Your center’s child care handbook is vital. In this article, we’ll explore what this handbook is, the benefits of having one for your daycare business and 10 items your handbook should include. Sound like a plan? Then let’s dive in and get started!
What is a Child Care Handbook?
A child care handbook, also called a parent handbook, is an important document that outlines the philosophies, policies and operating details of the daycare center it represents.
Think of it as the foundation of communication between you and your customers, AKA the parents of the children you care for. As long as you keep your handbook updated, your customers will always know what to expect from you and your team.
This knowledge will breed confidence and help your child care business avoid awkward situations and/or legal issues that may arise in the future.
What is the Purpose of a Child Care Handbook?
While we alluded to them in the section above, there are three main benefits of having an updated child care handbook that we want to explore. They are:
Your handbook will allow you to set expectations—for both parents and their children—from the onset. Clear expectations regarding child pick-up, tuition payments, communication, etc. will help you avoid problems down the road.
Once you’ve written your handbook, you won’t have to waste time explaining to parents your center’s operating hours, curriculum details or philosophies on discipline. You’ll simply send them a link to your document, which they can peruse on their own time.
A well-thought-out child care handbook will give your center a sense of professionalism. This will, in turn, boost customer confidence that you can provide quality care to their children, which will keep them paying your monthly fees.
What Should be in My Child Care Handbook?
Now that we know what a child care handbook is and why it’s an important asset for your daycare center, we can talk about how to create one. Below, we’ve listed 10 items to include.
1. A Welcome Message
Start your handbook with a friendly welcome message. Doing so will give you the chance to explain why you do what you do and connect with parents on a deeper level. It will also help set the tone for the rest of the document.
Just remember to keep your welcome message short and sweet. New parents don’t want to read your entire life story (sorry!) so don’t try to give it to them.
Pro Tip: A picture of you and your staff can make your handbook feel more personable.
2. Operating Information
Your child care handbook should also include basic information like your center’s full name and address, contact details, facility hours and a calendar with planned “off” days. That way parents have an easy way to reference these things when they need them.
3. Your Child Care Philosophy
Next up, your child care philosophy. This section is VERY important and one of the main things potential customers will look at when assessing your daycare center.
This section is your opportunity to explain your child care business’s approach to early childhood education, discipline and parent engagement. For example, does your center teach academic skills or does it focus on play-based learning (or both)?
By outlining these crucial details, you’ll make it easy for parents to determine if your center is right for their child or not. You’ll also set expectations and help guard against complications.
4. Enrollment and Tuition Details
How should parents enroll their children in your daycare? Do you have a waitlist? If so, do returning parents get preference or access to early enrollment periods? Also, what do you charge to watch children in each age bracket and when is payment due?
Your handbook needs to include these details.
Don’t forget to share withdrawal information, too. State your notification procedures, advanced notice guidelines and potential penalties in your child care handbook.
5. Sign-n and Pick-p Process
Parents will want to know about your center’s sign–in and pick–up processes.
Do you offer contactless sign in? Are there additional fees for early arrivals? How do you handle non-parent pick-ups? Describe each of these processes in your handbook so that parents know exactly what to expect and how to prepare.
Pro Tip: If you run your child care business out of your home, you may need to specify where parents should park, if they’re allowed to pull into your driveway, etc.
6. Daily Schedule Examples
The more detail you give parents about your center’s day-to-day operations, the better. You’re going to be watching the people they care about most, after all. That’s why we suggest including a daily schedule example in your child care handbook.
Specify when meals are served, when naptime happens, various programs and activities available to children, and anything else that you think is relevant.
This section of your handbook is a great place to explain your center’s curriculum as well. Do you have standard lessons you teach to kids? Are you committed to helping them reach specific developmental milestones? Put these details in the document.
7. Discipline Philosophy and Process
Different parents have different approaches to discipline. Because of this, you need to clarify how your center handles misbehavior. That way parents know from the beginning if your philosophies match their own and can make an accurate assessment of your business.
Use this section of your child care handbook to define what’s acceptable and what’s not, how misbehavior is dealt with and how parents will be notified when discipline occurs.
Pro Tip: Explain how your staff is expected to behave toward students too, and how they’ll be disciplined if they break the rules.
Pro Pro Tip: Discipline can be an uncomfortable topic for child care business owners. To reduce awkwardness, view licensing codes in your area to learn how your local government mandates daycare center discipline. Then base your policies on these regulations.
8. Parent Communication Channels
Your handbook already includes basic contact details such as your center’s phone number and email address. But parent communication should extend far beyond these channels.
Do you use a solution like Procare’s parent engagement app to communicate with parents? Let them know how to access the tool (e.g., on the Apple App Store). Are you planning to host parent conferences on a frequent basis? Let parents know how you expect to meet and what they need to bring. What’s the best way for parents to contact you regarding non-emergency concerns? Give them the details.
Communication between your center and your customers is essential. Make sure this section in your handbook addresses your approach to communication.
9. Health and Safety Procedures
This is another important part of your child care handbook. Parents will want to know how your center handles things like child-to-staff ratios, outdoor playtime safety, medication management, child allergies and medical emergencies.
Your handbook should also speak to your policies on child illness. What happens if a child gets sick at your daycare? How long do parents have to pick them up? When can they return? These details should be made crystal clear in your parent document.
In all areas of child health and safety, follow state regulations. And let parents know where they can check your center’s certifications and accreditations if they so desire.
10. Forms to Complete
Finally, include a checklist of forms for parents to fill out and turn in before their child’s first day at your child care center. This will make it easy for parents to keep track of their paperwork and ensure everything is on the up and up from the very start.
You can see some examples of child care handbooks here and here.
While not mandatory, a child care handbook will do wonders for your daycare center. Fortunately, you now know how to create one from scratch! As long as you include the 10 items outlined above, your document will be an effective asset.
Speaking of effective assets, have you tried Procare yet? Our solutions are specifically designed to streamline attendance tracking, bookkeeping and parent engagement for child care businesses like yours. Request a free demo to experience our software for yourself.