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Stephanie Marchment
Childcare Owner

7 Ways to Support Your Child Care Team

February 25, 2021

Have you ever needed a break from your classroom so badly that you “faked” a bathroom break just to get away?! You’re not alone, most of the teachers I know have done this at some point. It’s no secret that childcare can be a stressful job.

That’s why as a Director of an early childhood center, it is crucial to know how to support your staffing team. The key is to support them from the start, before they hit their breaking point. Today I will share a few easy ways that you can support your staffing team in order to increase staff motivation, boost employee retention, and prevent unnecessary “bathroom breaks” at your center. 

1. Encourage Breaks

Working with young children can be exhausting, especially in full-time centers where children are there for 8-10 hours. Sufficient breaks are KEY for happy teachers! When I say breaks I mean two things. First, provide reasonable breaks during the day for lunch time and (legitimate) bathroom breaks or breathers.

In addition, encourage regular vacation breaks away from work. Be sure you are allowing at least the daily and vacation breaks that are legally required, then see if you can find ways to work in additional breaks as needed by getting creative with your daily schedule.

2. Give Teachers a ‘Timeout’ 

A big part of growing up is learning coping skills. We spend all day teaching children how to use their words or employ other coping strategies when they get overwhelmed. As teachers and Directors we need to model this as well. If you notice a teacher is getting frazzled or having a hard time with a student, encourage them to step out of the room.

Even if they just go to the bathroom, that 3-5 minutes out of the classroom can bring them back to a place of more grace and love. By “practicing what we preach” we can reduce stress while modeling coping mechanisms to our children, double points here!

3. Words of Encouragement

I cannot say it enough, encourage your team! Never underestimate the power of a smile, high five, or well-placed word of encouragement. People want to know when they are doing something well, not just when they make a mistake. This is especially important with your team members who struggle.

Always keep an eye out so that when they do something well you can make a point of letting them know. This is a great way to encourage changed behavior, while making every member of your team feel valued. If you want to take it to the next level, boost intrinsic motivation by starting an award program or using other creative means to recognize and motivate your staff!

4. Gift Cards

If you’re not all-in for an awards program, at least try this old trick I learned from a co-worker (thanks Madelyn!) Keep a few $5 Starbucks (or local coffee shop) gift cards in your back pocket. When you see a team member do something that models staff values or culture you are working to create, give them one!

Make it loud and proud so other people notice too, “thanks for walking that parent back to the bathroom, love that customer service!” This is another great way to encourage culture change and reward staff who are going the extra mile without being asked.  

5. Coaching

Every great employee wants to get better. People who want to improve always desire (and need) coaching. That means you need to meet with your team leads regularly and coach them! Being a good coach doesn’t mean showing you can do it better than they can, it means using your perspective to see their blind spots and stepping in with timely, specific, and upbuilding feedback to bring out the best in them.

One of the worst Preschool experiences I had was working with a Director who refused to step foot in the classroom and coach me! All I wanted was to be taught how to run an effective classroom, but I needed someone to show me. Hire people who are coachable. Then coach them often and coach them well!!

6. Professional Development

Coachable employees also desire to grow in their roles, so be sure to offer opportunities for your team whenever possible. Many of our centers have licensing regulations that require this sort of development, but don’t do it because you have to, do it because you want the best for your team.

Constantly seek out opportunities for them to learn and grow, and share them with passion and enthusiasm! Encourage staff to seek out their own professional development as well and support them along the way. Often library systems have free classes that even count towards licensing hours so that’s a great place to start!

7. Be There

The best way to support your team is to be there for them! I know this sounds obvious, but most teachers know what it is like to have an absent leader. Be in the classrooms, be in the lunchroom, be there at pick up and drop off times, just be there! Your team and families want to know you care and are available to them and besides, there’s no better way to model the care and customer service that you expect from them.

This is not only the best way to support your center it’s also pretty simple isn’t it? Of course, it does require some of your valuable time. If you feel that you don’t have time to be there for your staff and clients, reevaluate your daily schedule, rearrange your priorities, or find software that automates your daily tasks so that you can get out of the office and back to growing your business!

Final Notes

When we are intentional about supporting our teams and take the necessary steps to support them, we not only set them up for success, but boost staff retention and customer service as well! Great leaders find success by seeking to make the people around them shine, rather than themselves.

As American author and clergyman John C. Maxwell once said, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” Look around at your team today. Who can you lead, how can you encourage, where can you coach? Lead, encourage, and coach your team today, or they will seek out a leader who will!

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