"Our parents love seeing their kids throughout the day on the Parent App."

Neena Locke
Childcare Director

How To Be Productive in Childcare When Things Are Slow

March 5, 2020

Tax season, Graduation, Back to school, and Christmas. Does this list mean anything to you?

As a fellow early childhood professional, you likely recognize these as some of the busiest times of the year for child care and preschool operations. It's at times like these that you might be wondering if you will even make it through the season.

Now my follow up question to that would be, "What are you doing at times when things are slow?"

After managing child care and after school programs for many years, I have found that as seasons change, so do many aspects of the job. If you can relate, follow along for tips on how you can be productive when things are slow.

I was coaching a new Director once, and I told her, "I know you are super busy right now, but there will come a season when you will wonder what they are even paying you for."

She didn't believe me at the time, but sure enough, I got a call in a few weeks with her asking what she should be doing. Her center was running smoothly, and she wanted to make the best of her spare time. It is in these seasons that you establish yourself as a director.

The list I'm going to share with you today is one of the first things I share with the directors I coach.

It includes seven things to focus on when you are in a slow season. As an owner or director, it is essential that you are productive in your spare time. This will help you get ahead so you can keep up in the busy seasons.

7 things to do when things are slow in the child care world: 

1. Events

The first question I ask myself is, "What events are coming up?" In the preschool world, there are always events, like harvest parties, or an all-school carnival. 

At my center, we always went over the top with events, so they required a fair amount of planning. When times are slow, use this time to get ahead or catch up on planning that you are behind on.

2. Enrollment

Enrollment should always be a focus for centers that are not quite full yet, and even for those currently holding a waitlist. Never take enrollment for granted as it directly correlates to your revenue and the health of your center.

When times are slow, spend time looking through your interest list from the past and make contact with the people who still have not signed up yet. Let's be honest, parents are busy, so they forget to call. So often I have had people sign up this way. When you call them back and make it easy for them to sign up, they will!

3. Staff

This is also a great time to circle back to your staffing team and let them know that you haven't forgotten them. Take time to make a thank you gift for the whole team or prizes for a few. During slow times I always tried to write thank you cards to my staff members who stood out. 

It's hard being a teacher, and they need to be thanked often! Writing cards or making a gift might seem like a waste of time as a director, but it will more than pay off. Having a staffing team who is happy and satisfied with their workplace is KEY to having a great center. 

4. Licensing

If your center is licensed, then I'm sure the licensing policy is something that is ALWAYS top of mind, but maybe NOT something you actually spend time managing on a daily basis. 

When you're in a slow period, this is a great time to review your licensing handbook, make lists of areas you need to improve and remind staff about areas that need attention. Licensing is an ongoing process and a great thing to work on when times are slow. In the busy seasons, you will not have time for this.

5. Staff Training

If you are like me, you tend to have your staff do all their training online. The fact that online training is now so easily accessible is great, however, I have also found that having someone come into your center for training can be helpful too. 

Searching out great people to help come alongside you to train your team takes time. Spend some time thinking about areas your team needs to grow and hire a trainer. 

6. Classroom Observations

At my center, I made it a goal to observe my team twice a year. Of course, when you have a team of over 50 people, this is a huge time sucker. 

After years of learning, I started to work on these observations as soon as I hit a slow season. This is a great way to connect with each staff member and also get a head start on your yearly reviews. 

7. Resource Room Facelift

If your center is anything like mine was, your resource room (if you are lucky enough to have one) is ALWAYS a mess. Although it wasn't my job to keep it clean, I tried to help out when time allowed. 

Often I would hang new inspirational quotes on the wall, revamp the supplies, and do some light organizing. This made a huge difference, and my team was always grateful when I gave them a hand. 

Final Notes:

If you are in a slow season at your child care center or preschool, I hope that this list got you thinking of a few things you can focus on.

When we as leaders stay productive, it makes all the difference to our team and center as a whole. By staying focused, you are setting up yourself for success!

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