Over on my YouTube channel and in my Facebook group, I’ve been sharing the 5 steps to take to set up your daycare. And this week is all about the physical set up of your space. I want to help you get your childcare space set up like a pro!
One thing we’re all guilty of – probably as women! – is that we LOVE to overcomplicate and overthink EVERYTHING. Here I’m giving you some simple tips and strategies. I’ve been using these for the last 15 years! So you can make the process as stress free as possible too!
Let’s get started, Ninjas!
Firstly: Make a list!
Before you go shopping or even look at toys or equipment you want to take time out to think about the vision for your daycare. What do you want to offer? What’s the feeling or “vibe” you want to create. Create a list or brainstorm the types of things you’d love to offer at your daycare. And then set up your space with that in mind.
For example, if you want to have the kids to have self time, then make sure to have some comfortable child sized furniture or seating. Think bean bags, oversized pillows and ultimate comfort where the kids can sit quietly with a book or a toy! If you’re looking to provide arts and crafts then you’ll want to make sure you’ve got a table or easel, then somewhere to store the paint and utensils.
Knowing what you want to offer will help you spend wisely, rather than heading out and picking up anything that catches your eye. When you finally do go shopping you’ll be heading out with a defined list based on your vision for your daycare. You’ll know the activities and the atmosphere you’re intending on creating!
Make them feel they belong
Meeting the children’s basic needs means their experience and therefore learning is super important! Maslow’s hierarchy of needs shows that it’ll help them grow!
It’s key that they feel they have a little safe spot. You could start off with hooks for their coats and bags, or maybe bins. Or you can invest right away with cubby holes and places to store their stuff. And it can be a great spot to put their nap time things like a sleeping mat or a blanket.
You can use their names to label them – really great to help early readers with name recognition. I sometimes use numbers for younger ones.
Gross motor skill toys
Even if you don’t have an outdoor space, you can have a couple of little trikes or riding toys for the children to move around on inside. This is important as they’ll be beginning to develop their gross motor skills and want to learn to travel about in different ways.
In one of my facilities there’s no yard, so we have 5 or 6 riding toys parked up against one wall. The children know that once they’ve finished playing they have to park it back in the same pot. You could even tape or paint the floor and each toy with numbers so they can start to match them up! In my original home daycare I had a porch where the kiddos could park the vehicles and that kept them out of the way and tidy.
Having somewhere that’s easy for the children to access themselves safely makes your life easier!
It’s really important that we create some cozy reading spaces or spaces where children can just sit and relax. After all, none of us wanna be go go go all the time, right?! I’ve got little sofas for the kids in all my childcare settings because I’ve seen how valuable they can be.
These do not have to be state-of-the-art, store-bought couches!! I got some of mine second hand from a day care that was closing down, and other times I’ve found them on eBay or Craigslist. More ideas here for setting up on a budget! You can always brighten them up with colorful blankets and throw cushions!
Sometimes it’s nice to have a little table in the center of the chairs where you can put a couple of books to give them an idea where to start. Or maybe a photograph in a frame to stimulate conversation.
Bring on the drama(tic role play!)
Kids learn through play and repetition so you need to have some fun toys for acting out real life scenarios. Ones they can play with over and over again! Over the last decade and a half I’ve found that a play kitchen always creates some brilliant play opportunities. You can theme the area to go with what you’re all learning about, or have it as free choice all the time.
The kids can play house or make believe that there’s a restaurant. Include some toy phones, plates and cups, and even a pretend laundry machine. Maybe add a little soft area too so they can make each other “coffee”, then sit and chat or make those all “important phone calls”! Haha! I’ve even had a broken old laptop that the kids have LOVED to “work” on.
Don’t feel like you’ve got to spend a fortune on new toys. Check out local listings from Doctors surgeries who are upgrading their waiting areas. I’ve picked up some great freebies for my daycares over the years! Also, top tip: Every time I get take-out with my family, I grab a couple of extra menus to stick in my dramatic play areas. The kids adore “cooking” things they like the look of!
For any adult-led activities, you might want to have a child-sized table and chairs for the kids to work at. This might be a space to practice numbers of writing, but also model with playdoh or do some coloring. I like to create displays in this area that are traditionally “educational”. Have the alphabet and show letter formation up. I like having numerals printed on the wall in a theme we’re loving – Gingerbread men or unicorns or whatever!
Make sure you have a book case in that area where you can not only store resources for learning, but also books that the kids can access. I love having a front facing book display too so that they see more books and I can rotate them so more get read. Use a wire across a shelf, spice racks or pallets, or look for a second hand catalogue one on freecycle or similar. And when it comes to buying books, you can pick them up in deals at Barnes and Noble but keep a look out online for special author sales!
It’s nice for the tiny ones to have a safe space to be where the older ones know not to go. Think about “fencing” a little section off with a cushioned mat, where you can settle babies and non-movers with appropriate toys. Once the babies begin to move, you can open up the gate of this area to allow them to explore more! It’s always so exciting when they’re on the move.
I love changing the infant area regularly so that they get stimulation and can explore a range of different resources. But try not to overwhelm the babies!
Remember: There’s no rush
Don’t forget that you do not have to have EVERYTHING to get started. You can add in toys and resources and equipment as you go, and as your budget grows. The above things are key pointers to get you started! As you get into a rhythm, you’ll find things just fall into place and the items you need suddenly come into your horizons! And things you thought you MUST HAVE turn out to be distractions sometimes, so don’t get sucked into buying EvErYtHiNg!!
I’d love for you to check out my latest YouTube video, where I gave a quick tour of one of my smaller facilities to show you how to quickly set up your childcare space.
Hopefully it’ll help you get a feel for how simple it can be!
If you want to hang out with like-minded and aspirational childcare business owners, come and get involved in the community over on Facebook! 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!