Daycare Policies, Explained (Part 1)

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Before I was a daycare provider, I had enrolled my child in a daycare center and I wondered why they had rules about certain things. Like why you needed to call and let them know your child wasn’t coming for the day, why they had designated times for drinks versus cups available all day, and why they had parents provide a nap mat, fitted sheet, and blanket for each week and have me take it home and launder it, among other things.

Now, being on the other end of the spectrum, I can see why these rules exist and I have even a few more of my own that may seem odd or too rigid, but I promise they are all for a good reason. Below I’ll explain a few rules that daycares have and why.

#1. A drop-off cutoff. This might seem ridiculous, but if I paint it in a certain light, you may begin to see why it’s an issue.
My daycare has a drop-off cutoff at 10:00am. I plan on bumping it up to 9:30am in the coming months, but this is where it’s at now. Anyway, the reason I have it is because my first year in business, I had a child that would come to daycare at like 12pm/noon after a morning of sleeping in, having a late breakfast, and then arriving at daycare right at the time that the daycare kids and myself would be sitting down for lunch (then naptime at 1pm). Well, needless to say, this child didn’t eat lunch, didn’t nap with the other kids (which kept all the others awake during naptime) and then this child was crabby in the afternoon because they got no sleep either. The following week I started my drop-off cutoff. If there’s a doctor appointment and I know of it in advance, then families can arrive after my cutoff if they give proof of a doctor’s visit for my file.

#2. Having cups not accessible all day. At first, I thought this seemed kind of mean, to not allow children to have access to their cups all day. When I was home with my son (who was walking and etc.), he would tote his cup around with him all day and that was great. When he was in daycare, they kept the cups in a basket with a handle and then would give the kids a water break midway through outside time and they would all have to sit at a picnic table to drink. I thought that was odd, but OK.
Fast forward to when I’m a provider and I had 3-4 kids total in the group. I let them hold onto their cups throughout the day, in the daycare room, in the kitchen, wherever. Then when it came time to eat a meal or snack, I needed to ensure that I had their cups. Except that one would hide theirs in the daycare room so we had to find it and that could easily take 15 minutes. Another one would throw it outside or hide it in the lift compartment of a ride-on car. I would find sippy cups that got lost outside months later with mold growing in them… trashcan it goes!
So then I implemented a new rule where cups only stay in the kitchen and children must keep them on the counter unless they are drinking from them. Each child has a designated color cup that I supply so that they know which one is theirs at daycare. This system not only cuts down on missing cups but also on the spread of germs and of spills in the daycare room (that has rugs) versus the kitchen which is all tile.

#3. Part Time care is 2-3 set days. I know a lot of parents may think that part time care can be any days they need, as long as it’s 2-3 days a week, or whatever part time means to that particular program, but it’s a lot more than that. For me, I need to know who is coming and around what time. This influences our daily activities, planning, meal prep, sippy cups, dishes, art activities, sensory time, story time, etc. I don’t want it to be a mystery if a child is coming that day, but to know in advance and be able to plan for it.
Additionally, a part time spot truly takes up a full time spot, unless I can fill the other 2-3 days with another child. The likelihood of another person needing those exact opposite days is a rare find, so that’s why most places have their part time rate be slightly below their full time rate. Then if you want flexible days for part time, a provider can’t fill the other days with another child unless they have advance notice and can fill it with a drop-in, but that’s even more rare than an opposite schedule part time child. To have flexible days for part time care, the rate is higher. For me, that rate is between my PT and FT pricing, which is about $10 less than Full Time care. You pay for the convenience.

#4. No outside food or drinks. This one is a rule in my program but may not be for others, it just depends on what the program offers or if parents are required to provide food, etc. Since I make meals and snacks each day for the daycare children, there’s no need for parents to send in food or drinks of any kind. The only exception is for children 12 months-2 years old whose parents want them to drink milk/milk alternative (which they supply as-needed).
Here in my program, children drink water at snack and mealtimes and the 12m-24m ages get milk before nap time. Juice, treats, snacks, chips, etc. from home are unnecessary and feed bad eating habits. Additionally, unless there’s enough for everyone, then it just can’t be eaten here- that’s not fair to the kids who don’t get some. Also for allergies, this rule helps eliminate any possibilities of something hazardous coming into my house. And I don’t want to have to deal with outside food and drinks. I’ve heard other providers say that parents would spike their child’s juice or etc. with tylenol to cut the smell and to medicate the child on the sneaky side. Dangerous to do, and totally a violation of my contract to “dose and drop” like that.

#5. Late payment fee. The sad reality is that “prompt payment” for daycare services isn’t always upheld. Without a penalty (late fee) in place for late payments, some parents would wait to the very last minute to pay for services. Since I provide meals and etc., the money I get for tuition goes towards: groceries, my electric bill, my water bill, supplies and activities, new equipment, my wages, etc. and so not having it on time truly makes the children suffer moreso than me. I don’t want the late fee, and I’m not being greedy by charging a fee, I just want parents to pay on time. It’s the tuition payment I want. The late fee is to deter late payments.
Until payment is current on the account, I don’t accept children into care. If I did, parents would use my services and I might never see payment for work I’ve already completed. It might seem harsh, but would you work for free? It’s the same thing.

#6. No outside toys/blankets/etc. This one depends on your daycare provider, but I personally don’t want to have outside toys, blankets, etc. For one, they can get lost, damaged, or spilled on (food, bodily secretions, boogers, etc.) and also, if it’s your child’s favorite item, they are not going to want to let others play with it or share it… so there’s that. Ever seen a child who is possessive of a toy? It’s stressful on everyone. Plus if it gets damaged or ruined, how is that handled? What if it gets lost or thrown into the neighbor’s yard while they are playing with it outside? For a blanket, what if it is forgotten at daycare and then your child can’t fall asleep without it at night? Not the best situation for anybody. Best to leave that stuff at home.

#7. Late pick-up fee. Again, another fee that might make parents upset, but it exists for a good reason. Everyone likes to have a “done time” for being done with their work day. I’m compensated for certain hours during the day and after I’ve put in my shift, it’s overtime pay after that. So for me, the late pick-up fee is my overtime fee. We work long days (8am-6pm is 10 hours and most home daycares are open longer than that) and then ontop of that there’s prep and cleaning and etc. We enjoy our time off just like any other parent or family does, so when 6 o’clock rolls around, I want to be in family mode and not work mode.
Additionally, if a parent is picking up late from daycare, I can’t just leave. I have a child whose care I am still responsible for until a parent arrives to get them. As the minutes roll by and the late fees adds up, my main priority is to prevent late pick-up in the future. Not to see how much money I can squeeze out of my clients. Again, the late fee exists to encourage prompt pick-up.

#8. 1 drop-off and 1 pick-up per day. It’s hard on children to have multiple transitions in a day, and so if you drop your child off to daycare, pick them up early to take them to a doctor well visit appointment, they are now home for the day.
To have another drop-off at daycare the same day is stressful and then they have to settle in again at daycare. Best to schedule your child’s appointment for the morning (and arrive a bit late) or to schedule it in the afternoon (and pick up early). That way your child gets the most out of the daycare day and you can also take them for a well visit, no problem.

#9. Quick drop-off. I know that as a parent you love your child and have a hard time leaving them at daycare in the mornings, but dragging out drop-off makes children anxious, prone to bad/destructive behaviors, and sends them the message that you aren’t confident in your decision about daycare. Drop-off should be quick, but not rushed. Give your provider a brief snippet of the morning so far or anything of note (a diaper rash, didn’t sleep well last night, sleepy, etc.) so that she can provide better care for your child. Then say goodbye to your child, hug and a kiss, tell them you’ll be back later, and leave with a smile on.
Never sneak out when dropping off your child. This will make any anxiety your child has worse and they may feel abandoned with this technique. Respect your child enough to say goodbye and then promptly leave. Follow-through is important when you’re a parent. Hold yourself to your own word.

#10. Ointments and prescription medications must have a form filled out first. The amount of liability that is involved with some medications makes it scary to know that the wrong dose or grabbing the wrong bottle might make a life or death situation. It’s important that all protocol are followed when using ointments, giving medications, etc. to prevent errors. Look twice at the container to verify contents and the child, administer once.
Any first dose of any medication should be given at home to test for allergies or any reaction to the product. Always inform your provider of any new allergies, medications, etc. in the instance of an emergency at daycare that your provider can alert the medical team of what is in your child’s body in an emergency.
I personally don’t offer over-the-counter medications to my daycare children because there’s too many things that can go wrong and because that if a child is too ill to need medication, they are likely too ill for daycare. A lot of bottles look the same for medicine and I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I had any doing in a child’s disability, life being endangered, etc. by my doing. For that reason, I only administer prescription medicine if over 3 doses a day (or for nebulizer treatments).

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