Daycare Advice for Newbies!!

Helpful daycare advice, support, and daycare tips for people interested in starting a daycare.
Collected from the seasoned child care provider members of the
Provider's Playground Facebook Group and from reader response.

* Do a lot of research. Find out if this is something you are really cut out to do. It takes a special kind of crazy! :-)

* Join a daycare association.

* Join this list. LOL

* Make a contract and stick to it! Don't let parents talk you out of your decisions.

* Keep EVERY receipt Even if you don't think you will need it.

* Document, document, document.

* Get to know other providers in your area. Support is critical.

* Make sure you keep your receipts for **everything**.

* Join the food program, it's really not that much work and even on the lower tier, a little money monthly is better than the 100% tax write off at the end of the year. Especially when you are first starting out.

* Make a contract and stick to it.

* Join an FCC Asso. or make friends with at least a few other providers; the ideas/networking/support can't be beaten.

* My advice would be to always remember to put your own child's and family's needs ahead of daycare. After all, one of our biggest complaints as providers is that we see parents putting work ahead of their kids, and I think we should be setting the best example.

* I'd definitely say, have a contract and make sure you have everything you want in there. Don't short change yourself because you are "just starting out". Call around and see what the going rate, vacation policies, etc. are in your area. It's so hard to go back later and add vacation days, holidays, etc. without feeling guilty. Put it all in there right from the start.

* Be selective about who you take. Make sure you interview them with the dck present to be certain it will be a good fit with your home and own kids.

* Document everything!

* Be sure to go over your contract and rules with the client to avoid any "misunderstandings" later.

* Stick to your rules/contract! Once you let them get away with something it will only get worse in the future (i.e. bringing sick children, paying late, etc.)

* First of all, I would make sure that they knew that they are a professional and they need to be treated that way. They need a contract, reasonable fees, schedule, etc. They need to be prepared to answer all kinds of questions from parents and be sure about their answer. Once they deal with the parents (the hard part) then as long as they keep the kids busy and have good consistent rules the children, for the most part, should be fine. I would make sure they realize the number of hours and work that goes into it. But finally, I would encourage them, because to me this is the best job in the world. Especially as you start to have the same children for a couple of years, and get to watch them grow up.

* Get it in writing. I am not just talking about contracts and registration forms. I am talking about writing and making some kind of record of everything. For example, You have a family who says they are on their third daycare, but it is always the providers' fault, never theirs. Keep track of things that are said or done, and how things are handled. Record every bump, and skinned knee any kid gets while in your care. Keep track of any meds you give with dosage, time, etc. It helps with doing your taxes too.

* Make sure this is what you really want to do. You have to have a love for children. Pray about it. Research thoroughly. Join a list like this one, and a local group if possible. Make a contract and policies/handbook - check out other providers for suggestions and ideas. Make sure your family/children are prepared to share you and their home. Respect yourself and treat yourself as a professional and hopefully, everyone will.

* I think the single best piece of advice that I've been given that I don't always follow (LOL) is to take care of yourself ~ try to get plenty of rest, try to put your feet up during downtime during the daycare day, if you're able to, perhaps hire an assistant part-time to help you with the overwhelming load (mine is super).

* I feel that networking is the key to success in our profession. After 20 years of working with children in my home, I have finally found the answer for me. This and all of the list, web sites and organizations have not only given me a source of great information, but I have also found a wonderful place to share laughter and tears.

* I think the most important thing a new provider can do is join a local association (and don't just send in your dues, but actually attend meetings/training). If there is no association, at least try to get to know a few other local providers. I have had several providers in our association say they wouldn't have made it through their first year without the peer support and mentoring of other providers.

* Another thing I would advise is for new providers to take a tax & recordkeeping class as soon as possible (or even before they start) from someone who is VERY experienced in childcare taxes. How many of us have had to try to reconstruct our records from our first year when we found out at tax time that we were supposed to save receipts for EVERYTHING, even if we thought it wasn't related to daycare?? UGH!!! If there is no training available then Tom Copeland's books, "Taxes and Recordkeeping" and "Contracts & Policies" are a must-have for new providers. And although I have never seen this class offered, maybe someone should come up with one called "Daycare Parent Pitfalls" so new providers will be prepared for some of those not so perfect daycare parents who will inevitably show up on their doorstep.

* Take care of yourself. Ours is a demanding profession. Make sure you get enough rest and that your diet is healthy.

* Try to get outdoors every single day, if possible.

* Don't shortchange yourself. Ask a reasonable salary. Call other providers that have advertised in the newspaper to get an idea of the "going rate" for home daycare in your area. Charge less as you're starting out if you want, but not *too* much less.

* Have a contract stating all your policies. You can write your own or pull a pre-written contract off the internet.

* Understand that people will take advantage of you only with your permission.

* There are bad daycare parents and there are good daycare parents. Be as selective as possible. Good daycare parents are worth their weight in gold! :-)

* Practice the 3 F' Firm, Fair and Friendly.

* Never forget that children are precious. Loud, and sometimes irritating, but ultimately precious. They look to you for emotional security and comfort while they are in your home. Remember that it is hard on them to be away from Mom and Dad for so many hours each day. They will need you to supply them with hugs and affection just as much as food or water. If you can't take care of their emotional needs as well as their physical needs, this may not be the job for you. Remember that, no matter what society says, nurturing children is the greatest and most rewarding job in the world. :-)

* You don't have to have all the answers, just know where to go to get them or directed to them :)

* I have been providing childcare for over twenty years and have founded and ran two support groups for childcare providers. My best advice to all providers new and experienced is always remember it is your business and you are the boss. Some parents try to get away with a lot and take advantage of your time you must from the start let them know it is your business and you are in charge.

* One thing I wish I knew when I started was the frustrations I'd be dealing with - with the PARENTS. I never anticipated that would be the worst part of this job.

* I wish that someone would have told me to be firm in my policies. ALWAYS! That unless I enforced my policies 100% of the time, I would be taken advantage of. I also wish someone would have told me to take time off once in a while. I got sooooo burnt out the first few years I was doing daycare but once I started actually taking vacation time.... and actually taking off state holidays also, I felt much better. We all seem to spend so much time trying to please the parents that we oftentimes forget about our own well-being. So those are the things I wish someone would have told me.

* I wish people would have warned me before starting in my home that other providers can be very clicky in certain area and it can get cut throat trying to get parents. I thought we would all network and all this stuff and boy was I wrong about that at least in this area. It's better to join a group like this with people that really care about each other and want to help.

* I wish someone would have told me not to waste my time with ads in the paper and just used free posting sites like Craig's List and Kijiji.

* I wish someone would have told me that there is more than one food program and once you join you can't switch if you don't like it until October of each year. I know they all pay the same money but I think the one I am on is very unfriend and after talking to people I learned I should have gotten on this other one. But I didn't know. I didn't know when they came to tell me about it that I was signing up for it either. I am still trying to figure out what counts for what.

* I wish someone would have told me to make sure your policies are iron tight before enrolling parents especially about late fees, children being sick, letting me know when they go on vacation (I have two children today and one is at school for the day, so only one here right now. Today is like a holiday or something for all my parents) and things like that. I got 3 families that got in before I had added a lot of the things (that I learned from all of you) and have to wait until June for the new policies to be signed when my rates go up each year.

* I wish someone would have told me about having to have the dishes always washed and never dirty in the sink when my licensor comes. Learned that last week and now I am in a panic about it each day.

* And lastly if you see a great deal on something buy 12 (or whatever your limit is) instead of just for how many you currently have at that time. I am kicking my butt now because I gotta go buy two chairs at full prices somewhere and these blue file holder I got this summer I can't find anymore anywhere. Same with the mats. I have two different kinds now and the children like to "debate" over who gets what color each week.

* I was unaware of all the extra hours I would be putting in after daycare hours. No getting around that, but it helps to become fluent with Excel, Word or some other program to keep you organized. I live by lists and charts. Get an accountant that is familiar with daycare taxes---worth every penny. Hire an assistant once financially possible.

* I have been in the field for a long time. The first thing I wish I knew about childcare was that I could have started my own childcare and never worked in a center. I am so much happier having my own childcare. *10 years my own - 11 years centers. This is what I think *This is based on my experience with childcare.

1. In the beginning, I never took a vacation - make sure you take at least 2 weeks off a year. Take advantage of holidays for breaks - major holidays CLOSE

2. It's very long hours 6:3o am - 5:30 pm -think about how long you will work.

3. The worst mistake you can make is taking a child you know you shouldn't for extra money. Never take a child unless you feel right about it. Never take a child after you interview the next day. You need to do an interview with the parents when the childcare is closed so you can sit down and talk about things before you take a child and always make sure the parents bring the child you need to observe how well they behave. Before you take a child think about the kids you have and see if that child will work for you. One child can make a bad day for everyone so be careful who you add.

4. You should always do childcare with 2 people. I think this is so important. You can go to the dentist or doctor when the numbers are low and by yourself, this is very hard. Lots of people do this by there selfs and I think that's crazy and I would only put my child in a daycare with 2 people.

5. Infants - Infants take a lot of time and if you have mixed ages this is very hard to get anything done so if you're by yourself you should only take ages 2 and up or you can take age 1 if they can walk.

6. Make a handbook with rules in it and have the parents read it. Make a handbook form that says all your rules that parents have to check that they have read them and sign it with a signature and keep it in the child's folder. Then when the parents say I didn't know that you can show then they signed a paper that they did.

7. Use the internet - So many providers do not use the internet which I think is the best resource. Join Yahoo Groups for childcare - curriculum - activities its the best thing you can do for yourself.


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