What do you think childcare providers can’t live without? When I asked the question to a bunch of providers, I got a lot of interesting answers. Some providers said things like kids, art supplies, toys, books, songs, baby gates, reading glasses, cell phone, computer, sharpie markers, printer, copier, baby wipes, Lysol wipes, magic erasers, cheerios, bleach and things like that. Those are for sure things childcare providers can’t live without. I mean, what would we be doing if we didn’t have kids.
Tag Archive for childcare
I LOVE throwing Easter parties for my kids. I LOVE stuffing eggs, but I hate the idea of stuffing all of them full of candy. I think a little candy is fine, but baskets full is just overkill and not a good message to send our children. I love finding alternative things for stuffing Easter eggs for my kids.
Everyone has a really bad, no good day sometimes. Have you ever read the book about Alexander’s? I love it. It helps us to see that bad days aren’t wrong and the people having them aren’t bad. Sometimes people just feel bad for some reason. Sometimes we are just tired or even burned out. Click here to see how to avoid burnout.
Contracts and policies are so important for your childcare business. If you don’t treat your business like a business, it will not run as well as it should and you will probably end up burning out. If you are having trouble establishing your paperwork for your business, read on and find out how to develop it in a systematic and simple way.
Contracts deal with time and money, policies are rules about other things. Contracts must be signed if you change any part of them, policies can be changed as you wish. The contract is a legal binding document, the policies just help spell out expectations. Tom Copeland has some great advice on writing a contract, click here to check it out.
Let’s start with contracts and handle policies next.
What does your childcare contract need to cover?
Your business rules can be whatever you want them to be with the exception of any type of discrimination. Think about what is most important to you and set your business up with those rules. Click here to see what many seasoned childcare providers think are the most important rules.
Your contract should state your name, the parent’s names and the children’s names childcare is being provided for.
Your contract should state the days and hours you are open and which of those hours care is available for this family. Some providers are open something like 12 hours a day, but only watch each child for a certain number of hours such as 9.
Your contract should state any holidays you will be taking and whether they are paid or not. It should also include vacation days for you and whether those are paid or not. It’s a good idea to get paid for some of your days off if not all of them. Most parents have paid holidays, why shouldn’t you?
The contract should state what parents owe you. Weekly fees, field trip fees, art fees, transportation fees or whatever fees you are going to charge need to be outlined in the contract. It should also state when they are to pay you. I allow parents to choose their paydays for me but they have to stick to those days. There is no saying, I want to pay once a month and then coming in and saying, I’m going to pay for this week. We have to sign a new contract and AGREE that we are changing payment dates.
Your contract SHOULD state that parents have to pay a week in advance for care. You should stick to this rule, it will save you so much trouble in the future.
Your contract should state what parents are responsible to provide and what you provide. My contract says parents are responsible for diapers, wipes and a change of clothes.
Your contract should introduce your substitute and for what situations that person would be left in charge of the kids. No one should come to pick up and find someone they don’t know watching their children.
The contract should state how the care provided will end. My contract states that two weeks’ notice is required to terminate it. Parents are responsible for paying for two weeks if they decide not to finish care. My contract also states that the first two weeks are a trial period for parents, provider and child. That way if I decide a family is not a good fit for my business, the contract will end.
Your contract should state that you are a mandated reporter of suspected child abuse and sex trafficking behaviors. This is something that should be handled up front and having it in your contract is a great way to get it out there.
Discrimination-make sure you state you do not discriminate for any reason and make sure you don’t. It’s not okay to choose clients by race, sex, religion, national origin, or disability. This is illegal. My contract states, children will not be discriminated against for any reason.
It’s a good idea to disclose something that may be of concern to parents. My DHS worker suggested I disclose our pets and our religious beliefs. I think this is a very wise idea. We always have cats, so the interview is a good time to talk about that in case someone has a child that is allergic to cats. I have watched children of pagan parents, atheist parents, and agnostic parents. I am a Jesus loving Christian but I disclose that in my contract so no one is taken by surprise. You would be amazed at how well we worked it out. I told them up front we pray, the kids learn about God and Jesus, etc. They were fine with it and dealt with it in their own way at home.
Being open and honest is the best policy in any situation. If your husband is at home 24/7 and helps with the daycare, parents have a right to know that. If he works odd hours and sleeps during the day, they should know that too. If you have grown kids that visit or live in the home, have a friend over to visit, or anything like that, it’s important to disclose it. Anything you think might be of importance to a parent, it’s best to let them know up front.
Signatures should be on the contract, both of the parents if possible and yours.
Please make sure you don’t include rules in your contracts and policies that you are not willing to enforce. What this does is show parents you are not serious about any of your rules. If you’re not willing to make people pay a late fee, take it out of the contract. The things in the contract should be very serious and always enforced.
Keep your contract as short as possible. Parents are much more likely to read a shorter contract and to pay attention and take notice of what is mentioned there. Policies should be as short as you can make them as well.
Contracts and policies have similar purposes, but some differences. The remaining items you want to communicate to parents will be in your policies.
Does your state have any rules about what has to be included in your policy book? In Oklahoma, we do. Click here to see the requirements and a sample of my policy book.
Some of the things childcare policies should include are:
Discipline and guidance procedures.
Procedures for the day. Let parents know anything about how you run the business that would be of importance to them. You can’t expect them to always have their child their by 9 am if you don’t let them know that is your rule.
Your outdoor play policy. I take the kids outside to play, weather permitting, any time it’s between 40 and 90 degrees, that is in my policy book. Also, kids get dirty here. We garden, we play hard, it’s a dirty job to be a kid. So, I let people know that in advance.
Your daily schedule or activities kids will participate in regularly.
Your inclement weather policies. How do you deal with dangerous weather? Do you close on snow days? Parents need to know what to expect.
Your training and education.
Emergency contact numbers.
What are the reasons you would chose to terminate care? Those should be explained in your policies.
Emergency and disaster plans should be in your policies as well. Parents should be informed on what procedures you will take in caring for their child should a disaster or emergency occur. Where might you relocate to? Where will you shelter? What supplies do you have in place for children’s safety?
I have a form at the end of my policies for parents to sign they have read and understand the policies. I feel that covers me from any extra problems later with someone saying, I didn’t know anything about that.
What do you do if someone does not want to follow your contract and policies? This is a big indicator that your business relationship with this person is not going to work out. You need to tell them it’s not a good fit and you cannot provide care for them. If they cannot agree to your rules, they will not respect your business and the way you run it. It will not turn out well, I promise.
Making sure your business is being run like one will help you gain respect and appreciation from your parents. Having contracts and policies in place will show families you are serious and want to give high quality care to their kids. If you act professionally and show your parents respect, they are much more likely to respect you. If you are giving and receiving respect from your parents, you are much less likely to burn out and hate this job. You will enjoy your work and be successful. That’s what I’d really like to see for everyone.
Feel free to ask any questions and I’ll answer them if I can. I’d love to help you make sure your business is all it can be. Let your contract and policies work for your business and you!
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What’s the difference between a good provider and a great one? Great childcare is a blessing to families and it’s rare. How can you grow your business and cut down on stress in your life? What are you doing to make sure your business is successful in the future? Would you love to know the magic formula for keeping daycare families and having a thriving home daycare?
Word of mouth is by far the most important part of growing a successful childcare business. What are people saying about the care you provide? Have you gone the extra mile to let parents know you love their kids? Do they know you care about them?
People often times ask me, what is your secret? Why do you never have openings? Why does everyone love you so much? What do you do differently? The honest truth is I don’t know what I do differently, I just know what I do. I use my instincts to be the best provider I can be. I care for my families, not just the kids. To me, the whole family needs me.
I try every day to provide great childcare. Some days I do and some days I suck. That’s no reason to stop trying. Parents need support and advice, older siblings need to know their little brother or sister is safe, and everyone needs to know you have their best interest at heart.
I hear providers all the time talking about how the kids aren’t the problem, the parents are. To some extent it’s true, but if you really care about your parents, they won’t be disrespectful to you. Parents know when their kids are getting great childcare and when they are not. You can really help yourself have easier days and help your reputation by being kind to your parents. I promise, it’s good business sense.
Parents are not out to get you; they only want the best for their kids. Be open and let them know that’s what you want too, and they will be on your side. Every day will be easier. Make sure you are up front with them. People can sense when you aren’t being genuine. No one likes being lied to. I have been a parent using childcare before and the most important thing to me was KNOWING my child was safe. My provider made sure I did and I never forgot that. Parents who are nervous or scared aren’t trying to be annoying, they need to be comforted by you as their provider.
Also, please remember, if someone leaves or doesn’t chose the care you provide, it may just not have been a good fit. Not everyone is meant for everyone else. Different people have different ideas and procedures and that’s good because different families have different needs. All people have good inside but it doesn’t always match someone else’s good.
Here’s another big secret. As hard as I try to provide great childcare, NOT EVERYONE LIKES ME or the care i provide. They just don’t. Everyone won’t be a good fit no matter how hard you try or how much you care. Check out what a group of parents had to say about good childcare and great childcare.
According to parents surveyed a good provider is:
Reliable and on time
Trustworthy and honest
Takes care of kids
Meets basic requirements
Has an illness policy
Does what they say they will
Knows about child development
Helps kids mature as appropriate
Joyful and happy
Structured and has rules for children and families
Has a clean home
According to parents surveyed, a great provider:
Above all is honest with parents
Teaches manners and how to handle problems in a positive way
Serves quality meals (not just junk food)
Loves what they do
Knows how important the job is
Keeps kids safe, doesn’t put them in harm’s way
Is interested and committed to the profession
Stays informed on issues and regulations
Values parents and children
Is involved with parents and invites parents to be involved in the program
Communicates, gives honest feedback, and empowers parents
Honors parental wishes and respects their decisions
Give opinions and advice when needed
Goes the extra mile
Loves kids like their own
Takes time to send pictures of kids at daycare
Talks to parents about their child’s day
Feels like leaving kids with family or friend
Puts kids before money (meaning, the kid’s needs are more important than the paycheck)
Doesn’t lie to please parents
Is constantly improving and learning
Develops a positive environment
Has a professional handbook
Knows DHS rules well and follows them
Nurtures children emotionally, nutritionally, socially, and academically
Only practices developmentally appropriate practice
Is strict with parents for the good of all children in care
Is an advocate for children both of the parent and the other kids in care
Sets consistent boundaries
Gives time to play
Communicates with parents to empower them
Is warm and welcoming in the mornings
Cares about cleanliness
Treats the job like it’s more than just a paycheck
It’s their calling to provide childcare
Has an even temperament
Is available to parents
One thing I would add that no one mentioned is a great provider can balance the parent’s needs with their own so they can support the whole family, not only the child in care. It takes a village.
Parents polled shared the following bad experiences that were deal breakers for childcare:
Kids weren’t safe
There was no outside play
There was no art
The TV was constantly on or kids watched TV all day
Provider played on phone all day
Environment was unclean
Environment was disorganized
Provider lied or was dishonest
Environment felt institutional
Children seemed unhappy
Parent didn’t think their children would fit in
Teachers seemed unhappy
Children were picked up with dried snot on their face, that no one had cleaned all day
Environment had odor of poopy diapers
Negative feedback was given daily
Provider seemed vague
No call, no show
Parents interviewed shared these reasons why they scheduled and interview and either didn’t hold it or chose not to use the provider after they showed up:
No sick policy was in effect, sick kids in one room, well in another
Provider insulting kids during interview
Parent found out personal info that made them uneasy
Outside of home needed general maintenance and upkeep, looked junky
Environment was not clean
Security seemed lacking
Provider seemed superficial or dishonest
Ladies (and gentlemen), the most popular complaint I hear and heard from parents is caregivers not being honest. They want to know the truth about how their kid’s day was, they want to know the truth when they ask you questions. If you did something wrong, fess up to it. People respect you so much more when they know you are truthful. You don’t want parents lying to you, so don’t lie to them. Respect goes both ways.
Parents also commented that many people think daycare is bad because some are bad but it’s not true. There are good providers, but it’s not what people focus on. People prefer to see the negative, it’s just human nature.
A provider’s point of view (previous childcare provider):
“The pay versus work doesn’t seem as great as parents think when they are paying it. You begin work before they do and end after they do. Not to mention that many things come out of that pay like food, art supplies, utilities, etc. It really has to be a calling. It has to be more than just a paycheck.”
That my friends, is truth! If you are struggling to fill spots or have a hard time figuring out what parents want, look over these lists occasionally and see if there is something you can change to make your business more successful. If you are going to be a childcare provider, it is the most important job in the world, be a great provider! If you don’t want to be a great provider, do something else. It’s not worth it.
Great providers are a gem, click here to see how to find a hidden jewel in a provider.
If you are worried that your home is not up to par, try going outside for a few minutes in the evening and then stepping in the door and taking a big whiff. If you smell foul odors, your parents do too. If you don’t know if your house looks clean enough, step out on the porch and look around what parents see as they arrive. Is there something you can put fresh paint on or a few nails that need to be hammered in? Is there anything attractive and nice to look at? As you come in the door is there filth and trash all over the greeting area? If you need to be a clutter bug, do it in the back room or your bedroom. Let your entry area be your best foot forward. It will make a world of difference, I promise.
I don’t have anything nice, and my house is not perfect, but I have had many people step in and say, it looks so clean. Make sure that’s what people see upon entry. If you don’t know, ask a friend to come over and look. They can tell you what people will notice that you don’t because you see it every day. A few minutes of tidying before you open will make a big difference. If you don’t want to get out the vacuum every night, get a cracker beater like they have in the church nursery and do a quick buzz by the front door each evening after care. Take pride in what you’re doing, you’re a WORLD CHANGER and anyone can be a great provider if they really care about what they’re doing.
What do you think makes a great provider?
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When you open a new family childcare business in your home, it’s hard to know what will work and what won’t. If you start your business and add rules, it’s much harder than beginning the business with your rules in place. You can have them already in your contract or policies depending on where they belong and you will save yourself a whole lot of headaches.
Every year we face the age old question in childcare, what do I get my daycare kids for Christmas? Some providers give their families gifts, some just the kids, and some don’t choose to do that. It’s all relative to your budget, beliefs, and feelings about what is best for the kids. In today’s society, kids are very overindulged in most cases. Most kids don’t NEED anything else. Hopefully this post can help you solve the dilemma and you can refer back to it year after year.
I love to give my kids something unique that won’t get lost or broken along with all the other toys they get. I usually never give them any kind of toys. I also love for my gifts to be educational. That’s another way to make gifts more valuable for your children.
Do you have to give gifts to your daycare kids for Christmas? No, you absolutely don’t. It’s okay if you don’t think that’s the right thing to do. When polling other providers, many of them don’t. It’s a personal decision based on what you believe.
Set Your Budget.
First, you need to decide how much you want to spend on each child. I usually set my budget at about $20 per person. If you have 7 or 12 daycare kids, when you multiply that by 20, that’s quite a bit of money. Daycare is not a lucrative career, so we need to be careful with our spending. Twenty dollars is not a lot of money, and it can be tough to find really special gifts for that price.
Make it Personal.
I like for my gifts to be personalized. When I do that, I feel like it makes it that much more special. I love things that are monogrammed or personalized in some way. Check out Etsy for some great personalized gifts. I also love that Etsy products are homemade by someone and my purchase is helping them do life for their family.
Make it Unique.
Don’t just get the latest toy. Their parents, friends, grandparents and so many other people are buying them fun toys to play with. Most kids have so many toys, they can’t even play with all of them. Try to think of something out of the box. Click on the pictures to go to the products.
Any post on this blog may contain affiliate links which pay me a very small commission for items you purchase using the links but costs you nothing extra. I can help defray a small percentage of the cost of producing the blog to share information with you.
Some of the things I’ve bought for my daycare kids over the years include:
- Children’s Bible-This is a great one if you run a faith based program.
- Monogrammed blankets
- Monogrammed pillows
- Monogrammed duffel bags
- Monogrammed back packs
- Piggy banks and rolls of pennies to feed in them
- Monogrammed aprons
- Personalized puzzles (Melissa and Doug will add names on puzzles)
- Garden tools and seeds (we garden at daycare, so it’s cool to think they could take that home with them too) Click on the picture to view a set.
- Board Games (education and encourages screen free family time)
I asked a bunch of my friends what they give their daycare kids and I got a lot of really cool and unique ideas. I love polling providers; they are a great group of folks. Here is a list of what they said:
- Books was the most popular answer and I absolutely LOVE that. It makes me happy to think of all those kids getting books! Click here to see why reading to kids is one of the most important things you can do.
- Homemade PJ Pants (I wish I could sew)
- Homemade Hats and Gloves (I wish I could knit)
- Knitted Dolls (so cool)
- Stockings Full of Toys
- Mugs with Hot Chocolate
- Christmas Outfit
- Homemade Ornaments
- Homemade Aprons
- Monogrammed Stuffed Animals
- Homemade Cookies
- Fischer Price Toys
- Coloring Book with Crayons, you can even make your own personalized coloring books. Click here to see how.
- Gift Cards
- Hair Barrettes and Keychains
- Match Box Cars
- Personalized Books
- Hats, Scarves and Gloves
- Homemade Playdough
- PJ’s and a book
I like to give to my families as well and usually do some sort of homemade cookies, pies, or breads. I always make the families a personalized cookbook of the children cooking as gifts to go with whatever food I make. Click here to see how we make our cookbooks.
What great ideas do you have for great gifts for your daycare kids or families?
For more great Christmas ideas, click on the links to check out my friend’s posts below.
It’s a bit overwhelming to receive this letter about a ton of new requirements for childcare licensing in Oklahoma. and not know what a lot of these things mean. Oklahoma childcare has been changing for a while and will continue to do so in the future. First, take a step back and realize you have a free visit to learn about them. Second, we can break it down in small bites and it will be just fine.
There are a ton of new policies that you’ll have to write for Oklahoma childcare providers. That’s the biggest, most time-consuming part. If you would like to use my handy template, you’re welcome to click on the link below to download it and then make changes as you see fit for your own use. You may have to click enable editing to edit. That will take a lot of the guess work out of making sure you have everything included.
I already had policies in place, so I added mine to these so I’d only have one booklet. This document will be your own to use however you see fit, so change and tweak away. I hope it saves you a ton of time. You’ll need to print out a copy to keep on site, one for your go bag, and one for each daycare family. It’s not required to have them sign it but it is required to make sure they read and understand it so they will be aware of your plans.
You will need to review these policies yearly AND after drills and after an event occurs to see what you could do better next time.
You will also need to add a place in your contract that tells parents you are a reporter of sex trafficking behaviors. How a parent would not already know you would turn them in for human trafficking is beyond me. You can bet your butt I would turn someone in long before my policy was in place. My contract states I am a mandated reporter of suspected child abuse, so I just added and sex trafficking behaviors. You don’t have to add this here, but since you have to report, I would recommend it.
Two things already handled. You got this!
Let’s talk about the trainings that are required:
Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases
Use of a Fire Extinguisher
Prevention of Shaken Baby
Prevention of SIDS
Car Seat Safety
Physical Premise Safety
Handling/Storing Hazardous Materials
Prevention and Response to Emergencies/Food Allergy Situations
Behavior and Guidance
These are the trainings required. Talk to your worker to see what trainings you already have. You may only need to add Safe Sleep if you have been in business. You can give them a call and see what you still need to get or wait until your visit and ask. Also, DHS will be providing an updated healthy and safety DVD that we will be required to view within 90 days of receipt.
Your go bag should include:
First and last names of all your kids and yourself
Emergency contact numbers for emergency personnel
Emergency contact numbers for your kid’s families
I included a copy of my child information forms in my bag so their first and last names, emergency contact numbers and medical/allergy/medication needs would all be right there. That was an easy way to do it. I’m going to attach a photo of each child as well in case I need information for a missing child situation. I will already have a photo and info ready to go in the bag. I can grab it for law enforcement in no time.
A copy of your emergency policies
Lifesaving medications for any children in care
The other required item for your bag is a first aid kit.
This kit has to include:
Thermometer, disposable gloves, blunt tipped scissors, tweezers, bandage tape, gauze, adhesive strips and a first aid guide. Click the picture below for a great kit that has everything needed but a thermometer. Click the picture of the thermometer if you want to go straight to one that would work but is not too expensive.
Other things I put in my go bag are:
Diapers for each child
Any post on this blog may contain affiliate links which pay me a very small commission for items you purchase using the links but costs you nothing extra. I can help defray a small percentage of the cost of producing the blog to share information with you.
You can print out the emergency personnel numbers from the policy link above and add your first and last name and any emergency info to the bottom or back of this sheet to meet all the requirements.
Forms to post
You’ll need to take down your old Notice to Parents and Insurance Forms and print out the new ones. You’ll also need to print a copy of each one that parents fill out. You’ll need one of each for each family and they must be resigned every year.
Click here for the Notice to Parents to post
Click here for Insurance Form to post
Click here for Notice to Parents for each family (they’ll have to sign yearly)
Click here for Insurance Form for each family (they’ll have to sign yearly)
You’ll also need a new drill form that includes the new drills you’ll have to perform yearly. Those include:
Monthly Fire Drills
Monthly Tornado Drills
Monthly Smoke Detector Test
Monthly Carbon Monoxide Detector Test
Expiration of Fire Extinguisher
Yearly Lock Down Drill
Yearly Shelter in Place Drill
Yearly Evacuation Drill
Yearly Relocation Drill
Click here to print out a copy of mine
The last thing you’ll need to post is emergency numbers. I used the same sheet at the beginning of the policies and added all my parents numbers at the bottom. Make sure it has your address on it. I guess that’s for when you call 911 and forget where you are. 😉 I printed that out and laminated it and posted it by the phone as required. Once you do that, you’re good to go!
These Oklahoma childcare regulations include a ton of busy work and a little nonsense, but it’s good to be thinking about these things. We need to be prepared for emergencies. I like the idea of parents knowing how I plan to react. Let me know if you have any questions about any of the things listed. I hope this has made the process a little less painful for you!
Stay tuned for a contracts and policies post coming soon!
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When looking for in-home childcare or any other childcare, make sure you know what you are getting. Lots of situations could be avoided with good communication before you enter into a business relationship with someone.
Are lesson plans your biggest fear or biggest heart ache? Do you love working with kids but choke at the idea of deciding what to do with them? A little pre planning will make your life so much easier and it’s not as hard as you think.
At Little Sprouts, I make a basic plan for my lessons for the entire school year. This helps me stay on track and stay organized throughout the year. If I do a month or a week at a time, I tend to lose focus and fall off the wagon many times throughout the year. This plan is not best for everyone, some people get too overwhelmed with thinking of planning a year at a time, but it’s not the detailed plans, just a lose outline of what you’ll work on.
My number one quote is and has always been, if you don’t keep the kids busy, THEY will keep YOU busy. This is not a pleasant thing. Have things planned to do with them!
The first thing you need to do to get started is find something to plan on. I use free printable online calendars, but you can use a spreadsheet or whatever works for you. I’m a pen and paper girl. I like it that way. I print out a calendar for each month from August to May. I check the public school calendars and choose a date I want to start and end my preschool season.
Next you need to make a list of all the things you’d like to cover. At Little Sprouts, we use one day for letters, numbers, colors, shapes, working on our names and that sort of thing. We use one day for creative, open ended art and jamming tunes with instruments and dancing. We use one day for science projects, and we use one day for math activities or crafts. We don’t do many crafts, but we do a few, so most weeks, this day is for math. We have fun Fridays where we have a lot of extra free play and sitting around reading, laughing and talking. We get to do this most days, but on Fridays, we do it more.
Take home papers
I do a lot of activities that involve taking something home because parents like to see and be involved in what their kids are learning. If they don’t see anything coming home, they will naturally assume learning is not taking place. So I try to keep parent involvement in mind when planning what we are doing. We don’t take home a paper every day, but a lot of times we do.
Planning dates for lessons
Now that you have your basic blueprint of what you want to cover and something to record your ideas on, go through the calendar and mark off any days you are closed for holidays or vacations. If you have school kids, you can mark the days school is out so you can plan something that is more appropriate for the older kids as well as the younger ones.
This is the first year in 20 years I have not had any school agers after school and on breaks and I am AMAZED at how much easier lesson planning has been. I am glad I made the decision not to keep school agers anymore, because as I get older, it gets harder and harder to be everything to everyone. Two years ago I stopped taking infants and children under the age of 2. It has helped me so much not to get burned out.
I love babies, but I just want babies only, preschoolers only, or big kids only. Not all three. It’s too hard and requires SO much equipment and supplies to cover all of those age groups. I find ages 2-4 the absolute most fun, so that’s what I’ve decided to focus on from now on. Preschool is for me.
Back to the lesson plans. We have the days set we need and what we want to cover each week, so now we have to set a routine for the day. Routines cannot work out 100% of the time, but if you have a structure in place it will make your whole day go more smoothly. Start with meal times and nap.
At Little Sprouts, we have breakfast at 8:30, lunch at 11:30, and snack at 3:00. We used to have a 4:00 snack for after school, but we don’t need that any more. Our nap is from about 12:45 to about 2:45 most days. Of course it just depends on what happens if that is totally accurate. If you’ve done daycare for any length of time, you already know that.
I open at 7:00 and close at 5:00. It takes me around 30 minutes to make breakfast and lunch. Snack just takes a few. So from 7:00 to 8:30 when we eat breakfast, we have free time. Before I have to start cooking, I mostly answer the door to let people in and sit and snuggle on the couch with the kids.
I’m a morning person but not everyone is and some kids need some extra time to wake up. They can play in the playroom or the living room or hang out with me and just be still if they want. I get up at 8 and start breakfast and they can still play or chill.
We get finished with breakfast around 9 most days. In the summer time we go outside right after breakfast so we can avoid as much heat as possible and still get outside. My temperature range for outdoor play is the same as the public schools, 40-90. If it’s 39 we stay in, if it’s 91 we stay in. Sometimes it’s 91 by 10:00 or even earlier, so to get as much time outside as we can, we go out as soon as we can.
If it’s winter time, we wait until around 10:00 to go outside so it has time to warm up a little. In the winter, we have activity time inside at 9 and in the summer we have outside time at 9. If it’s a rainy day, we just have free time inside instead. Kids love being outside and it’s so good for them, we do as much out there as we can.
If it’s garden picking day (click here to read about our garden activities) we go pick vegetables first and then have free time in the play area. Sometimes the kids just want to play in the garden and they can do that too. Sometimes we have other activities in the garden as well. It’s a great classroom for us.
At 10 we come inside, wash our hands, get a drink, and have activity time from 10-11. At 11, I let the star of the day (a different child gets to be the star each day and gets to choose certain things throughout the day, sit in a special chair, be in charge of the water in the bathroom, and say a blessing over our meals) chose a movie from my VHS collection to watch while I make lunch. It helps them start to wind down, keeps the mishaps down and helps me focus more on what I’m cooking for them.
I don’t let them watch TV because I think commercials are horrid for children. Images being blasted at them for more more more are just gross. If they ever watch TV here, it’s OETA public television, no commercials.
Anyway, back to lunch making. Lunch is at 11:30 and we finish eating and cleaning up around 12-12:15 each day. Everyone goes potty, washes up and gets ready for bed. We all snuggle together on the couch and have story time and sing songs and finger plays. After story time, the kids get on their mats, I get each of them a stuffed animal to snuggle, I give them a hug and a kiss and tuck them in and they go to sleep.
I usually have to wake them up for snack and then we got potty again, put our beds away, get our shoes on and get our stuff together and they start going home. Kids trickle out for the next two hours so we have free play in the living room until they leave so we can watch for parents. We can do puzzles at the table, draw or whatever the kids want to do.
So now we have an hour a day, four days a week to do special activities. You can see that we already have covered a lot of stuff in our daily routine. There are so many teachable moments during free time where we can talk about colors or count or talk about our names.
We have a check in and out system that has a foot for each child that they “clock in” with. They take their foot from the bye bye spot to a slot that shows they are present for the day, at the end of the day they put it back in the bye bye spot. It has their name on it and helps them get familiar with their name.
Now we need to make a list of all the things you want to teach the kids or set up for them to do. If you have core curriculum requirements, list them now. I am a big advocate of school readiness so I like to focus on a lot of skills that will help them find success at school. Fine and gross motor skill building, self-help skills, pre-reading skills and things like that are my focus.
Work on ABC’s
Spelling their name
Writing their name
Saying their phone number
Learning their parents’ names
Playing with Magnets
This is just a short list of examples. Make a list that goes along with your goals for teaching your kids.
Next we can think of some themes we want to use. For instance, you could do apples in September, pumpkins in October, and butterflies in May, whatever you think your kids will be interested in and is current for the time of year it is. Write those themes on each page of your calendar or spreadsheet. This gives you a basic outline of what you’re doing.
At Little Sprouts, we do each theme for two weeks. If the kids are bored with it, we scrap it and move on. If they come up with something they are interested in, we do that instead of what I have planned. The outline just gives us something to keep us moving forward.
Now take your sheet and write one of the areas you want to teach above each day of the week. At Little Sprouts we have “learning time” on Mondays, crafts or math on Tuesdays, music and free art on Wednesdays, and science on Thursdays.
Now I can go to my list of things I want to teach and plug them into each day on my calendar. For pumpkins I can have the kids mix red and yellow playdough or paint to make orange, I could cut open a pumpkin for them and let them gut it and cook the seeds, or cook the flesh and make a pie, or make paint or ink stamps with the flesh and let them do art.
I can plan it out and then the kid’s interests can take it in any direction we want it to go. The kids might want to play with magnets every day for a week and not do anything with a pumpkin. That’s okay, they are learning. And I promise they will learn a whole lot more from something they are interested in than something you want them to be interested in.
Plug in something for each day on your sheet until it’s full. The internet is a wonderful resource for spaces that you have that might be blank. There are hundreds of preschool websites to help you come up with activates. Please make sure all of your activities are not cookie cutter, closed ended craft projects.
Kids need to learn how to create, not just follow directions. Following directions is important as well, they do have to go to school when they leave you and they do need some skills to help them find success when they get there, but most of your time should be spent letting kids explore their own interests.
You can keep your list of activities and use them from year to year. Spending a few hours in the summer planning out your year’s activities will help you so much. You can make a shopping list for any supplies you need and put it on the back of each page of your calendar so you will have everything you need when the time comes. You can also print out any sheets you may need and have those ready as well. Being prepared is the number one best way to find success in your day!
Do you have any great secrets for planning your school year right?
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