10 Tips for Setting Up an In-Home Childcare business

I ran my own in home child care business for over four and a half years. In the years I learned some hard lessons about the best ways to run my business. The following are some of the lessons that I would hate for anyone else to have to learn the hard way like I had to.

Get it in Writing
Sure it is just a small home based child care. Do you really need a contract? The answer is yes! You need to make sure that you lay out all of the details about your child care in the contract. Including who you are, what your plans are for the child care such as learning, schedules, meals, supplies, naps, hours of operations, payment, and costs. Do no begin keeping a child until this contract is signed! this is a way to keep both you and your client safe. My contracts stated everything possible, including what I would do in case of an emergency situation.

Emergency Information
Thankfully this is not something that I ever had to use, but you need to be prepared in case of an emergency. If something happens to a child while they are in your care, you need to have a consent to treat form. This is very important. My brother in law who has been a paramedic for most of his adult life warned me of this problem. He drew up a simple form for me to use. This form included all medical information about the child. This information also included insurance information and a place for the parent to sign giving me consent to treat in an emergency situation. As I said, I never had to use this form, but it did make both me and the parents feel much more at ease knowing that I was prepared, just in case.

Special Equipment
When you are caring for children you need to make sure that all of the special equipment that you will need. This is another thing that must be stated in the contract. If you expect parents to send in their own food, drink, bottles, cups, diapers, and so on. You can even charge extra for providing these items yourself. Items such as play pens, baby gates, swings, and toys are items that you will more than likely be expected to have on hand already. You can hunt down garage sale items, but make sure that the items you find are safe and not recalled products and have all of the necessary parts. In my mind a computer is a necessity when keeping children. It is so easy to go and print out crafts or other activities for the children. These are great ways to keep them occupied and give them new things to do!

Money
Money is not something that you want to play around with when you are running your own business. However, it is very easy for someone to try and pull one over on you when you are not very clear about what is expected when it comes to money and payment. Set up a set day for payments to be made. If a parent needs to make a special payment arrangement with you and you accept that arrangement, get the special payment agreement in writing! This way there is no confusion later. Also, I learned that requiring two weeks payment in advance as a deposit was very important. Most out of the home child care centers require this as well. It is a non refundable deposit. However, it pays for the child’s final two weeks in your care. This way it forces the parent to give you two weeks notice before leaving. However, if there are extenuating circumstances this money can be refunded if need be.

Friends vs. Business
I kept friends and family members children on more than one occasion. However, I had to separate our friendship from my business relationship with them. This is not an easy thing to do, however, it is very integral in any business situation. If you find that you can not separate your personal relationship from your business relationship, then maybe it is best to steer clear from doing business with friends and relatives. Believe me, it will not end well! I learned this more than once.

Designated Spaces
You need to make sure that you have designated space for the children. This does not necessarily have to be a separate room just for them, but it does have to be an area that they know is for certain things. Such as nap area, play area, eating area. Children need to know what is going on when and where. This helps them to feel secure and comfortable in their environment.

Biting Off More than You Can Chew
Decide how many children is the maximum that you want to have in your care, and stick to it! I took on one child more than that amount once. I can promise you I never did that again! However, she was a friend’s child and I wanted to help my friend out. Please see the section above about separating personal relationships from business relationships. If you take on more children than you can handle it will be extremely stressful for you and for everyone else involved. The children will be more difficult to handle because they will sense that you are stressed out. The parents will be upset and concerned about you not being able to take care of so many children on your own. Your own family will have to deal with the fall out of your stress level at the end of every day. Do not take on too much, it may mean more money, but it is not worth it!

Stick to the Schedule!
Not only is it important for the children to have a set schedule each day for their activities, it is also important for you. Your days will go much smoother if you have a plan for what will go on at what time. In addition to your event schedule each day, you need to make sure you stick to your hours of operation. I had parents call me often and ask me if I would like to make a little extra money. Who wouldn’t and it is very easy to allow the parents to come early to drop off and late to pick up their children. However, I stated in my contract that late pick ups would have an extra charge. You need to stick to this figure! Most day care centers will charge you a late fee of at least $1 per minute that you are late to pick up your child. That would be $60 for one hours time. Say a parent wants you to keep her children an extra hour so she can go out to dinner with her husband or a friend. She offers you $20 extra to do this. If you take that $20 then I can promise you she will continue to call and ask you to do these favors for you. if you stick to your original figures she will see that your time is valuable and that she will not be able to take advantage of you.

Get Creative
Children love doing the same things over and over again. However it can get very tedious for you to do the same things all of the time. Get creative with your activity plans. Have music time, but don’t always sing the same songs. Have reading time, but ask the children to bring in their favorite books sometimes so you can get a variety in the book selection. Make crafts for all of the different holidays, and presents for mom and dad. This simple task is so special for the kids because it gives them such a sense of accomplishment. Plus, the parents will not quickly forget how you go the extra mile for them and their child.

Have Fun
It is so important in the child care business to have fun. All children want to do is play and have a good time. So have fun with them and enjoy being able to be a kid again with them!

Follow these 10 simple steps and it will be so much easier for your home child care business to reach success.

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