Home Daycare and Food Allergic Children

Top Ten Questions to Ask about Allergy Policies

Not all daycares are created equal when it comes to managing food allergies. When interviewing potential daycare providers for your food-allergic child, remember to ask.

What Are the Center’s Food Allergy Policies?

Are they comfortable taking on this huge responsibility? If a school isn’t going to work with you, you will want to know that upfront so you can cross them off your list. Schools that receive public funding are mandated to accommodate allergies; still, some may handle allergies better than others.

Is the School Ready to Forbid my Child’s Allergens From the Classroom?

Some schools are very strict in this area. Others are only comfortable “suggesting” that parents not send items in, which may not be an adequate answer.

How Will This Message Communicated?

Will the school itself tell parents what items cannot be brought in, or will that be your responsibility? In either case, it’s a good idea to send a letter home to the parents of your child’s classmates explaining what your child’s allergies are, what foods he cannot be around, and how to read labels on items they send into school.

Does the School Itself Distribute Snacks or Other Foods to the Children?

If so, who checks these items to make sure it’s something that is safe for your child? Make sure staff know to check labels every time: ingredients change frequently, and sometimes what we consider a “safe” food suddenly becomes unsafe.

What if Allergens are Not Strictly Prohibited?

What will be done to ensure that my child does not come into contact? Will they ensure that he does not eat anything you don’t know about and approve of in advance? How will treats for special parties and occasions be handled? Where will my child eat? What is the cleaning procedure for tables, children’s hands, etc? Be sure you know the plans for sitting at the table: you want your child to be safe, but being isolated from the group is not a reasonable alternative.

What Other Activities Might be Impacted by My Child’s Allergies?

For example, a craft activity using peanut butter or birdseed might be unsafe for a child with certain allergies. Be sure the staff realizes that many craft items contain allergens, and ask what changes will be made to ensure your child’s safety.

Who Will be in Charge of My Child’s Food Allergy Emergency Plan?

Ideally, your child’s teachers as well as the center director should be very familiar with your child’s needs. Ensure that anyone who takes responsibility for your child will be apprised of the Allergy Plan. Plan for changes in routine: What if his regular teacher is sick and there is a substitute? What if he needs to be in a different classroom for a short period? How will his needs be communicated to these other staff members?

What is the Emergency Procedure for Accidental Contact With or Ingestion of the Allergen?

Be sure that there is no conflict between their agency policy and your allergy plan. Will the teacher administer the Benadryl and/or epi-pen, or is she required to contact an administrator first? Who is called first: parents or an ambulance? Be sure you know exactly what will happen in an emergency.

What Kind of Training Does the Staff Receive?

Many chain providers ensure their staff receives first aid training, which includes training on managing allergies and administering epi-pens, at least once per year. If they don’t, you will want to meet with the staff to share information. Make sure they know the physicals symptoms of an allergic reaction and demonstrate the proper use of the epi-pen yourself.

Am I Comfortable Leaving My Child in This Program?

This is the last question is a question to ask of yourself. Unless they have answered the first nine questions to your satisfaction, you may not be. Trust your instincts.

Is Your Daycare a Preschool?

Adding a Curriculum to Your Home Daycare

Fall is almost here! If you haven’t already, now may be the time to consider offering a preschool curriculum as part of your child care program.

Child care programs pull their strength from the loyalty of the families they care for. If a child care home is empty, it loses some of its appeal to parents in search of child care. It is a fact that some parents are more hesitant to enroll their child in a program with no children. While parents may enjoy the 1-on-1 attention their child will receive, they also want their children to have playmates and learn socialization. This time of year it is increasingly difficult to recruit new families. It’s a phenomenon many a provider has faced. So how do you appeal to the masses?

Make Your Daycare Stand Apart From the Rest

One very easy and basic way to appeal to new families is to offer a preschool program. The program you choose to offer is entirely up to you. Some providers find purchasing a prepackaged program to be convenient and exciting to the children. Others build their own curriculum based on the internet, curriculum books, or their early childhood education. Many providers rely on their child-driven intuition to build their curriculum on a daily or weekly basis. Child-driven intuition refers to the act of watching a child interact with his or her environment and capturing teaching moments based on the child’s current interests. Most programs inherently use child-driven intuition to educate those in care whether it is intentional or not.

Finding Your Program

To set your program apart in this season of slow growth, you may want to consider adopting a prefabricated program or sitting down for a couple of hours and writing out your own. There are literally hundreds of books on the subject of preschool curricula. Teaching supply stores, Kmart, Walmart, bookstores, and most major retailers offer curriculum books that can be obtained for ten dollars or less.

Workbook Curriculums

These books offer reproducible worksheets that can be given to children to help them learn letter, number, and color recognition. They are good for fast learners as they are inexpensive and can be purchased as needed. If you notice your little genius has mastered the preschool book, you can move ahead to the next level for that child without rushing others in care. These books, however, are only worksheets and most do not contain changing themes that tie everything together. There are none, or very few, craft ideas in these books and if crafts are included they are simple and not very exciting.

Prepackaged and Home Made

An alternative is to purchase or make your own curriculum. Many websites offer curriculum planning ideas, complete with craft and accompanying storybook (for circle time) ideas. These curriculum plans can be fun and encourage creativity in the children and the provider. Planning is often time-consuming, however, and supplies must be purchased for all projects. Purchased curricula are convenient as most supplies are included and planning is already done. Prepackaged is a good idea for those with limited time or materials.

Curriculums can be costly, whether you make your own or purchase one, especially for larger groups or for start-up child care homes. One way to defray the cost is to charge an enrollment or registration fee each year for your clients. Some providers choose to raise their rates slightly or ask parents to contribute $5-10 a month as a Supply Fee. If you would like to enrich your program through the addition of a curriculum, there are many options you have to make that goal a reality.

Starting A Home Daycare

How to Organize Your Child Care Home

As with any good business, organization is the key.

When starting your daycare, do not forget about the paperwork aspect. The organization is the key. Keeping good records on each child in your care is an essential component of any good child care business.

How you choose to keep your files current is entirely up to you. Some choose to use folders and file cabinets, others find it more efficient to purchase child care management software. Either is fine, and a combination of the two is even better.

There are certain documents you will find useful to maintain for all your children. If you are regulated then your licensor will supply most of them. These forms are:

Enrollment information

Demographics, allergies, information about the child’s interests/special needs, parent employment, etc.

Emergency contact information.

One copy for your files, one to be kept in a portable bag in case of an emergency


Most states require current immunization information of all children in care. Whether regulated or unregulated, it’s a good idea to have it

Handbook/Policies sheet

Layout all your policies in clear black and white for your families to acknowledge. It may save time and waylay disputes later on


This can not be emphasized enough. Like the handbook/policies sheet, this document is worth its weight in gold. Outline all the agreement stipulations and have both parties sign. Be certain to include the tuition amount and when payment is due. Days and times of attendance are also important components of any written agreement. If you are instituting any late fees or other fees include that verbiage in the contract as well. Now is your opportunity to reiterate certain policies in your handbook. This may be your paid vacation days or the fact that you will or will not supply diapers. This contract is legally binding once it bears the signature of both you and your clients.

Daily take home sheets

  • These can be as simple or complex as you feel comfortable with. You may choose not to offer daily sheets at all as part of your program, and that’s ok, too.

Permission Slips

You will want to obtain and keep on file written permission for

  • Photography/videography
  • Application of sunscreen
  • Field trips
  • Water play such as sprinklers, pools, etc.

Subsidy Paperwork

If you are accepting any time of child care subsidy through the State, Military, Native American societies, etc. then you will want to keep copies of all communications from such agencies in the child’s folder and likely in a centralized folder. Whatever you can do to save yourself time and headaches later down the line is a good thing.

Keep active credits and debits log that tracks all financial transactions such as payments, expenses, mileage, household bills, food program income, etc. This log will be critical to have come tax season!

As previously mentioned, much of the above can be obtained from your licensor or child care resource agency. Your contract and handbook can be entirely drafted by yourself (handwritten or typed) or you may use one of many publicly available and invaluable forms altered to your specific needs. The same goes for all the documents listed in this article.

Computerized software is a good alternative to paper files. They do an outstanding job of keeping all files current, organized, and readily available. Some programs even track financial data.

Plan your daycare

Planning 24-hour child care?

Did you plan for your vacation? Read this article for some items to consider.

After a short hiatus, it’s time to pick up where we left off. Breaks, you see, are good for the mind and spirit. Without them, people become walking zombies- no good to themselves or others. You need to thoroughly consider your hours of operation and time off arrangements before you open.

The best word of advice one may receive is, go into child care with your eyes wide open. It may seem financially beneficial, fairly simple, and a great business idea to operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In fact, it may be, if you make the right concessions. Providing quality child care is hard work. The average provider with standard operating hours of 7AM-5PM will have likely worked that entire 50 hours come Friday evening. This is actual child contact hours and does not account for cleaning, cooking, shopping, curriculum planning, paperwork, and other business duties that must be done outside of child care hours. Providers work, it seems, non-stop even without operating evenings and weekends. Committing to 24-hour child care, or even a 16 hour one is something that should be considered heavily before any definitive decisions are made. Things to consider are:

  • Number of children you are willing to accept during non-traditional hours
  • Feasibility of hiring help (or enlisting family) to be available should something come up during your extended hours, or even if you just need a break
  • Family life. How will your family benefit from the extended hours? Is everyone on board with the idea of never having mom and/or dad to themselves? How will they be negatively impacted?
  • What enrichment activities will you be willing and able to do each evening and weekend?
  • Do you have room for the extra children during extended hours? (Beds, a room at the family table when husband and children are home, etc.)

Having nontraditional child care has its benefits, as well. Parents will like having a provider who is available for the occasional Saturday errand run or evening out. You will be marketing to a whole new segment of the market, the B- and C-shifters, those who often have trouble finding child care that accommodates their work schedules.. There is increased income potential and opportunity for financial and business growth. Operating extended hours for a short period of time may afford you the additional funds for a vacation or maybe startup capital for a center. If considering operating extended hours on a long or short time basis, for whatever reasons, be mindful of your limitations, liabilities, and personal wellbeing.

Along that same vein, plan for your mental health. This may mean writing up a twelve-month calendar and planning specific days off and/or vacations. Many just starting their child care business are reluctant to do this. They fear it will deflect some potential clients. In all honesty, it likely will avert a small number. That number will certainly be insignificant and most potential clients will not bat an eye. Conversely, in denying yourself the time off you need to rejuvenate you are, in essence, risking your business. A time will come when you will be too tired, worn out, drained, and/or burned out to continue operating at the high level of service your clients are accustomed to and deserve. Child care is a job, and no employer would expect an employee to give their all 52 weeks a year without a break. It is not possible. Take a week off, schedule off holidays, or random days throughout the year. It’s completely your discretion whether to charge for these days or not. But take them. You must take care of yourself first.

Nursing Your Baby While Operating Your Day Care Business

Opening Your Child Care Postpartum

Resuming your daycare business postpartum and nursing simultaneously can be difficult at first, but easily managed with a little planning and finesse.

There is no doubt that breast is best when weighing your new baby’s feeding options. Breast milk is more convenient than formula, contains antibodies and disease-fighting enzymes, and it is organically produced for your child’s specific needs. Most will agree that breast milk wins hands down in the formula vs. breast milk battle.

Setting Up a Nursing Routine

So why do some providers find great difficulty in achieving a successful nursing routine while operating a child care business?

The reality is, some parents are uncomfortable with breastfeeding as a whole or are apprehensive about the possibility of their child witnessing a baby nursing. These attitudes inhibit a dedicated provider’s ability to nurse as often or as long as they may want while operating their child care business. Additionally, providers are often afraid to discuss their intent to nurse with parents for fear of losing a client. However, it is good practice to let your parents know your plans to breastfeed so that they may explain it to their children should they happen to see you nursing during the day.

An open conversation will also allow parents the opportunity to express any concerns they may have or pose questions about breastfeeding in general. Now is an excellent opportunity for you to educate parents on breastfeeding should they be interested, noting that it is natural and can be done quite discreetly.

The main concern of most parents will involve your breastfeeding schedule during care hours.

How to Discuss Your Breastfeeding Plans with Parents

Questions you should be prepared to answer:

  • Will you nurse on demand, and if so, what will the other children be doing?
  • If you are in the middle of an activity when the baby is hungry, will you ask the other children to stop while you nurse?
  • Are you going to put the baby on a feeding schedule? How will the nursing schedule affect your child care business schedule? Will you limit the children’s exposure to your nursing?
  • If that is your plan, how do you plan to nurse privately while providing direct visual care to your daycare children?

Now is a good time to consider answers to these questions so when the time comes to have the conversation you are not stumbling over your words or searching for the right thing to say. You are the authority on breastfeeding in this instance.

Successful and long-lasting breastfeeding will require planning in advance.

Planning for Nursing

If you plan to nurse on-demand:

  • Have a set of quiet activities on the ready for baby’s mealtimes. You will want to have many activities planned since nursing on demand can be unpredictable. Direct the children to a central location, such as the activities table or circle-time rug, to read or color. Place yourself and baby within your peripheral view of the children but perhaps not within their direct line of vision.

If you plan to put baby on a feeding schedule:

  • Try for low activity time such as quiet/imagination play, naptime, after meals and before school-agers arrive. Baby is likely to nurse longer when it is quieter and stress is low, and you will have a better handle on the children should the need arise. Feeding schedules work well with child care businesses.

Other good tips include:

  • Invest in a sling or make your own. Coupled with an easy-open nursing shirt, the sling offers a convenient and discreet way to nurse anytime and anywhere.
  • You may decide to nurse only during naps, before and aftercare, and pump for the times in-between. This is a good solution if you have parents who are absolutely against breastfeeding or are very uncomfortable with it. Although it would be beneficial to obtain material from La Leche League to educate them, depending on the parent it may not be the best course of action.

Your child care business is your own and should not be dictated by anyone other than yourself and your licensing agency. If you plan to breastfeed and find opposition from your daycare parents you may want to re-evaluate your options, including terminating your child care relationship with that parent. After all, the breast is best.

In Home Daycare Advertising Ideas

Marketing Techniques for a Home-Based Childcare Program

These simple daycare advertising strategies help a home-based childcare program reach new potential clients to increase enrollment.

An in-home childcare program provides a means to earn extra income from home, making it an appealing option for many stay-at-home parents. The home business idea works well for stay-at-home parents because they can still enjoy their own children while earning money at home. The key to a successful daycare home business is attracting and keeping clients. Daycare advertising strategies help get the word out about the childcare program.

Legal Issues for a Home Childcare Program

Before an in-home daycare program is promoted within the community, it needs to meet the legal requirements. Each state sets its own requirements for in home childcare programs. Marketing a childcare program that doesn’t meet the laws may result in fines or other legal problems.

Check with the state Department of Human Services or a similar organization to find out the regulations for in-home childcare programs. The state may require registration or license for the home-based daycare. The laws might require particular training, food restrictions or specific facility requirements.

Word-of-Mouth Daycare Advertising

Everyone loves to share the latest product or service that they love. People are also quick to spread bad reviews after a negative experience. Word-of-mouth advertising is a big consideration for in home childcare programs. It is free and very effective. Parents entrust the childcare provider with the welfare of their children so they want someone they can trust.

Providing high-quality childcare is key to starting positive word-of-mouth advertising for the home business. Treat each parent and child with respect. Engage the kids in meaningful, hands-on activities to keep them stimulated during the day. Happy children and parents will spread the word to their other parent friends. To encourage word-of-mouth, offer a small discount for referrals who enroll their children in the home childcare program.

Other Daycare Advertising Ideas

Word-of-mouth isn’t the only option for promoting an in home daycare. A website is a great way to reach parents. In today’s technology-driven society, many people look for websites when seeking service. Many home daycare providers don’t take advantage of this potential marketing opportunity. Creating a simple website puts the home business ahead of others in the area.

Customized window cling for vehicles spreads the word about the childcare service all around town. Contact information on the window sticker is essential. The font should be large and easy to read from a distance. Place one on every family vehicle for the most exposure.

Neighborhood newsletters, church bulletins, and other small-scale publications may offer free or cheap advertising opportunities for a home business such as a childcare service. This also allows the daycare advertising to focus on the immediate area which is more convenient for the parents. Craigslist is another option for free advertising.

Networking with other professionals helps get the word out. A real estate agent might offer the daycare contact information to clients who are new to town. An employment office is an option for parents to re-enter the workforce. They might need referrals for childcare once they begin the new employment. Networking with other childcare providers in other areas of the city is also an option.

Promotional materials aren’t just for big businesses. Pens, note pads, business cards and t-shirts printed with the childcare program contact information are inexpensive and effective. Leave a stack of the business cards in a children’s clothing shop or play area. A printed flier on a community bulletin board is another simple promotional idea.

Daycare Promotion Works

Promoting a daycare home business results in increased interest and potential new clients for the home business. With any luck, the daycare advertising ideas will create such an interest that a waiting list is required. Focusing on providing high-quality care and getting the word out with inexpensive methods is key to thriving in-home childcare service.

Best Business Practices for Home Daycare

How to Have a Successful Licensed Child Care Business

A home daycare owner is a business entrepreneur. Careful record keeping and good business habits are key ingredients for a successful career in licensed home daycare.

When running a home child care business, it is important to use good business practices from the very beginning. Not only does this contribute to giving children the highest quality of care but it ensures the ongoing success of the business.

Communicating With Child Care Parents

A key component of a quality child care operation is good communication with parents. A caregiver needs to let parents know, preferably in writing, what they can expect, and what is expected of them. A good way to do this is by giving prospective families a handbook which covers such things as:

  • caregiver credentials and references
  • childcare philosophy
  • days and hours of operation
  • what parents need to send with their children
  • potty training policy
  • child sickness policy
  • caregiver sickness policy
  • vacation days
  • fees, including early and late pick-up policies and fees

Once parents have read the handbook, they can be invited to visit the daycare with their child. If the parents and caregiver are in agreement about it being a good fit, they can set up an evening meeting to finalize details.

The caregiver needs to talk regularly with all her daycare parents. In a home daycare, it is usually doable to briefly touch base at drop-off and pick-up times since there are not as many children and parents milling around as there are at a large center. It is also advisable, however, to set up a weekly or biweekly conversation time outside of daycare hours. Behavioral or health concerns should always be communicated to parents immediately.

It is good practice to tell parents about cute things children do and say each day and any milestones they reach. Have a notebook for each child to jot such things down. The more such gems a caregiver can pass along, the more parents feel included in their child’s day.

A good caregiver is respectful of the fact that all families have their own ways of doing things and that, within reason, a good caregiver honors those differences and gives advice only when asked.

For group communication, a monthly newsletter or calendar that lists special events, birthdays, closure days, etc. is helpful. This is also a good place to pass on general parenting tips and suggestions.

Licensed Home Daycare Record Keeping

There are a great many records that a home daycare owner must maintain. Each child needs his or her own file with the following:

  • childcare contract
  • field trip permission slip
  • emergency contacts
  • parental authorization for others who may pick-up the child
  • health and immunization forms
  • any incident or accident reports related to the child
  • copies of correspondence with parents

The caregiver also needs to have the following::

  • attendance records/sign-in sheets
  • menus (if serving subsidized meals)
  • payment records
  • proof of licensing
  • proof of liability insurance
  • CPR and First Aid certifications
  • continuing education certificates

Child Care Business Financial Practices

A child care home is eligible for many tax deductions. Be sure to keep all receipts for supplies and equipment and consult with a good accountant to get the maximum tax breaks. Keep detailed records of all income and expenditures. For caregivers with good computer skills, an accounting program such as QuickBooks may be useful.

Regular child care is not babysitting. It is an ongoing, contractual service. A childcare fee reserves space in the daycare home for a specific child for a specific amount of time. It should, therefore, be paid regardless of whether the child is in attendance or not.

Many family daycare providers require payment in advance, either weekly or monthly. Most caregivers also have a policy of charging extra for children who are picked up after their scheduled time.

Most parents understand and appreciate that these policies help insure their caregiver’s ongoing ability to stay in business. Parents who balk at any or all of them tend to be a poor risk.

Licensed Home Daycare Can be a Good Business

Licensed daycare owners who have good communication with their daycare parents, maintain adequate records, follow sound financial guidelines and combine these practices with a genuine love of children, are on the highroad to a successful child care career. To find more information about starting, managing, and marketing a home daycare, see Books for Home Daycare Businesses.

Books for Home Daycare Businesses

Manuals and Guides for Family Child Care Providers

Resources to help start, manage and market your home-based daycare business

Start-Up Tips for a Home Daycare Business

How to Set up a Successful Licensed Family Child Care

A home child care business offers a valuable service to working parents and, if done well, can generate a good income. Here are some tips on how to start outright.

Save on Taxes for Home Daycare in 4 Ways

Tax Deductions, Tax Credits, and Depreciation for Childcare Provider

Tax deductions aren’t the only way to pay less to the IRS. Tax credits and depreciation also allow business owners to save on taxes. Specifics for home daycare owners.