Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Child Care Center Business Plan

Are you considering starting a new child care program or revamping your current program?  Are you going to be seeking some sort of funding for your child care program?  Are you looking to organize your program a bit more efficiently?  If the answer to any of these questions is "yes", or maybe even "perhaps", it is time to look at developing a Business Plan. 

Many child care managers, whether they are owners of Family Child Care programs or Directors of Child Care Centers, are so busy “fighting fires” every day that they cannot seem to find the time to plan for their program’s future.  Unfortunately, this kind of reactive management can cause you to lose sight of your program’s objectives.  A Business Plan can help you to "drill down" into the details of your Strategic Plan (or lay the groundwork for a Strategic Plan if you haven't done one yet.) 

A carefully developed Business Plan can help you:
  • Clearly define the purpose of your program
  • Make decisions about your program
  • Properly assess needs and allocate resources
  • Secure funding
  • Establish a baseline from which progress can be measured
  • Identify necessary revisions to your Strategic Plan
Your Business Plan can help you describe your business to others (such as potential funders) and is a roadmap that can help you manage your program.  It will show potential funders what resources are needed, how the program will develop, and how any loans will be repaid.

And, best of all, you probably guessed it, if you don't have a Business Plan yet, we do have a template and a "how-to" guide to make it simple.  Check it out at:  http://store.payloadz.com/details/993189-documents-and-forms-business-child-care-business-plan.html

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Strategic Planning for Child Care

Do you have a Strategic Plan for your child care program?  The vast majority of people will respond "no" and most don't even know why they should have one (or perhaps even what it is).

A Strategic Plan can be considered the roadmap that can help you see how to achieve your vision for your program.  A properly developed Strategic Plan will articulate your vision, mission, core values, goals, objectives and strategies.

A Strategic Plan can help you to become more proactive in your management, rather than just reacting to whatever happens.  It will help you assess where your program is going over the next 3 to 5 years, how you will get there, and how you will know if you arrived.

A carefully developed Strategic Plan can help you:

  • Clearly define the purpose of your program
  • Solve programmatic problems
  • Make decisions about your program
  • Properly assess needs and allocate resources
  • Provide a common vision for all of your stakeholders—board, management, staff, volunteers, parents, community members, etc.
  • Assist with fundraising and marketing
  • Establish a baseline from which progress can be measured
If you don't have a Strategic Plan yet, we offer a template and a "how-to" guideline to make your planning simple.  Check it out at: http://daycaretools.com/DaycareProducts.aspx#Policies 

Most of us believe that we are so busy that we don't have time to worry about a Strategic Plan.  The reality is that taking the time to develop a thoughtful Strategic Plan will save time in the long run as you will have a more defined vision for your program.  I think Lewis Carroll stated it best when he said “If you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there.”

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Natural, Functional Literacy Development

What is the first letter of the alphabet that most young children learn?  The first letter of their name.  Why?  Because they care; it means something to them.  This concept kind of defines natural, functional literacy.  It's natural because it's part of the child's everyday life and it's functional because it serves a purpose.  The child can say "This is MY name."

Our question as early educators is how to maximize the opportunities for natural, functional literacy development in our programs.  We have to provide a print-rich environment.  We should set up an attractive class library that is in a quiet part of the room and offers a wide variety of books that cover the range of the reading abilities of the children in our care.  Ideally, some of these books will stay the same to provide continuity and repetition, but some of the books will rotate, perhaps according to the season or according to concepts being taught.  

Your dramatic play / housekeeping center probably already has food boxes with printed labels.  How about simple recipe cards and blank cards for children to write their own recipes?  Long strips of paper for children to create shopping lists? A telephone book?  If you change this center out occasionally, how about a menu and an order pad for the customer and server in your restaurant?  

Your writing center is a great place for a simple dictionary.  It may include stationery, envelopes, cards and postcards so that children can write letters to parents, grandparents or friends.  

Your block center can include books about architecture or particular interesting buildings.  Or paper and pens so that children can label their buildings.  How about graph paper so that they can draw "blueprints" of their creations?  Did they build a McDonald's or Home Depot?  Let them make a sign for the building.  Adding cars to your block center?  How about including maps, auto repair manuals, or receipt books for those auto repairs?  

Look around your program and think of other ways in which you can make language more meaningful for the children in your care.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Ways to Get Smarter in 2012

To go along with last week's theme of new year's resolutions, I found  Newsweek's (January 9,  2012) list of 31 interesting ways to get smarter this year.  You can find the whole list at:  http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2011/12/30/31-ways-to-get-smarter-in-2012.all.html , but here are a few of their suggestions.
  • Do word puzzles--can help reduce the risk of Alzheimer's and dementia.
  • Learn a new language--to improve your prefontal cortex, which affects decision-making and emotions.  As an added benefit for child care providers, being bilingual can help you attract new customers, or better serve existing customers.
  • Eat dark chocolate--(YES!! oh, sorry, I got carried away...)--dark chocolate (and red wine) contain flavonoids which can help improve memory.
  • Hydrate--a dehydrated brain has to work harder; and the rest of your body will appreciate the water as well.
  • Visit an art museum--viewing art can reduce stress.  Field trip, maybe??
  • Learn to play a musical instrument--boosts IQ and can increase memory and coordination.
  • Eat yogurt--(I love these eating ones!)--can improve your ability to handle anxiety and increases activity in the parts of the brain that handle emotions and memory.  Your stomach may appreciate the probiotics too.
  • Get out of town...and back to nature--time on a crowded street can impair your memory and self-control, but spending some time in nature can help your brain recover.
Have fun taking care of yourself this year!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Preventing Illness in Child Care

This time of year, more than any other, child care providers battle to keep the children in their care (and their staff) healthy.  The most effective way of doing this, other than simple handwashing, is having a strong illness exclusion policy and following it at all times.  I once worked in a program that had good policy, but implemented it on a case-by-case basis.  We had a lot of illness spread through that program.  

Your illness exclusion policy must meet the minimum requirements set forth by your local licensing agency.  If these requirements are pretty minimal, you have the right to make your own policy stronger.  The National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education's publication Caring for Our Children is an excellent resource and can be found at: http://nrckids.org/CFOC3/index.html

Communication is also key in implementing a solid illness exclusion policy.  Staff must understand the requirements of the policy, including when and how to exclude children from care.  Parents must be informed of the policy before enrolling their children, reminded periodically, and be informed exactly of why their child is being sent home at a particular time and when their child can return to care. 

One of the best things we ever did, after many unpleasant discussions with parents who didn't think their children were sick, was to develop a form to go home with each child being excluded for illness.  The form is carefully coordinated with our illness exclusion policy.  It provides a simple explanation of our policy, why, precisely, their child is being excluded and what criteria must be met before the child can return to our care.  This one simple form, when used consistently, has saved us a lot of heartburn.  If you want to use ours, instead of spending hours developing your own, you can find the form, and our illness exclusion policy, at:  http://daycaretools.com/DaycareProducts.aspx#Health

Here's hoping for a relatively painless cold and flu season!