by Kimberly Blaker
Freelance Parenting Writer
Many moms struggle with the decision whether to go back to work to help with family finances or stay home during their child’s formative years. Providing childcare to other working parents can be a win-win solution for everyone.
The problem many moms discover, however, is it often leaves less time and energy for the family than if working outside the home. Through the course of a single day, a childcare provider will change umpteen dozen diapers, prepare and clean up multiple meals and snacks, pick up toys throughout the day, discipline misbehaving children, do some light bookkeeping, and answer phone calls from nervous parents. It often leaves little time for the activities and nurturing a mother wants to provide her own children as well as those in her care. Add to that, upkeep of areas of the home used by children and losses from parents who cancel or don’t pay can quickly turn this into a no-income career.
When considering how to run a home daycare, realize it doesn’t have to be so difficult and can be profitable. With careful planning and organizing, you can run a profitable, efficient, quality day care home and still have time to spend with your own children and those you care for. Following are the essentials of starting a daycare home and tips on how to manage it and keep your sanity.
The first step is to apply for a license. This is required in most states. The process may seem burdensome, but it’s a good business practice and shows parents you take your business and their children’s safety and welfare seriously.
Rooms that work
Determine an area of your home to be used solely for childcare, if possible. One of the big expenses of a daycare is the wear and tear on your home. Dirty shoes, slopped food, spilled drinks, sticky hands, and unknown objects strategically placed in your DVD player are only a few of the problems you’ll encounter. Separating your living areas from your daycare will also provide your family privacy. This is especially important if you extend your hours or hire an assistant.
When thinking about how to run a home daycare, consider using a family or recreation room at one end of your home. Or you could use your basement, or even an attached garage with appropriate heating and cooling made into a comfortable living area. Although a garage or basement will require additional work and expense to meet licensing requirements, in the long run, it can be well worth the investment. If possible, also have an entrance leading directly into the daycare area.
Equipping the daycare is another biggie. You’ll need playpens, high chairs, baby swings, tables and chairs, outdoor play equipment, and plenty of toys. Most of these items can be bought for a fraction of retail prices. Baby equipment and toys are frequently found in like-new condition at garage sales, children’s consignment shops, on Craigslist, and in newspaper classifieds.
How to run a home daycare safe and clutter-free
Arrange your child care areas for safety, appeal, and efficiency. Keeping children out of kitchen areas can be done in several ways. Use a safety gate, or better yet, install a half-door that locks from the kitchen side. The half-door solves the problem of older children who will climb the gate. Also, you can still see and hear children playing in the other room.
Keep the childcare area organizedhttp://kimberlyblaker.com/best-making-the-most-of-space-ideas/ to save yourself time and energy. Each child should have her own cubby up high or in a separate room. This eliminates mix up of children’s belongings and makes changing time easy. Make cubbies by installing one or two rows of shelves four and a half feet above the floor. Cubbies also make departure easy by eliminating last minute searches for shoes and other belongings.
The overwhelming selection of toys can also pose problems as children just dump them rather than play with them. Leave a couple of toy boxes and some larger toys on the floor. Then organize remaining toys in milk crates and plastic containers and line them on shelves above children’s reach. Rotate sets of toys throughout the day for variety in play.
Keeping up with the clock
Time management is a necessity when considering how to run a home daycare. If done right, there will be plenty of time to read stories, play games, and do crafts. Set a daily schedule, and stick to it. This ensures all necessities are handled and allows time for the extras that make your daycare a fun, nurturing, and educational environment.
Avoid misunderstandings and problems with parents by having a signed written agreement. Your agreement should include:
- Hours of operation and fees for parents who pickup late
- Rates, payment due date, and late payment fees
- Cancellation and absence policy
- What items parents are responsible for supplying such as diapers, snacks, a clean blanket, and pillow
- Your meal and snack schedule and policy
How to run a home daycare with assistants
Whether you’re licensed for 6 children or 12, you may be required or want to hire an assistant. Keeping 10 to12 hour days is the norm in the childcare business. A sixty-hour work week can quickly take a toll on your family life. Although it may be tempting to hire a family member or friend, it isn’t advisable, as this can damage a personal relationship. Place a ‘help wanted’ ad for an assistant or ask around for recommendations.
Have applicants fill out an application, and interview them thoroughly. Ask how the applicant would handle discipline and other hypothetical situations. If the applicant has unrealistic behavioral expectations of children or condones spanking, keep looking. Allow applicants an opportunity to interact with the children, and see how they do.
When you do hire, you can either manage your own payroll or hire an accountant or payroll firm for a small fee. Have your assistant sign a non-compete agreement, and give her a packet describing her duties, emergency procedures, and other pertinent information to avoid unforeseen problems.
The nitty-gritty on how to run a home daycare
Keeping good records of your income and expenses is necessary. A simple home bookkeeping program will make the job a cinch requiring little accounting knowledge. Besides the obvious expenses, you’ll incur such as food and toys, you can also deduct expenses for business use of your home and vehicle.
Finally, separate yourself from the business during non-operating hours. A separate phone line or an answering machine is important to your personal time. Parents often place unnecessary demands and interruptions on childcare providers. After a long day, the last thing you need is a frantic mother calling you during your family dinner to inform you Johnny’s socks didn’t end up in his diaper bag. Some things really can wait ’til they see you the next day.
What parents should look for in a daycare home
Parents, if you’re looking for a daycare provider for your child, consider the following to ensure quality and your child’s safety:
- Is the home licensed?
- Is baby equipment in good repair?
- Is there an area for older children to play with age appropriate toys where infants and toddlers won’t get a hold of choking hazards?
- Is there a posted menu that reflects nutritious meals and snacks?
- Are there plenty of age appropriate toys and activities, or is the TV used as a babysitter?
- Does the caregiver follow sanitary procedures, such as using individual changing pads and washing hands after each diaper change?
- Are childcare areas kept reasonably neat and clean?
- Are pets kept away from children when there is no direct supervision?
- Are plugs and outlets covered?
- Is there an area where mobile infants can play without being bumped by toddlers and preschoolers?
- Is there a safe place for children to play outside away from busy streets?
Sample daily schedule of how to run a home daycare
Childcare providers, use the following sample daily schedule to keep yourself and your daycare home organized and to meet the day’s demands.
8:30 Clean up breakfast
9:00 Change diapers*, children use bathroom
9:15 Story time
9:45 Outdoor play and snack
10:30 Pickup outdoor equipment, craft time
11:00 Change diapers, children use bathroom, free time
11:45 Prepare lunch
12:30 Clean up lunch and play area
12:45 Story time
1:00 Check diapers, children use bathroom
1:15 Naptime, office work**
3:00 check diapers, children to the bathroom
3:15 Put away nap items, get children ready to be picked up (shoes on, etc.)
3:30 Outdoor play and snack
4:00 craft or special activity
4:30 Free time
*Although children may need to be changed outside of the scheduled times, scheduling ensures that diapers are checked regularly and reduces constant interruptions of activities in order to change diapers.
**This is a good time to spend doing bookkeeping, writing notes to parents, organizing, and planning.
Kimberly Blaker is a freelance family writer.