Your ideal daycare space: Dream it, design it

Your ideal daycare space: Dream it, design it

When it comes to designing a daycare space, I am getting pretty good at it! Now I’ve done it more than a few times, I thought it’d be a good idea to share my expertise with you. Because I know that if you dream it, you can design it!
Setting up your daycare space is one of the most exciting parts of being a childcare business owner. In my opinion, it’s often the fun bit because after that you gotta get serious! Who doesn’t enjoy shopping?! I’m talking getting awesome toys, buying furniture that looks interesting but is also functional…not to mention setting up all the different play areas!
However, before you go running off to Target, I want to share a few things I’ve learned!

Why your daycare space matters

Did you know that the environment is sometimes referred to as the “third teacher” (after parents and educators)? This is due to its importance in early learning, and this is why setting up your daycare space is more than just making it look nice. It’s been shown in research that kids thrive in environments that are tailored to their interests and developmental stages.
It’s important to make the daycare space warm and welcoming. You want children to feel “at home” but there must also be areas that create intrigue and get the kiddos exploring and trying new things! The different elements of an environment can have varying stimulation levels, which impacts how children play. For example, large open areas encourage movement, whereas more enclosed areas with softer furnishings encourage exploring or looking at books.
With this in mind, it’s clear that a rich and varied environment creates an excellent experience with loads of opportunities for the young learners!

Create a great learning environment

In these early stages of development, varied and interesting environments are so important. Not only are the kids learning new things in new environments, their brains are constantly applying all their knowledge of past experiences to newer ones!
You need to arrange your space wisely, because it can have an impact on how children behave. If a space is too open, you may find children running wildly, not noticing things you’ve put around the edge. Instead, you could divide the room into separate learning and play areas, using shelves or other furniture like couches. Usually this helps cut down on silliness and crazy running, and at the same time helps the children discover new activities.  Another thing you can do is organize your daycare in a way that makes things easier for kids (and your team!). So stay organized with low, accessible (and secure!!) shelves.
daycare space

Plan ahead!

Like I said before, it’s super important to make a plan before you go and run up your credit card bill in Walmart!
It’s a great idea to check out what other people are doing and get ideas. Don’t get caught up in comparison, just take a peek and see what’s working well for them. Get an idea of what you like or don’t like.  Take a minute to consider what your style or ideal aesthetic is. Perhaps you want to use solely sustainable materials in your daycare space, or you studied Reggio Emilia and want a minimalist look?
Maybe you’d like to create a vibrant space that’s informed by your children’s cultural backgrounds? Or will you have a focus on a particular area, like STEM or the Arts?

Get pinning!

I suggest setting up a Pinterest board of daycare spaces that inspire you and start collecting a variety of ideas to get your creative juices flowing. Delve a little deeper into what it is you like about each one of the pins. Then try and think about what might work in your daycare space, taking into consideration your size and specific layout.
Create boards for each area of your daycare – kitchen, play, outside space, change area, sleep area and so on.

Budgeting for your daycare space

It’d be incredibly easy to get carried away with designing a daycare space and before you know it you’ve gone way over budget. So, before you hit the shops or start to fill your online basket with items, really get clear on what’s in your budget.
If your finances aren’t quite where you wish they were (yet!) then make a list for the future and turn your focus to what you need right now. Take another look at that Pinterest board. Are there any ways you can recreate the ideas you’ve seen for less?

Create a dream board

Once I figure out my budget and the ideas start flowing, I create a dream board. It’s kinda like a vision board but solely focused on what you’d like your daycare to look and feel like.  Start compiling cut-outs from magazines and brochures of your favourite things. Choose what aligns with your vision for your daycare.
Then as you start selecting and designing, you want to consider if the space will work for the run of your day. Will your layout flow well for your routines?
For example, will the older children need to walk through the baby’s sleeping area? Can you arrange and design the space to avoid things like that? And from a safety perspective, when you have designed it all, try thinking about it from a child’s view.

Do you have your layout designed yet? What stage are you at?

Interested in becoming more involved in the community and to grow your business? Join us for more tips on how to make your childcare business the success it deserves to be! Or if you prefer Instagram, we share ideas and tips there too! We’re an army of childcare professionals who are sharing ninja-sharp skills to transform our businesses into childcare empires! This is Childcare Ownership all Grownup!

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3 reasons to update your parent handbook now!

3 reasons to update your parent handbook now!

Having an excellent parent handbook is key to ensuring a great start in communication! Whether you’re a home day care or serving the community from a center, your parent handbook is going to keep things nice and clear for your families.

So what needs updating and why? Nyckie shares her wisdom in this blog about the importance of a great parent handbook and why you need to update yours right now!

What is a Parent Handbook and do I need one?

Absolutely! Your parent handbook is an essential resource for any childcare program! The purpose of this wonderful book is to tell your families all about your day care policies and procedures. It makes things super-clear to them and they can use it as an ongoing reference. Guide your families through everything they need to know: payment policies, holidays, your hours of operation, what to do on sick days and more!

As a childcare business owner, developing a comprehensive parent handbook is vital. Not only can a clear and useful parent handbook support the transition and help with communication, it can act as a contract between your business and the people you provide care for. So you might want to ensure that parents read the handbook thoroughly, and then sign and date a page to acknowledge their understanding of all your policies and procedures. Before a child begins their time at your day care it acts as an agreement that they’ll adhere to the rules you’ve decided upon. (Top tip: Keep a copy of their signed handbook for your records, and refer back if rules are being broken.)

Things to include in your parent handbook (in case you’re new!)

Your handbook should contain a variety of policies and guidelines based on the requirements for childcare facilities in your state. It should include a list of all the essentials about your daycare. The full name, address and contact information of your facility, as well as the names and details of those in positions of responsibility in case of an emergency.

Don’t forget to detail payment information so that parents don’t have to go searching for the vital fees and deadlines! Make it as simple as possible. Provide a timetable displaying your hours of operation and any holidays you’ll be closed for. Give clear instructions about the drop off and pick up expectations.

Add in extra information about your philosophy and the way things run on a daily basis. Maybe you could include a schedule of activities and some info on how you manage behaviour. Parents find all this really helpful in their decision-making process. So make your daycare the right choice for them and make that choice super easy!

If you already have a handbook, you are probably wondering why you might need to update it. You spent hours last time round, and you’re thinking, “really Nyckie!?? What’s the point?” Well here’s some reasons why you ought to do it now…

Why you should update your parent handbook: Q3 already!

The first reason you need to look at updating is because we’re more than halfway through the year. You’ve had a good amount of time to review what’s working well in your daycare and what’s not been working for you.

update your handbook

Go through your current parent handbook and highlight the policies that need to be altered. Maybe it’s the payment policy – is it too flexible? Perhaps there’s some tweaks needed around the curriculum you’re offering. Or maybe you’ve decided to add in some extra hours to the facility opening times. Whatever it is, I’m sure there’s things that are working well too. Make sure you reflect on the positive as well as adjusting the things that need to change.

Another reason to update your handbook: Covid-19 & lockdown ending

We’re coming out of lockdown round about now, so you’ll want to make sure your parent handbook is updated to reflect any concerns around Covid-19. You can use the handbook to clarify things like symptoms or to explain how you’re up-levelling your hygiene processes to keep everyone safe. Most states have pretty much reopened up for childcare now, as we’re all starting to come out of lockdown.

re opening post-covid

The good news is that an end to lockdowns means that many businesses are back up and running! Yay! And the knock-on effect is that your childcare should begin to get a lot more new inquiries. But this also means additional responsibilities for you as a childcare business owner. With these changes post-Covid, you’ll find you have changes you need to make. Perhaps your child screenings will have to adapt to be socially distanced or via video call. Maybe some symptoms will no longer be accepted in your daily running of things, ones which we didn’t used to mind – like sniffles pr a tickly throat cough. But now we must be more cautious about things like that, to ensure that both staff and kids are safe.

So take a look at your handbook and see if there are things that perhaps need to be worded differently since the pandemic. Now is a really good time to make the necessary changes and stay on top of your childcare business.

Reason 3: Update the handbook to reflect any changes

Not only have you been dealing with a global pandemic, you’ll no doubt have had lots of other issues to contend with. So this is the perfect time to update your parent handbook in your childcare to reflect what’s happening. Have you made changes to staffing? If you were closed did you use the time to redecorate or change things round in your daycare? Whatever you might want to add to the handbook, keep parents informed and keep those communication lines firmly open!

Updating your parent handbook means you’re not leaving things to chance. Trust me, there’s danger in waiting for those moments when an issue crops up. Handle that now instead and take a pro-active stance.

update us please and put us at ease

How will you update your parent handbook?

I do advise we regularly update our handbooks and not forget about it after we have opened back up! If you want to hear more about why updating is so important RIGHT NOW, head over to the Childcare Ninja Facebook group where you’ll find my live chat about parent handbooks. Every week I go live and share strategies and ideas for building your childcare business into the legacy you’re dreaming of!

Interested in becoming more involved in the community and to grow your business? Join us for more tips on how to make your childcare business the success it deserves to be! Or if you prefer Instagram, we share advice and stories there too! We’re an army of childcare professionals who are sharing ninja-sharp skills to transform our businesses into childcare empires! This is Childcare Ownership all Grownup!

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Inspections: how to prepare like a Childcare Ninja

Inspections: how to prepare like a Childcare Ninja

Last week I wrote about getting our mindset ready for the inspection process and looking at it with the mindset that this is going to be something that helps us do what we do even better! This week we’re thinking about how to prepare for inspections.

Now that we’ve got our mindset sorted out, we’ll pull out some strategies to help us get the job done while we prepare for that all important daycare inspection.

In this blog post you’ll find ideas and strategies to help you create a successful Daycare Inspection Strategy. These are going to help you prepare for what’s commonly recognized as the scariest part of your childcare ownership journey!

It’s time to get confident and kiss goodbye to the fear!! Let’s go Ninja!

Remember that inspections are here to keep kids safe!

This is not a trick situation. No one is out to get you! The inspectors are coming into your day care to make sure it’s as safe as it can possibly be for children in your care. Running a childcare business means you signed up to a regulated industry and we all want to do our best, right? And it’s an opportunity to have an experienced expert giving you advice and support on a yearly basis.

It’s really important that you get your mindset into a positive space. Read more about how to get into the right frame of mind for your inspection here.

Why do you need a strategy?

All a strategy is is a plan! It’s not as complex as it sounds. And, in this case, the plan is going to keep you focused and give you confidence to show the inspector round your day care without worrying about things.

The tips I’m sharing have helped me and others that I’ve shared them with to go on and smash their inspections. When you approach these inspections with a positive mindset and a tried and tested strategy, it’s much less stressful all round!

If you’re running your childcare from home, you can get some top tips here in my Ultimate Home Daycare Inspection Guide. 

always be ready schitts creek

Remind yourself of the regulations

Back when you opened your daycare, you would’ve been given some sort of handbook or regulation information. It might have been a digital format or it could’ve been in print. Either way, I like to keep a paper copy of mine in each day care because then I can check things off as and when I remember them. Or maybe download it on your iPad and scroll through whenever you get the chance.

I’d hazard a guess that back then when you first got your handbook you were probably all rose-tinted glasses thinking you’ll never letting things slip. You were no doubt adamant that you’d be looking over it and getting clued up on the daily. But after a while you realized that you’re referring to it less than you initially hoped! So your first job is to go get the handbook back out!  We all get super busy and things can easily be missed. Doing a bit of a re-read on the regular means you’ll always be prepared.

What do you need to have in place in order to meet the requirements? Get yourself refamiliarized with your state regulations so that you feel in control and confident when the inspection rolls around.

Play inspection make believe

Two pairs of eyes is better than one. So why not ask someone with a fresh pair – someone you trust! – to look through the handbook and help you out. Get them to come in and point out things you’ve overlooked.  This could be a team member or a savvy friend. Ask them to play the role of inspector and make sure everything is in tact.

Sometimes it’s more manageable if you break the “inspection” down and go over each section at a different time, making notes as you go. Although I don’t know every single state handbook by heart, they generally consist of 4 key areas: facility paperwork, staffing, children’s records, and the environment. Allocating a team member to “inspect” one of these, and then swapping can give you a great insight into the things that might be overlooked.

It’s an excellent way to prepare for your inspection.

Make a video

Okay, okay. I know it sounds a little funny. But this is something that really helped me! I know it’s not fun to watch yourself back but it will help you!  Just like when you’re in the movies and you notice errors – like in the scene editing, when props are suddenly missing, or there’s sometimes a random hair or outfit change –  you’ll watch your recording and notice things. I bet you’ll catch things you totally missed as you were going through! Tiny but crucial things, like a missing outlet or safety cover and you’ll be even better prepared for the real thing!

I first realised the value of making a video when I made a training video for new staff and noticed things out of place or missing! Honestly, try it! It’s amazing how our brains see what they want to see!  Filming yourself doing a preparation run of the inspection and filming it is a game changer!

Not your first inspection?

If you’ve had previous inspections, don’t forget to go through all the old notes and recommendations. What did you miss last time? Try and catch as much as possible before your next inspection comes around.  Thoroughly check their references to systems and paperwork, where did things slip previously?

Use your experiences to reassure newer staff and teach them how to go through the handbook and check things off. What are your top tips for prepping for an inspection?


These are just a few of the things that have helped me so head over to the Facebook group. There you can watch my Live on #replay and find out more about how I prepare!

Don’t forget to get your hands on my Ultimate Home Daycare Inspection Guide which includes a checklist to help you get ready for your upcoming inspection. Get your copy now by clicking here now!.

If you haven’t joined the group yet jump in and join us live every week.  You can catch up on past lives about inspections but also a ton of other topics that’ll help you grow your childcare business!

Want to get more involved in the childcare business owner community and really ramp up your business to the next level? Join us for more tips on how to make your childcare business the success it deserves to be! Or if you prefer Instagram, we share ideas and tips there too! We’re an army of childcare professionals who are sharing ninja-sharp skills to transform our businesses into childcare empires! This is Childcare Ownership all Grownup!

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Childcare inspections: they’re not the bad guys

Childcare inspections: they’re not the bad guys

Childcare inspections: two simple words that give day care owners the heebie-jeebies! I remember feeling really worried about the prospect of childcare inspections when I first started out in this industry. We’ve all heard stories from strangers on the internet and all sorts of anecdotes about how mean inspectors can be.

However, I’m here to set the record straight about why inspections aren’t as scary as they seem and help you see things from a different perspective.

If you’ve not had your first inspection yet, it might be worrying you. Or maybe you’ve got the inspection blues? Either way, read on to find out why we shouldn’t see the inspections as a negative.

Why do we even need to have inspections?

In my opinion, there are three main reasons that inspections matter.

Firstly, the kids’ health and safety. Research shows that states with strong licensing regulations, but lacking in routine inspections, don’t protect children from harm. Inspections of childcare programs by licensing agencies etc are important because they help to make sure that the State’s rules are being followed. This is vital for protecting children’s safety. And we’ve all got their best interests at heart, right? That’s why we’re here doing what we do best!

Next up, parental choice. Imagine you’re a parent trying to choose a day care for your precious little one. You need to make a shortlist of settings without spending hours driving around your local area. How are you going to do that? Wouldn’t it make sense to have a quality rating that helps you compare day care centers? Exactly! That’s part and parcel of what inspections can help with.

Finally: they can help you shine. I like to think of inspections as a way of figuring out where I can improve. Try and twist it into a positive experience – something to look forward to. How can I demonstrate that I’m the best?! What can I do to get to the next level of quality rating?

Annnnnnd breathe…

The inspection process can feel super stressful but it doesn’t have to be. Speaking from experience, I find that if you take a minute to practice inhaling and exhaling slowly it can really help you calm down. I know that these inspections can feel like a massive inconvenience, or like they’re out to get you but if you focus on the job at hand and put certain things into play, you can get through them.

take a deep breath

Sort out your inspection mindset

Yup. Mindset matters for this too! Often we approach these sort of things with a negative mindset, assuming the worst and overthinking before the inspector has even set foot in your establishment! What good is being negative for the inspection? Is it going to help you get a good rating? No!

So, it’s really important that you take some time to step back and detach yourself from the situation. Take your emotions out of it and understand that this inspection is absolutely nothing to do with your abilities as a human being or anything at all personal. It’s purely about whether your childcare meets the regulations required by your state.

If you feel the negativity creeping in, remind yourself of your why! Tell your inner critic that you’re going to prove to the inspector what a badass childcare business owner you are!

They’re not the enemy!

We need to understand that the inspector isn’t the enemy! I know we hear those dreadful horror stories all about bad inspectors finding the tiniest of issues with how owners run their businesses – i.e. nit-picking! – but they really aren’t all “bad eggs”. So, while the rather irritating nit-picking behaviour can happen on occasion, it’s more helpful to go into it with a different approach.

So instead of assuming the worst and predicting that they’re coming to tell me what’s wrong, how about making the conscious decision to view it differently?

will smith childcare inspection gif

Gain valuable insight

What amazes me is that we all seem to forget that these inspectors are a.) human and b.) often experts in the field themselves! As such, they might even have been childcare business owners once upon a time! So why not make the most of their support?

Surely you could begin to see an inspection as a chance for someone from the outside to give you tons of valuable input and ideas. Actually, inspections are a rare chance to get an external perspective from someone who might help you make things better in your day care.

I found that reframing the way I thought about inspections and how I approached them was an absolute game changer! When you’re able to focus on the truly important thing: preparing things rather than worrying unnecessarily. When I looked at it from that perspective rather than seeing them in a negative way it was became a fantastic opportunity for growth!

Have you had an inspection yet? How did you prepare for it?

Mindset comes up so much in business, even in this there’s a chance to have a growth mindset.  So don’t make yourself overwhelmed, get out of your head and see it in a new light, it’s a game changer! I’ll be talking about this and how to get over the inspection blues over in my Facebook group, so come along!

Want to get more involved in the childcare business owner community and really ramp up your business to the next level? Join us for more tips on how to make your childcare business the success it deserves to be! Or if you prefer Instagram, we share ideas and tips there too! We’re an army of childcare professionals who are sharing ninja-sharp skills to transform our businesses into childcare empires! This is Childcare Ownership all Grownup!

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Bring on the fun in your summer childcare program!

Bring on the fun in your summer childcare program!

What does your summer childcare program look like? Do you do anything different to your usual schedule in the summer months?

It’s that time of year, in most places here in the USA, where we are smothering kids in sun lotion and ensuring they’ve all got their hats on! But how can we differentiate the summer time in our childcare settings to make it stand out from the usual school times?

I know it can be really easy to do the same old thing year in, year out. But I want to help you break that dull old cycle and get your kids BUZZING about your daycare!

This blog is full of tried and tested tips and strategies to boost your fun this summer! Read on to discover how to make your childcare stand out and bring joy to all your families!

Why is summer any different to other times in the year?

The year can feel really boring, monotonous and uninspiring, so I like to use the summer to break up the year. It separates out ‘term time’ from ‘holiday time’, and —because it’s warmer—there are tonnes of opportunities to mix things up, especially by heading outside!

summer time mouse drinking an iced water

Switching up your program compared to how it is in the school time helps to break up any boredom for the kiddos and also your team. They get a rest from all the traditional school time learning activities, and it’s more likely that you’ll feel able to make a more creative timetable!

Off-the-curriculum fun!

Summer is a chance for you and your team to unleash your creative sides and go wild. Now is the time to really have some fun! Summer can be a time to break rules!

Take it as your permission slip to totally reinvent your program, drawing on all the experience and wisdom of your team and completely go for it – no generic teaching of math and English! Think right outside of the box! There are so many fun projects you can do that are exciting yet still encourage the kids’ academic skills.

When you have a creative and joyful learning program your kids will have so much fun, they’ll be telling their parents all about it!

Rejuvenate your summer childcare program!

Summertime is absolutely one of my favorite times of the year. I love the freedom that it brings to step away from the normal activities we can all find super dull after a while. But most of all, I adore seeing the kids playing outside and exploring. None of them complain about being cold or hungry or tired because they’re too busy exploring!

Take today, for instance! We were making drums! And, because the sun is out, we can make these drums and play with them out in the garden so the noise doesn’t reverberate in your ears quite so much! The summer makes all those louder activities much more appealing to you and your team right!?

drumming and playing outside

Bring back the old skool games

Outdoor play doesn’t need to cost the earth. There’s no need for new swing-ball sets or a climbing frame! It’s amazing what you can do with some chalk! Bring back those oldies-but-goodies like hopscotch and tick-tack-toe (noughts and crosses)! A lot of the kids won’t have played these games before and learning them feels fun and new! Plus these are life skills!


A classic idea that really gets them thinking involves water, a bucket and some old paint brushes! It’s actually super for teaching kids about evaporation and the water cycle! Get the kids to fill up a bucket and “paint” your fence or wall outside. It soon dries of in the heat and you can ask them questions like, “where do you think the water goes?” or “what happens if you do that again?”

Get out some hula-hoops and show the kids how to use them. Can the beat you with the number of loops they can swing? Get them to keep a score with chalks on the paving. They can have races with them and use sticks to make them go faster. Aaaah the memories!

More ideas for outdoor play

Ask families to bring in rolls of painter’s tape, cardboard and containers for the kids to make junk models outside. Set them challenges! Who can make an aircraft for a Paw Patrol character to rescue someone? How tall can you make a tower of boxes without it falling over?

Make an area for water play. Gather a bunch of buckets and measuring spoons and cups, and that will keep kids entertained for hours while also experimenting with the concepts of volume and capacity! Another great idea for water play is asking local builders to donate some tough trays and rain gutters for the kids to play with.

summer childcare program kids playing with rain gutter and water

What do you love about your summer childcare program?

Share your ideas below and head over to the Childcare Ninja Facebook group to find more tips and strategies for making your childcare program summer-tastic this year!

Interested in becoming more involved in the community and to grow your business? Join us for more tips on how to make your childcare business the success it deserves to be! Or if you prefer Instagram, we share ideas and tips there too! We’re an army of childcare professionals who are sharing ninja-sharp skills to transform our businesses into childcare empires! This is Childcare Ownership all Grownup!

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