How to Provide Quality Child Care That Parents Want
So should you focus your resources on growth or invest in the quality of your programming? Although it might seem that investing in quality care will increase costs while reducing growth, evidence shows that investing in quality care is the most important as it’s essential to both gain a reputation for quality care and support the long-term growth your reputation generates.
But don’t take my word for it. Recent studies show that a full 56% of guardians chose quality care as most important when choosing where to send their child, versus only 22% who chose practical factors such as cost, hours, or location.
This means that in order to have a thriving center, it’s essential to examine the quality of your programming, and consider raising costs if you can’t afford to offer quality child care.
So what does quality care look like? the well-respected NAEYC states that high quality child care educators create caring learners because they:
- Are warm and caring, and they get to know each child and family well
- Help children learn how to play, work together, and make friends
- Plan activities so that all children can join in
- Include every child's family, language, and culture in the program
Today let’s walk through how to create the caring learners that are the hallmark of quality child care by assessing the quality of your current program and choosing areas for improvement based on three major indicators of excellent childcare:
Okay maybe your curriculum is good, maybe even very good, but it can always improve. This might mean streamlining curriculum by choosing a unified program to use center-wide, or it could focus on improving staff knowledge and abilities through professional development. A good start is to take a look at your curriculum and ask if it’s doing what you want it to do and whether it can be maintained during growth or loss of key staff.
When I first started at my center many teachers were planning their own curriculum. We were lucky because most were great at creating curriculum, but this just isn’t sustainable for the long term and obviously isn’t scalable for multi-location growth.
Having a curriculum for each subject area is not only a great way to support your staff with planning, but it also ensures that all the children at your center(s) are getting the quality education and care that you claim to offer (and therefore they deserve).
At my center, we provided curriculum as an outline for each of the classrooms and encouraged each teacher to be creative inside of the provided framework. This was a great way to maintain quality throughout our center, while still allowing for the unique talents and creativity of our staff to shine through.
If you haven’t implemented center-wide or age group curriculum before, there are many options available, and below are a few of my favorites. Just choose one and go from there, you can always adapt or change your curriculum if it’s not helping you achieve your goals!
- Touch Math has all sorts of standards based curriculum and resources for your math program.
- Learning without Tears is a great program with interactive teachings tools and free program samplers
- Handwriting without Tears is an on-demand resource which uses “engaging multisensory techniques and research-based methods” to make learning how to write a breeze!
- Zoo Phonics is another fun option to teach students all sorts of reading and writing skills.
Once you’ve chosen quality curriculum or developed your own curriculum outline, it’s time to look at the second essential aspect; the people who will carry out your curriculum!
The teachers and staff in your center have a huge impact regardless of your chosen curriculum. This means that improving the quality of your staff will directly benefit the overall quality of your programming.
When considering staffing quality there are a few things you want to think about:
- Make sure you choose new employees carefully: As you go through the hiring process make sure that you hire quality employees. Take enough time to get to know them and be sure to actually call references before you hire.
- Consider all position qualifications: Depending on whether your center is licensed or not may change the qualifications you set for each position. I recommend revisiting the minimum qualifications for each role and don’t hesitate to raise the bar. When you raise the bar you will be surprised at the increase in the quality of your applicants and set up higher expectations for your new hires.
- You get what you pay for: In childcare, the old adage is true - you get what you pay for. Prioritize staff wages over other budget areas whenever possible. Give your staff yearly raises and offer competitive salaries and other benefits. This will help draw in a higher quality team and save you time and money in the long run by increasing employee retention.
Developing relationships with the families in your center is another great way to boost your reputation. Parent engagement is one of the top 5 things parents look for so invite them inside the classroom, create unique parent events, and allow your parents to connect throughout the day using childcare software.
One simple 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.
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.
Quality childcare consists first of all of quality and consistency in regards to curriculum, staff, and parent engagement. No matter where your center is in your business growth plan, remember that the quality of care you are providing is what prospective clients are looking at the most. By upgrading and streamlining curriculum, encouraging reflection and professional development in staff, and facilitating parental engagement you will have a great start to improving the quality of your center.
Some aspects will take time and effort, while others may cost money, but it you take it one step at a time and use quality childcare software to free up time and manage your center like a boss you will be well on your way to building the center of your dreams!