With all of the technological advancements that have been made over the last several decades, the early childhood education sector has not advanced at the same pace as the rest of society. Although more and more centers are going digital with their parent communications, reporting, billing and other business functions, many continue to have an old-school pen-and-paper approach that isn’t ideal for parents, teachers or administrators.
Although it can seem overwhelming to add digital communications to a child care center, it doesn’t have to be! In this article, we’ll show you step-by-step how to go digital with parent communications, and the benefits of doing so.
Why Go Digital with Parent Communications
Although it does not have to be overly complicated, switching to digital communications is still an investment that your center will be making, and so it is important to understand the benefits of doing so.
Get More Organized
Place a few paper invoices, newsletters and reminders on your desk, and it doesn’t take long to become a cluttered mess. With digital communications, hundreds of documents spanning many categories of communication will all fit within neatly organized folders that you can access in the palm of your hand. Take back your workspace!
When a parent gets home after a busy day at the office with their hungry toddler, it is all too common to throw a paper they received from you down somewhere and then completely forget where it was placed. With digital communications, parents will be able to access important information that you have sent whenever and wherever is most convenient for them.
How many times have you heard after the fourth notice you’ve sent, “you’re doing what? Why is this the first time I’m hearing about it?!?” By going digital, you’ll be able to quickly pull up copies of what you sent, when you sent them, and who they were sent to. This keeps parents accountable to actually read the information that they have been sent, as well as yourself to prove that you did, in fact, deliver a message that you are claiming to have sent.
Better for the Environment
Daily reports, newsletters, reminders, permission forms, health information, invoices, contact records…there’s a lot of paper that goes into child care. By switching over to digital, the planet will benefit from not having to manufacture and ship all of the paper that you would normally use. Plus, this can end up saving you quite a bit of money in the long run, which you can then reinvest into your business in other ways. To see just how much going digital can save, check out our article on The Real Cost of Documentation in Child Care.
Decide What Information to Go Digital With
The information that you choose to begin sharing digitally will have an impact on the software you choose, the devices required and other areas of your operations.
For example, if you would like to send digital daily reports, then you will need an app that is capable of generating these, and this will also require teachers to make their observations through an app rather than on paper.
Some examples of information to move over to an app include:
- Daily sheets
- Monthly reports
- Activity planning
Take a close look at your daily operations and decide which ones you would like assistance with in an app. This will make it easier to compare different solutions and decide which one is best for your center.
Collect Parent Emails & Phone Numbers
Chances are that you have this already, but just in case, it is important to mention that in order to communicate with parents digitally, you will need to have their contact information. At minimum, you should have an email address and cell phone number (for text messaging) for each parent or guardian with a child enrolled at your center.
If you have all of this information already, use this opportunity to check in and verify that this information is still up to date. After all, you will only be able to successfully communicate digitally if parents receive your messages!
Choose a Child Care App
Although you can technically just send individual emails and text messages to parents, this will be very time-consuming and difficult to keep track of, especially as your business grows or if you have many children enrolled. A child care app is designed with busy child care providers like you in mind, allowing you to easily message many parents with important information all at once — sometimes even automatically.
Naturally, we suggest HiMama for all your digital child care needs, whether it’s for parent communications, activity planning, payments and more. As you search around, make sure you opt for a solution that meets all your requirements, is easy to use, and has a great support team to assist along the way (which is often overlooked during the selection process).
Tell Parents About the Upcoming Change
Your digital communications will only work if they are actually being accessed and read by parents and guardians, so make sure that they are fully on board with the change so they’re ready to go on day one.
Changes to an established routine can be concerning at first, so give parents plenty of advance notice. Be sure to explain what is happening and how it will benefit them and their children. Since you haven’t switched over to digital yet for your communications, we’ll let one more paper flyer slide this time. If you need inspiration, see this sample parent flyer for introducing HiMama to a child care center.
Understand the Hardware You’ll Need
Depending on which solution you choose and what information you will be communicating, you may need to invest in some new hardware like a laptop, tablets or smartphones. For example, if teachers will be making observations digitally throughout the day to include in daily reports, they will need a tablet like an iPad and a case for when it is inevitably dropped during particularly busy moments.
Besides a device for communicating, the only other technology you’ll need is a reliable internet connection. This will involve a modem and wifi router, which chances are you already have. If you are going to be using an app in the classrooms, make sure that each room has good connectivity. If you are having trouble staying connected, wifi extenders are an inexpensive way to extend the reach of your wifi signal to all rooms at your location.
Get All Staff Trained on the New Program
In addition to getting parents on board, you’ll need the support and enthusiasm of your staff to make digital communications a success. Ensure that your staff are fully trained on what your expectations are of them and that they fully understand what and how they should be communicating.
One way to facilitate training is by hosting a launch party for your staff. Here, you can get everyone excited about the difference that your software will make at your center, and go in-depth with how to use the software you have chosen. For extra fun, you can even roleplay common scenarios that they encounter every day, and how you will be observing and communicate these moments moving forward.
Make the Switch
Consistency works best, so once you’ve launched your digital communications, stick with it! If daily sheets are sent via email, invoices handed out in person and meal plans posted on the wall, it can become harder to track as parents become confused as to where to check for what. Again, this will rely on buy-in from your staff, so make sure everyone is trained and ready to go.
On launch day, send parents a download link if there’s an app for them to use as well as their login information. If you’ve been following along, they will be expecting this email and already be excited to get started.
Collect Feedback from Parents & Staff
After you have been up and running with digital communications for a little while, check in with your staff and parents to see how it is coming along. Make sure that the information you are sending is helpful for parents, and that your staff is managing well with these changes in addition to their many other responsibilities. Just be sure that you have let enough time pass so that everyone has had a fair chance to adjust to these new methods of communicating.
Ready to go digital or improve your digital communications at your child care center? Fill out the form below to see how HiMama can improve parent communications and save your staff time!