It’s 2021, and there are still empty seats in your classrooms. Many parents are still working from home or unemployed altogether, and the new year didn’t bring that steady stream of returning children or new enrollments to fill those empty seats in your classrooms. That means there are still holes in your income
stream that you need to plug fast.
So what’s your plan? Is there a way to bring in some additional income, even when parents aren’t ready to send children back to child care full time? Consider a “Morning Out” program for parents and families in your community.
What’s a “Morning Out” Program?
It’s 2021, and what used to be referred to as “Mom’s Morning Out” is now just “Morning Out,” because in the modern family, it could be Dad, Grandma, aunts, uncles… you name it. It takes a village. So what exactly is a Morning Out program?
It’s a drop-in style childcare service you can offer to local families in your community who don’t need – or can’t afford – full time child care or even a regular part time program right now, but they do need some help sometimes.
When Might Parents Need Morning Out Services?
There are a number of reasons a parent might need your services for a few hours here and there, even if it’s to make running errands a bit simpler and quicker. Here are three common ones:
An out of work parent (or a temporarily underemployed one) may need childcare services in order to schedule and attend job interviews. With your Morning Out program’s days and hours posted on your website, parents can schedule interviews with confidence – without scrolling through their list of contacts for
family or neighbors who might be available to babysit.
- Mom has an important Zoom call, one that she may want to be able to hold without Cheerios in her hair or a toddler jumping on the couch behind her. Your Morning Out program can allow her to prep for her call and focus on her work without distraction.
- A stay-at-home parent just needs a morning to run errands. Picture grocery shopping without a toddler begging for a sugary snack, or just being able to wait in line at the bank without chasing children around the lobby.
Whatever the reason, when it’s time for Mom and Dad to head back to work full time, they’ll be more likely to consider your center for their permanent childcare and preschool needs if their children are already comfortable in your building and with your staff.
What’s In It for You?
- Money – For some of us, tuition revenue is in shorter supply than we’d like it to be, and we have great staff who are waiting for an opportunity to come back to work. This temporary as-needed drop-in service can help you
- Staff retention – Your employees will appreciate the opportunity to get back in the classroom, especially the ones that have experienced layoffs or a significant reduction in hours. They will also see first hand how much you value their skills and contributions and want them to remain a part of your team.
- Good will – Okay, maybe it isn’t technically good will since you’re charging for services, but it will make you and your staff feel good to know you are truly helping a parent who just needs some support.
Structuring Your Morning Out Program
You already run a childcare business, so you have a handle on space, licensing, and requirements. That’s a big advantage over folks who are just starting out with a new Morning Out business.
Your main concerns now are likely to be scheduling, staffing, and sign-ups.
Should you set your program up to run on weekday mornings, afternoons, or weekends? How many days per week? How many children can your space accommodate?
Establishing a schedule for your Morning Out program can be easy – just look to the community to get an understanding of their overall needs, and use that information as a guide to setting up days and times for your program.
Who would benefit from a weekday morning program? Parents who may be interviewing for new positions, parents who work from home and need a morning of uninterrupted focus, or stay-at-home parents who just want to run a few errands without little ones in tow would find your Morning Out program incredibly useful and
How about weekends? If most families in your community have two working parents, a Saturday morning program may help them set aside time for weekly chores and projects, housekeeping, or a badly needed mani-pedi.
If you overestimate the demand for your Morning Out program, you could end up overstaffed and paying more in payroll that day than the revenue you collect. If you’re understaffed, you run the risk of a whole new set of problems.
Understaffing your Morning Out program puts a strain on your regular classroom staff, and that can affect morale and the quality of care for your Morning Out students and your full-time care children. And if you don’t leave enough wiggle room, you’ll end up having to turn away parents who need services once you are
at capacity. This, in turn, leaves parents in a bind – a bind they will remember when they choose full-time care or talk to friends and neighbors about their experiences with your center.
While a drop-in childcare service might sound appealing to parents in a pinch, it can certainly be unpredictable from a staffing and attendance standpoint. In order to know who is coming, when, and how much staff and supplies you’ll need, it’s best to have parents sign up in advance.
To do this, you can have your administrator field calls, or just use an online form to collect the child’s and parents’ information. Asking parents to pay in advance by phone or online is one way to guarantee the income, even if they don’t show up.
Advance registration also means you’ll know exactly how many staff members you’ll need on hand, and how many printouts or sets of supplies you’ll need for any activities you’ve planned.
Spreading the Word About Your Morning Out Program
Once you have your new Morning Out program structured and ready to launch, it’s time to get the word out. There are plenty of tried and true, low-cost or no-cost ways to promote your new program without breaking the bank:
- Word-of-mouth referrals – Start with your regular, full-time care families by asking them to spread the word to friends, coworkers and neighbors. Consider offering a referral discount if a Morning Out sign-up was referred by someone in your program.
- Church bulletins – Ask local churches, synagogues, and other religious centers to add a mention of your Morning Out program in their bulletins.
- School newsletters – Have you established good relationships with schools in your area? Reach out and ask for your Morning Out program to get a shoutout for moms and dads with children who aren’t in school yet.
- Post flyers at local businesses – Create an attractive flyer with information about your new program, and post wherever moms of little ones might go on a regular basis. The library is a great place to start, along with grocery stores and recreation centers.
- Social media – Advertise your new program with social media posts, and ask parents in your program to like or share what you’ve posted. That way, their friends and family will see it, too.
Whatever your program structure, be sure to highlight what differentiates your Morning Out program from others in your area. Maybe you target a different age group or offer hours on the weekend when you’re normally closed. Do you offer learning activities? How about arts and crafts that little ones can proudly
present to mom and dad at pick-up?
No matter what you decide, rest assured that families, staff, and your bottom line will all appreciate your new Morning Out program for however long it’s needed.