Around 5 years old, most children are ready to begin kindergarten. Kindergarten is intended to prepare children for grade school by developing their skills and social behavior. At this stage, children can generally handle organized activities, manage themselves in a classroom setting, and are prepared to make new friends and take on the challenges of attending school. Children will have learning opportunities to investigate, problem-solve and collaborate as they make sense of the world around them. It’s an exciting time!
As a childcare provider, you have the option of providing a kindergarten program at your center. This may sound like a daunting task, but there are many benefits to it and if you have licensing approval, it can be easier to implement than you might think!
Benefits of a kindergarten program at your childcare center
Whether they have one or multiple children, parents see many benefits to having kindergarten at a childcare center. These include:
- One place for parent drop-off and pick-up for children of all ages! Having a kindergarten program at a childcare center allows parents to keep their children in the same place for longer.
- Developmental assessment reporting. Parents can enjoy the same developmental assessments they are used to as their child enters kindergarten! This ensures they stay in the loop and are informed about their child’s growth.
- Staying up to date on their child’s day through center management apps. Daily reports for kindergarten children give parents visibility into their daily routines.
- Potential to have meals and snacks included. Many childcare centers offer meals and snacks which are also included in their kindergarten programs.
- Extended hours of programming and care. Traditional kindergarten programs tend to have shorter, limited hours, sometimes even half-day programs! Childcare centers have extended hours to be able to accommodate working parents and save them money on additional childcare needs.
Although it obviously means a lot more work, there are also plenty of benefits of offering kindergarten at your center as a director, such as:
- Increase in program offerings. Being able to provide a diverse range of program offerings catering to children of all age groups allows you to market and bring in new business.
- Additional revenue streams. New program = new revenue stream! Offering a kindergarten program provides a new source of income for your business.
- Increase in parent satisfaction and ambassadors. Being able to care for children for a longer period of time allows you to have a larger impact on their future growth and development. This allows for satisfied parents to stay in your care longer and become even more loyal ambassadors for your childcare center.
- Options to fill empty classrooms. Larger childcare centers often have rooms that they cannot get licensed for a younger age group or cannot fill with their current program offerings. Adding a kindergarten program provides a new use case for these classrooms.
- Increase in enrollment. Adding kindergarten spaces to your center allows you to increase your enrollment threshold and support more families!
When parents and educators benefit, children usually do too, and that holds true for having kindergarten in a childcare center as well. Benefits for children include:
- The ability for educators to cater programming more to individual children’s needs for a longer period of time. Educators are able to observe and work with children from when they are infants all the way through kindergarten!
- Full-day programming: Thomas Stinard’s (1982) review of 10 research studies comparing half-day and full-day kindergarten indicates that children taking part in full-day programs demonstrate strong academic advantages as much as a year after the kindergarten experience.
- Kindergarten programs in childcare centers often have smaller group sizes, resulting in an increase in the amount of attention educators can devote to individual children.
Implementing a kindergarten program at your childcare center
Adding a kindergarten program to your childcare center can be a game-changer for enrollment and parent satisfaction. Follow these six steps to get set up for success!
- Ensure you have space
Do an audit of your classrooms and see if you can move things around to make space for a kindergarten-specific classroom. If you can’t, don’t worry! You can also add a kindergarten program to a preschool room and run them both simultaneously.
- Secure licensing
Once you have found a spot that seems like a good fit, be sure to check with your local licensing guidelines to ensure it will get approved for kindergarten. This process varies depending on your state and province. Make sure you take a detailed approach to read everything involved in getting licensed and accredited. You want to ensure you provide the proper paperwork, meet all deadlines and have time to get these records in place before you open your program.
- Purchase supplies
Think about how parents, children, and educators will interact with the space on a daily basis. Ensure the furniture and supplies purchased are practical and be sure to lean on your current inventory before purchasing anything further. Refer to our FREE new and expanding childcare center supplies purchasing list to make sure you don’t miss anything!
- Determine curriculum
A curriculum is a living entity. It should be allowed to change and grow to follow the needs of your children and educators. As a starting point, consider the following elements to include in your kindergarten curriculum:
- Exploration and investigation
- Creative thinking
- Observing and learning
- Activity opportunities
Some activity examples for kindergarteners are available on the HiMama Activities platform!
- Ensure you have enough educators for your new program
Hiring and retention are some of the biggest challenges in any industry, but they’re especially difficult in early childhood education. Despite the importance and intensity of their work, early childhood educators are typically underpaid and unappreciated. Keep this top of mind both when you’re hiring and considering retention risks.
- Gather enrollment
The final step is to gather children to join your kindergarten program!! Start by letting your current parents know about your new program offering, especially those who have children soon graduating from preschool who may want to stay. Make sure to update your website, social media profiles, directories, etc. to show that you now offer kindergarten. You want to spread the word within your community so that you can fill up your new program and even start to offer a waitlist!
For an all-in-one solution to managing your childcare center as you expand to include a kindergarten program, including enrollment planning and waitlist capabilities, take a free tour of HiMama today!