Opening a Daycare: Expert Tips to Start a Childcare Business
Business plans, finding your locations, securing a loan, and working out your financials….All right, we get it! Those are all specific needs for starting any business.
But what do you need to know about daily life in childcare?
What are some of those odd protips any director or owner wished they knew from the start?
Well, we have some exciting tips to share! Don’t worry, if you need help with those “typical” steps, or any childcare business-related support, Child Care Biz Help has your back!
The Weird Tips- The Ones You Never Knew You Needed to Know!
In an infant or toddler room, you will go through a mountain of bibs a day. Most childcare programs like to wash these in their own cycle, but once you go to pull these out of the wash, they are all stuck together with the velcro attachments. As you start to tear them apart, the bibs get these fuzzy spots all over them, causing them to wear out fast (and just look nasty).
Some childcare programs decide to go with plastic disposable bibs, however, these are not allowed in some states due to them being the same safety risk as a plastic grocery bag.
The solution? SNAP BIBS! Look for bibs that have a metal snap in the back. Snap bibs hold up in the wash so much better and are just as easy to take on and off as a velcro bib.
We have all seen the cute cat memes saying “If I Fit I Sit” with a picture of a cute little fluffy kitten sitting in anything it can squeeze its body into a small box, basket, planter box, bowl, and many other random things. Well, that's the same for young children.
Go ahead and save yourself the financial impact of replacing your classroom basket by investing in a washable wicker basket from one of the larger childcare product suppliers. These wicker baskets have a bendable wire at the top that allows children moments to test out the “If I Fit I Set” meme for themselves.
They will cost you a little more upfront, but trust me you will save money in the long run. Plus, it's a bonus to the design and display of your classroom.
Rice is an easy and cost-effective grain for children's lunches but can be a headache to get off the floor, sweeping up rice just makes your floor sticky and grimy.
So what do experienced childcare providers do? The easiest way to clean up rice is to sprinkle baby powder or flour onto the floors before sweeping it up. The baby powder or flour surrounds the grain of rice and makes sweeping it up extremely easy.
Lingering Food Scents
If you are providing meals for children or just heating meals they bring from home, you will be hit with some stinky foods. When cooking broccoli or fish in a massive amount in a childcare program, the building will absorb the smell and by the end of the day, the lingering scent will put off an aroma of dirty diapers.
As a pre-warning to families and guests, make yourself a cute sign to place on the door any day you prepare one of these nutritious but stinky foods. Families will know as they walk in to pick up their child for the day, that it was broccoli day and not that you neglected to take out diaper trash.
3 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Starting to Decorate
You have your space and are ready to start designing and decorating your classrooms but, it’s important to know what your end results will be. Asking yourself these three questions will help you be successful in your program design, making sure you are spending money in the right places.
Are you going to become an accredited program?
Being an accredited program has many advantages. The biggest one is obviously for the children, families, and staff to know they are part of a high-quality program going above and beyond state and local agencies' minimal standards.
However, being accredited is also a wonderful way to market your program to potential talent and recruit new families. In addition, there is normally an added financial bonus when becoming an accredited program. You can explore accreditation sites for more information, or always give us a call and we can assist.
But what is the point of asking yourself this question when starting a childcare program? Asking yourself this question upfront will let you know what specific requirements you will need to meet in each of your classrooms.
These requirements can change what you place on your walls, the individual centers in your classrooms, and your overall design and display; shifting and changing your initial material order and upfront purchases.
Do your research now and set these standards on day one for your staff and families. You will be saving yourself a lot of time, energy, and money.
What will be your overall design concept and color scheme?
Knowing your overall design concept and color scheme is essential for showcasing your brand image throughout your program and attracting talent and families.
Do a few quick google searches and look into different styles. There is a ton of research already completed for you on the benefits of color choice for your walls and decor. What color helps children learn more? What color assists in a calming environment or what color enhances productivity?
Having a clear vision of what you want your program to look like, will set the stage for all your projects. Think about a theme that will be timeless and not have to be updated frequently.
I would highly suggest that your logo and branding image is in line with what your classrooms look like. If your classrooms are nature-based with natural greens and browns then it would be odd if your logo had neon or primary colors. Take the time to think through your branding and make sure it is what you will want for years to come.
Will all your classrooms be cohesively designed?
Will you allow your staff to decorate their classrooms and areas as they would like, or do you want cohesive designs and standards throughout all your classrooms?
You might decide that you would like to have specific places for bulletin boards, family information boards, projects, and art. Plan through this idea making sure you are setting clear expectations from day one for your staff.
Once you know your overall design and display concept, you are ready to start decorating and purchasing materials. Stick to your decision throughout all your purchases! Once you are done, look back and see the masterpiece you have created.
Designing Your Childcare Program
Ditch the staples and thumbtacks
Staples and thumbtacks are extremely damaging to your walls, but even more important they are a HUGE safety risk for children. Little kids will put anything in their mouth and you do not want them to ingest a staple or thumbtacks.
Instead, use painter's tape, frog tape, or command strips. You want to make sure you purchase something that can be easily removed without peeling off your paint. NEVER use double-sided tape! Double-sided tape is a nightmare to remove and will peel off your paint.
Temporary or permanent
When you are placing items on your walls ask yourself if this is temporary or permanent. If it is temporary then use one of the above products in all four corners of what you are hanging. Make sure whatever you place on your wall has a purpose, is placed in the right spot for its purpose, and is put up with care.
When an item is placed on the wall without care and a purpose your walls end up being cluttered and can negatively impact your brand image. Papers will end up curling or blowing with fans and air conditioning. If it is something permanent make sure to frame and use no-fade paper.
Child’s level items
Laminate any items that will be placed down low on a child’s level. If you have specific places you will always want something, then use velcro so if it is removed it can be put right back up. Children love interactive games and it is always important to have these opportunities in a classroom setting.
In the ones and twos classrooms, it is common for children to want to remove items from the walls. To mitigate this, have interactive activities for them down low: felt board on the back of shelves or a tinker board that they can practice sliding, locking, twisting, or moving something along a track.
Artist at work
Children are little Picassos’ and will take any opportunity to showcase their one-of-a-kind artwork on your walls or furniture. Make sure you choose high-quality washable paint for all of your walls to make cleaning easier for you and your staff.
Magic erasers and shaving cream are also great ways to get crayons and markers off of your furniture. Make sure you double-check your state laws regarding these two products or use them after hours for cleaning if you can not have them out when children are present.
If you are allowed to have shaving cream in your program, it is a win-win for children and staff. The scented shaving cream can be a sensory activity for your children to play in, practice writing their letters and shapes and also it helps remove all the crayons off the tables and makes the classroom smell great at the same time.
Invest in high-quality childcare-specific furniture. Yes, you can find cheaper products online, but they typically are not geared for childcare programs and can not withstand the daily wear and tear. The childcare-specific furniture pieces are meant to be in childcare programs and all have round edges for child safety.
We all know that children run in a class, or can just trip over their own feet, you do not want them to trip and hit their head on a pointed furniture edge. Also, these pieces of furniture last long, are easy to clean, and are at the specific heights needed per age group.
One of the worst things to see happen in childcare, is a child getting their finger stuck in a door and it can easily be prevented. OUCH! If you have ever had this happen to you, then you know how painful it can be. Invest in finger guards for all of your doors and save your little ones this pain.
Your floors daily will be having tons of little feet running across them, chairs and furniture moved around, and being mopped and cleaned. You want floors that will last and be easy to clean.
Think about your high-traffic areas and what type of flooring will work best for you. Installing carpet in any of your classrooms is a huge risk! Instead, invest in rugs to add that soft comfort and pop of color.
Have you researched the cost of rugs yet? Goodness, childcare-specific rugs can be rather pricey.
The way I see it, you have two options:
- Plan in your budget to invest in high-quality rugs at least bi-annually
- Purchase low-cost rugs on a more frequent basis.
Rugs become worn out very quickly in a childcare setting. Some of the higher-end childcare rugs do have warranties on them, so always make sure to explore their warranty options. Choose whichever option works best for you, but always plan to have a rug replacement plan worked out in your budget.
If your program has an infant classroom I would highly suggest always replacing that rug first and then rotating the rugs down the classroom ages. Infant parents are wanting the cleanest environment for their babies since they will be crawling on the floor and with spit up being a common thing in the classroom, these rugs tend to get worn out faster. The older the class, in my experience, the less wear and tear happens to the rugs.
Marketing Tips You Need to Know
You will want guests to walk into your program and see a nice clean, welcoming, and organized environment. Think through your storage spaces and how you can always display this warm- welcoming environment by keeping your forward-facing spaces clutter-free. If your front entrance, desks, and other spaces are full of clutter and chaos, families will have already decided that your classrooms will be full of chaos as well.
What will your program say to guests as they are pulling into your parking lot? You will want your building to be inviting and welcoming from the curb as well.
Wherever you live, do some research, or go speak to a garden nursery about what low-maintenance plants will do best in your area. Choose plants, trees, and shrubs that will grow in your area and not have to be maintained often.
Making initial choices in your landscaping will ensure that your curb appeal stays up to par, and you will not have to spend as much time and energy maintaining it. Dead plants or shrubs can give parents the thought of: “if they can't take care of plants, how will they take care of my child?”
Brand Everything! Letters, memos, pictures, and anything you send out. Branding your written communication is another great way to market your program and keep a professional image.
Make sure that you look at everything you send out or post and that it always answers YES to the question: does this support my brand image? When you are double-checking pictures and written text, read through it with the eyes of your community, parents, teachers, and potential new staff and families.
Set the stage that you value, respect, and support families and staff. How do you do this? Be ready for them! Have your tour packets, enrollment paperwork, parent resources, and applications ready and always organized.
When you are making last-minute copies or shorting through a stack of papers to find a document, it can quickly give off the idea that you are unorganized and do not value the individual. Have welcome gifts or SWAG items you can hand out to make a lasting impression.
The above tips are filled with information to assist you in getting a jump start on your childcare business. One of the most rewarding parts of working in a childcare setting is you will learn something new every day.
Sometimes, you will hear of a great tip or strategy another childcare has implemented and you know that it just won't work for you, adjust it to fit your needs. The best word of advice: never stop growing and learning!
Do You Need Help With Starting Your Childcare Business?
If you are overwhelmed with what you need to get done or what steps you need to complete, let our Child Care Biz Help team support you.
Our team is here to help guide you through the steps and take some of that weight off your shoulders.
Contact us for more information on OPENING A DAYCARE START-UP.
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Article written by Kate Burch, Child Care Consultant, Child Care Biz Help
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