If you’re like me, you have been around the childcare field since time before dawn. Or at least it can feel that way at times. I have been an Early Childhood Educator since 1990 with an active career on the floor for the entire span and I can tell you that parents’ expectations have changed immensely from when I first started out.
When I opened my first group childcare facility in 1999 I was in my 20’s, I had young children and I was able to easily tap into the wants and needs of the families we were serving. After all, I was living that busy life, as well.
However, as I have become older I feel I have lost touch a little with the millennial age families that are now largely responsible for filling childcare centres everywhere. Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996 so that means that they are between 25 and 40 years old today and more than 80% of them are new parents.
So what does this generation look for in their childcare choices that differ from the old school?
Well to begin, millennials are known as ‘digital natives.’ This means that they have been raised on technology. They share every piece of their lives on digital media and they have a loving and trusting relationship with their smartphones. 92% of all millennials own a smartphone and statistics show most are even sleeping next to it. But what does the smartphone connection have to do with attracting millennial moms and dads to your childcare?
1. Let’s Get Digital
It’s time to throw away that old paper attendance book and move into the digital age. Millennial parents have been raised in an age of technology and want convenience of information at their fingertips. Being able to instantly access newsletters or key program information with their smartphone is key.
Texting or childcare apps are the best way to communicate reminders and alerts and are right on the level with today’s parents who are plugged in and sending and receiving information on the fly. Most millennials check their text messages within 3 minutes of receiving it!
2. Post Your Reviews
When I opened my first program it was in a small town and word of mouth was everything. You could ask anybody which childcare facility in town was best and you would get an earful.
In today’s world, people do not connect the same way and they certainly do not share information in the same way so it is critical to get the positive ‘word of mouth’ into a formal testimonial for your business. In keeping with the online habits of millennial parents, most new parents are checking 5-6 reviews of a facility before visiting. As a matter of fact, the acronym KBYG (Know Before You Go) is widely recognized. Online reviews are critical to today’s decision making and you must be prepared to attract this high information type of family by posting relevant, up to date testimonials.
3. Be Transparent
Millennial parents want to know exactly what is going on with their child at daycare in real time. All day. They are great multi-taskers and can manage staying on top of all of their digital notifications even while at work. These parents want to be connected and more information is better so be prepared to send them daily sheets to let them know when their children nap, what they eat and be sure to add in some fun daily pictures and highlights as well.
4. Flexible Hours
It isn’t a 9-5 world anymore and millennial families need flexibility. Being able to offer earlier or later hours or even service on a weekend can make a huge difference for many families. Overnight care is an option for some areas and more and more childcare operators are looking at ways to provide this essential service to today’s family. Be sure to check in with your local childcare licensing regulations if you are thinking about providing overnight care or flexible hours.
5. Don’t Forget Privacy Considerations
Millennials value security and privacy is paramount, so make sure whatever online or digital solutions you employ are secure and confidential. Data breaches and privacy concerns are common and today’s family wants to be sure they are protected. By using trusted, data encrypted digital systems you can show parents you are taking their privacy and security very seriously.
6. Show What Children are Learning
Hey, this is really cool: Millennials are into positive parenting and tend to be less authoritarian so they are looking for childcare that reflects this. Millennial moms and dads are not just thinking about childcare but they are thinking about the outcomes that will benefit their child and ultimately help them to grow developmentally.
Positive guidance, creative, and open-ended programs that inspire children are more valued than traditional daycare programs. By offering an enriched and developmentally appropriate child based program that stimulates social/emotional growth and teaches children to be curious, childcare operators can attract and maintain today’s families.
7. Payment Options Must be Variable
As we know, millennials like to use their smartphones for everything and this is true for budgeting and paying bills. Millennials like to receive electronic reminders, tend to pay electronically or set up auto-pay and like to have control of and access to their billing history and account. Most millennials don’t write cheques and this is key when thinking about updating your payment services.
8. Millennial Parents can be Competitive
Being the most educated group in history, millennials tend to want nothing but the best for their children. They also expect high service and value for the money they are spending so be prepared to set goals for your program that include kindergarten readiness. Millennial moms and dads want to give their children a step up when it comes to education and they will be looking for programs that check this box.
9. Millennial Moms and Dad are a Team
Gone are the old ideas that mom is the main caregiver and dad is the breadwinner. Millennial parents tend to share the load more equally so traditional attitudes towards parenting roles are less tolerated. Communicate equally with both sides and never make assumptions as to how the family unit operates.
It can be a challenge understanding how we need to change and evolve as childcare operators, but change we must. The future of childcare is here and it is up to us to embrace and help bring this field into the technological age.
They enjoy parenthood more than previous generations in that they understand childhood is just passing by and they want to take the time to experience their children’s ages and stages to the fullest. They may have waited longer to have children, but now that they have arrived, they are really ready to be parents. Most millennials are making family a priority.