The New Normal

The New Normal

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.

 

Daycare Cleaning Checklist

Daycare Cleaning Checklist

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.

 

Continuous Cleaning

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.

 

Daily Cleaning

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.

 

Weekly Cleaning

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.

 

Monthly Cleaning

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.

 

Professional Cleaning

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!

 

 

COVID-19 Childcare Business Survival Guide: Coping with Anxiety During the COVID-19 Outbreak

COVID-19 Childcare Business Survival Guide: Coping with Anxiety During the COVID-19 Outbreak

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.

 

 

COVID-19 Childcare Business Survival Guide – Resources for Communication

COVID-19 Childcare Business Survival Guide – Resources for Communication

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.

 

Communication Tools Within the Smartcare System:

 

Email: Smartcare’s Messaging Feature

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 support@smartcare.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: Zoom, GoToMeeting, Join.Me, etc

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.

 

COVID-19 Business Survival Guide – Recharge with Family Time

COVID-19 Business Survival Guide – Recharge with Family Time

With social distancing being the new normal during the Covid-19 pandemic, everyone is starting to feel the strain of not being with their loved ones and family at this time. Whether you have adult children who are social distancing with their own families, or friends and co-workers you use to see every day, we are all trying to find ways to stay connected. This is the time to come up with some creative ways to keep in contact and have fun with it! Whether it is group texts or video conferences, here are some ideas to make it fun.

 

Photo Scavenger Hunt

 

Start a group text and designate a ‘host’. The host will put together a list of items for everyone to find around the house and decide how much time you have to find the items. You can modify the list to fit the age group. For the younger group, you can list easy items (a plate, an animal, etc.).

 

For the older crowd, you can use ideas like a selfie with a paper hat. You can also do a magazine/newspaper scavenger hunt. Make a list of items (man with a beard, red lipstick) and have everyone take a picture of the item in the magazine/newspaper. Once you have your pictures, use a collage app on your phone to put the pictures together and send them to the group chat. The first person to find the most items wins!

 

 

Family Dinner – Video Conference Style

 

Pick a day for your family to eat together, during a video conference! Decide on a day and a meal and start the video conference! You can cook together and then eat together. It’s a way to get the family to spend some special time together, without being together.

 

Family Game Night

 

Using video conferencing or a video chat, you can have a family game night with card or dice games. For example, using games like Yahtzee or Farkle, you can set up a video conference and play the games together. Use games that do not require everyone to be in the same space. A game of Monopoly would not work well in this situation. You can even karaoke together!

 

Take a walk together

 

Even if it is just a walk around the corner, you can video chat with your family, while getting some fresh air. You can use this opportunity to play another quick scavenger hunt game.

 

We do not know how long we will have to social distance, but we can only try to make the best of it and have some fun. Please remember if you are going out, protect yourself and others and keep your distance!

COVID-19 Business Survival Guide –  Marketing my Childcare Business

COVID-19 Business Survival Guide – Marketing my Childcare Business

During this unprecedented time, many childcare facilities are unsure about the future. This series of blogs covers ways to help our audience navigate this confusing time. Below you’ll find tips for marketing your childcare business and building an audience so that when things go back to normal, you can bounce back quickly!

It may feel like in a time of crisis, marketing your business is a low priority, as you switch gears and focus on surviving. Many childcare businesses are seeing a hit to revenue, whether you’ve had to close your doors, or have lost a number of children who are now at home for various reasons.

There are many ways to reach out and be helpful to your community and build your business as well. By keeping top of mind with potential students and providing helpful resources and tips during this time, you’ll be the first choice for many when it comes time for children currently at home to head back to care. Here are some of our favorite ideas for engaging and building an audience during this time:

Be Helpful

Posting helpful resources and tips is a great way to engage with people on social media. Brands that focus on helping and not just selling with their marketing efforts consistently see a larger social media audience and better engagement with their content. By reaching more people, you’re getting in front of more prospective parents and you’re handing out helpful content. It’s a win-win.

Not sure where to start? Check out this list we compiled with free educational resources.

 

Get Social

People are getting increasingly creative with how they are connecting on social media. Virtual workouts or happy hours are our new norm. How can childcare get involved?

Consider doing activities or projects that you open up to the larger community via Zoom or Skype. Then, children who would otherwise be doing schoolwork at home can get involved with their peers.

Many businesses are offering (or selling) products via curbside pickup. Schools and childcare providers can offer activity kits or homework packets. Have parents call ahead and set up a pickup time with you, so you can meet them at their car.

 

Pre-sell Offers or Host Contests

Consider offering discounted tuition or programs for parents who enroll during this time, even for future dates. This can be a great incentive to boost your enrollment.  Another fun option is running a contest, where the winner receives discounted or free tuition.

A great example is of Dominic Michael Salon, out of St. Louis. They are running a “Quarantine Roots” competition. Send photos of your roots to them by tagging them and using a specific hashtag. Then, they award the winner 3 months of color treatments.

How about a ‘Homeschool Fail’ contest for all of those parents who are homeschooling for the first time? Not only would this create some super funny content but can be a great way to make prospective families aware of your facility.

We are all feeling out of sorts right now and small business owners most of all. Hopefully, with these tips, your childcare business will not only survive this crazy time but thrive when things get back to “normal.”

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