Believe it or not, back-to-school season is officially upon us! As bittersweet as it is, summer always flies by and it can be difficult to find time to prepare your classroom for the influx of new children in the coming weeks.
If you haven’t started already, now is the time!
Being prepared will help ensure you make a great first impression on new families, as well as support your current children, yourself, and your teammates during this busy time.
Consider the following suggestions when preparing your classroom for the back-to-school season!
1. Educators: refresh your classroom space.
Before children enter your classroom for the first time, it’s important to create a learning environment that will promote collaboration, discussion, and learning.
Design is intentional and intuitive. Instructors who care about design expand effort to deliberately plan for a specific student experience.”Todd Finley, Rethinking Classroom Design: Create Student-Centered Learning Spaces
Try these tips to get your classroom ready:
- Do a deep clean of your classroom. Try using this free cleaning checklist template!
- Arrange the classroom furniture in different learning zones.
- Organize your books and reading area. Ensure you have diversity and equal representation in your library collection.
- Ensure the emergency evacuation procedure and all other required licensing documents are properly displayed.
- Ensure your tablets are working properly with any classroom management app installed.
- Laminate and hang classroom posters and displays.
- Decorate your front door with your educator’s and children’s names.
- Ensure you top up all of your learning materials and supplies.
2. Directors: set up your annual center calendar.
Take the time to put together a calendar of what families can expect for the year ahead. Be sure to include center closures, statutory holidays, family events, themed days, graduation celebrations, field trips, etc. This will allow families to plan ahead and set expectations for what the year will look like. The more information you can share with your families up front, the more set up for success your relationship will be with them moving forward. This also helps your staff members to ensure they can plan vacation time and also be available to support additional hours when needed for special events!
3. Directors: put your team first.
Just as you plan ahead for family events, you should also plan ahead in showing appreciation for your educators. Your team is the backbone of your success as a center and they should always be top of mind. Ensure you plan team-building events, celebrations, performance reviews, training days, and professional development opportunities well in advance. For ideas on additional employee recognition, check out this free resource!
Remember, it takes a village. No one can do it alone. Lean on and support your fellow educators, children, and parents. Having a connection and “we’re in this together” attitude helps to keep your center community strong.
4. Directors: change up your menu.
Back-to-school season is the perfect time to change up your menu! Having seasonal menu changes keeps parents engaged and satisfied with the diverse dining experience their child is having, gives educators some variety, and allows chefs to use their full skill set!
It can be fun to have themes for your menus based on seasonality. For example, a fall menu can focus more on root vegetables and seasonally grown produce such as apples and squash. Your winter menu can focus on warmer foods such as soups, and your summer menu can showcase fresh fruit and frozen options.
Use our free printable menu templates to organize your seasonal menus in advance!
5. Directors: recruit strong team members.
Build your team to be the best it can be to support the influx of new families! Do your best to hire enough high-quality educators for each classroom to have breaks and sick day coverage. Ensure you take the time to properly train and onboard new staff members and check in each day to ensure they are satisfied in their new roles.
For further support, download our free ebook on hiring and retaining top talent!
6. Educators: plan your lessons in advance.
Ensure you are lesson planning in advance for the first few weeks of back-to-school madness. Having a daily schedule for your classroom and determining what learning opportunities you are prepared to offer in your classroom environment will allow you to focus more on getting to know your new children!
7. Embrace the turbulence.
Back-to-school anxiety can be very real for everyone: administrators, educators, children, and parents. Schedules are changing and everyone is trying new things. There will probably be some tears and that is OKAY!
I like to use the swiss cheese analogy: back-to-school season is like stacking swiss cheese slices with holes on top of each other. In the end, despite the madness, there are no holes and you have a sandwich! Children are resilient and if you make it fun, they’ll feed off of your energy.
8. Educators: prep back-to-school activities.
Take time to prepare classroom activities in advance of the back-to-school rush. This will allow you to engage your children from the get-go and distract them from any sadness post drop-off. Children can participate in some activities together to start building relationships with each other. Check out HiMama’s Activity Database for hundreds of ideas for each age group!
One easy activity to have prepared is some books to read and share with children that discuss back-to-school experiences. Here are some examples!
Back-to-school season is a very busy time for childcare centers and families alike. The more you can be set up for success, the more likely you are to succeed. Being prepared to welcome new families with open arms into a warm, calm, and comforting learning environment will set the tone for building positive relationships for the rest of the year!