What Smart Afterschool Programs Have in Common
I speak with childcare programs everyday. From the small home daycares to big multi-site afterschool programs and everything in between. There is one thing many of the great programs have in common.
These programs are already planning for next year. Many have been planning since the end of last year. Why? Because a lot goes into a new school year. Typically, the larger the afterschool or childcare program, the more time they will need.
The reason so many plan ahead is to eliminate some of the headaches caused by this year’s programs. Maybe something hasn’t worked out. Perhaps the process of taking attendance and parent pick-up was too long. Or possibly one of the new activities offered didn’t turn out well. With all that could go wrong, it helps to have a few tools to organize your planning.
Take some time to adjust for next year.
Analysis and Reflection
What worked? What didn’t? Analyze the last half of 2017 and the first half of 2018. Try to find patterns. What was taking up most of your time which could have been delegated or automated?
Do Your Research
You hopefully have a list with some idea of where you need to improve, where you could save time, and where you should be designating more of your time. If not, use our list to get started.
Childcare or afterschool staff will always be the most expensive aspect of your childcare, but also the most important. Your staff is critical to the success of a program. Especially afterschool programs. This is not your typical classroom. Students choose which program they want to attend. This mean retention of students year after year could come down to the quality of the staff. Who are these staffers? Find them and figure out how to keep them happy. If you are a parent-paid program, staff who truly know how to connect with the children are the ones you want around.
Need help finding these types of staffers? Here are a few ideas on what to look for when hiring great afterschool staff.
Survey your students. Parents want their students interests to be realized. A survey is a great way to let them know they are appreciated and heard. Offer multiple choice options with some new ideas or ask for suggestions and analyze the results.
Need ideas? Here is a list of one-off ideas that could be turned into full afterschool courses. For example, “dog walking” or “go to the zoo” could be turned into “animal sciences” where students can play with dogs/cats brought in from local pounds and learn about how to work with animals. Or it could be turned into “mindfulness” where dogs come in and help students de-stress after a long week of school while they also learn how to meditate, do yoga, and more.
Technology is meant to automate some of your processes to improve efficiency and save you time. There is an abundance of software and apps designed to make your life easier as an administrator, educator, and more. These can be used to track attendance, help with billing & registration, and messaging parents (*cough cough* this is what Kinderlime does *cough cough*).
It may not be popular, but if you only had 5 students sign up for painting class, then you may need to cut your losses and drop that class from the registration list. Aim for something a little more general. Perhaps the students would enjoy being part of a generic “visual arts” class instead. You can reduce your total number of classes while offering other suitable options for students.
Make sure you have the correct staff in place and be sure everyone knows their part to play. Here is a detailed guide on how to create and implement afterschool activities.
No one will be able to attend your activities if they don’t know exactly what you are offering. Highlight the new classes and the classes with the highest attendance rates. Include reviews from parents or children about the teacher or class itself. If you send out a newsletter or email blast add pictures from last year. Word of mouth is one thing, but active marketing allows parents to see what is available.
Independent schools, large childcare programs, and multi-site afterschool programs have an annual process in place for this. Help yourself by putting a plan in place this year!