Last year I received a text from my client. She said she was talking with her husband and sharing with him how much their daughter had learned at the child care. She reflected on the things that she was doing and how much she had grown with the program. The note ended by thanking me for all that I do at the child care. Of course I really appreciate receiving notes of thanks like this, but this really got me to thinking about how often people discount the child care environment. The fact is many people don’t realize the value in the early education environment that our home child cares are. Have you ever wondered how you could show value in your program?
Most parents do not see value in our smaller home based child cares. They basically see us as daytime babysitters and instead opt to move their children to “real” preschools as early as age 2. They tend to see the “brick and mortar” preschools as more of a real learning environment. Ever since realizing that perception, I have sought out to show parents the value in a home based child care. Here are ways that you start showing value in your program.
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Show Value In Your Program
Before starting my business, I interned at a back-up child care. This experience was invaluable. Not only was I able to see a well run program but I was able to see some of the “best practices” in a child care business up close.
Soon after starting my program, I adopted many of the procedures I had performed at the center. One of the first ones was to adopt the practice of writing Daily Notes for each child enrolled at the child care. They where brief summaries of the day each child had at care along with specific details of what they ate, when they napped and diapering info as well. The notes where always well received and omitted the awkward “So what did the baby do today?”, from the parent at the end of the day.
The notes became one of the primary ways we communicated with the parents. I updated my Daily Notes format to include headings for highlighting developmental skills that the kids performed throughout the day. Looking back, the Daily Notes were one of the first ways I was able to show value in our program.
Your Own Narrative
When I first started giving tours (which I don’t do anymore, read more about that here) I would only walk parents around the child care space and answer the random question they might have. I soon realized I was missing out on an opportunity to show value in my program right from the start. So I developed the habit of first sitting down with a perspective family and going over my personal story of how I got into child care, my education and experience, the history of the child care and what the program offered. I answered their questions before they could even ask them.
Parents want to know things that they don’t even know to ask. Tell them!
You could start by answering questions yourself like; why your program is so great, what qualifies you as a provider, what life experiences you bring to the child care, what your philosophy is, what is an average day like. Get into as much detail as you think you need to or feel comfortable with. This would be a great start in finding and gaining like minded clients while at the same time showing value in your program.
Something that I routinely hear at provider workshops is how providers should take opportunities to educate the parents. Sometimes I think we don’t realize that most parents are not educated in child development. We have a unique relationship with our clients that
Even if you as a provider do not have formal education in child development, if you have been caring for children for any period of time, you do have on the job training that provides experience in the developmental phases of children.
Share that with your clients!
Not by being confrontational, but rather by explaining how motor skill development is enhanced by the crayon “scribbling” the child takes home. Or how learning social skills are just as important as problem solving for school readiness. Or how working on puzzles is actually early problem solving skill development. Sharing that information subtly shows the value in your program while educates parents on how they can promote developmental skills at home.
At the preschool, I remember that pictures where posted in each room of the children performing random tasks or projects. Each picture included a description of the objective of the task or what value that it served. How easy would that be to duplicate?! Not only would the parent get to see how their child performs in the child care setting, but they would get information about the value of the program.
Make it An Event
Just about every provider probably makes some effort to tackle the major holidays with some project, but do you schedule events that the parents can participate in throughout the year?
How about a Easter Egg Hunt? or a President’s Day Potluck? or even a Summer BBQ?
A few years ago I started hosting an annual Easter Egg Hunt at the child care. The parents donate a pack of eggs and the goodies to stuff them with (we try to avoid candy). All we have to do is stuff the eggs and place them on the lawn (this year that was 150 eggs). The parents are invited to come for about an hour, just to help their kids pickup all the loot. Then they have a cupcake, a cool drink and we send them on their way. It has become this huge event that I think the parents get more excited about than the kids (well not really, but close).
Think about things your parents can participate in at your child care. Events give your clients a sense of community and connect them to your business. Parents find real value in belonging to a larger community of parents.
Many of the preschools publish a monthly newsletter. You could do the same for your child care. Most word-processors have a ready-to-go template that you could use to put together a newsletter in a flash.
How about a reminder about upcoming events, holidays, supply donation requests, new policies, birthdays, pictures of the kids, deadlines, etc. The options are endless! Once again, the newsletter is another way to keep parents in-the-know and connect them to your child care business.
I have to admit, I have not been very consistent with creating my newsletter. Since I am so busy, I have transitioned to a less frequent schedule for the newsletter opting to publish it quarterly (way more manageable) instead of monthly. Pick whatever schedule works for you. Publishing a newsletter would be an easy way to show value in your program.
Develop New Ways
This is something new I am developing for my child care. Basically, I want to take the curriculum themes that we use and put out a planner that not only educates the parents on the objectives of the theme, but also gives them activities they can do at home to support their child’s learning.
My idea is to have a form that shows the name of the theme, objective, activities, reading list and home-school connection. The planner is still in the developmental phase, but the point is you can use new and different ways to show value in your program. Even if you have to create them?
If we want people to see value in our programs, we sometimes need to show it to them.
There are six ways to show value in your program. I am sure you can come up many more. Leave me a comment and tell me how you show value in your program.
Photos courtesy of: Flickr