to parents at pick up. Tracking what they ate during the day will inform what they are served that night, while helping to notice strange eating patterns that might be indicative of health issues.

As these forms and the information stored on them need to be easily accessible at all times, and often on the go, a child care management software can provide value through offering accessibility and automation.  

Other Items to Suggest for the First Day

daycare supplies

In addition to having all of the necessary registration paperwork completed, there are a few other items you might want to suggest parents bring on the first to ensure their child is comfortable:

Extra Clothes

It is a good idea to have parents bring one or two sets extra clothes, as well as a smock for painting. Kids can be messy especially during crafts, outdoor play, and at meals. Having clean clothes will ensure your child is comfortable. Additionally, it is a good idea to have parents bring seasonal supplies, such as hats, mittens, and scarves in the colder months, and sunscreen when its warmer.

Snacks

Depending on your child’s age, you may want to send them to their daycare center or after school program with a specific formula or snack. Make sure they also have their bottle or sippy cup.

Comfort Items

Finally, have parents bring one or two comfort items that will help their kids feel more at home in their new environment. This might be a favorite blanket, stuffed animal, or a picture of your family. 

Make sure everything you send in with your child is labelled with their name, as they can easily lose track of their possessions.

Final Thoughts

As the first day of your child care program approaches, it is important to make sure you have everything you need to ensure each child is comfortable and safe. Following this checklist will give you the material you need to stay in touch with parents, track child check-in, check-out, and attendance throughout the day, and help your student to feel more at home while in your care.

Looking for even more child care forms? Access all of our free and printable templates here.

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How to Choose the Best Child Care Management Software

Child care providers wear many hats. To children they are teachers, caregivers, entertainers, and confidants. To parents they are needed support, trusted helpers, and a resource that can report on their child’s development. To their business and colleagues, they are all of the above and more, as they tackle the day-to-day administrative tasks that go along with running a successful business. Filling all of these roles can be a challenge, which is why many child care providers turn to child care management software to help automate the administrative tasks that take time away from interacting with students and parents.

 

Child Care Center Administrative Tasks

 

There are many distinct advantages to incorporating software solutions into your child care business for both staff and parents.  Staff can rely on these tools to replace their time consuming, manual methods of bookkeeping, check-in, data collection, and scheduling, as well as to offer a greater level of organization to their hectic day. Parents appreciate the convenience that these tools provide to pay their child care centers easily from their mobile devices, and get daily reports from instructors about their child’s schedule and development.

Software solutions will be especially important as child care programs increasingly cater their services to millennial parents. Currently, 50 percent of millennials are mothers and 71 percent of them work outside the home. Millennial parents have been defined by their use of technology to run their lives and will certainly be looking for programs that can offer mobile-friendly solutions to manage their child’s lives as well. Offering a child care management software at your center is a distinct advantage.

While the benefits of child care management software are clear, what is more difficult to understand is which to select, and which will work best for your business. There are five key considerations that program directors should keep in mind when selecting the best child care management software for their business.

 

child care management checklist

 

1.) What are your business goals and needs?

 

Daycare Staff

 

To identify which features your solution will need to have, you will have to start off by identifying the pain points at your center. A good way to do this is to talk to staff about which administrative tasks are taking up the most of their time, and where they think automation could most benefit the program. You might also consider speaking with some of the parents to see which features they think would be most helpful. From these conversations, make a list of must-haves and nice-to-haves. This list will start to narrow down possible vendors, and will guide you moving forward.

You will also want to consider who needs to be able to use the software, and where. For example, if your staff needs to be able to update schedules or look up emergency contacts while on the go with students, a solution that does not offer a mobile application will be taken off your list.

2.) What is your budget?

 

Child care costs

 

Next to required features, the software price compared to your budget will be the greatest indicator of the solution you will ultimately choose. If you find a solution that satisfies everything on your must-have and nice-to-have list, but well exceeds your budget, it is not a real contender. This will assist in narrowing down your list of potential options. Make sure you request written documentation about any added or recurring costs that might be tacked on to the upfront cost of the software. For example, will there be an additional cost to have regular access to the support team, or to get your staff trained in how to use the software?

You will also want to ask about how their payment options are structured, and if there are any discounts or package deals available. For example, if the child care software provider bases their payment structure in terms of modules, you can purchase the module that addresses your most drastic needs, then add on the nice-to-have feature modules when your budget has grown.

3.) What is it like to use the software?

 

child care management software usability

 

Once you have narrowed your software search down to a few vendors, you will want to request a demo of the product so you can see its interface and usability first hand. This is an important step to selecting the right product, because you have to make sure that the software you choose will actually be adopted by employees and parents.  If the software has the features you need, but has no cohesive user interface, or is just generally confusing, you run the risk of purchasing and implementing a software that your staff does not actually want to use, reverting back to their previous manual methods. During the demo, make sure you can see yourself using the program, and that there is an obvious flow to how it works.

4.) What kind of support is available?

 

software support

 

If your business relies on the services provided by your software solution, and something goes wrong, a feature isn’t working, or you have a question on an update, is there someone you can talk to who can resolve your issue in a timely manner? A strong support team is an important feature to look for from a software provider. When talking with the vendor, ask questions about the support available, ask to speak with a support representative, and ask if there is a support site or online resources you can consult.

In addition to learning about the support team, you should also ask about the history of the company. How long have they been providing this service, and where does their knowledge of the child care industry come from?

5.) Talk to existing customers

 

child care center owner

 

At this point, you have likely narrowed your list of possible child care management software providers to a few options. One final step before making your decision is to ask to speak with existing customers. Talking with current customers can give you an unbiased view of the providers strengths and weaknesses, and how they would rate their overall experience with the provider. Ask questions about how their implementation went, if any issues arose, or how the product has been received by staff and parents. This can give you a good idea of how the rollout will go at your child care center. Additionally, the customers you speak with might be using the solution in a way you had not thought to, giving you ideas of how to further optimize your investment.

Final Thoughts 

Implementing a child care management software can offer distinct advantages in terms of maximizing your staff’s efficiency and engaging with parents. However, choosing the best software for your child care business can be overwhelming. Following these guidelines can help to streamline your approach to ensure you get the features and usability you need, at a price that fits your budget.

Learn more about comparing child care and daycare software with the software comparison checklist.

 
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