How to Differentiate Your Preschool

5 Ways to Differentiate Your Preschool

When I talk to early childhood educators and ask them what makes their learning centers different from the rest, most inevitably say the quality of their staff. As a parent, I wholeheartedly applaud this, but at the same time I fear it.

I love my daughter’s pre-school teacher so much that when she has a well-deserved vacation I secretly wonder: Is she interviewing for another job? What would we do if she left?

There’s a danger in having your school’s entire brand tied up in the people because when I ask educators their biggest challenge, they say retention of staff.

Here are 5 easy ways to differentiate your school beyond the importance of attracting top talent.

1. Create a community

Having events outside of the standard back to school night where parents and children can spend time together helps bond the community that is your school.

Our daughter’s school does a Fall and Spring outing. And (wait for it…) they do it on a Saturday!!! This allows working parents who are usually rushed during pick up and drop off to attend as well.

Often times they get families together at a local pizza place or a park to keep costs down. As a working parent I really look forward to these outings because I get a chance to know the other kids and their families.

2. Increase Communication

Historically this has been done through daily activity sheets, but with the advent of online childcare reports, parents don’t need to wait until the end of the day to get an update on their child’s day. Getting daily reports via email or in real-time on their smartphone allows parents to feel more connected.

Online activity tracking also helps teachers save time by logging items on a computer or smartphone rather than writing details on a sheet for each child. Look for an app with a multi-log feature so that teachers can log an activity one time for the whole class (e.g., at 10am everyone sat for circle time).

3. Create an ‘ask me about’ prompt each day

How many times have a parent picked up their child and asked “What did you to at school today?” only to be met with a blank stare?

Creating a specific question for parents to ask their kids helps them feel connected to the school and being specific makes it easier for children to share something about their day. An added bonus to the teachers is it helps enforce lessons from the classroom at home.

The question can be sent in the child’s daily activity report so it’s sure to get to the parent each day.

4. Post Pictures

I love receiving pictures of what my daughter is up to throughout the day. Not only is it another great way to prompt dialogue about things she did, but it also makes me feel great to see her happy and playing. I like to save these pictures as a timeline and look back to see how she’s grown over the school year!

5. Connect Parents with Each Other

One of the many challenges with the rush of pick up and drop is getting to know the other parents. I remember when my daughter started school and saying she wanted to have a play date with a little boy in her class. I had no idea who his parents were or how to contact them. In fact, I didn’t even know his last name!

Consider creating an online community for your class where parents can connect. You could also send out mini bios of the family so that parents get to know one another.

Daycare Tracking Apps

Daily Activity App Makes Scary Mommy’s Top Reasons to Love Daycare

Scary Mommy is full of funny real world parenting anecdotes that make sure none of us feel alone when it comes to the crazy things parents experience. I love this site because, just when I think I might have hit the rock bottom of parenting, I realize someone else is right there with me.

And now this! In her top reasons to love daycare, this mommy blogger sites the app her school uses. The app allows her to check in on how her kids are doing throughout the day. This helps keep her connected and feel guilt-free about not having her children with her every second of the day.

I have found so much of my angst in leaving my children with someone else. It’s not the actual leaving that causes my stress, but allowing someone else to steer the ship.

I’m admittedly a control freak, so not knowing what is taking place or what I’m going to come home to frankly just bothers me.

Here are some things I love about tracking apps:

  • Enhanced communication. Rather than spending time when I get home asking for a detailed recount of who napped, who ate, who was happy or sad, I can just look at the daily activities.

  • Recorded history. It’s impossible to remember the details of each day. So when the baby’s fussy and I’m wondering if it’s something she ate or if she’s overtired, I can simply look back in the logged activities to help solve the mystery.

  • Memory maker. I love that child activity tracking apps like Munchkin Report allow you to post photos and mark milestones. This replaces the handwritten baby book so many people use to record these memories.

Read Scary Mommy’s post here for more reasons why daycare is such a beloved place.

What Makes a Great Pre-School Teacher?

Sometimes I sit in parent teacher conferences at my daughter’s pre-school and wonder if it’s a case of mistaken identity.

Who is this angelic good-listener they speak of? This child who readily helps others and always raises her hand or better yet places a “gentle hand” on the teacher’s shoulder to get her attention. It certainly doesn’t sound like my chatter box child who interrupts me so much that I once told my husband I would just talk to him in 18 years when the house is quiet.

But lo and behold it is my daughter. She has simply (as most parents find) fallen for the magic of a great pre-school teacher. It is one of life’s great mysteries how these amazing educators can draw the best behavior from our children. recently published this article on the secrets of pre-school teachers and it’s worth a quick read.

I especially love #2 (kids can handle scissors and pens earlier than you think). I remember when my daughter came home from pre-school and asked to use the scissors. I couldn’t believe she could do this. I’ve been guilty of underestimating her time and time again. It’s not for my lack of confidence in her, but she just always seems so little to me (perhaps my subconscious wish to keep her this way).

I’ve found over the years the more I let her do, the better behaved she is. She loves the independence–whether it’s helping with dinner or riding a bicycle. Giving her this freedom is often the longer path to getting things done, but it builds her confidence, shows I trust her and is definitely one of the things she gets at pre-school.

Pre-school teacher secret #4 provides advice on how to get your toddler’s attention–what parent doesn’t need some assistance with that? It’s really hard sometimes to get our daughter to listen, yet this is one thing her teacher always tells us she does so well. Some of the suggestions like being more playful in our attempts to get her attention are super helpful.

Now I just need to channel a little early childhood educator patience to ensure the child I pick up at pre-school this afternoon is the same one who will be sitting at the dinner table tonight!

Tired of messy paperwork? Munchkin Report is easy online daily sheets for parents, caregivers, and schools. Try it free!