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IT'S NOT EASY ANYMORE (getting kids)
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IT'S NOT EASY ANYMORE
 
 
 
GETTING KIDS:
 
You have spots to fill, and calls are slow coming in?  And it seems to take forever to fill the spots anymore...and it's getting frustrating.  It's not just you or your area this seems to be hitting providers all over the county these days. 
 
With free preschool popping up everywhere and other programs for preschool age children it seems that Family child care providers are being pushed aside.  
It has also become more competitive.  It's more then just competing with other providers in your local area, or with Child Care centers.  
The rules have changed on us and we are competing at different level now compared to years past where it was just  Center style environment vs. Family child care family style environment.   
Today, in order to be on a level playing field we are turning our homes which are supposed to be the family environment into mini centers.  We are going back to school and accumulating ECE units and Teaching Permits.  We are engaged into continuous workshops and conferences on how to teach, provide a age appropriates curriculum, recognize special needs, solve problems with parents, and deal with different techniques for behavior problems...just so the parents will look and see us as professional and as educated as any  Center base teacher.  (truth be known most providers have as much or more education).  We were already doing these things but we were not recognized for these things.  It seems we need to show proof so the parents can see we actually might know something or we were trained to know these things.  Never mind all the years you might  have put in as a child care professional..........nothing counts anymore unless you can back it up with proof.
 
Our profession has evolved into a professional career.  We have asked and shouted to be recognized as professionals but there is a price to be paid.  Going back to school has become part of the price.  This is a good thing but in so doing we are loosing our "family touch".  The family child care providers that do not follow the others into professional growth, education, and training's are finding themselves with more empty spots.  There is always an exception but eventually it will catch up to them too.
 
Life evolves..and so does child care...because of that we need to find new ways to promote ourselves, build our reputations, bring the families into our Programs and show that we have quality programs that will stimulate the child to grow and develop emotionally, physically, and cognitively. 
 
Word of mouth isn't the same anymore  like it use too.  Our cities are larger, more and families are moving in or out.  People just don't know each other like they use to.  A simple ad in the paper isn't bringing in the calls like it use to.  The Internet has become more the popular way to advertise.   A lot of things we use to do to advertise or promote our businesses doesn't work anymore.  However, you still need to be consistent in keeping your name out in the public year around.  Even if you don't have openings keep your name out there.  If you get calls you can pass them along to other local providers.  Networking is very important.  Although you might not need the calls when you spots are full you can still talk to the parent, still tell them about your program and tell them when you expect an opening sp if they are looking again at that time to keep you in mind or pass your name along to someone else.  Never pass up an opportunity to talk about your program. You would be surprise how people can remember you simply by you opening up communications and sharing information and resources.
In order to promote our Child cares we need to do a little more leg work.  Don't be afraid to make flyers and post them door to door in area's near your home.  Go to local community events that cater to children and place  your cards or flyers on cars, or stand and pass them out.  Find community boards where you can post a flyer.  Never pass up an opportunity to advertise your child care when you are out in public.  With your Child Care children wear T shirts advertising your child care.  Carry business cards to pass around.  Keep your ears open at the park and if you over hear someone talking about needing child care approach them and give them your card...put the signs on your car when your out and about.  Use all these opportunities to be promoting your business.
One key thing...DON'T RELY ON OTHER  to bring the business to you...You need to work at this and go out and advertise, promote, and sell your business.  The calls don't just come in automatically you need to work at it.  It's part of this profession. 
Big businesses have marketing people do this for them.  Small businesses such as child care can't afford marketing personnel so you have to do it yourself.  There are a lot of ways to advertise.  You can spend a lot of money or less money and in some cases even do it for free.  However you do it you must do it continuously. And find the methods that works best for you and gets results.  Be creative so it draws attention to your business.  Use promotions.  But the most important thing is to promote and produce quality child care.  So many providers use the word "quality" but do not produce quality child care.  So back up what you advertise. 
We will always be in competition with the Centers, free programs, public school programs and other providers. 
 
There are so many ways to go about getting the word out..  However, I am sharing one particular idea here to give you a start and something to think about.
 
OPEN HOUSE: 
 
Spring, Summer and early fall are  good times to have open house visits.  Before the bad weather.  You don't want people with wet shoes coming in.
 
Pick a nice Saturday to do this and promote it before hand. 
run an ad in the paper,  advertise on local community web sites and etc.  Much like you would do if you were having a yard sale:
 
signs:
Make up nice signs that you can place out on poles and etc directing people to your  home.  Like you would for a yard sale.  Be big,  very neat done.  And make sure it's big enough that they see it's a child care open house and not a house for sale open house.
 
PRESCHOOL / CHILD CARE
OPEN HOUSE
Today only
10 :oo am to 1:oo p.m.
Visit our child care today!!
 
Optional putting an address.  Usually with directional signs you just need arrows pointing the way.  Put some balloons on the signs, or cute picture so that they can spot your signs block to block...Keep them all the same color and looking the same so that they are easily recognized and not confused with something else.  The wording needs to be thick bold letters.  Easier to see and read.
 
Do  not do this alone.  Be sure to have helpers that day and make everything inviting.   
Have cookies and with a light beverage or bottled water on hand in the kitchen.  Pass out  brochures and business cards
for free cards.
 
Make up a display board of pictures showing the kids in action and what they do.
Have a parent there to talk to them about their experience at your child care.
Look professional.  Don't leave anyone in the house alone,  this is why you have help so while you are showing one person around your helpers can answer the door and watch other visitors in the house.  
If you can make a short video showing the kids in action so the visitors can sit a moment and see it.  5 minutes is long enough. 
 
Put a sign out in front of your  house for that day that today is open enrollment day.  Give visiting families a coupon with an expiration date that you will waive  the registration fee.  (Even if you don't have a registration fee don't tell them that.)
And they can earn a free parents night out after they have been there a month.
 
Give promotions
 
Have a sign in sheet for the visitors and make sure they sign in and leave name, phone number ages of kids on the sign in sheet,  and How soon they need child care so you can call them back.
 
When I did my open house,  I had cookie scented candles burning (out of reach) so the  house smelled warm and inviting.  Something about cookie smell that make people love you.  I had 4 people here with me.  Two parents and my two adult daughters.  There was someone in each room of the house.
One greeted people at the door and gave them a packet.  In my packets I had
-a brochure, 
-business card, 
-my philosophy, 
-my preschool outline, 
-parent resources I picked up at my local R&R.  and some I sent for (free) and got lots of.
- a list of the local schools near me that provided bus services to my neighborhood. 
-And a rate sheet.
I had picked up some of cheap folders about 10 Cents each and made up about 50 packets.  One packet per family and no  extra's to anyone, if they wanted to share information I simply told them I was limited on the packets and would they kindly Xerox their packet and share it.
 
I taped on the cover of these packets an identification of my child care
with phone number, license number, website address and email address.
 
You want to send them away with a lot of information so they remember you.
 
If you have one open house and only sign up one family that day that is still one paying family that made the open house worth it. 
 
For more advertising suggestion please email me
 
Good luck and continuous success with your child care career and business.
 
copyright August 2007
 
~~Pat Alexander~~
Mentor and Support Leader to  Family Child Care Providers
Child Care provider since 1971:
http://soulutionsgroup-ivil.tripod.com/

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