With many offices continuing remote work and schools transitioning to virtual learning, parents are juggling their children’s education needs with the responsibilities of their jobs. It’s a balancing act, and many can benefit from some help.
Many parents have a great need right now for online learning activities for their children. Daycare operators and childcare centers can help fulfill this need by pivoting their business model to provide support with virtual learning technology. Here are four helpful steps for adapting a daycare for virtual learning.
Outline the Virtual Learning Activities
First, determine what types of educational activities you can help with. If the children in your daycare are already attending elementary school virtually, they may already have a program of virtual learning lessons that you can help them with. For example, you may be able to help the children with their virtual reading hour, math games, song time, and show-and-tell sessions.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children age two to five have no more than an hour of screen time a day. While this will be increasingly challenging for parents during the pandemic, it can be good to limit each individual virtual lesson time to be 30 to 40 minutes. Young children will likely become restless and unable to pay attention for a more extended period. Your daycare center can include arts or crafts as part of your program so that it can help to get children away from the screen. It’s also a great idea to provide parents with all of the supplies needed as part of the package.
While real-time lessons can be engaging, you can also show the children recorded video lessons. Instead of free videos found on sites like YouTube, your videos can be appropriate for the child’s age and development level. Storytime is a practical choice for this type of offering. And parents can choose when to use the prerecorded activity in their schedule.
Put Technology in Place
To facilitate the lessons, you and your families will need virtual learning technology. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be complicated. All that’s required to get started is an internet connection and a computer or tablet. Depending on the child’s age, a wide variety of virtual learning apps can be used by the children – such as ABC Mouse and PBS Kids, for pre-school children, and apps such as Seesaw, Google Classroom, Lexia, iReady for school-age children.
Don’t Overlook Parent Communication
Put regular check-ins with parents on the schedule. Typically, parents and teachers at schools would interact and have conversations during morning drop-offs or afternoon pick-ups. These brief chats will now need to be scheduled. It can be easy to overlook this step, but it’s an important one.
Weekly check-ins with families will give you a chance to share information about how their child has been going with virtual learning and any concerns they may have. These touchpoints will also provide a connection with another adult, which might be appreciated by single parents who may be feeling especially challenged or isolated during the pandemic.
Develop Your Pricing
If you are offering support for virtual learning at your daycare, determine what you’re going to charge for this extra service. You can set a regular monthly rate, similar to what you charge for your daycare services. To provide parents with the services that meet their needs and budget, consider offering a variety of monthly plans.
Another pricing strategy could be a pay-as-you-go plan. You can charge per learning activity, with a discount for the purchase of multiple sessions. This could be an attractive option for parents that have specific activities they want for their child.
Develop a Marketing Plan
Once you have your curriculum and pricing in place, get the word out, and let parents know you now offer support for virtual learning. Start your marketing efforts with your current roster of families and demonstrate your value. Parents who are working from home are likely feeling stressed as remote learning starts back up and will probably be looking for solutions that can help both teach children and keep them engaged. Send an email to your current clients to gauge their interest.
Then, expand your marketing efforts outside of your roster. One way is to ask for referrals from your current families. Chances are they have friends who may need support with virtual learning. You may also consider giving your families an incentive, like a discount on a month of services, if they send a new customer your way.
Take advantage of online parents’ groups, such as those on social media. Collect some testimonials from your current families. And consider sharing a sample of your video lessons online so parents can get a taste of what you offer. You may also schedule a private Zoom call to address questions or meet families before they enroll.
Ready to Move Forward?
To pivot, you may need to purchase equipment and install virtual learning technology for your daycare. A short-term small business loan could help you finance the purchase of any equipment you may need and allow you to design and launch a marketing campaign to recruit new families. Be sure your devices and software are up to date. Nothing is more frustrating than glitchy technical issues, and if your service isn’t dependable and seamless, you could lose customers quickly.
Childcare centers thrive on building strong relationships, and while it can be more challenging if they’re virtual, they still allow you to stay in touch and provide value. By providing your parents with relevant services for what they need in today’s uncertain environment, you demonstrate that you want what’s best for their children — now and in the future.