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50 ideas and Tips on How to Run a Successful In-home Daycare

Do you want to grow your daycare business and attract high net worth clients? If YES, here are 50 best tips on how to run an in-home daycare successfully. Running an in-home daycare is anything but easy. First of all, you have a business to run, then you have children and parents thrown into the mix; that can be quite overwhelming regardless of the fact that you are running the business from your home.

Running a successful home daycare can be so financially rewarding, however, it can also be stressful and leave you feeling isolated if you do not approach the business the right way. In fact, you can get tempted to overshoot your quota of kids and timing, thus placing yourself on the highway to burnout.

If you are looking to start an in-home daycare, or you are already running an in-home daycare but you are looking for help on issues that you are having, we have compiled a few tips that can make the whole business easy, if not fun for you.

50 ideas and Tips on How to Run a Successful In-home Daycare

  1. Make friends with the parents of your kids…within limits

Running a successful in-home daycare is different from running a daycare center. Parents will feel much more comfortable if they feel like they have some sort of connection with you. That connection or bond will give them the confidence that you are taking good care of their children.

But a note of warning must be sounded here; just because you are easy to talk to doesn’t mean you should allow parents to involve you in private things unrelated to your job. No matter how much you want to help, remember that parents are your customers.

This will help you avoid unnecessary situations like parents asking you to break the contract because you have been made aware of their situation. You can have sympathy for them but know the limit. Just because a family is struggling with something doesn’t mean you should struggle too.

  1. Beware when taking in kids from friends and family

As far as daycares are concerned, lines easily get blurred. It’s your home after all, so it might slip your friends and family’s mind that it’s your workplace too.

A friend who has a last-minute obligation or a family member is late on payments isn’t just bad for your finances. They are also bad for other customers who can accuse you of preferential treatment. Yes, it is too easy for friends and family to expect you to break the rules for them.

Avoid getting caught in a crossfire – it’s not worth losing friendships or your business over. Instead, say no and help by recommending other good daycare providers. It’s tough, but it’s for the good of your business.

  1. Know your policies, and stick to them

When running a successful home daycare, it’s important to stick to your policies. If you don’t allow lateness without a charge, don’t allow it. If you require parents to bring their own food, stick to it. Rules are, of course, made to be broken but put a plan in place for that. What happens if there’s a good excuse for lateness? What proof will you require?

These are all things you should think about when creating a parent handbook and your contract. You don’t have to cover all bases – just the ones that would impair your ability to do your job. But whatever you select, stick to it and don’t budge. Running a successful home daycare is much easier when you’ve got a good system to guide you.

  1. Go with your gut instinct

If you have a sneaky suspicion about someone during an interview, then don’t accept them. Chances are, you won’t change your mind later on, and it can cause more problems than benefits. If a family is changing their daycare provider, make sure you understand the reasons. Are their complaints reasonable? Even though kids are usually the ones prone to whims, parents aren’t immune either.

Similarly, always ask parents to bring children for the interview and observe the child’s behavior. Kids are still growing so some behaviors are completely natural, but if there are extremes it might be time to reconsider.

For example, if parents say that their child is a biter, understand what that really means. Have there been a few incidents in the past, or does the biting occur frequently? In order to start or keep running a successful home daycare, remember: this is your interview as much as the parents’. And even if you really need customers, it’s not worth getting ones that will drive others away. If it doesn’t feel right, it’s not right.

  1. Reserve some time for your affairs

Because you run this business from home, there is a huge tendency that you will forget to set boundaries. This is not good for your health as a business owner. No matter what you do, don’t answer or go through your business phone after hours. Leave an hour before and after for parents to contact you, but not more than that.

Parents tend to forget that you are a child care provider (and not their nanny) and send messages late in the evening. Make it clear that your business phone after hours is for emergencies only. They can address everything else at drop-off or pick-up time.

Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Running a successful home daycare isn’t easy and that’s exactly why you should take some time for yourself. Go to the gym or take a walk – your daycare will still be there when you come back.

  1. Charge upfront

The best thing you can do for your daycare’s revenue is to charge upfront. If you have weekly tuition, ask the parents to pay on Monday. If you have monthly tuition, it should be due within the first five days of the month.

This helps you make sure that your finances are in check, and gives you the rest of the month to focus on other things that need your attention. Payment upfront is also very effective in preventing skipping out on payment. In any case, it’ll give you the peace of mind you deserve.

7. Consistently encourage reviews from your clients

These days, people rely on reviews for something as simple as buying a new blender or deciding which movie to see. Those testimonials matter even more when it comes to important decisions like choosing a daycare. Note that the success of your daycare can be due to exceptional reviews from your current parents who in turn refer friends and colleagues to your program.

The best way to grow organically is by providing superior service and encouraging your happy customers to spread the word. If your daycare is brand new and you haven’t built up a client base yet, offer discounts to get your first clients in the door, encouraging parents to provide reviews in return.

If you have clients already, ask parents to review your business on your website or Facebook page, and thank them personally when they do. There is nothing better than a referral from a happy parent.

8. Invest in your staff

Reviews from happy parents and smooth customer experiences are vital to running a successful daycare—but both can be derailed by hiring the wrong employees.  So you have to be quite detailed when hiring your employees. Not only that, you have to ensure that your employees have resources on training and continuing education made available to them. Again, it is always important to make your staff feel appreciated and respected as educators.

This extra effort makes it likely that your daycare will retain high-quality staff members who invest in the job and consistently impress your clients. Staff who are approachable, friendly, and happy make parents feel less stressed about leaving their child in your care.

9. Keep your environment clean and safe

It seems obvious, but safety and cleanliness should be a constant priority in your daycare. Your daycare might have been shiny enough for those little hands to eat off of when your doors first opened, but the wear and tear of life eventually takes a toll.

Stay on top of regular cleaning and maintenance by sticking to a routine schedule, and fix recurring problems with more permanent solutions. Get in the habit of walking around your space both indoors and out to check for hazards and prevent accidents before they occur.

10. Maintain a detailed handbook

It may seem formal, but having a handbook for your business will lead to a better customer experience for your parents and protect you as a business owner. Write (and consistently update) a policy handbook for your daycare. Ask parents to review and agree to it before enrolling their children and ensure that it’s accessible to parents at any time throughout the year.

Every state usually has a licensing agency that dictates many of the most important policies and emergency procedures you must have in place, endeavor to include those in your handbook to make information clear to your clients, and include your own procedures so everyone is aware of how all issues are handled. Creating strong and thoughtful policies will make your expectations and services clear to your clients, even if something unusual comes up.

11. Invest in quality tools

Maybe you need to keep to a tight budget when you begin, but you should eventually invest in some quality tools as soon as you have the funds. You need a very reliable computer and great accounting software.

Virtual project management tools can help you to keep everything in one place and make them easy to access. Some daycare providers prefer to stay organized in a good, old-fashioned day planner. No matter which system you prefer, be sure to keep organized records of things like child attendance and business receipts.

12. Embrace social media

Maybe you’re already using social networks to promote your daycare, or maybe the mere thought of those buzzing platforms stresses you out. Either way, embracing social media for your business is a perceptive move these days.

Today, it is a common sight to see people advertising in Facebook groups and sharing pictures of their childcare environment. If social media seems overwhelming, try choosing one platform to focus on, using it to promote your business and connect with potential clients. Just be sure to get parental permission before sharing photos of their children online.

13. Make the needs of the kids a priority

It takes a lot of work to plan events and activities for all of those kids each day! Focusing on what the children are interested in and letting them explore their natural curiosity will make a more fun learning experience for them while taking some of the stress off of you and your staff.

At the end of the day, you are doing this for the kids, so ask them what they like and what their interests are. Observe each child. Then take this information and plan your activities. For example, if the kids are fascinated by a cardinal that visits your yard each day, you could plan activities that center around birds, which could lead to discussions about eggs, building nests, and migration.

14. Put yourself in the parents’ shoes

With all the work of starting a new business venture, the simple act of walking through the day as one of your clients might never occur. Any business can benefit from this practice, but it’s especially helpful for a daycare, where parents trust you with what matters most to them. Of course, you’ll be following your state and local licensing requirements, but there are other things you can do to go above and beyond for your clients.

You don’t want parents to feel stressed dropping off their children, so once you’ve completed your checklist to make sure your space is safe and up to code, you need to examine the aesthetics and logistics of your daycare.

Is your location clearly marked so frazzled parents can find it easily on their first day? Is parking readily available for the number of people who will be buzzing in and out? Does your space feel safe, professional, and welcoming? You could be running the best daycare in the world and still lose customers if the process is stressful.

15. Grow yourself

You are your own greatest asset, and you should cultivate your own skills through training, professional development, and personal growth.

You need to be aware that no one else has made much investment in this company as you did, so you need to invest in yourself. From the very beginning, try and include child-care and business conferences in your budget. In addition to training, join professional associations; most communities have an association of child-care providers, along with a wide range of organizations designed to support small-business owners.

16. Encourage constructive criticisms

Quite a few in-home daycare providers will cringe at the thought of this, but it is indeed good for your business. You can start by asking parents to evaluate daycare and the care their children are receiving, and you can use that input when developing improvement plans.

Some people are also known to use secret shoppers to find out not only how their own centers are doing but how they compare with other centers. You can also try to bring in national consultants to analyze your performance and provide constructive feedback.

17. Differentiate your services from others

Position yourself in the marketplace as a child-care center that is unique. If you are able to do this successfully, the prospects of having competition would not worry you. Learn to create a business that’s so different from your competitors that the parents of the children will always choose you. One of the ways you can differentiate your center is in how calls are handled when people are looking for information.

As the first conversation begins, you can set it up so that a record is created, tracking the caller’s name, the name, and age of the child (or children), what the parent is looking for in the way of child-care services, and any other information that’s discussed. When the parent comes in to tour the facility, the administrator makes it a point to refer to the child by name and is able to focus on the aspects of the center that are consistent with what the parent wants.

18. Have standard business hours

If having nights and weekends to yourself is a priority, then you should ensure that you structure your in-home daycare to provide you with this necessity. Your schedule should be made to follow standard business hours, so you won’t have to accommodate weekend or holiday hours. It’s your business, after all, so you should run it the way that suits you best.

  1. Get commitments from your customers

You make a long-term commitment to your business, so it’s reasonable to expect your customers to make a commitment to using your services. Don’t be afraid to ask your customers to sign a contract obligating them to use your services for a specified period.

Certainly, the contract can include an escape clause that lets either you or the customer out of the agreement under certain circumstances, but a contract tells your customers you’re committed to them and their children, and you deserve the same in return.

  1. Follow up on everything you do

Take the time to study the impact of all the management and marketing you do. When you make a change, review the effect it has on your operation. And only do as much marketing as you have time to follow up on. For example, don’t do a direct mail campaign if you’re not going to have time to answer the calls it generates. Don’t ask for referrals if you’re not going to follow up on them. If you exchange business cards with someone, always call them within a few days to see if they have any interest in your services.

  1. Keep a professional distance

When you spend as much time with children as child-care providers do, it’s easy to develop strong feelings for them. But keep those feelings under control. You may love the kids and the parents, but you need to keep a professional distance. Children will come and go, things happen in families, and while you want to be there to support the family, you can’t let them devastate you.

Keep in mind that you’re essentially an extended family to the children, and they’re likely to be very candid and open about what’s going on at home. You’re going to hear things that shouldn’t be repeated. For the sake of your business, you need to keep everything you know about the kids confidential.

If kids are comfortable and love their teachers, and most of them do, they’ll say what’s on their minds. Don’t repeat anything the children say about their home lives, and routinely reinforce this in staff training sessions.

  1. Off days do come, so get ready

Having a child-care center isn’t perpetual recess—it’s long hours, hard work, and plenty of stress. Know that you’ll have “those moments,” when things are going wrong, the children are being difficult, and you’re on your last nerve. At those times, take a moment to reflect and remind yourself why you started your business. You need great willpower not to jump ship, so you need to keep in mind that all days will not be rosy.

  1. Enjoy the little rewards

Child-care providers say no other business can match theirs for personal satisfaction and emotional rewards. There’s also the tremendous gratification of watching children grow and develop physically, socially, and intellectually, and knowing that you’re playing a very important role in shaping the future of each child in your care.

Beyond that important long-term benefit, there are the minute-by-minute rewards of being a child-care provider. After all, what can equal the warmth of a child’s hug or the joy of their laughter?

  1. Continually get improved

Before you can begin, you need to learn. Even if you have been working in daycare for a number of years, it can be helpful to visit other daycare centers and network with childcare facility operators to get a sense of the challenges they face and how they have organized their businesses. Working for a business is much different than operating one yourself.

  1. Know the Law

Before making any plans on starting your facility, make sure you know the laws and regulations of your state and community. In Georgia, daycare providers must take a 20-hour course, while anyone running a daycare center must take a 40-hour course before being certified. Before hiring any employees, you must screen them with a criminal background check.

In Ohio, all daycare centers with seven or more children must be licensed by the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services.

If you are operating an in-home daycare center in Columbus, you must be licensed by the Franklin County Department of Jobs and Family Services. Like many cities, Columbus restricts daycare facilities to commercial, industrial, or manufacturing zones. If you want to open a daycare in a residential zone in Columbus, it can only be at a school or religious center.

  1. Identify Your Market

Before jumping headfirst into running your daycare, it’s essential to know what you are up against. Figuring out how to run your daycare starts with knowing the market demands. What is there a need for? Identify how you can fulfill those needs. Starting a business where there is little or no demand equals failure on your part.

  1. Grind Through the Tough Times

There are a variety of different roadblocks that may present issues when you are getting your daycare started, and they may continue to be a thorn in your side while you build towards long-term success. Getting past these trying times, whether they are financial or structural, will make the long-term success more enjoyable for everyone in your organization.

  1. Require Feedback from Parents

Ultimately, your daycare is a service for parents who trust you with the safety and development of their children. Collecting feedback on a regular basis and keeping your finger on the pulse of the day-to-day will help you improve your daycare and set it up for continued success.

  1. Focus on Financial Planning

Consider what your goals are as you map out your financial game plan. Neglecting important deadlines or milestones can cause problems that a strong business plan would help avoid. Regularly circling back and staying the course will keep your daycare on the path to long-term success.

  1. Only hire those who understand your goals and values

Your staff should be an extension of your passion for child care. They should share a desire to achieve the same goals that you set out to achieve when you opened your daycare. If you are concerned with long-term success, maintaining a staff that you trust to represent your values will make everything easier.

  1. Maintain a Properly Trained Staff

The child care professionals who you hire will become the backbone of your daycare. All staff members should be required to have certain training and certifications. Invest in them as professionals and as people. Regardless of the role you take within the organization, the staff you surround yourself with becomes a reflection of yourself. They interact with the children and parents and create impressions that could last a lifetime.

  1. Make Safety a Priority

This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s worth mentioning. Every aspect of your daycare should be pristine and without any safety hazards. All of the toys and equipment should be checked on regularly and don’t hesitate to remove anything that might be questionable.

  1. Set yourself apart

Whether it’s your daycare’s facilities, staff, customer service, extended services, or curriculum, there should be a value to parents and children that other daycares can’t compete with. Setting yourself up for long-term success means separating yourself from the pack. Daycares that don’t provide any unique value are largely interchangeable.

  1. Open Lines of Communication with Parents

Don’t be a stranger. Parents should be completely comfortable with their childcare providers and it’s important to put yourself in their shoes sometimes. Word-of-mouth is one of your best assets and building a relationship with parents can help the positive reviews spread around town. Without repeat customers helping to bring in new customers, long-term success will be a struggle.

  1. Be as Flexible as Possible

This extends to all aspects of your daycare. If you want to run a daycare successfully, you can’t trap yourself in a routine that might be leaving value on the table. To produce the best results, you will need to revamp your curriculum, facilities, and overall strategies whenever necessary.

On a more personal note, every child is unique, and catering to their needs as best as you can will lead to long-term success. Parents will appreciate the effort, and the children will continue to grow and develop within your daycare.

  1. Learn to market your business

If you have set up an in-home daycare, then you need to tell people that you have such a business in the neighborhood. You need to put together a professional-looking flier (or have someone else do it for you) describing your services, and post them on church bulletin boards.

Run ads in church newsletters and in your local newspaper. Network among friends with children or friends who have friends with children. Make them your real-life testimonials.

Parents who are looking into day-care services would much rather place their children in the care of someone referred by a friend than hand them over to a complete stranger. You can also target local businesses; send letters describing how you can benefit them by providing day-care services for employees’ children.

  1. Don’t accept kids outside of scheduled hours

This is usually the major complaint in-home daycare providers have. They need to fill their spots and instead of being firm on hours of operation, they give in to a prospective parent’s request and started opening earlier or closing later just to get that family through the door and increase enrollment.

Some end up working 12-14 hour days when originally they only wanted to work 10 hour days. This only works for a very, very small percentage of providers, the rest find themselves burnt out in a very short period of time. If you cannot handle the stress, then it’s better to stay away from it.

  1. Mind how you take in part-time infants

A lot of in-home daycare providers think that taking in a part-time infant would be a total cake – I mean, babies are easy, right? They get to find out to their shock that part-time infants are anything but cake. Part-time infants can be some of the hardest children to have in a group care setting, especially if coming from an attachment style home.

Providers after providers have struggled with constantly screaming infants because the infant is not used to being put down to play or sleep and does not attend enough to get familiar with and transition into the provider’s routine. For the sake of your peace of mind, you need to avoid taking on part-time infants, unless you feel very sure that you are not put off by all that screaming.

  1. Don’t allow nap time drop off or pick-ups

It sounds simple enough but it can cause a major headache. Do not allow parents to drop kids off within an hour of nap time if they have just woken up from a nap at home, this just creates a headache, and rarely does anyone else get a nap when one kid is awake.

  1. Meal/snack times are non-negotiable

If little Sally arrives at 8:30 and breakfast is at 8:00 then little Sally needs to arrive fed and will have to wait for a snack. Unless you want to be making the same meal multiple times and having everyone on different meal schedules, the best thing is to give parents a written copy of meal/snack times and stick to it.

  1. Request payment in advance for care provided

In order to avoid daycare hoppers and parents giving you the run-around, you should make it a law to only accept payment prior to providing care. If you don’t get the payment within 24 hours of the due date, do not accept the child into care. This is your livelihood, how you pay your bills, you don’t want to be giving services away for free and sadly there are many parents that know how to play the system.

  1. Don’t feel bad about taking paid holidays

Put it in your contract and stand firm. If it’s a deal-breaker for a potential parent then let them walk away, they’ll be the kind to fight you on absences and illness. You also have a life to lead and a family to take care of, so ensure that you take your holidays without regret.

  1. Take vacation days

In this business you will work long hours and working with children means that your days will be busy and sometimes hectic. Unlike traditional jobs, you don’t get scheduled break times throughout the day and most likely you will be working alone. This can wear out a provider and cause them to burn out on running a daycare very quickly. Making it a priority to take time off is one of the top things you should consider when running your daycare.

  1. Get all kids on the same nap schedule

There are no breaks in this business like you would get if you are in other fields.  Nap time is the closest thing you can get to a lunch break, but if your kids are all napping at different times you’re not getting any downtime or prep time.

Know that you cannot run this business on flexible nap schedules, you will have no rest time to yourself. You need to find a suitable time and put everyone on the same nap schedule. You can steal one or two precious hours to unwind.

  1. Make a contract (and stick to it!)

It’s so important to have a contract, like it or not you will at some point get a parent that causes you stress and fights every policy. Having them in writing, signed, and acknowledged by the parent helps immensely. Plus it protects you, your family, and your business. Even more to the point, you need to stick to it, if you have late fees and a parent is late, charge them. Not sticking to your policy just sets the stage for parents to not follow it either.

  1. Don’t be afraid to pass or terminate families

As much as you want each and every kid to fit seamlessly into your programs, it doesn’t always happen. It’s not fair to you, the child, or the other children to keep a child in care that doesn’t mesh or causes problems. If you get a weird vibe or feel intimated by a parent during an interview, don’t feel obligated to accept them, the interview process is for both you and them to see if it is a good fit. Terminating a daycare family is stressful but keeping them is even worse. Don’t be afraid to terminate a family that isn’t fitting with your program.

  1. Use childcare management software to run your day-to-day

Take advantage of the fantastic technology available to daycare business owners these days. Streamline your administrative tasks and you’ll have more time to focus on providing your families a top-notch childcare experience–which is your whole goal anyway, right?

48. Keep good records

Your records are very important when running this kind of business. Make sure to keep files on each child and keep good records, in case you get inspected by the state.