6 Ways to Increase Attendance in Childcare Programs

Increase Attendance for childcare programs

You have worked hard all year to create a childcare program that is safe, welcoming, and encourages your children to learn and grow. Yet, your attendance numbers are still down!

Attendance in childcare programs can often seem just as important as having a quality program. Attendance increases funding and can give an overall representation of the value of your program.

With this in mind, why is your attendance staying the same when you feel you are doing everything right? Making a few small changes can turn your good program into a great program, and get your attendance back on the upward track.

#1 Spend less time on paperwork, and more on programming

Attendance tracking. Sign in-out sheets. Billing information. In the world of childcare it seems as if we are dealing with paperwork and reports constantly. While it is important to stay organized and on top of paperwork, you do not want it take away from the time spent on improving how the program runs daily.

Maintain a proper balance between reports and billing, and creating a quality program. Attendance, billing, and sign in-out software like Kinderlime can help alleviate the time spent on your piles of paperwork. The extra time spent on quality programming will show, and help increase attendance in your program.

#2 Keep parents happy

Parents often DO have a choice when it comes to childcare. This is why it is immensely important for you and your staff to maintain good communication and a welcoming environment for your parents. Do your best to find new ways to make your parents happy. Each program is different, but here are a couple of ways to maintain a healthy relationship with parents, and increase attendance numbers:

  • Train staff to always greet parents immediately upon entering
  • Create an environment of open communication with parents by making them feel welcome
  • Keep parents informed through monthly newsletters
  • Find new ways to keep parents updated (photos, e-mails, events etc.)

#3 Cater to your community

Each childcare program is a little different as each program is catering to a different community. What works for one program may not work for another. If you are having problems with attendance numbers, one of the first things you will want to evaluate is if you are providing a program that fits the needs of your community.

Through surveys, talking with your community, and creating open communication, you will be on your way to learning more about what your parents and participants hope to see from their childcare program.

#4 Stay ahead

The world of childcare is constantly changing. As a program director, it is important to stay on top of the ever changing trends of childcare. What does programming look like? What tools are being used for the Sign In-Out process? What training is provided for you staff? It is important to not only look at the needs of the community you are providing childcare for, but also looking at what other childcare programs in your community are providing to their clients.

A great way to stay ahead is actually talking to other childcare program directors, and even tour other childcare sites. Observe what other sites are doing differently, and bring your favorite ideas to your program.

Also try attending after school program conventions to see what tools, ideas and resources other programs are using to stay ahead. After attending conventions, and talking with other childcare leaders, write down and brainstorm what ideas could benefit your site the most. If you are unsure about changing certain aspects of your program, see if there is any way you can sample an idea, training or product. At Kinderlime you have the opportunity to schedule a demo, and find out more program specific information on how Kinderlime’s software could be beneficial for you.

Staying on top of the continual changes in childcare will help you stand out as a quality program to parents and your community, ensuring that your attendance will continue to grow.

#5 Hire Quality Staff AND Use Them

You could be the best childcare director on the planet or a multi-tasking king, but if you do not have a great childcare team then your program numbers are doomed to drop. Some childcare positions can have a very high turnover rate. If you find yourself desperately needing to hire a new staff, you may find yourself hiring the first decent person that walks in the door. While it is tempting to hire someone quickly, you will regret later not taking the time to hire a quality staff.

By taking the time to hire quality staff, you are not only making your job easier down the line, but also increasing the success and attendance of your program. However, hiring is not the only important element when it comes to staffing your childcare program.

Know how to use your staff. Find out what they can bring to the table. Try giving your staff a survey of their interests and hobbies. You may learn that you have hired not only childcare staff, but artist, dance instructors, or organization wizards.

It is important to give staff the training and resources they need, as well as show them support, encouragement, and appreciation. Investing a little extra time and energy into your staff will help create a program that participants will never want to leave. Great staff can literally make the difference from a good program to an incredible program, and increase attendance in no time.

#6 Don’t forget your biggest marketing tool… your participants!

While parents ultimately decide if their child will attend the program, your participants have a huge impact on this decision. If your children enjoy the program, then there parents will most likely keep them in the program.

But, what has an even greater impact is the influence your participants have on their friends. By creating a childcare program with quality staff, supportive parents, and well planned programming, you will create a program that your children look forward to everyday. Your attendees will then tell their friends about the program, helping to spread the word. By putting your efforts into creating a quality childcare program you are not only creating a place that your participants enjoy, but are also marketing your program and attracting more attendees.

Have you tried any of these attendance increasing tips? What tips and tricks have you tried to increase attendance in childcare programs?

5 Tips to End the School Year with a BANG!

End the School Year with a Bang

I started the new school year excited and ready to implement my new ideas and plans. But, before I knew it, it was already time to end the school year again. Some of the plans worked tremendously, and some were simply better in theory.

By the end of the school year I was ready for it to be over. It was challenging to stay motivated. But, I’ve learned it is important to keep putting in 100% and end the school year with a bang! These tips will not only help you end the year on a great note, but also set your program up for success for the following school year.

1. Get feedback from parents

In the end, it is the parents decision to send their child to your after school program. Without them, you would have no after school program. This is why it is important to give parents a way to express their thoughts, concerns, ideas, or words of appreciation. An anonymous end of the year survey is a great way to allow parents to give you this feedback. It not only lets parents know that you care about their input, but also helps you in planning and implementing any changes for the next school year.

2. Don’t forget to say Thank You

There are many people who help make your program possible. Your staff, teachers, volunteers, parents, school principal, maintenance staff, and other members of the community can all play an important role. The end of the school year is the perfect time to let those who have helped you know how much you appreciate their support. Your thank you can be as simple as a thoughtful card.

Taking this time to reach out and say thank you helps build a stronger relationship with your community helpers. As the new school year starts again, they will be more likely to continue to help and support your programs success in the future.

3. Keep your students engaged

As May and June come around, staff and students are ready for the school year to come to an end. While this is the time staff may want to put less effort into planning activities, it is incredibly important to have great activities that keep students engaged. By keeping children moving with fun and engaging activities you will avoid behavior problems. Children will leave the program with great memories, and be excited to come back the following school year.

4. Celebrate!

As much as we love working in after school programs, there is nothing like the end of the school year! Plan an end of the school year party to celebrate a successful year. Use this time to show how much you appreciate and care about the most important participants in your program, your students! The end of the school year can always be a little bitter sweet as you say goodbye to some of your students, but, before you know it, the school year will be starting up again. So celebrate and enjoy the end of the school year as much as you can.

5. Reflect

When it comes to after school programs the days are long, but the years are short. During the hectic school year it can be a challenge to simply take a step back and look at all that you have done and accomplished. While the school year is still fresh in your mind, reflect on what areas you would like to improve and focus on for the next year. Evaluate your Sign In-Out process, parent communication, staff growth, hiring process, and any other important aspect of your program. Observe what worked and what didn’t’ work. Be sure to record your end of the year reflections.

Over the summer look over these reflections, and evaluate if there are any tools and resources that could help your programs success. Could your staff use additional training? Would Kinderlime’s Sign In-Out App improve your after school programs billing process? Ask yourself these important questions so you can go into the next school year more prepared than ever.

While it is important to reflect on how you want to improve, don’t forget to give yourself credit for all that you have done. Think about all that you have accomplished since day one of the school year. Look at how much you, your staff, and students have grown and changed. Even if the school year did not go perfectly as planned, be proud of yourself and everything you did accomplish!

The world of after school programs is rewarding, exciting, and never dull, but, it can also be exhausting. That last month with your after school program is a challenge, but by taking the extra steps to end the school year strong, you’re next school year will be that much easier.

To find out more information on tools and resources to help improve your Sign In-Out process, parent communication, or billing for the next school year, check out Kinderlime.

Sign In and Out: Paper vs App

Signing In and Out: Paper vs Apps

Life is full of paper that gets filed and saved for years wasting both time and resources.  We have to keep track of our students as they are signing in and out every day.  Think about how many resources are wasted: cases of paper, printer toner, wear & tear on the printer.  Where and for how long are you storing all these records? It takes time to deal with all of that paper too!  You need to track a students attendance and you end up searching through binders full of paper.  Will there ever be an end to all that paper?  Well the answer is YES!

The Kinderlime Sign In-Out App specializes in stopping waste.  Each parent/guardian is assigned a unique PIN number that records and saves all of those sign ins/outs.  The app is also helpful for us administrators. You are able to access plenty of reports almost instantaneously on your screen through the app.  The app is also super simple for parents to use.  On average, it takes our parents 3 seconds to complete the signing in and out process.  They enter their unique PIN number, and press a button to drop-off or pick-up.  SIMPLE!

As the office administrator for our preschool, the Sign In-Out App has become a MUST HAVE in our school! I am constantly interrupted by parents and staff, and find it challenging to stay on top of administrative tasks. With the app I am able to spend more time on creating meaningful relationships with parents and staff, and less time dealing with administrative paperwork. I find the answers my parents need in just a few seconds. Rather than having to say, “I’ll have it for you next Tuesday” and spend an hour digging through records, I am able to look access everything in seconds with the Kinderlime app.

As always, please feel free to share comments and ask questions about anything I’ve written about.  I am here to help!

Best Practices for After School Billing

After School Billing

Are you constantly chasing down parents to collect bills? Do you have endless piles of paperwork? After school billing can be time consuming, challenging, and harmful to a programs budget. There are many aspects and methods to consider when deciding what the best practices are for your after school program. Thankfully, by implementing a well thought out after school program billing processes, your program can run smoother and more efficiently.

The billing process is very much tied to the after school offerings you have. For public programs, which are funded by the state, it is not required. But, if you run a private program for families – then the attendance tracking and billing is integral to the bottom line of your program.

Most programs try to do what is best for families. However, in doing so they compromise on administrative overhead and create unnecessary burden for themselves. Since your focus is to have a high quality after school program which your students love, the work for attendance tracking and billing needs to be thought through.

Method of After School Billing

One of the hardest and most important decisions to make is the method in which you bill families. As each after school program varies, so will the billing method. Not one single method is right for all programs. These are a few of the most common methods used for after school billing, each with its own pros and cons. It is important to evaluate what the needs of your program are, and then decide which billing method will be the most effective for your program.

Hourly

The hourly method looks at the daily usage of participants, and charges families based on how long a participant attends the program each day. Usage is calculated based on the check-in and checkout time of the students in the program.

Billing hourly is great for a program that wishes to give parents flexibility on when their child attends the program. However, calculating the amount to be billed can be much more time consuming with this method. Kinderlime combines into one system a timeclock app, and billing and online payment software. This streamlines calculating and billing parents, making the hourly method much more manageable.

Flat Fee

Many programs also use a flat rate fee that can be charged monthly or quarterly. This method makes the billing process more straightforward, and eliminates the possibility of parents arguing over the amount of time a child attends the program. If a parent needs to take a month off from the program, this can easily be done with Kinderlime’s billing software. Kinderlime will keep track of a family’s account history so you can easily add a previous participant back into your program.

However, some parents who simply need the program once a week may not want to pay a flat rate fee. If parents decided not to have their children attend the program due to this payment method, it will not only cause lower attendance, but also could result in children staying at home alone instead of attending the program.

Tiered Rate

This method has parents predict at the beginning of the year their usage of the program, and bills them at a set hourly rate. Programs can decide if they would like to bill parents monthly, quarterly, or in addition to their school tuition. Parents who do not predict their usage, or will only need the program on an occasional basis, can attend the program with a higher hourly rate.

This tiered rate approach is very beneficial when it comes to budgeting for a program as well as safety. By having parents predict when their child will be attending, administrators can be sure to have the proper amount of staff, and plan spending accordingly. Although this method may be slightly more confusing to explain to parents in the beginning, taking that extra step will prove worthwhile in the end.

Discounts

A lot of programs want to make it easy on families by offering discounts for siblings, or subsequent hours after the first hour. Some other programs will bill based on quarter of an hour. While these practices are well intentioned, they pose a lot of burden on the administrators and business offices of schools. Calculating discounts is a big headache and takes a lot of time. Simplicity in charges is key – it’s easy to understand for parents and easy for you to calculate.

Late Fee

In order to deter consistent families from taking advantage of your staff, it’s important to charge late fees. Staff should never waiver these fees, as parents need to take this seriously. Kinderlime’s very accurate time tracking is here to help. There is no contention as you can show parents their electronic pick up records. Make late fees very simple by having a flat rate fee based on every 5 minutes they are late.

How to Bill Families

Set Clear Expectations

One of the largest challenges for after school program billing is ensuring that parents are paying on time, and are following all rules set in place. It is key to set clear expectations for parents on how your programs billing process works, and any other important program related information.

It can become time consuming going through program paperwork with parents, but the time you take to discuss your program with parents will often become helpful down the road. Instead of simply handing parents paperwork to turn in, have your program set up an orientation or parent meetings at the beginning of the school year. Making a designated time to discuss the program and go over paperwork will allow parents to address any questions or concerns, and allow after school programs to clarify how the program is set up.

Make the Billing Process Simple and Easy

In general we have seen that hourly billing at the end of the month works best for most programs. As recommended earlier, don’t have discounts based on additional hours or siblings. When billing families, make the process as simple and easy as possible. This will not only help ensure that parents are paying in a timely manner, but also help make the billing process easier for your staff. Here are a few ways to simplify the billing process for families:

  • Electronic Invoices: E-mailing electronic invoices to parents makes it easy for them to access how much they owe. One of the many features of Kinderlime’s billing software is e-mailing invoices to parents, which also keeps track of any outstanding balances. The easier it is for parents to access their invoice, the easier it is for them to pay.
  • Multiple Payment Options: Continually collecting parent bills through check or cash is tedious for both parents and staff. Kinderlime offers secure online payment features that gives parents the flexibility to use the payment option of their choice, whether that’s credit card, bank account, check or cash.

Going Green

Unfortunately, after school billing can require a large use of paper. The continual use of paper is bad for the environment, costly, and often time consuming. Moving to an after school billing process that is electronic helps save money, makes the process easier for parents and staff, creates more satisfied parents, and helps with the retention of participants.

Kinderlime’s software not only allows parents to pay online, but creates paper free sign in and out sheets, easily records parent signatures, and can even send out paper free monthly newsletters created on the Kinderlime app. Kinderlime helps after school programs everywhere become more environmentally friendly, as well as reduces the billing process by over 40 hours a month.

If you are interested in maintaining the best practices for after school billing, please head over to the Kinderlime website, and request a demo or Sign Up.

Why Attendance Matters in After School Programs

shutterstock_59277880As supervisor of an after school program, the words high attendance were engrained into my vocabulary. I often centered my program on the importance of keeping the number of participants high. The reasons this mattered seemed obvious. By maintaining a high attendance we would receive more funding. However, I quickly learned that while program funding is important, there are far bigger reasons attendance matters in after school programs.

Hedy N. Chang and Phyllis W. Jordan describe in their article, Building a Culture of Attendance: Schools and Afterschool Programs Together Can and Should Make a Difference, how research has proven that good after school programs can and do improve school-day attendance. After school programs are not simply a place for students to go until their parents get off of work. They are an extra opportunity for students to grow academically, explore new interests, and create a sense of belonging.

The beginning of the school year sits vividly in my mind. Students came to the program because their parents made them. Many of the students were nervous or scared (some were crying). Other students struggled, and sometimes downright refused to do homework. As the year went on, I watched how my after school program helped these scared students make new friends and become confident. I watched the students who struggled with school work start to improve and succeed. These students may have come to the program because their parents made them, but the stayed because they wanted to.

Now, am I saying that funding for after school programs does not matter? Absolutely not! The funding you receive for higher attendance goes right back to the program’s success. By maintaining a high attendance, you are not only ensuring your students wellbeing, but also have the ability to use the funding to provide helpful resources to your students, creating a successful program.

An increase in attendance is often a sign of a successful program, which makes it important to keep track of. Kinderlime’s Sign In-Out app is an easy and stress free way of tracking attendance. We offer the ability to use completely paper free and electronic sign in/out sheets. With Kinderlime, you have the ability to see how your attendance is for the day, how it has changed over time, and how long students are staying at your program. This information can help your programs be aware of how they are growing, and what areas they may need to improve on.

Do you need assistance with attendance tracking? Request a demo, or contact us at 408-658-0030.

 

 

 

Improving Parent Engagement in Preschool and After School Programs

Parent involvement and engagement is critical to the success of preschool and afterschool programs. Parent engagement helps keep your attendance numbers high and helps students succeed in your program. When parents become more involved, you are also opening doors for parents to volunteer, provide help with enrichment activities, and create word of mouth referrals for your program. Keeping parents involved and engaged may seem like an easy task, but it can often be much easier said than done. Here are a few tips to help improve parent engagement in afterschool programs.

  1. Create a Welcoming Environment

There are many ways to go about improving parent engagement, but if your program is not creating a welcoming environment, none of them will work. First off, the appearance and feel of the program should feel clean, safe and welcoming. One teacher described how when setting up a preschool classroom she crawled around on the floor to see things from a child’s perspective. This may seem silly, but it is important to look at your program space from the perspective of the children and parents. If you were a parent how would you want the program to look?

Next, it is immensely important to ensure all teachers, staff, and visitors to your program always create a welcoming environment for parents. It is critical for all staff to greet parents upon entry, and make them feel welcome. If parents feel comfortable they will be more willing to engage with your program and give feedback.

Parent Staf

  1. Keep Parents Updated

Almost every parent wants to know how their child is doing. However, sometimes staff and teachers can be guilty of only updating parents when a child has had a rough day. It is important to share with parents the highlights of their child’s day, what they learned, how their behavior has improved, or even simply that they have arrived safely to your program. With the Kinderlime Sign In-Out app staff can send parents e-mail notifications that their child has been dropped off or picked up. It is simple and easy gestures like this that help alleviate parents stress, and keep them satisfied with the program.

Parents want to first know that their child is safe, but they also want to make sure their child is enjoying, learning and growing in the program. Use the Kinderlime Daily Sheets app to send parents photos of the fun activities their child participated in during the day. Parents will love to see what their child is doing and learning throughout the day, and what better way to show parents than through photos. By involving parents with daily updates and photos you are not only making parents happy, but increasing retention and enrollment in your program.

  1. Create Events to Engage Parents

Creating various family or parent events will help take parent engagement to the next level. Often parents would like the opportunity to engage with program directors, administrators and staff, but on a daily basis it can be challenging for parents to make the time to talk with staff. By creating fun family events, parents will have the opportunity to spend time truly getting to know the program, and possibly find avenues in which they can become more involved. Let parents know about upcoming events in monthly newsletters that can be easily generated on the Kinderlime website.

Parent only events are another helpful way to increase parent engagement in the program. Try creating a quarterly parent meeting where program leaders can show what new and exciting things are happening in their program. Parents can have the opportunity to give feedback and become involved in their child’s preschool or afterschool program. By creating more meaningful relationships with parents, you will find that your program will grow and succeed.

  1. Take Advantage of Social Media

As your program continues to make parents feel welcome and happy, parents will be more likely to tell others about your program. 90% of new enrollment comes by word of mouth. Times have changed, and it is now much easier for parents to reach out to prospective families on social media. As your staff continue to send pictures through the Kinderlime Daily Sheets app, parents will be likely to share those photos on sites like Facebook and Google Plus. Parents will enjoy sharing with others what their child is doing on social media, and you will benefit from increased enrollment in your program.

While all of these points are extremely important when it comes to parent engagement, each program needs to find what works best for them. What worked for one program may not work for another. Each afterschool program is serving a different community. These differences mean that sometimes programs may need to try a few different approaches to parent engagement to find what works best for them.

With dedication, creativity, and access to the modern resources Kinderlime offers, each program can find a way to improve parent engagement. Keeping your existing families engaged and happy will help you retain participants, grow your numbers, and build a successful program.

Aftercare Billing Software

If you are an afterschool administrator, time tracking and billing parents can be a big chore. It requires accurate tracking of sign in out sheets and then adding up those time sheets to finally bill parents.

Are you spending a lot of time in managing these time sheets and arguing with parents of how much they owe? How about if there was a timeclock app for tracking the time the students spend in your aftercare? And reports that you would love to use so that billing for parents can be easy. Flexibility is key with billing for afterschool. You would like to give parents the flexibility of paying through checks, cash, bank accounts, credit cards and we offer all of that.

Kinderlime offers a timeclock app, billing and an online payment software all integrated into one just for your needs. Our system allows parents to pay online. Right from sign in outs to collecting payments, you don’t need any paper. We make it extremely easy for you to record time and signatures and then let our billing software do the rest. After school pickup and activity tracking is extremely easy too. We have helped thousands of childcare programs to go paperless. And they save over 40 hours each month using us. If you need to discuss your after school billing please hop over to the Kinderlime website and Sign Up or request a demo.

Daycare Daily Reports

As a teacher of infants and toddlers in a daycare, their tracking of meals, naps and bathroom visits is an important part of our day. Parents who have just started sending their children to daycare are very anxious about their kids. As a provider it is important for us to keep a record of the child’s daily schedule and communicate that to parents. This record keeping and conveying this to parents can be pretty onerous and time taking.

Kinderlime has a way to structure your daycare daily communication with parents. You can get rid of paper sheets and save time with our app. The Daily Sheets app from Kinderlime makes it extremely easy to record the child’s day and send off an email. For large rooms, you can even setup a daily plan / schedule and avoid unnecessary typing.

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No more second guessing of what naps, bathroom visits, meals, activities the child did and what supplies her parents need to bring. Send them pictures of all the fun the kids are having too. We have made it easy for teachers to do this quickly. By the time parents walk into the daycare, they know how their child’s day went – so now you can focus on quality conversation about their child’s day. It’s not just about facts anymore – its about how they felt, how they played and how they laughed.

If you still want to continue using paper, here is good link of infant and toddler daily sheets that you can use. There are more links on the Childcare and Preschool Owners Board on Pinterest that you can use as well.