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5 Things Parents Look for in a Child Care Center

Gavin Wieske
July 21, 2016

Editor's note: This post was originally published in July 2016 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

One of the most difficult choices parents are faced with is who will care for their little ones when they can’t. The thought of leaving your little one with a stranger all day every day can be stressful to say the least, especially if it’s your first child. That’s why parents take such care in selecting the right child care facility for their family. They want an environment for their children which is comfortable, safe, and fun, while also stimulating and motivating their child’s social, mental, and physical development. 

Whether you are opening a centre for the first time or growing an existing center, there are five main things that most parents will look for when they come for a tour. It is vital to keep the following things in mind to make sure your center stands out among the competition:

1. Aesthetics

While aesthetics may not seem that important, you only get one chance to make a first impression to parents touring your child care facilities. While you won’t always have a brand new building, the building should be kept clean and well maintained so that it appears cared-for and fresh. If you don’t take care of your building, why should they assume you’ll take care of their children? 

To create atmosphere, select bright paint colors to promote a comfortable, cheery feel and choose fun and comfortable floor mats or rugs to brighten up old hardwood or tile. Organize toys strategically in a variety of centers around the room and use wall decals, art, and decorations to add to the mood and make each day fun and exciting for the children. Putting your children’s art on the walls or painting a mural are great ways to make rooms bright and inviting at a minimal cost! 

2. Security

Although dropping their little ones off for the day is tough for parents, knowing their children are safe and well cared for will help give them peace of mind. As parents tour your facility they will be looking for who has access to their child throughout the day, what safety features and procedures you have on the playground, and how secure your check in/out system is. Parents want to know that you are doing everything in your power to keep their child safe. 

Utilizing technology can help ensure that processes like signing children in and out of the center are done securely. Software programs like Sandbox Software include a contactless timeclock feature that requires parents to sign their child(ren) in and out of the center using a secure passcode. Parents can even request an automated email alert from the Sandbox app to notify them whenever their child is signed in and out of the center. Diligence and protocol along with technology will allow parents to enjoy their day stress-free knowing that their children are safe at your center.

Get a tour with a product expert to find out how Sandbox can help you with the security of your center!

3. Relationships

No one wants to leave their child with a stranger. The potential to make new connections and grow friendships is something that most parents look for when seeking the right child care center for their child. They not only want to connect with the teachers and director themselves, but want their child to be able to make friends too. Creating an environment that encourages acceptance, inclusion, and community-building for both parents and children in your child care center will increased satisfaction in your center as well as customer retention and referrals. 

One practical way to encourage relationship building within your center is by offering coffee in the lobby during drop off or pick up times to promote discussion (although admittedly, this may not be possible in the current climate). In addition, encourage teachers to greet each student as they enter the room each day, and ideally, greet parents the same way. By respecting and valuing everyone and encouraging parents and children to share their experiences and perspectives, you will create a sense of community that makes your centre stand out from the rest.

4. Healthy Growing Opportunities

In the digital age, exercise often takes a backseat to entertainment, at the cost of physical and mental health. For good reason, children’s health has become a top priority for parents, especially during the pandemic. Parents are looking for a center which will foster a healthy body and mind through a mix of exercise, play-based learning, and healthy nutritional options. 

This is why there is a big push towards “organic”, “outdoor preschools” and “creative movement” within early childhood education. Each child care center will adopt different aspects of these trends to fit their philosophy while discarding others, which is totally fine.  keep in mind though, that many parents value these things, especially if it is obvious they are being put into practice rather than simply used as buzzwords or marketing ploys. 

Consider the value of increasing physical activities and healthy or organic snack options at your center. Could an extra cost for healthier snacks be a worthy investment? Can you increase recess or provide more daily physical activity inside the classrooms without compromising your program? These are all things to consider when developing healthy habits for little ones. Don’t feel like you have to do everything at once, pick a few items to start with, such as adding extra recess or nutritional snacks once or twice a week and see the difference it makes!

5. Cost

Let’s face it, child care is expensive. In the US parents spend $42 billion a year on childcare. Many parents need to go back to work to make ends meet, but find that the childcare they require to do so is difficult to afford. This catch-22 means you need to ensure that your pricing is appropriate for the demographic of parents who will be sending their child(ren) to your center. There are Government subsidies available for many parents to help make child care more affordable. Ensure that you understand how the subsidies work so that you can explain these options to potential clients and point them in the appropriate direction for assistance.

Final Notes

It is important to understand what parents are looking for in your childcare centre so that you can make a great first impression. Talk to parents about the great things in your center - they won’t always be as obvious to them as they are to an educator like you. Let them know that you rotate books regularly, or that you have inquiry based centers to stimulate their creativity and sense of wonder. An attractive layout and community feel will go even further to make your center appealing to parents and staff alike and help you retain the staff you need for the increased enrollment.

It’s important to continually look to improve your centre without feeling overwhelmed by all the things you can do. The best way to improve is to do a quick audit of your current performance and start with one thing you can do today to improve your centre . Then work your way through the above sections one by one. Small changes add up quickly and your new and improved center will be turning heads in no time! 

Which of these five things do you think is most important to parents? Let me know in the comments section below!

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