Interesting ways to expand your service offering
Published on Tuesday, 18 September 2018
Last updated on Thursday, 30 January 2020
Over-supply is fast becoming an issue for many early childhood services and in some areas it's growing increasingly difficult to fill vacancies. While oversupply makes it harder for centres, increased competition has been great for families. It means many services now offer outstanding facilities and motivated, qualified staff, while children benefit from delicious and varied menus and have the opportunity to participate in a range of included extra curricular activities.
To maintain the competitive edge and deliver a more responsive and personalised service, some early childhood providers are going above and beyond gourmet meals and French and yoga classes to offer parents more support with the daily juggle, as well as a range of innovative child-focused additional offerings.
We've collated a range of interesting ideas, which we hope will offer some inspiration:
For the working parents of young children, it can be very difficult to find time to go out in the evenings, whether on a date with a partner or to catch up with friends. Setting aside the time and booking and paying a babysitter are barriers for many parents and an innovative early childhood centre on the Sunshine Coast has tackled this problem head on.
Once per term parents of children who attend NCC Early Learners North Buderim Campus have the opportunity to leave their children until 10pm to go on a date.
NCC Early Learners marketing manager Nicole Wykes told the Sunshine Coast Daily that the date night service has had a really positive effect on families.
"Some mums and dads can't afford babysitters, so we entertain them, feed them and have lots of fun. Children up to Year 7 can come along too," she said.
Women's Agenda recently posted a story about the Learn and Laugh Children's Centres, a group of NSW based early childhood services offering parents the ability to purchase cost effective family dinner boxes to take home with them at the same time as picking up their children.
The $5 boxes include kid friendly favourites such as chicken stir fry and spaghetti bolognese and are guaranteed to be different from the meals the children were fed during the day.
Learn and Laugh parent Fiona O'Brien, from the Rosebery Centre said she loves the take away dinners, "It means we always have dinner for Joey as soon as we get home – he doesn't have to wait for us as we usually eat later! He definitely prefers Ana the chef's cooking to mine too".
Another parent, Olivia says the service has made the evening routine easier, "…it's such a relief to not have to worry about dinner after a long day at work and day care. I have mentioned it to my friends, whose children are also at day care, and they wish it was available for them. It is such a thoughtful service".
The centre uses reusable containers and the meals are cooked fresh each day.
A handful of services are offering parent education, and opportunities to attend workshops with early childhood experts and speakers. These educational opportunities typically happen in the evenings and include on site child minding. The events may be free or have a nominal charge and often refreshments are included to ensure the atmosphere is social and convivial.
The goal of these sessions vary according to the speaker, however they invariably aim to support parents and carers by providing informed insight and evidence based research on early childhood development.
Interestingly, many of the services offering these education evenings open them up to the wider community to ensure a wide audience and to leverage the opportunity to showcase the depth of their offering to potential new parents.
Extended and wrap around care
The advent of the Child Care Subsidy and hourly rates means sessional care is increasingly popular and being offered by a growing number of providers. However, Kindoo at Fern Tree Gully has taken flexible care to a whole new level:
- Education and care service is all session based, rather than day based, and families are able to choose which sessions best meet their needs and book their permanent, casual or emergency sessions online for children aged three – six.
- Offers five sessions each weekday from 7am – 11:30pm and an additional evening care session is available on Saturday evenings to assist shift workers such as chefs and nurses.
- CEO Martina Dunkel says never before has the child care market seen such a flexible offering for parents.
- Is very cost effective as sessions can be tailored to each family's individual requirements – you only pay for the session and not the whole day.
- Also offers a free transport service for families whose children are enrolled at one of the 19 community-based kindergartens and who attend before and after school programs
An additional service, which to be fair benefits children more than parents, is the octopram, an eight seater pram which enables educators to take eight toddlers out at one time. Guardian Early Learning Group recently introduced 40 of these prams to their network of 100+ centres around Australia. The prams are a key component in The Guardian's Out and About program which enables children to connect with and experience the community around them. Excursions include trips to the park, the local library, art galleries and child friendly cafes.
Speaking to Kidspot.com.au Nicki Garrett, Head of Business Development at Guardian Early Learning Group, said the octoprams are an important part of Guardian's curriculum "which recognises the importance of our children and educators being visible, active citizens in the local community."
"Guardian's excursion program helps children develop a sense of identity and belonging whilst engaging their natural curiosity and wonder through the new and changing environments of the world around them," he said.
A growing number of services are offering play based learning experiences, which go above and beyond the usual routine. Big Fat Smile gives children the opportunity to learn skills such as cooking, drama, music and art through the introduction of specialised Activity Gurus, who rotate through the Illawarra-based services.
Big Fat Smile CEO, Ms. Jenni Hutchins, says introduction of the Activity Gurus enables Big Fat Smile to create a broader and specialist-delivered range of play-based learning activities for children.
"We work closely with our families and pedagogical experts to continually develop our curriculum and activity programs. Our objective is to provide a holistic, play-based program that supports the foundations of literacy, numeracy, creativity, information technology, sciences, critical thinking, problem solving and emotional and social wellbeing," she said.
We are curious to learn more about the wide variety of innovative and interesting additional service offerings being promoted by early childhood providers within the CareforKids.com.au community. If your approach to business is a little outside the box and you'd be keen to share your ideas, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll be in touch.
Encouraging parents to rate and review your service on your CareforKids.com.au profile is an way to spread the word about your centre and the service you offer for children and families.
It's important to make a great first impression on families and to run a professional and informative tour, which leads to touring families converting to enrolments.