Here are some ideas and tips that we have gleaned over the years to help you run your day home business more smoothly. In this guide, we’ll be covering a variety of topics:
- Daily operations
- Communicating with parents
- Business operations
Optimizing your space
Avoid clutter (less is more) – studies show children play better and with more attention when they don’t have too many options.
As you are avoiding clutter, store any excess toys and play materials. When the environment feels like it needs a refresh or the children seem to be getting bored of what’s available, you can rotate what’s in the play space with the items in storage. Some Educators rotate items consistently, such as once a month. Others rotate based on what supports their program and their group best.
Use open ended play materials where possible. For example:
- Recycled materials (boxes, clean containers, large buttons, old electronics)
- Natural materials (rocks, wood cookies, feathers, pine cones)
- Art tools (blank non-precut paper, crayons, paint, scissors, glue)
- Sensory materials (playdough, shredded paper, slime, reflective materials)
- Building materials (blocks, boxes, magnetic tiles, wood, fabric), etc.
Set up your space to allow individual and group play.
Consider providing toys that are more realistic, and less animated so that children can role play and explore in a way that is meaningful and reflective of the world around them.
Ensure developmentally appropriate play materials and toys are accessible and at child level. For example, with younger children in care, store smaller toys and play materials up high. They can be introduced to the play space for older children temporarily during naptime / anytime that infants and toddlers are not in care. In order for younger children to have equal opportunities to open ended materials, ensure you are choosing larger sizes of rocks, buttons, fabric etc.
Observe and reflect on children’s personalities, interests, and curiosities, then create play areas and play set-ups that expand on those elements. For example, set up a gross motor skills area for more active children, a sensory bin that includes items related to a child’s fascination of a topic, or a variety of instruments to expand on an interest in music or culture.
Consider neutral or wooden shelves and natural baskets to create an inviting environment that is not overstimulating / overly animated.
Setting up your outdoor space
Ensure your space is fully fenced and the fence in good condition.
Ensure sufficient space for activities for the children.
Check your toys and play materials regularly to make sure they are in good repair / haven’t broken / become worn out / weathered in a way that could cause injury.
Use natural materials and setups. For example:
- Stumps and large wood cookies for gross motor.
- Large sticks for building.
- A vegetable garden for planting-to-table experiences.
- Build ladybug homes or fairy gardens from rocks, sticks etc.
- Plants and flowers to care for.
- Sand or water for sensory exploration.
Foster an environment that promotes curiosity, discovery, creativity, etc. For example:
- An outdoor painting area
- A ‘natural’ playground
- A mud kitchen
- A music wall
Make sure all equipment is installed as per manufacturers’ instructions.
Creating an activity planner
Your program plan should be current and reflect observations on children’s experiences, interests and curiosities. It should also have intentional materials and play setups to expand on those interests and curiosities.
We have an Activity Planner Chart in the Document Portal that will help you plan for activities that support different key learning areas as per the FLIGHT Framework. This is helpful in ensuring a broad range in activities for an enriched day home experience. Our planner chart includes spaces for activities that support:
Keep a “library” of activity options so you can keep things fresh and interesting. Keep them on colour-coded cue cards (or recipe cards) for the learning categories listed above
- Search on Google or Pinterest – there are tons of great ideas for crafts and activities to be found
- 70 fine motor activities perfect for mixed ages
- Open-ended sensory rich art activities for toddlers
- 13 open-ended sensory play activities for babies
- Loose parts play ideas
Planning offsite activities and field trips
Offsite activities and field trips are a great way to change the scenery and provide new opportunities for learning and play to the children.
- Parks and playgrounds
- Nature walks
- Community events
- Children’s museums
- Zoo or public farms
- Children’s science centers or art galleries.
- Local fire station
Tips for planning field trips:
- Ensure each child has a signed field trip consent form
- Ensure parents know when and where we will be going
- Plan for extra volunteers to accommodate any extra needs (e.g., children requiring extra supervision, allergies, etc)
- Try to avoid busy travel times such as rush hour
- Double check the hours of operation of any facility you plan to attend
- Create a plan for travelling to and from – whether walking, driving, or taking transit
- Ensure all children (who are developmentally able) are aware of safety steps, such as
- Holding hands at all times
- Sticking close and
- Following your instructions before getting on any form of transit
- Ensure each child has a signed transportation agreement
- When taking transit please consider the following items:
- Allow for adequate supervision in busy locations such as bus stops and train stations
- Consider bringing extra volunteers if needed
Creating a menu plan
This of course helps plan your grocery shopping for the week, but is also required by CFS Licensing and must be posted or available to families and the agency.
The menu plan should be in accordance with the Canada Healthy Food Guide:
- Snacks must include two food groups
- Meals must include four good groups – protein, dairy, grain, and fruit or vegetable.
In considering your food groups, try to make healthy choices. For example:
- Avoid overly processed foods
- Swap the plastic cheese slices for real, fresh cheese
- Swap hot dog wieners for chicken or turkey sausage
- Avoid foods with little nutritional value
- Avoid foods with added sugar
- Choose plain yogurt – add fresh or frozen fruit to sweeten or small amount of flavoured yogurt
- Opt for milk or water instead of juice
- Choose fresh fruit instead of fruit snacks
- Check ingredients and nutritional information
- Try to avoid questionable ingredients / additives
- To manage costs, consider making larger, healthy, family dinners and repurposing leftovers for lunch the next day
Communicating with Parents
Before you take in a new child, it’s super important to interview each other – you are all determining a good fit (not just the parents). Always meet the child before agreeing to care.
Important items to discuss:
- Your program and activities
- Child’s likes and dislikes
- Child’s routines / schedule (snacks, naps, school)
- Any allergies or other health concerns
- Any medications
- Food allergies or other dietary considerations
- Guidance strategies
- Days and hours of care required
- Fees (including after hours fees)
- Holidays and paid closed days
- Backup care
- Illness policy
- Transportation of children while in care
- Items the parent should supply
Daily written communication is encouraged for all children, especially under the age of 2 years. Even when daily written communication is not required, parents love to hear about their child’s day.
- Storypark app (or other child care apps) is a secure, online space to enable effective two-way communication and sharing of important updates, messages, photos, routines, and learning
- Create a printable template you can keep in a duotang or clipboard
- Purchase plain journals or agendas from the dollar store to create your own communication books
- Share photos via text message
- Create a private Facebook group to post pictures, activities, and menus
You set the hours of operation and fees for your business. This means you are also responsible for your holidays. If you have holidays or closed days that you want to be paid for, you need to provide written notice of paid holidays to each family as it is not part of the agency-family agreement. It’s simple, just a letter for each parent stating which days your day home is closed. Each letter must include:
- Your name (printed)
- Parent name (printed)
- Your signature
- Parent signature
- The date of the closure (not the name of the holiday – e.g., July 1 NOT “Canada Day”)
You should also make it clear that:
- Holidays are paid, therefore there is no adjustment / credit back to the parent for these days
- If they use alternate care, they will need to pay extra
Some educators also include up to 3 sick days per year in their contract. This contract is between the educator and the family and requires parent signatures. It is entirely up to you as to whether you would like to have paid sick days in your contract or not.
When using a sick day, you should communicate with both the parents and the agency that you are using a paid sick day, as per your contract.
Help your parents arrange alternate care when you know your day home will be closed – you have access to the names and phone numbers of other day homes in the agency, so please reach out to them and share their information with parents so that they can confirm.
Including your Consultant in this communication is a great idea and allows them to follow up with parents if/when needed.
When using back up care, the back up educator will need the Child Information Sheet. You can send this with the parent or directly to the educator, or ask your Consultant for help.
Working with children, you are going to have times when you need a bandage for a scraped knee, or some ice for a bump/bruise. It’s important to communicate accidents with parents. Though it’s never easy letting a parent know their child has been involved in an accident/incident, here are some tips on how you can help this conversation go more smoothly.
Documenting any accidents that happen at the day home is also important. You’ll need the parent to sign the accident/incident report form for your files.
Some accidents require a government incident report to be completed. The agency will help with this. CFS Standards outline the reportable incidents as:
- Allegation of abuse
- Lost or missing child
- Injury requiring medical attention (doctor or hospital)
- Unexpected program closure
The most important thing in documenting all incidents is to call your Consultant so they can help guide you through the process (in most cases, your Consultant will be the one to complete the report and will ask that you submit the agency accident form). Incidents need to be communicated as soon as possible.
Use the Document Portal on the website to access all necessary forms and paperwork.
Keep track of due dates
- A list of due dates for invoices is provided to each educator.
- Be sure to complete and send invoices by 9:00am of the due date – though it is recommended that it is sent the night before.
- Attendance Records and WTU (Wage Top-Up) are due on the 1st of the following month.
- If the 1st lands on a weekend or a holiday, these forms will need to be sent at the end of the business day before.
Know where to send your documents
- Invoices, Attendance Records, and Wage Top Up are sent to the agency: email@example.com
- Standard 10B: Home and Safety Checklists are sent to consultants at the end of every month.
Since educators are responsible for filling spaces and advertising for their day home (aside from the listing on our website) it’s great to have some options:
- Facebook Marketplace
- Facebook groups/forums, for example:
- Newsletters – check community newsletters for advertising options
- Brochures – these can be left at other local venues like coffee shops, doctor’s offices, post offices, etc.
Networking is a great way to find support and ideas from other educators. It’s also great for providing backup care options to your families. Here are some ways to connect with your fellow educators:
Some consultants have their educators use the Flock app to share ideas and communicate with each other.
The Storypark app is a great tool for communicating with parents, but there are some networking options as well:
- Post on community pages and comment on posts
- This connects you with the agency and with your day home parents as well
- It is often where updates and important news is shared first (e.g., the announcement of the Affordability Grant last year)
- Remember, you can get a 50% off discount as an educator with our agency
Attend agency events. We try to offer in-person events periodically over the calendar year. For example:
- Educator Appreciation events
- Turkey Dinner
- Consultant organized park visits etc.
Social media – comment, share ideas, like, and follow
- Create social media profiles for your business – whether it’s a Facebook Business page, Instagram profile, Twitter account, or other
- Like and follow other educators’ social media profiles
- Engage on CRFDH’s Facebook or Instagram posts