Celebrate Every Little Thing

When my husband and I celebrated our wedding anniversary at our favorite special-occasion restaurant in town, here’s the card that was waiting on our table for us:

The Wellington Room note

Very cool, right? We also saw as we were walking in that another table was set up for a birthday celebration, with sparkly blow whistles at each place setting.

Now, none of this took a lot of time or money. The staff knows to ask, when you make a reservation, “Are you celebrating a special occasion with us?”

It’s just a nice, folksy, conversational question that most customers (including me) forget all about – until you get to dinner and see that a big deal has been made over you. And your favorite restaurant becomes just that much more special.

The moral of the story is this: Everyone likes having a big deal made over them. Your teachers, your parents, and especially the kids at your center.

So find out when people’s birthdays are and make a little fuss (or, if you like, a big fuss) over them. If a parent mentions a promotion at work, pop a quick note of congratulations in the mail. As touring families leave your center, give them a little goody bag that includes an age-appropriate toy or book you’ve personalized with the child’s name.

Celebrate every little thing. I wish I knew who coined the phrase, because it’s excellent advice – at your center as well as in life generally.

Click here for your free copy of our exclusive report, 64 Terrific Child Care Marketing Ideas.

Why You Need an FAQ Page for Your Child Care Center

large-Help-Icon-Question-Mark-0-15271[1]Mommy, are there bones in your tongue?

What makes the wind?

What Stuart [the Minion] is?

As you know, small children ask a lot of questions. The above represents just a tiny sampling of the past week or so with my 5-year-old and 3-year-old.

While their queries don’t tend to be quite as whimsical, the parents at your center have a lot of questions, too:

What are your hours?

Which holidays are you closed?

What’s your policy on me bringing in my own food/formula/juice/etc. for my child?

For a whole bunch of reasons, it’s a good idea to have a prepared list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), in hard copy and/or on your website:

  1. It makes you look prepared and professional. It’s reassuring to new parents to know you’ve dealt with the same questions and concerns before.
  2. It saves you time. Rather than your staff answering the same question over and over (as I’ve been doing lately with the Stuart the Minion question), you’ve got the complete answer all set to go.
  3. It reduces the chance of giving out incorrect information. Your staff has a lot on their plates, not to mention a bunch of littles running around every day. Even the most experienced, best-informed teachers and administrators can bobble a question when it comes at them at an unexpected moment.
  4. It helps establish you as an authority in your field. When you have a list of FAQs, even a parent who’s just looking for your hours will come across, for example, the educational philosophy you follow at your center. This is impressive info.
  5. It serves as an ongoing reminder of your center’s most important policies and philosophies.
  6. It can work as a selling tool for you. Your FAQ can help you inform and persuade parents in a very low-key yet effective way. FAQs about, say, your summer camp program will bring that camp to the attention of parents who may not have known about it at all.

This may sound counterintuitive, but there’s one piece of info you undoubtedly get asked about all the time that you should not include in your FAQ: your tuition rates. Here’s why.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to re-establish my place as this household’s pre-eminent expert on all things Minion.

Click here for your free copy of our exclusive report, 6 Easy Ways To Boost Enrollments and Attract the Very Best Staff.

Sample Child Care Cell Phone Policy


Click here for a sample cell phone policy you can adapt for use at your center.

The other day, my kids and I were playing outside when I made the mistake of taking a call on my cell phone. Everyone seemed under control, at least momentarily.

Well, you know how that goes. At least chalk washes out.

But at your center, when you have teachers in charge of watching multiple kids over a large area, things can get dangerous very quickly if a teacher is diverted – even momentarily – by a phone call or text.

If someone gets hurt, your center can be held legally responsible for negligence. You may even be considered out of ratio during the time that teacher’s attention is focused elsewhere. Privacy issues can arise relating to photos and videos. And last but certainly not least, kids learn and thrive best when adults are fully present and interactive.

For all of these reasons, many child care centers have made the decision to ban employees’ use of personal cell phones during work time. And this is a sound policy, from both a legal perspective and a quality-of-care perspective. But there are right and wrong ways to go about it. Here are some dos and don’ts:

DON’T confiscate teachers’ cell phones. By all means, you should have – and enforce – a policy that personal cell phones may not be used during the work day, except during breaks.

But don’t confiscate the phones or require teachers to leave them in their cars. These are grown-ups, not children, and they should be treated as such. If you can’t trust a teacher to follow this policy (or any other policy you have in place, for that matter), then this is not someone who should be employed at your center.

DO enforce your policy. Teachers who violate your cell phone usage policy should be disciplined consistently and appropriately, up to and including termination. And don’t pick and choose – you need to enforce it for everyone (i.e., even the teachers you really like) in order to make it stick.

DON’T forget about field trips. You need to have some kind of plan in place for when teachers and kids are out and about. Ideally, you’ll have a few dedicated school cell phones for this purpose. If not, you may wish to allow one or two teachers to bring their personal cell phones on the trip and make clear they are to be used only in the event of an emergency.

DO train your teachers on the policy. For many younger teachers, being constantly plugged in to a smartphone feels as natural as breathing. Training on why the policy exists (child safety and engagement, legal considerations, and so on) can increase buy-in and compliance.

It may feel silly or unnecessary to explain your rationale, but some teachers will assume you are simply keeping them on a short leash for no good reason unless you explicitly spell things out.

DON’T leave teachers hanging. If you expect teachers to abide by a no-cell-phone policy, they need to be reassured that their loved ones have a way of getting in touch with them during the school day in the event of an emergency. This is especially true of teachers who are also parents.

In most cases, directing people to call the center’s office is sufficient. If there are chunks of the day when that phone is not manned, however – such as lunchtime – or if callers often get a busy signal, you should make a backup number available for emergencies. This could be the director’s or assistant director’s cell phone (assuming those folks are not watching the kids).

(As an aside, from a marketing perspective, you should get that busy-signal problem fixed ASAP!)

In certain rare exceptions – and they should be just that: rare exceptions in the event of personal emergencies – it may make sense to allow a teacher to have his or her cell phone available during the day; my sample cell phone policy spells out how this can work.

DO include parents in the policy. Many parents, too, are so joined at the hip to their cell phones that they forget to put them away when they’re picking up and dropping off their kids. Gently remind phone-centric parents that your “no cell phone” policy extends to them, too – not so much for safety reasons but so they can give their littles the full attention they deserve at the beginning and end of each school day.

Want a sample child care cell phone policy you can adapt for use at your center? Click here and I’ll email you one, along with my complete collection of free special reports.

Why Teacher Retention Matters So Much

file0001389399799If you have a steady stream of unsolicited resumes arriving at your center, and/or a connection to a good source of new teachers (such as a local college), you may not be all that concerned about the teachers who decide to leave your center. Who needs ’em, right?

Actually, you do. Here are 4 reasons why:

1. Time, money, and hassle. It is far cheaper – and easier – to retain a teacher than to hire and train a new one. It has been estimated that the total costs associated with employee turnover can reach 200% of that person’s annual salary. In a word…yikes.

2. Kids get upset when teachers leave. As you know very well, small children like routine and predictability. They don’t like it when Miss Jill leaves “to go to a new school.” And they like it even less if they’ve already lost Miss Debbie, Miss Amy, and Miss Jessica.

3. Parents get upset when teachers leave. Parents don’t like to see their kids upset, of course, but they themselves also develop relationships with their child’s teachers – particularly the good ones. And a steady revolving-door stream of teachers moving in and out of a center gets parents to wondering if something else may be wrong. Even if everything seems otherwise OK from the parents’ perspective, frequent staff turnover starts to undermine their confidence in your center.

4. High turnover is a symptom of a bigger problem at your center. Here’s the biggest reason you need to care about teacher turnover: Teachers don’t leave in high numbers if your center is running smoothly. Owners and directors with high turnover rates like to rationalize that ECE is a low-paying field, but guess what? The teachers know that going in – nobody goes into ECE with the goal of striking it rich.

If teachers are leaving your center in droves, there’s probably a problem at your center rather than with the child care industry generally. Take some time to figure out what’s really going on.

Click here to get your copy of our exclusive free report, 17 Secrets to Finding – and Keeping – Great Teachers.

Don’t Forget To Get Those Email Addresses

world-emailWhenever someone calls your center for more information, your primary goal should be to get them scheduled for a tour. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, that won’t happen – but you should still always get their email address and ask their permission to add them to your list.

And if you don’t yet have an updated, complete list of email addresses for your current families, you should make that a top priority.

Why? Having email addresses means having a direct line to the people you most need to stay in touch with: prospective and current parents. Email is, quite simply, the cornerstone of an effective child care marketing plan. Here are just a few examples of the kinds of valuable info you can provide via email:

1. Keeping in touch with your waitlist. If you stay in touch with your waitlist on a regular basis, you will remain top of mind for them when a spot opens up.

2. Keeping in touch with families who have chosen a different center. Maybe there wasn’t a spot open at your center when it was time for Jimmy’s mom to go back to work, or maybe Jimmy’s family chose to go elsewhere. But if Jimmy’s family isn’t happy with the center they wound up choosing – which happens all the time – you want to be front and center when they decide to make a move.

3. Announcing promotions, new hires, and staff departures. 

4. Sharing photos and/or videos (with permission, of course) of all the fun stuff the kids have been up to at your center.

5. Announcing special events at your center, like movie nights and grandparents’ day. Events like this are a great way to attract new families and increase the involvement and loyalty of your existing families.

6. Sharing community events of interest to families with young children. The more your families view you as a valuable resource, the more indispensable you’ll become.

7. Sending out weekly or monthly menus.

8. Providing timely notice of weather-related delays or closings.

9. Announcing new programs, like summer camp or kindergarten.

10. Sharing special deals or discounts offered by your referral partners.

11. Sending reminders about field trips and seasonal items. Parents of young children – and I speak from experience here – are far more likely to remember to bring in sunscreen and bug spray, and hats and snowpants, when prompted with a gentle reminder.

12. Announcing new accreditations and/or awards for your center. It’s a very cool thing for parents to learn that other people think your center is a special place, too.

13. Sending out parent satisfaction surveys. I recommend you do this at least once a year (and preferably every 6 months). Online tools like SurveyMonkey make the process simple for both you and your parents.

14. Keeping in touch with alumni families and staff. These folks are a great source of referrals for you.

15. Announcing winners of testimonial contests and referral contests. Include photos and a description of the amazing prize these folks received.

Click here for your free copy of our exclusive report, 64 Terrific Child Care Marketing Ideas.