Mar 02

Many parents love to spoil their children with mounds of sugary sweets. It’s perfectly understandable, since nothing makes a child happier than lapping at a lollipop, or munching on a candy bar. But while such goodies can be a kid’s best friend, they can also be an adult’s worst enemy.

After all, it’s easy to forget that when a child is fed too much of the sweet stuff, it can make the adult role of supervising them more challenging.

We can all agree that children, for the most part, are precious, lovable, and fun to be around. However, if a child is fed too much sugar, it can take an ugly toll on his or her behavior.  The unfortunate consequences of a sugar overload include temper tantrums, classroom disruptions, and energy burn outs.

Fortunately, all of this can be avoided with a little caution and planning.

Before bringing a youngster to child care, it’s natural that a parent would want to nourish them with a filling breakfast. However, they should resist temptations to plunk a plateful of a chocolate chip pancakes, or a bowl of sugary cereal, on the table.

Here are some tips on how to ensure children don’t overdo it in the sugar category.

  • According to the American Heart Association, toddlers and preschoolers should not consume more than 170 calories worth of added sugar per day. That’s about four teaspoons worth.
  • With this in mind, consider swapping a sugary cereal for fresh fruit, oatmeal, eggs or wholegrain toast.
  • Keep a close watch on the amount of sugar in your child’s juice. This varies from brand to brand, with some companies loading their product with the white stuff.
  • Avoid giving babies younger than six months any fruit juice, and limit the amount of juice to six ounces for those younger than one year.
  • Ask your childcare provider what food they’re providing at lunch and snack times. If they’re already consuming their recommended daily intake at childcare, temper the amount they receive at home.
  • Plan ahead. Most of us eat unhealthy when we’re in a rush. We grab a handful of chips, or a chocolate bar, and head out the door. By stocking fridges with healthy alternatives, and making meals in advance, this can be avoided.
  • Keep goodies out of children’s reach. They can be sneaky, and may manage to grab a cookie or two on the way out the door.
  • Leading by example is a great way to teach children proper eating habits. Parents should ensure their own diets are rich with nutrition, rather than jammed with nutritionally useless syrups and sugars.

Remember: breakfast is widely considered the most important meal for a reason. If it’s eaten properly, it can help a child be more attentive, responsive, and better mannered.

We all want those traits for our children, and this is one very attainable way of accomplishing it.

Unfortunately, when a child misbehaves at daycare because they were fed too much sugar at home, it affects the entire group. It causes other children to lose focus, disrupts learning, and ties up precious resources. And, so, parents can do everyone – including their own children – a favor by capping sugar at small amounts.

by Michelle Thompson
Sep 15

Tough economic times, job changes, financial concerns – all of these factors are playing a significant role in and changing the face of the contemporary American family. Many families aren’t even aware of how these dynamics are redefining their foundations. Employers have grown hesitant or even discontinued those perks that used to draw parents to a position in the first place. On-site child care seems to have taken the biggest hit in recent years. This, of course, has forced many parents to seek other daycare solutions.

Changes on the Home Front

As mentioned, changes in jobs are shaping what parents are doing to ensure their children are receiving proper care in their absence. With more of us working two and even three jobs, many who have found themselves working shift work and of course, the high number of foreclosures that mean many families are having to move, it’s more important than ever to provide a safe and healthy environment for their little ones. To be sure, there has been an explosion in child care providers throughout every community. The question is: how safe and reliable are these providers?

The Hearings

Recently (September 2011), a hearing was held on Capitol Hill that addressed these tough questions. Convened by Senator Barbara Mikulski (D, MD), the chair for the Subcommittee on Children and Families in the Senate’s Health, Labor, Education and Pensions Committee (HELP), the goal was to quantify the quality of child care throughout the industry, while also identifying key areas where problems exist. From the rising costs of quality child care to the training and screening processes in every municipality, this important hearing sought to ensure quality control measures were a part of every state’s law. Needless to say, it’s not a meeting that convenes once and finds cost-effective solutions for child care providers or parents; but as many are noting, it’s a good start.

Child Care Providers’ Perspective

As a child care provider, you already know the challenges that face this industry. People choose this career because of their genuine desire to help children succeed and to play the role of a positive force in their parents’ absence. But thinking about your own state and compliance laws, what are the issues you would like to see addressed? What changes would allow you to more effectively protect those little ones in your care? Are your hands tied to a degree when it comes to collecting past due monies? What criteria do you use in your own business when hiring employees? These are all important questions, and likely ones you’ll be asked at some point in the future – especially if these Capitol Hill hearings move forward. With states acknowledging the changing landscape of child care, partly due to the changing landscape of the employment sector,  your input can definitely help shape the new laws in your own home state.

There’s an interesting report from the National Early Childhood Accountability Task Force. While it was compiled in late 2007, the issues are still being discussed and debated today. It’s a must-read for every child care provider. You can read it here.

What are your thoughts? What changes do you see on the horizon in the child care field? More importantly, what changes will you make to your current management practices to be in line with the changing landscape?

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Jan 16

Many child care providers across the country ask themselves what they can do to make a better environment for the children in their care. They know they spend a significant amount of time with these children – at a time when their intellectual growth is thriving. After hearing many child care providers say they wish there were more opportunities that would a.) not take them away from their child care businesses and b.) provide accurate information so they can better do their jobs, we set out to see what was available.

The National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies is one with which Alpha Cares is familiar with. It offers an affordable membership and with that membership comes tons of invaluable information (and access to much of it doesn’t even require membership). It’s a one stop shop for all things child care related. There is much research and data compilations to be found here, various publications, including a full report of The Economy’s Impact on Parents’ Choices and Perceptions About Child Care, state fact sheets and much more. The fact the agency focuses on both child care providers and families is significant.

There is also information for those wishing to provide more training to employees. Director training seminars are available as well as statistics for both providers and parents wishing to discover more information on their communities. Further, because each state has its owns compliance laws, it makes available those data as well. Clicking on any state will provide statistics compiled from a number of sources, including the Census Bureau, Centers for Disease Control and the state’s respective licensing offices. For instance, did you know Tennessee has 10,570 child care workers? These facts are easily found on the website.

Information on child development and what you, as a child care provider, can do to ensure the health and well being of those children left in your care is easily located on the site. It’s a powerful weapon to have in your arsenal as you seek to make life better for those you’re responsible for. Visit the site, look around and see if you agree. And as always, we welcome your thoughts, ideas and suggestions. Leave us a message through our contact us page.

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Sep 17

In a previous post, we mentioned how social networking can really benefit your small child care center.  Parents, generally speaking, like the idea of updates being posted from time to time during the day.  Most parents also like the idea of seeing photos uploaded to your day care center’s Facebook page during the course of a day or even just occasionally.  It’s just a great way for Mom and Dad to stay connected to some degree during their work days.

That said, we also mentioned the importance of never assuming every parent is OK with his or her child’s picture being posted online in any capacity.  That’s why it’s so important to have a waiver on file for each child (remember – each child; not each parent – there’s potentially a big distinction here).  But what exactly would you put on a waiver?  What kind of information should be included?  We here at Alpha Cares have been doing our homework and straight from the experts themselves, this is what we’ve discovered.  Below you’ll find an easy–to-create form that will protect you, your business and those precious little ones left in your care.  Remember that if any parent objects, it’s your responsibility to ensure no image – even if the child is in the background – is ever posted online.

Most forms have a title similar to:  Photo, Voice, Website, Video Permission Form

It’s important to memorialize this with a date


I/We hereby consent to allow the use of voice, video, image or likeness in photographs and/or video for my child(ren):  (Enter each child’s name)

1.       ______________________

2.       ______________________

3.       ______________________

by _______________________________________ (Your business name)

The permission for use of any of the media above is allowed for (Circle all that apply):

  • Newsletters
  • Business Flyers
  • Facebook
  • Company Website
  • Video by a third party (such as filming for a television commercial)
  • Outgoing messages on answering machines and/or voice mail

I understand this Waiver is in effect until I provide, in writing, a cease order.  I/We also agree to forego any right or entitlement I/We might have to any compensation or fees, except for a waiver fee of one dollar ($1.00).

Finally, I/We agree that I/We am/are the legal guardian(s) of the above named children.


Parent/Guardian Signature                Date

As you can see, it’s a relatively simple form to put together, but it’s crucial for those day care providers and child care centers to ensure they are not leaving any vulnerabilities.  Have any thoughts on this?  Drop us a line – we’d love to hear from you and how your daycare facility handles these matters.

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Aug 21

We all know how marketing efforts can easily eat up a small business’s small budget.  In fact, it’s not uncommon for many who are considering going into the child care business to think twice once they realize the importance – and costs – associated with getting the word out.  It doesn’t have to be that way, though.  In fact, many small businesses have successfully marketed their companies with little cost.  Here are a few ideas that you might not have considered, but that will get you and your efforts noticed.

The first, and most important, marketing tool you should employ is yourself.  You are the “face” of your business and as such, you need ensure that face gets your message across.  Be ready to answer the necessary questions.  You’ll discover at some point, whether it’s a Wednesday afternoon at the supermarket or a Friday night cocktail party, you’re going to be asked specific questions about your daycare business.  Be ready to provide those answers minus any hesitation.  “Yes, I am a business owner.  I have a daycare center in the historic district and right now, we have close to twenty children enrolled”.    It’s going to sound far more confident than someone having to ask you a series of questions and then wait uncomfortably as you stumble for the right answers:

Interested party: “So I hear you own your own business?”

You: “Yeah, I do.”

Interested party:  “What do you do?”

You:  “I have a daycare”

Interested party: “Oh.  OK.  Well…uhm…yeah…I hear you have to really appreciate kids in order to care for them every day.”

If you’re generally reserved in social settings such as cocktail parties, there’s no reason why you can’t polish your conversational skills.  A confident business owner is a successful business owner.

Another important tip involves all things related to marketing  is design and computer savvy.  If you can’t design an impressive logo – consider hiring a free-lance designer. Then think ahead – for your letterhead, consider asking the neighborhood kid who’s a whiz on a computer to tackle the project.  You want an identifiable letterhead that seamlessly transitions to your business cards, your signs and even your fax cover sheets. These  marketing assets (in digital format) are to be used for both your print and online materials.

Getting involved in the community is another important tip.  Join the Chamber, attend meetings that involve children in the community, such as town hall meetings where new playground equipment is being considered for the neighborhood park.  This is where you’ll meet parents.

Offer to host the neighborhood Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts for a few of their meetings.  You can easily open up your daycare center one or two evenings a month so that they can have their meetings.  If possible, set up a table with punch or juice and perhaps pretzels and/or fresh fruit.

These are just a few of the many ways you can affordably market your child care facility.  In such an important sector, it’s crucial your community knows who you are if you expect them to trust you with their children.  These tips will ensure you meet that goal.

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May 26

Now that summer’s approaching, odds are, as a child care provider, you’re gearing up for three months of children who want nothing more than to be outdoors.  There’s just something about those warmer months that energizes all of us, but especially children who are breaking loose after the school year.  With that thought in mind, Alpha Cares has put together some safety tips that will keep your little ones safe as they revel under the warm sunshine.

  • If you haven’t already inspected your swings and other outdoor toys to ensure they’re in good repair, now’s a great time to do so.  Look for exposed bolts on swing sets, compromised cords or chains and inspect anything else that kids tend to make a beeline for outdoors.  Also, walk the grounds where kids will be playing and be sure there are no ant beds or bee hives.
  • With the outdoors comes the threat of bee stings, ant bites and allergy attacks.  Review your course of action with parents so that you take action right away.  Be sure each parent has a signed release in your files for anything you’re authorized to provide, including medications such as Benadryl or Tylenol.
  • Now’s the time to also be sure your first aid kit is well stocked with bandages, antibiotic ointment and other fixes for those skinned knees and bug bites.
  • Kids tend to run at full steam ahead, so be you’re on the lookout for loose shoe strings and other little hazards that can cause big problems.
  • You don’t want to have to deal with dehydration.  Make sure your little ones are getting plenty of liquids.
  • It’s always a good idea to have parents provide a change of clothes.  You never know when little Billy is going to slide into home base and end up with grass stains or covered from head to toe in mud.
  • Finally, don’t forget the SPF sunblock!  This is really important as it affects our health for the rest of our lives.  This is a great time to instill this habit in children, too.

For the kids, they have little patience for the preparations of spending time outdoors, but as adults, we have a responsibility to ensure they’re as protected as possible.  Have anymore great tips or ideas?  We’d love to hear them!  Drop us a line and we’ll be sure to get them posted. Have a great summer!

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Apr 30

According to the Centers for Disease Control, childhood obesity has more than tripled since 1970.  In fact, the prevalence for children between the ages of 6 and 11 has gone from 6.5% to 19.6% in 2008.  Those statistics are startling and provide a somber look at just how much we’ve come to rely upon refined sugars and convenience foods.

But there’s more to it than just a few extra pounds our children are carrying.  The physical and psychological tolls can be devastating and affect a child into his adulthood.  Everything from cardiovascular disease to diabetes to sleep apnea has been associated with childhood obesity.  So what can you, as a child care provider, do to offset these potential problems?  While it may seem as though any efforts on your part, in your capacity as a provider, would be offset by a child’s unhealthy lifestyle, you might be surprised to learn that those little things will actually stick with a child as he grows older.  This is one reason it’s so important to encourage physical activity and to stress the benefits of choosing an apple over a cookie.  Often, many children don’t have access at home to healthier food choices, such as fruit and veggies.  And too, kids will often dismiss fresh veggies not because they’ve tried them and really don’t like them, but because it’s just their first reaction.  Making it fun is key.

One way of doing this is by encouraging a child to participate in age appropriate ways.  Many child care centers are allowing little ones to plant small gardens.  Even if it’s just a few strawberry plants and even tomato plants or cucumbers, it gives them a sense of pride in knowing they’re responsible for those yummy strawberries they’re now washing and getting ready to share.  It’s fantastic for everyone, but most importantly, it allows these kids to take the knowledge with them into their adulthood when they’re not only making food decisions for themselves, but for their children too.

You might not be able to eradicate childhood obesity on your own, but you can certainly influence those children who are fortunate enough to have you as their child care providers.  A few small changes is all it takes for potential major changes later on.

Be sure to visit our site, too for more information on how to make your child care center more efficient.

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Apr 26

Adapted from Small Business Articles – by Arthur Chong and Donna McGill – Apr 17, 2010

So your daycare business is finally on stable ground; the foundation is in place and things are running smoothly.  Now what?  It’s not quite time to take a step back and allow it to continue with its own momentum; in fact, a successful small daycare business means you’re constantly updating and tweaking your operations to ensure it remains competitive and that it meets the needs of your community.  Even if you opt to remain small and are quite comfortable in the “peaceful equilibrium”,  you still must define a strategy that allows for consistent improvement.  This will help ensure your business never stagnates, or worse, that you don’t lose customers.  After all, they want only the best daycare options for their children that their money can provide.

Continuous improvement is not a new concept; and in fact, it’s a model small businesses follow to keep them competitive and vibrant, even in down economic times.  The basic idea is to improve your customer’s experience through an ongoing process that encourages change and adaptation as the industry itself moves forward and changes.  Not only that, but your customer profile will likely shift along the way too, and you want to be in the best position to makes those shifts right along with your clientele’s needs.

As a small daycare business, continuous improvement and growth strategies can be approached  in a variety of ways. The key is selecting an approach that complements your strengths and even your weaknesses as a business owner. The strategies listed here focus on simple ways you can improve customer experience, and are “tried and true” approaches to small businesses in general.

Establish Best Practices

-          Consider what the praises (and complaints) parents heap on your services – remember to keep an open mind.

-          Mentally walk through your established procedures and write them down so these can be explained to others (see next suggestion)

Increase customers with existing resources

-          Compliment all-day care with after-school care, or even morning-only care customers

-          Hire a high-school intern who can follow your best practices – it’s a win-win for you, the intern, and the children.

-          Deploy automation to eliminate repetitive tasks (utilize task helpers such as Alpha Cares “auto-invoices” – which eliminate the need to generate weekly invoices manually, or by hand.

Remodel Your Services

-          Package your hours into flexible choices (include modest concessions with higher services, and higher prices)

-          Keep an open mind in your efforts and don’t be afraid to try new methods.

These are just a few best-practice methods that are easy to incorporate but when instituted properly, can mean not only a better position for your small daycare center, but a healthier bottom line, too.

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Feb 01

You chose child care for a reason: you sincerely love children and have a lot to offer them.  You might have been blessed with the art of patience (and for many of us who lack that graceful ability – we envy you), you have an ability to educate and you work fiercely to protect children.  It’s those new stories in recent weeks of child abuse, neglect and even murder that has your skin crawling and your heart breaking.  Odds are, parents are more than a bit concerned over these horrific displays of human nature and evil.  So how do you reassure them that your child care center is safe and your employees are just as dedicated to protecting children in their care as you?  It’s a tough dilemma, to be sure.  There is a graceful way, however, of approaching the subject that while awkward, can put many of your parents at ease as they leave their most precious in your charge.

Often, it’s not what you say, but what you do.  In fact, it’s those non-verbal cues that parents are looking for.  It’s your responsibility to ensure the bases are covered in your child care business.  If your business hasn’t adopted a mission statement, you might want to consider that.  A mission statement guides the actions of the business and defines the purpose of that business.  In the case of a day care center, that purpose is to provide a safe and nurturing environment for those children trusted to your care. It might also include assurances of your vigilance to hire only those most qualified with no criminal background and ideally, an educational background in child development.  Mission statements are prominently displayed in a company’s reception area or near the entrance and always in plain sight.

Reiterate your position on unannounced visits during the day.  A transparent approach is crucial in a child care center and parents should know you welcome these visits.  It puts their minds at ease and reiterates your dedication and commitment.

Believe it or not, a too-stringent approach might send off red flags.  Any child care center that has rules that are too difficult or too strict is alarming in many ways.  Parents respect structure; however, when a child who was only moments earlier chatting away and singing while in the vehicle with Mom arrives and immediately “falls in” to the rules and becomes silent due to the regulations of the child care center is a bit disturbing.  There is a balance between little ones who come in and put their coats on the hook and those children who come in and prepare for a rigorous structure.  It’s not natural or healthy.

Anytime injuries or death, such as those cases out of Chicago and Kansas in recent weeks, are in the news, we all shudder.  A healthy line of communications between you and the parents who trust you will go a long way in alleviating their fears and concerns.  You know your intentions are good and when parents of those left in your care know it too, it’s a win-win for the children whose well being is the priority of you and their parents.

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Jan 11

Jean Mercer, Ph.D. and author of “Child Myths”, part of the Psychology Today network, recently wrote an article titled “What We Expect to See in Day Care and What We Should Look For”.   It was an interesting read in that she accurately described what many of us see in our own mind’s eye of what a child care setting “looks” like.  Many of us have this image in our minds of how our own day care settings were when we were kids.  She mentions group activities and the familiar “circle time” where the children sit in circles and enjoy being read to or each taking turns telling a story.  She also brings back memories of smocks and finger painting as well as cookie and juice time.  A trip down memory lane, to be sure.

It’s what else she brings front and center that had me thinking about the way child care providers tend to their little ones in contemporary day.  Child care providers approach their responsibilities with a more educated view than our own Miss Smiths’ of yesteryear.  She mentions new research published by J. Ronald Lally in “Zero to Three” in the November 2009 issue of Psychology Today.  Some of the issues most significant for toddlers and infants include child care providers who ensure repeated eye contact is made and communication abilities that are being developed courtesy of the modern child care provider.  She also mentions smaller groups, which is becoming more common.  Today’s child care centers are working to ensure more employees are focused on fewer children at a time so that each child is better able to bond and enjoy being in the center.  This, of course, means fewer problems when Mom drops little one off each morning.

Although frequent teacher changes are expected and even encouraged once a child begins kindergarten, toddlers and other youngsters who have not begun school fare much better when they become familiar with the same faces each day.  It promotes a sense of safety for them.  While some day care centers are assigning their employees to the two year old groups or three year olds, some experts believe the same caregiver during those first initial years is actually healthier for the children.

The biggest difference in today’s child care providers is the way they approach their responsibilities.  More are becoming better educated and are insisting employees not only have some experience or background, but that they are mentally and even legally qualified to care for our society’s youngest.  The days of having a babysitter are long gone;  our partners who play a role in shaping our children today are just as significant and their roles are just as important as Mom and Dad themselves.

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