Looking for child care or early childhood education is no small task. It can seem like there is an overwhelming amount of daycare centers all promising to give the most to the children who attend them. When a family is searching for a child care program, they need to understand what makes a child care facility high quality and why that is so beneficial to the development of their child.
Several research studies show that high-quality early learning helps kids develop stronger language, math, and social skills upon entering school. Studies also show that they are less likely to require special education classes as they advance in their studies. Children enrolled in child care and early learning education programs are also more likely to earn higher wages and have fewer interactions within the justice system as adults.
What Are the Characteristics of High-Quality Child Care?
Specific characteristics are used to determine the likelihood of a quality child care program. Generally speaking, parents should be on the lookout for a center that provides a safe and nurturing environment, while still providing a stimulating learning experience. Knowing what to look for specifically makes choosing a center much less stressful for parents and much more rewarding for the children who attend. Some of the most important factors to consider are:
Small Class and Group Sizes
Small group size and class size mean more one-on-one time between teachers and students. It also allows teachers to create a stronger bond with the children in their classes, which in turn makes the children feel safe.
Staff with Higher Education and Continuing-Teacher Training
Centers that employ staff with prior teaching experience in early childhood development means that they know how to tailor the curriculum in developmentally appropriate ways. It’s also beneficial to be a part of an education program that encourages its directors and staff to further their skills, providing them the opportunity to evolve within the ever-changing landscape of the educational system.
Low Staff/Teacher Turnover
This is beneficial for a few reasons. It allows the staff to stay familiar with the children and build stronger relationships. It also means that the team is well cared for by their employer and enjoys their job, making it far more likely for them to put extra time and effort into their teaching.
Positive Teacher/Child Interactions
It’s essential to observe how the teachers at a child care center interact with their students. If the teachers seem stressed out or flustered, it can be a sign of poor organization or lack of leadership. The children should be in a positive environment where learning looks fun and organic, not chaotic.
National Accreditation and Licensing Standards
Child care centers that receive national accreditation and meet the minimum licensing standards demonstrate both the ability and the intent to provide higher than average care for the children who attend them. It proves that they set the bar high and have the results to demonstrate it.
Good Health and Safety Practices
Young children aren’t known for their health and safety practices. A large part of providing high-quality child care is ensuring that the children, teachers, and families who walk through the doors everyday practice proper safety, hygiene, and emergency protocol. Teachers should know what to do and who to contact in case of an emergency.
What Should Parents Look for When Touring a Child Care Facility?
Try to schedule a tour that doesn’t take place at nap time. This way, they can see what goes on when the energy is high, and the school day is in full swing.
Observe the classroom sizes and how many kids are in each class. This will give parents an idea of the amount of time/attention teachers can give to each student.
Observe the average age of the teachers who are working. If the teachers are younger, it is less likely that they have been there long and is also a good indication that there is probably a high turnover rate at that particular daycare center.
Do the children look happy to be there? If there seems to be a lot of chaos and turbulence, it’s a sign that the teachers don’t have a good grasp on keeping the kid’s attention or performing under pressure.
How do the teachers handle conflict amongst the children? Are they able to access the situation and take control, or are the children controlling them?
Are the students engaged, working on projects, age appropriate activities, and interacting with other children and teachers? Or are they watching a video and entertaining themselves? Early childhood education should be hands-on and interactive rather than through a screen.
Is the facility clean? Parents should check bathrooms, changing stations, and all food prep and dining areas. Things should be kept tidy and spotless when not in use.
Do the teachers at the center know all the students and their parent’s names? This is an excellent indicator of the types of relationships they form with the children who go there and their families.
How Can Daycares Provide a High-Quality Experience?
Provide families with access to knowledgeable, trusted staff
Keep class sizes small, so teachers and students don’t feel overwhelmed
Staff should get to know the families in the program and maintain a close personal connection with each student and their parents
Provide learning opportunities and encourage continuing education for all faculty members
Stay up-to-date and informed on the state and local guidelines for operating a child care facility
Check-in with students and their parents frequently to make sure you are on the same page about the education that is being provided
Make sure all staff is trained to deal with difficult or potentially dangerous situations
Provide teachers with adequate compensation and benefits to help reduce the rate of turnover
Make sure to provide a clean and healthy learning and teaching environment for all who walk through the door
Choosing family child care or an early education center doesn’t have to be a headache and operating one doesn’t have to be either. Follow the above tips and guidelines to create a creative, learning-enriched environment that is both safe and nurturing for all.
Smartcare believes strongly that education in general and childcare in particular are entering a “new normal”. What this means is that many of the common practices in place before COVID-19 will need to be replaced with practices better suited to current challenges.
One of the first things that we think the student will change is the check-in process.
In the pre-COVID era, the process typically involved a parent entering a common space like a lobby, interacting with a fingerprint scanner to authenticate themselves, and then handing off a child to a staff member.
Before COVID, Smartcare modernized this process with the use of touchless QR codes, and while removing a fingerprint scanner dramatically reduces contact points, we think the process can be better.
We think the best practice in the new normal will look something like this:
Families will queue in socially distanced location such as the family’s car in a drop-off line in front of the school.
Either the parent or the student’s teacher will complete a pre-drop-off health-check. The CDC has provided guidance and we anticipate that guidance will evolve over time. At this time, those guidelines include:
Temperature checks for fevers over 100.4 degrees.
Signs of illness including coughing, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, fatigue, extreme fussiness, nausea
Technology can automate validating the health-check to ensure it meets regulatory requirements and the school’s own preferences. A child who poses a risk to others never enters the facility, and so that staff and parents have the peace of mind that their child is a in a safe environment.
The student’s teacher can take custody of the child in a well-ventilated, socially-separated space such as directly from the child’s car in a drop-off line, and escort the child directly to a classroom. From here, the child will stay with classmates and remain isolated from other classes in the school, minimizing contact points along the way. This ensures separation from other students in other classes.
Within a school, classes should be kept as separate as possible. Where common areas must be shared, to the extent possible, those areas should be used by only one class at a time and disinfected between uses. All areas and toys should be disinfected regularly.
Where the above procedure isn’t possible, we recommend the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and barriers to minimize the exposure to staff and families.
Smartcare has functionality to support the new normal in your center and our team of customer success managers can help you update your procedures for the new normal. We have a report to help you track health checks and our teacher app allows for touchless check-in wherever its best suited for you to do so. You should expect improvements from us over the summer as we get more feedback.
We are committed to be your technology partner as we navigate into the new normal together.
Running a daycare facility efficiently poses many challenges. With current events putting an extra emphasis on the cleanliness and well-being of everyone and everything we come in contact with, it may seem more overwhelming than ever. Providing the best possible environment for children means keeping the classroom safe, clean, organized, and germ-free. Cleanliness is so much more than just vacuuming, putting toys away, and taking out the garbage at the end of the day. Creating or updating your cleaning checklist is an easy way to keep things running like a fine-tuned machine. So, where do you start when it’s time to implement a new cleaning plan?
Organization is key
There are endless amounts of cleaning tasks to tackle when it comes to keeping your childcare center clean and free of germs and viruses. The best way to stay on top of it is to keep things organized. Create a list that divides cleaning duties up into categories and figure out which tasks need to be done continuously, every day, once a week, once a month, and what tasks need to be done with the help of professionals. A specific cleaning schedule will not only help you stay on top of everything that needs to be done but will divide up the work and help you prioritize the important things first.
Make Cleaning Lists Easily Accessible
Make sure that the staff and those responsible for cleaning duties can easily access the list and check things off as they go. Posting an updated cleaning checklist in a designated spot will ensure tasks are not only getting completed but that the same things aren’t getting cleaned multiple times when it’s not needed.
These are ongoing tasks that should be done throughout the day. This list will include things that need to be cleaned before and after each use.
Clean and disinfect all diaper changing tables and potty chairs. Make sure they are free from any bodily fluids before and after each use.
Use hand sanitizer or disinfectant wipes after each diaper change or trash is emptied.
Empty trash receptacles and diaper pails before they are full.
Toilet seats and handles should be wiped down with bleach or disinfectant after each use.
Keep play area surfaces wiped down after each activity.
Food prep stations, and countertops need to be disinfected before and after food is prepared.
Dishes must be washed after each use. Do not leave unwashed dishes in the sink to pile up.
Sinks must be clear and free of food and debris.
Tables, highchairs, and all other seating and surfaces need to be wiped down before and after snack time.
Make sure toys that are not being used are picked up and stored away. Toys that have been chewed on or are dirty should be put away out of reach for cleaning. Spray toys or soak in a sanitizing solution at the end of the day.
Making a daily cleaning schedule will help staff stay on task and make it easier to divide up the cleaning duties. These are the things that need to be cleaned daily; some more than once a day.
Wipe and spray down toys at the end of each day and return them to their designated spot.
Clean up and organize all art and craft supplies.
Check mats, linens, and sleeping pads for soil and wash after each use.
Clean and sanitize kitchen equipment, sinks, and countertops.
Sweep and mop your daycare center’s floors and vacuum all rugs and soft surfaces.
Disinfect doorknobs, cabinets, and light switches as well as all phones and computers.
Clean bathrooms by scrubbing toilets with bleach. Disinfect all countertops, sinks, and surfaces at the end of each day.
Wash all linens before returning them to beds or changing tables.
These are things that can be done weekly. You can divide these tasks up to be done on a specific day. This will make an overall cleaning practice seem less substantial and ensure that they are accomplished thoroughly.
Clean and wash all soft toys, dress-up clothes, or special play items.
Wipe down and disinfect books and bookshelves.
Take everything out of cubbies and wipe inside and out with disinfectant wipes or spray.
Do a deep clean of art supply and craft areas.
Wipe down cribs and changing tables, thoroughly clean with bleach or disinfectant; making sure to get under the mats and pads.
Change out linens and wash and fold the old ones.
Do a deep clean of the center and all activity rooms. This should include dusting
hard-to-reach places as well as wiping down the walls.
Deep clean the bathrooms and be sure to get hard-to-reach places like behind the toilet and underneath the countertops. Spray and wipe down bathroom walls and stalls.
Deep clean the kitchen and food prep areas, including kitchen equipment and utensils. This should include a deep clean of the fridge and cabinets. Check all food and beverages for expiration. Throw out anything that is old or will not be used.
If your center uses a car or van for transportation, do a deep clean of the inside. Make sure to vacuum thoroughly. Wipe down all door and window handles as well as all surfaces inside the vehicle, including windows.
The things on this list should include areas that require regular maintenance. You can rotate these tasks to everyone on staff throughout the year, so the load is shared by all.
Check the plumbing and drains. Look for leaks or possible clogs.
Deep clean windows, blinds, and curtains.
Deep clean behind furniture; vacuum and dust baseboards and windowsills.
Deep clean shelves, closets, and all storage areas and containers. Be sure to take everything out and wipe down with disinfectant before reorganizing.
This list should include things that are best left to the professionals. Things that may require special equipment or need to be done during off-hours.
Deep clean carpets or upholstery a few times a year to ensure there is no buildup of bacteria in heavy traffic areas. This will also help to treat stains as well as prevent them from happening.
Clean air ducts to ensure air is free from mold and dust buildup.
Deep clean and polish hardwood floors
Deep clean bathrooms and kitchens. Extensively cleaning the grout will minimize the accumulation of germs, mildew and bacteria.
In addition to a safe and routine cleaning practice inside your center, it is crucial to let parents know what they can do when picking their kids up from daycare to help prevent the spread of germs.
Tips for Parents During Pickup
Keep hand sanitizer or disinfectant wipes in the car.
Wipe down backpacks and lunch boxes before getting into the car.
Discard of any old or uneaten lunch or snack items that cannot be kept.
Keep a separate bag for soiled or dirty items that are returning home with your child.
Having a regular cleaning routine is place will ensure that the children and parents that visit your center frequently stay healthy, happy, and germ-free. And that, in turn, will help to keep you business healthy as well!
Fear and anxiety about the COVID-19 disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. Coping with the anxiety and stress will make you, your families and those around you stronger. Anxiety symptoms can include excessive worrying, changes in eating and sleeping patterns, and difficulty concentrating.
Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations depending on their background, age or community. People who are high risk, considered essential employees or who have prior mental health conditions tend to respond to crisis stress more strongly.
Tips for coping with stress and anxiety
Take a break from watching, reading or listening to news stories about COVID-19. Repeatedly hearing about the pandemic can be upsetting.
Take care of your mental and physical health with meditation, healthy meals and exercise.
Take time to engage in activities you enjoy.
Talk to people you trust about your concerns and fears. Share the facts about COVID-19 to understand the risks. This can make an outbreak less stressful.
Call your healthcare provider if your stress and anxiety gets in the way of your daily activities for several days in a row.
For parents and childcare providers
Children tend to react on what they see from the adults around them. When parents and childcare providers deal with COVID-19 calmly and confidently, they can provide the best support for their children.
Be sure to watch for changes in behavior in a child. Not all children respond to stress in the same way. Some things to look out for may include excessive crying, returning behaviors they have previously outgrown, “acting out”, difficulty with attention and concentration or avoiding activities they previously enjoyed.
Here are some ideas to help support children:
Take time to talk about the COVID-19 outbreak.
Answer questions and share facts about the outbreak in a way the child can understand.
Reassure the child that they are safe and that it is okay to feel upset or scared.
Limit exposure to news coverage, including social media as children could misinterpret what they hear.
Keep up with a regular routine. If school is closed, set schedules for learning, relaxing and fun activities.
Be a role model for your children. Eat well, exercise, take breaks and stay connected with friends and family.
During these times, you need to take care of your mental health. Make your mental health a priority and don’t let anxiety and stress consume you. Be sure to reach out to a trained professional if your or your child’s stress and anxiety consumes you. Remember that you are not alone and this will pass.
Parent and family communication has always been important in the Childcare and Early Education business, but now during these unprecedented times during the COVID-19 pandemic it has become even more essential that you keep the lines of communication open with your families.
Whether the communication be in regard to social interactions, virtual learning, community resources, reopening updates, etc. all of these are important as we navigate through this time together. We have put together a list of communication tools that can help you meet these new communication needs during these times with some suggested uses for each one.
Smartcare’s built in messaging feature is great for sending email updates for a variety of reasons. These emails can be sent to all families and employees for center wide updates or filtered to include certain segments depending on the audience that you are targeting.
If you are continuing virtual classes and assignments, you can use email to explain how the virtual learning process will work. Email can also be used to communicate resources available in your community that may be useful or needed during this time. Be sure to add any social media links such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. in your email signature. These are just a few examples of how you can utilize Smartcare’s built-in messaging feature.
Text Messaging: Smartcare’s SMS (text) Feature
Your childcare center can utilize Smartcare’s text messaging feature to send reminders to families to check their email, announce reopening dates, virtual meetings/events, etc. Similar to the email feature above you can also filter which segments receive these text messages. Note: There is a per message per recipient fee for using this feature.
If you need more information regarding using either of these Smartcare features please refer to the Smartcare Center Web User Guide, our Help & Resource Center, or reach out to your CSM or our dedicated Support Team at by email at email@example.com or by phone at 844-SMARTER (844-762-7837).
For more in depth ideas on how to use Smartcare’s messaging and SMS features, check out this blog.
Additional Communication Tools:
Social Media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, etc
Utilize your social media platforms to encourage engagement with your families, employees, and students. Create posts containing updates, community resources, virtual events, photos, student spotlight, etc. You can also make videos, upload them to YouTube, and share on your social media accounts to keep your families and employees updated and engaged.
Virtual meeting rooms are a great tool and can be used several different ways during this time. If you are offering virtual learning you can use them as virtual classes for your students. You can also use them for virtual office hours for parents and/or employees that have questions or concerns while your center is closed. You may choose to schedule virtual events such as family trivia night, virtual class parties, virtual snack time, etc. Note: Many of these third party companies require a monthly subscription fee.
These are just a few examples of features and tools that you can use, the possibilities are endless when it comes to communicating and staying engaged with your families and employees during this time.