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Many times people ask me, what’s a day like for you? A day in the life of an in-home daycare provider may look different than you think. Running a home daycare is not always what it seems to everyone else.
I wake up between 5 and 5:30. First, I spend a few minutes talking to God about how grateful I am for the day and asking Him to help me be the best I can be for Him today. I get up and take a shower and get dressed for the day in the life of in-home daycare.
Then I take a walk around the house and make sure everything is in order for the kids to arrive, turn on the living room light and open the front shade. It’s so peaceful early in the morning when no one is bustling in the neighborhood and everything is still dark. I love that time of day.
Finding quality childcare is of utmost importance to parents.
Next, I take a little time to prepare my mind for the day. First I read a chapter or two of the Bible, without which my whole day would be thrown off. If I don’t take time for myself daily, it’s easy for me to burn out. After my Bible reading is done, I take a few minutes to think about what I read and try to think of a way to apply it to my life or something I might need to learn from it.
Then I turn on my computer and look at anything that needs my attention. I read my emails, check my Facebook, and check the blog and see if there are comments that need to be answered and how my stats are looking from the day before.
After I handle that, I take a few minutes to work on the blog until my first student arrives. The first child comes around 7:00. I have been up getting my mind together and am ready to start the day with them.
When each child comes in, I open the door for them and their parents and greet them with “good morning” or something like that. I am a morning person for sure and I am cheerful mostly every day.
When the child comes in, they find their foot with their name on it in the check-in center and chose an envelope to display it in for the day.
For the next hour and a half, kids come every few minutes, so we watch out the window for the next one to come while we visit in the living room until they are all here.
Around 8:00 I start breakfast for the kids. This could consist of oatmeal, cold cereal, pancakes, muffins, or toast and some fruit and a cup of milk. I make the pancakes and muffins in bulk and freeze them so many days just have to thaw something from the freezer, but if it’s time to make more, I usually start as soon as the first child arrives.
He LOVES to “hatch” eggs and other helpful chores with the cooking, so we enjoy that together too. Once the breakfast is cooked and the fruit is cut up and prepared and the milk is poured into cups, I get out all the dishes needed for the meal and set them in the table and pour myself a glass of water to drink. Staying hydrated is a super important part of the day in the life of in-home daycare.
Most of the food I serve is homemade from scratch and it can be time-consuming to prepare food that way. The kid’s health is super important to me, so it’s worth the extra effort to feed them well.
I don’t feel that processed foods are the healthiest choice, so I limit how many of them I serve. When I cook meals for the kids, I usually cook a substantial amount. For instance, I can save a ton of time making soup if I make a huge pan of soup and serve it to the kids for lunch and then we have it for dinner.
Mr. Kent takes it in his lunch the next day and I freeze a portion of it for another meal a few weeks later when we will do the same thing. That’s 4 meals for everyone from one prep time. I do the same thing with homemade bread.
When I make bread, I might make 12 loaves of bread in one day. Making bread is messy, so why not make a lot and have less clean up than you would for multiple bread making sessions?
I cool all 12 loaves, slice it, and put it in the freezer so when I need a loaf of bread, it’s ready to go. Then I serve sandwiches, toast, warm honey butter bread, and many other meals using my homemade bread and I don’t have time to whip up a batch every time I need it. I just make a lot once every few weeks.
We eat breakfast at 8:30. Usually, all of the kids or all but one are here by then, so we wash our hands and sit down at the table and the “star of the day” prays over our food. I serve all the kids their food and I eat with them as well.
Eating with the kids is super important to model table manners as well as good eating habits. The only things I serve the kids that I don’t eat are milk (because it gives me tummy troubles) and mac and cheese because I hate it. Don’t worry, my despise of mac and cheese DOES NOT deter the kids from loving it.
During breakfast, we talk about whatever the kids want to talk about. Meal times are the BEST conversation times of the day. I love eating with the kids because I feel like it helps us get to know each other better. I hear all kinds of stories when we are hanging out at the table. It’s wonderful.
Setting down for “family” meals is super important for childcare providers AND families to do whenever possible. It’s tough to make the time when everyone can get together, but the benefits of it far outweigh the effort it takes to do it. I want those benefits for my kids as well.
After breakfast, the kids take care of their dishes. They dump their plates in the trash and load them into the dishwasher with their silverware (I use the term load loosely, but they are still learning even though I have to go back and straighten), and they put their cups on the cabinet for drinking later.
I put away the leftover food, take care of my dishes, wipe and disinfect the table, and wash the cups and fill them with water for whenever someone needs a drink. Water is available to the kids at all times throughout the day.
The kid’s cups are color-coded so they know which one is theirs. They have the same color sleeping mat, pillow, blanket, and foot to check in with.
While I am cleaning up the kitchen, the kids have free play. When I finish in the kitchen, I either take the kids outside if it’s the hot summertime, or they have free play inside first if its spring, fall, or winter.
After breakfast, I change diapers and take everyone to the bathroom to go potty and wash their hands. Then, for most of the year, it’s free time. Kids can play with the toys or look at books while I prepare the activities for the day.
After I get the activity supplies together, I will sit with the kids and snuggle, play whatever they want me to play or read to them. They serve me toy food, “fix” my hair, or whatever they want me to do. I don’t direct their play, but I respond when they want me to join them.
Free time is over around 9:30. We pick up the toys and they make their beds for nap time. If you’re wondering how I get the kids to clean up, click here. They get their beds out and make them in whatever spot they would like. The kids sleep in the playroom so after the beds are made, we close the door and do activities.
Routine for family childcare providers
On Mondays, we have “school” where we work on tracing lines or letters for our name, we work on spelling names out loud, practice saying last names and mom and dad’s names, and recite phone numbers. These things are done for safety reasons, if a child should ever get lost, they know who they belong to.
Activities are generally done at the table. I have the kids practice joining in an activity and following some directions so they are prepared to be able to do that at school. After all, this is school preparation.
If kids don’t want to participate, they are not forced to, I just know they will join in the next time. Everything I choose for the kids to do is thought through with great concern.
I want our time together to be valuable in preparing them for the future, but I don’t want the type of learning I offer to make them nervous or feel inadequate. Everyone is encouraged and celebrated here.
Tuesday is art day in the life of in-home daycare. We may do something with collage materials, play dough, have a craft project, make bird feeders, make pictures with fingerprints, mix paints to learn colors, or any number of other activities, usually open-ended and creative. Click here to learn more about nurturing creativity in kids.
Wednesday is drawing and music day. We get paper and something to draw with and make a picture of whatever we want. When we are finished we get out the musical instruments and crank up the CD player with whatever music is chosen by the star of the day and get down and boogie. We LOVE to sing and dance.
Thursday is science day. We may explore magnets, make a goopy goop, plant a seed, cook a recipe, or any number of sciency things.
On Fun Friday, we do not have teacher-directed activities. We get extra free play because it’s super important. To read more about the importance of free play, click here.
What do we do all day in daycare?
After free play, I change diapers, send all the kids to the potty again, get everyone dressed in their jackets and head outside. This is the time we may work in the garden, see what’s growing, plant or pick stuff, and play in the playground area.
If you want to read about how our garden started, click here.
The kids love to dig in the rocks, play with the dinosaurs and animals, swing, slide, run, scream, and climb.
During the spring and fall when it’s super nice out, we usually do activities right after breakfast and go straight outside so we can have our free play out there. The schedule is dependent on the weather of course. On bad weather days, we free play inside after activity time. Rainy days are a rough part of the day in the life of in-home daycare.
At 11:00 it’s time for me to cook lunch, so we head inside, wash our hands, use the potty, change diapers, and take off jackets and shoes. I let the star of the day choose a movie and kids can watch the movie, look at books or play with the special toy of the day.
Each day in the life of in-home daycare we get out a special toy from our shelves, the star of the day gets to choose it. The special toys are sets like a box of Mr. Potato heads, a box of Lincoln logs, a box of cars and a car rug, a farm set, or something like that.
They play with that while I cook their lunch. I serve lunch at 11:30, so they clean up the toys, go potty if they need to and wash their hands. They get their cups of milk and get up to the table. The star of the day prays over the food, I serve them their plates and we eat together again.
We all stay at the table until everyone is done. I feel it’s important to do that with them because if they go out to eat with their families, parents won’t want their kids to jump down after they eat and run all over the restaurant, so we practice every day having good manners.
They are not allowed to have seconds until I eat my food. If they do ask, I tell them I will let them know when I’m ready to give seconds. Patience is a virtue that needs to be practiced. Repetition and teaching is a big part of every day in the life of in-home daycare.
When we are finished eating, they take care of their dishes again, and head to the bathroom to potty and wash their hands, I also change diapers at this time. They get a book and sit down on the couch while I finish putting up the food, packing Kent’s lunch for the next day, disinfecting the table, washing their cups, and putting the rest of the dishes in the dishwasher (most days, some of that gets done later).
It’s time for stories. We use a Clifford storybook set that has a wall poster and 10 small paper books with the same words. I read the kids the words and they repeat them while we point to the words.
We use each set of books for about two weeks and then they take them home. After we read the books, they put them away and we all sit on the couch and sing songs together. We have tons of reading time during free play that kids can choose books for me to read to them.
Then it’s time for huggies and they get in their beds. I go into the sleeping area and give each child an animal to sleep with and put their blanket on them and tell them I love them. Routine is important in getting kids to settle in for sleep. This part of the day in the life of in-home daycare helps me recharge for round two.
When everyone is settled to sleep, I go back to the computer and check what’s new. I try to be super quiet while the kids fall asleep and I usually turn the TV on to the food network for background noise so if someone calls or rings the doorbell they don’t wake up.
I like food network because it usually doesn’t have loud commercials or action scenes, it’s just even volume talking. Also, it doesn’t have a lot of bad language.
After I check the computer, I will either work on my blog or read a book for a few minutes until my friend Yavonna calls. We usually talk for a while during nap.
She is a childcare provider as well, so we are “co-workers”. We share ideas with each other, encourage each other, and sometimes we even work on correspondence classes or paperwork together if there is something we both need to finish. We need support in every day in the life of in-home daycare.
She might help me with my CDA renewal packet, or I might help her with tax information. We are a great team. We also plan our activities together, work on our calendars, and share ideas. Good friends are priceless and she is a gem!
I make a snack for the kids during nap. Maybe some crackers, warm bread with butter and honey, dry cereal, or pretzels and some fruit and a cup of water. Sometimes I make cookies or muffins while the kids are asleep for their snack.
Many days I will start the preparation for dinner that night during nap as well or do some cleaning or paperwork that needs to be dealt with. At 2:50, I hang up with my friend and wake the kids up with a “wakey wakey shake and bakey” and some tickles or hugs.
They put their beds up and go potty, I change diapers. Then we all meet at the table for their snack time. I sit at the table while they eat, but I don’t usually have snack.
When they are finished eating snack, they put up their dishes and get their shoes on. Then they have free play until their parents come. The first child leaves around 3:15 and then kids leave throughout the afternoon until 5:00 when my last family leaves. It’s a long day in the life of in-home daycare.
I have one after-school child that comes on the bus around 3:45 so we watch for him and he eats snack when he gets here. During this time I sit with the kids while they play with the special toy they have that day, look at books which a lot of times they ask me to read to them, sing songs, makeup games, and whatever else the kids think of.
Usually, I have diapers to change or kids to help in the bathroom besides watching for parents to come.
After school, my school-ager and I usually come up with something fun to do the little kids want to do it with us. We might get out some puzzles, make paper airplanes, draw a picture, or play a game. The kids are never short on ideas.
Usually around 4:30 I start dinner and a load of laundry while everyone is engaged in what they are doing. I might get all the vegetables cut up or have something roasting in the oven.
Sometimes I don’t get much done before everyone is gone, but that’s part of this job, not everything will go as planned. Some days it does more than others. To me, staying busy keeps me from getting bored, so I like that no two days are the same.
After all the kids leave, my husband and I eat dinner and talk about our day. After dinner, my husband usually cleans up the dinner dishes and sweeps the floor. He is a big help!
Daycare provider after hours
I do my chores such as rounding up the herd of cats and feeding them, making sure the carpet is clean, picking up the last of the toys the kids missed before they left, putting my materials up from the day’s activities, putting the laundry in the dryer or folding it, wiping down the bathroom, rounding up the paper towels that missed the trash, slicing up bread or packaging muffins or pancakes, cleaning any toys that need some extra loving, scooping the litter boxes, taking out the trash, and taking the compost out to the composter. This is the most boring part of a day in the life of in-home daycare.
My husband, Mr. Kent, is a great help and pitches in wherever I need him. If it weren’t for him, I would still be doing chores past my bedtime, but he’s a team player these days.
When we finish cleaning up from the day, we go out into the garden and pick weeds or mow the yard, or whatever chore might need to be done out there. Or we might head to church if it’s Wednesday or run an errand or attend a class or meeting, whatever is on the agenda for the day.
Obviously, sometimes we don’t get all of that done before we need to go somewhere, so we will have to stay up late when we get home and finish. Usually, on Wednesdays we never get to bed at our regular time and any other days we have to be somewhere in the evening.
Childcare is MESSY. It’s not just a “straighten up your desk and head home for the day” kind of job. If you provide childcare in your home, it consumes most of your space and most of your time. The hours are long, at least 10 hours a day, and then you have at least another hour or maybe two or three to finish with cleaning and preparation for the next day in the life of in-home daycare.
Usually by 7:00 I am beat and ready to chillax. If we are home that evening, I might work on my blog, work on something with Mr. Kent for work, or read a little. Then we usually turn on the TV about 8:00 and start to unwind from the day.
Then we head to bed around 9:00. Mr. Kent has to get up at 3:30 some days and at 6:30 some days. On Monday he usually gets to sleep in until 8:00. We talk some more about our day and pray before we go to bed.
Usually, Saturday is errands, gathering food and supplies, dropping off the recycling, and catching up in the garden. Sundays after church we have to start getting everything prepped for the new week of daycare.
Prepping food, washing produce, baking, getting meat and bread out of the freezer to thaw, steaming the floor, vacuuming, washing sheets and pillowcases for the mats, dusting, disinfecting toys, and things like that.
A very important part of being successful in childcare is to be prepared. You cannot put off the things that need to be done ahead of time or you will be playing catch up and things will fall apart. You have to have plans to keep the kids busy or they will keep you busy putting out fires. Preparation, preparation, preparation is key in a day in the life of in-home daycare!
And that’s my very non-exciting day in the life of in-home daycare. It’s busy, it’s hard and it’s super fun! I wouldn’t want any other life and I would never be able to do it without such an amazing, supportive husband. He’s my rock and I would be nothing without him. He’s a trooper.