Posted in Business Practice

That Staff Handbook……

There continues to be questions about the “Staff Handbook” required in the current Family Child Care Licensing Rule. The Professional Learning Committee has a variety of resources around staff available on this site. They can be found through the “Menu” under “Business Toolkit ” and “Licensing Rule (FCC)”.

Let’s start with the “Staff” part of the 3 checklists found in the “Licensing Rule (FCC)”. This list is the minimum required in the FCC Licensing Rule. For sole providers this can all be covered in your general Parent Handbook. You do not need a separate staff handbook that way. The purpose of the Staff Handbook is to be sure responsibilities are clearly stated for staff. The Staff Handbook does not need to be shared with your parents. For these with Staff you may also find you have this covered in your Parent Handbook. If so, copy it for your separate Staff Handbook.

Policies and implementation required:
i. Mandated reporting,
ii. Child guidance,
iii. Child illness,
iv. Fire drill procedures,
v. Emergency and disaster procedures,
vi. Staff Member qualifications and training,
vii. Supervision of Staff Members/interns
viii. Reporting licensing violations,
ix. Inclusionary practices for Children with disabilities,
x. Safe sleep policy,
xi. Serious injury and Child death reporting,
xii. Expulsion and suspension prevention,
xiii. Interpretation for English Language Learners,
xiv. Release of Children, and
xv. Transportation of Children (if applicable).
A personnel record must be kept for all Staff Members.
a. Name, current street and mailing address, birth date and current telephone number;
c. Dates of employment and termination of Staff Members. Reasons for termination must be kept in the personnel record for a minimum of one year;
d. A statement signed and dated by each Staff Member certifying that the most current licensing rule has been read and understood;
e. A statement signed and dated by each Staff Member, certifying that the Provider ‘s personnel policies, admission policies, and Parent handbook have been read and understood;
f. Documentation of any disciplinary action;
g.Documentation of completed background checks in the form of a Provider Letter of Eligibility, issued by the Department, that specifies the Staff Member is Eligible for employment.
The Provider must document all orientation and training of all Staff Members by proof of completion from a qualified on-line or in-person source.
Staff Members must be properly immunized and provide documentation of immunizations to the Provider.
Staff members must receive written instructions regarding Child Abuse or Neglect reporting that contains a summary of the State of Maine Child abuse reporting statute and a statement that they will not be discharged or disciplined solely because they have made a Child Abuse or Neglect report.
Immunization records must be maintained to ensure proper medical treatment is determined and given in the event of a disease outbreak or public health emergency.

On this website, the “Business Toolkit” is where you will find most of the resources you want for both parent and staff agreements. For parents go to the landing page to start. For staff go directly to the drop down menu.

The “Staff Contract/Handbook” contains just about everything a small family child care owner needs to support hiring, staff meetings, contractual language and complying with the FCC Licensing Rule for a Staff Handbook around program policies. Language samples runs from a simple 1 page policy awareness and signature to sections that cover everything in more detail. As each program is unique, you will have to do some clicking and scanning of the shared resources the PLC has gathered from a variety of providers to find what works best for you. Adjust to meet your specific needs.

Posted in Business Practice, ECE Information, MRTQ-PDN

What’s Important About “SHORTcuts”?

All child care providers, whether they are licensed-exempt, FCC providers, center directors or any child care staff are required under the active Licensing Rules for FCC and Facilities to join the state’s Registry that MRTQ PDN handles. Part of being on the registry means you will receive “SHORTScuts” a weekly e-newsletter. It usually hits inboxes on Wednesdays.

Why should you care if it’s in your spam box or not?

Most of us get too many emails to deal with as busy providers. With our limited time to do required and recommended record keeping, when checking emails it’s just so easy to trash ones we see as unimportant to our daily work. And the ones already in the spam box are really easy to ignore. You want to check out SHORTScuts before you trash it. Yes, it’s a longer email, but you can quickly scroll through it only stopping at items of interest.

The weekly SHORTScuts is the best place to see what is happening in the wider ece field for trainings. MRTQ PDN has the ability to gather resources on training opportunities that no other organization or agency in Maine does. With SHORTScuts they have pulled together news about local, state and national training opportunities. If you see a training opportunity of interest you can easily access more information from the link buttons included in the descriptions. They also share informational updates, usually at the beginning of the e-newsletter.


Still don’t think you’ll have time to deal with checking your email for this weekly e-newsletter? That’s ok. MRTQ PDN has the publications from March 2020 to the latest SHORTScut e-newsletter on their website. You can always just go there.


The weekly SHORTScuts e-newsletter comes from: jennifer.wiles@maine.edu. Be sure to adjust your email’s recognition of this, so the email doesn’t sit in your spam box.

Posted in Business Practice, DHHS / OCFS

Interpretation for English Language Learners

The Professional Learning Committee continues to review the FCC and Facility Licensing Rules as part of gathering resources to support providers. As part of this review we hit upon the requirement in the staff handbook that requires interpretation for English Language Learners.

This is not an area we have seen providers raising many questions about, but are also not seeing it addressed in policies we are seeing. We are wondering if providers have not picked up on it, as we had not in our previous readings of the Licensing Rule?

The diversity of Maine’s communities, whether urban or rural, continues to grow. This diversity is also being seen in the child care workforce, whether it’s staff or new programs being opened. With community changes providers are seeing the diversity of the children in care changing. The question becomes how we as small business owners address this diversity within our programs. Providing the service of child care we know that working with the child’s family is a major part of that we do. We want our client families to understand we are open to working together. Add in that best business practice tells us we should address our working practices within our policies. The PLC reached out to MRTQ PDN DC Marnie Morneault to discuss concerns of English Language Learners and some of the impact on providers and programs. As part of this discussion Licensing was also asked to clarify if the interpretation requirement was just for staff, as that was the only place we found it clearly required. Their response was that interpretation covered more than staff. It covered our work with children and communication with their parents/legal guardians. With this clarity the PLC felt it was important to provide sample language providers could use in their handbook covering interpretation.

The question became: “How do we make it clear that we welcome diversity and meet interpretation needs for English Language Learners (ELLs)?”

You might also see or be familiar with ELLs being referred to as: limited English proficient (LEP), Dual Language Learners (DLLs), home language, or primary language. In the past English as Second Language (ESL) was commonly used. That has changed with the recognition that many who are learning English already speak several other languages, so English would not be a “second” language.

What is language interpreting and translation?

Language interpreting is the conversion of one spoken language into another, where translation covers written language. Interpreting and translation also apply to the context of signed languages and tactile writing systems like Braille.

Looking beyond the child considering a child’s parents and/or your staff, they may have good conversational fluency in English, but may not be able to understand, discuss or read information proficiently in English. They may be reluctant to request or accept professional interpreting and translation services due to fear of costs, inconvenience, or concerns about confidentiality. We felt these barriers needed to be consider in development of policy language. Providers may already be addressing inclusion within a number of policies around children’s rights, parental communications, their program’s curriculum meeting individual child needs. Through continuing discussion specifically around language, the PLC thought it made sense for providers to add in simple, specific language that clearly mentioned working with English Language Learners. Working with Marnie we have 2 language versions that should meet that need.

If you have your handbook all updated for the new Licensing Rule, you can add this language as an addendum. If you print off your handbook you can now print off this language as a separate sheet and hand it out to parents. If you do your handbook online, it’s easier to make changes in the set-up. Make the change and then send an email with the link, verbally tell and/or note on your parent information board.

English Language Learners Policy (Families):

At ___ childcare we accept learners from all ethnic backgrounds.  The primary language we communicate in is ____.  If you communicate more comfortably in another language, please let us know.  We will make every effort to make our materials and communications accessible for you in your home language.  We will also incorporate your child’s language and culture into our visuals and communications as much as possible. 

English Language Learners Policy (Staff):

At ____childcare we employ staff from all ethnic backgrounds.  The primary language we communicate in is ______.  If you communicate more comfortably in another language, please let us know.  We will make every effort to make our materials and communications accessible for you in your home language.  


Additional resources for providers looking for more information on this topic:

Dual Language Learners: Considerations and Strategies (Head Start/ECLKC)

Dual Language Learners Resources | Early Childhood  (The National Center on Early Childhood Development)

Planned Language Approach: Tips for Getting Started (Head Start/ECLKC)

Posted in Business Practice, Opening a FCC

What’s It Mean to be a Family Child Care Provider?

The answer to that question is as varied as family child care providers are, but we do have a common foundation.

We know that family child care providers are in this business because of the children, but it’s more than just taking children into our homes. Family child care providers are first and foremost small business owners. We have chosen this career path to financially provide for ourselves and our families. If you question if we qualify as a small business, look at the process we all go through to open and to remain open. The regulations are covered in our 62 page FCC Licensing Rule that we must meet. These minimum health and safety regulations cover everything from how to store breast milk, to the annual professional development we need, to the temperature we need to maintain within our program.

As successful small business owners it is essential to build a business plan, look at branding and marketing, and cover benefits like health insurance and retirement. Without considering how we will run our small business we cannot do what we opened our doors to: support children and their development.

The purpose of our small business qualifies us as early childhood education and care professionals. When most hear “educator” they immediately think of public school teachers, but educator has a broader meaning: a person who helps students to acquire knowledge, competence or virtue. Family child care providers, in fact all in the child care workforce, are educators.

Family child care providers are more than just educators.

We are…..

Food service managers:

  • Order food and beverages, equipment, and supplies
  • Oversee food preparation, portion sizes, and the overall presentation of food
  • Inspect supplies, equipment, and work areas
  • Ensure that employees comply with health and food safety standards

Property managers:

  • Keep the property in safe and habitable condition.
  • Responsible for the physical management of the property, including regular maintenance and emergency repairs.
  • Quality improvement efforts

First aid responders:

  • Specialized training
  • First to arrive and provide assistance at the scene of an emergency, such as an accident, or natural disaster

Bookkeepers:

  • Perform payroll functions in an accurate and timely manner, and submit payroll taxes
  • Conduct reconciliation of all accounts on an as needed basis
  • Maintain and balance the general ledger in an accurate, complete, and up-to-date manner
  • Perform all activities related to the accounts payable function
  • Perform account receivable functions including invoicing, deposits, collections, and revenue recognition
  • Prepare financial reports through collection, analysis, and summarization of data

Housekeepers and house cleaners:

  • Dusting, vacuuming, sweeping and mopping the floors in all rooms.
  • Cleaning the bathrooms, including mirrors, toilets, showers and baths.
  • Cleaning the kitchen, including wiping down appliances, counters, sinks and cabinet doors.
  • Washing and drying dishes and putting them away.
  • Changing bed linens and making the beds.
  • Washing, folding clothes.
  • Cleaning interior windows.
  • Removing garbage and recycling.
  • Restocking personal items such as toilet paper, tissues, etc.
  • General tidying of the rooms. This includes putting away toys, decluttering and light organizing.
  • Running errands.
  • Caring for pets.

We might also be employers and be responsible for all the tasks involved with hiring, training, evaluating, and firing.

Most importantly we are educators!

We:

  • Maintain a safe and comfortable environment
  • Provide age-appropriate active supervision and behavior guidance
  • Develop schedules and enforce routines
  • Plan and implement lessons
  • Observe, gather and document child’s growth and behavior
  • Gather and communicate observations with child’s parent/legal guardian, providing supporting resources as appropriate
  • Address cultural and/or special needs. This includes emotional, physical or educational. Let’s just look at food for a couple of examples: If a child has a food allergy, the provider must be aware of the content of the food the child is offered or is eating. / If a child’s culture or religion doesn’t allow certain foods we offer acceptable substitutes.

As family child care providers we have chosen an incredible career. It is both challenging and rewarding. When someone asks “What do you do for work?” Proudly answer: “I’m a small business owner. ~ I’m an early childhood educator and care professional. ~ I operate a licensed family child care business.”

Posted in Business Practice, ECE Information

Are You Using Go NAPSACC? Maine’s Free ECE Online Health and Nutrition Tool

Go NAPSACC makes it easier than ever to give the children in your program a start in developing healthy habits.

Programs use Go NAPSACC to improve their practices, policies and environments in these seven areas:

  • Child Nutrition:
    • Foods & Beverages Provided
    • Feeding Environment & Practices
    • Menus & Variety
  • Breastfeeding & Infant Feeding:
    • Breastfeeding Environment & Support Practices
    • Infant Foods Provided & Feeding Practices
  • Farm to ECE:
    • Local Foods Provided
    • Gardening
  • Oral Health:
    • Toothbrushing
    • Foods & Beverages Provided
    • Teacher Practices
  • Infant & Child Physical Activity:
    • Time Provided
  • Indoor Play Environment:
    • Daily Practices
  • Outdoor Play & Learning:
    • Outdoor Playtime & Play Environment
  • Screen Time:
    • Availability
    • Daily Practices

Go NAPSACC walks providers through the following 5 step process as they look at how to improve their program to support the development of healthy habits for the children in their care. You can work on one or multiple areas at a time. This 5 step process works as a loop that allows for continual review and growth of policy and best practices.

Maine is a partner state with Go NAPSACC, so for providers in Maine to get started you go to: https://gonapsacc.org.

  • Once there you will click on the green JOIN TODAY button on the upper right-hand corner of your screen.
  • Click “continue” under the blue Directors and Owners option.
  • Use registration code: 089vb5tt0le2x2z

Once you have joined Go NAPSACC you can log back in at any time. Remember this resource works because it allows you to continually access and grow your practices around healthy habits.

For more information contact Marissa White, Program Assistant at MCD Public Health / mwhite@mcd.org / 207-622-7566 ext230

Posted in Business Practice, Professional Development

How to Join MRTQ-Professional Development Network’s Registry?

The MRTQ Registry is FREE. Following you will find a walk through for the registration process.

This link takes you to MRTQ PDN Registry Application and Login page.

Start by using the drop down menu under “Registry” OR click on the “Registry Login & Application” button.

Look for….

…. and click the “Join” button.

Complete the information asked for and click “CREATE” for your Registry account. Opening your Registry account is that easy.


Once you have created your account you will be able to add information about your educational background and trainings. You can come back at any time to add or update your information. If you can set aside even 15 minutes you can get a good amount of your information in place. Listing elective training is optional and that is where most time will be needed if you want to post any you have taken in the past 5 years. Please know you do not need to list past trainings.

Let’s look at what some of the informational input pages (found in the top menu – highlighted blue) look like…….


Notice, if you attend any of the Community of Practices (CoP) that MRTQ facilitate those hours are automatically added to your elective hours record.

Licensing accepts this record from MRTQ for tracking your annual training hours required to maintain your license.

Posted in Business Practice, ECE Information, NAFCC, Professional Development

Have You Considered Accreditation for Your Program?

If you have considered going through the NAFCC Accreditation process for your program now is the time to get information on the process and support available to you.

The PLC is passing along this message from Tammy Dwyer, MRTQ-PDN District Coordinator:


Hello,

My name is Tammy Dwyer and I am a Maine Roads to Quality Professional Development Network, (MRTQ PDN) District Coordinator for York County.

If you have interest in learning more about the National Association for Family Child Care (NAFCC) Accreditation process and the resources here in Maine to support those quality improvement efforts, we have informational meetings planned for providers.

The MRTQ PDN NAFCC Accreditation informational meetings have been set for:

1/26 from 6 – 7:30 pm or 

2/25 from 6:30-8:00

During our meeting, we will briefly discuss the NAFCC Accreditation process and requirements, plus MRTQ PDN technical assistance resources/ supports.

We meet using an app called Zoom. You can access Zoom using a Desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Learn more about zoom at:  https://fccamaine.com/tech-tools/

A Zoom meeting link will be sent 1 week prior to our meeting to all that have registered. Please reach out to tammy.dwyer@maine.edu with questions or call me at (207)956-2937. 

Please Register Here

Posted in Business Practice

The Value of an Employer Identification Number

Do you have an EIN – an Employer Identification Number (Federal Tax Identification Number)?

If No, you should strongly consider getting one as it replaces the need to share your social security number.

Through the EIN you are registering your business with the federal government, so your EIN works in place of your social security number for business related items (ie. set up a bank account, apply for loans, and paying taxes).

This is a free service offered by the Internal Revenue Service and you can get your EIN immediately. Beware of websites on the Internet that charge for this free service.

You may apply for an EIN in various ways.  You will need Form SS-4 PDF for fax or mail in.

  • You get your EIN immediately by applying online (the preferred method). The information is validated during the online session, and an EIN is issued immediately. The online application process is available for all individuals whose principal business, office or agency, or legal residence, is located in the United States or U.S. Territories.
  • You can fax a completed Form SS-4 to the service center for your state, and they will respond with a return fax in about one week. If you do not include a return fax number, it will take about two weeks.
  • If you apply by mail, send your completed Form SS-4 to the address listed under service center, expect at least four to five weeks to receive your EIN.

Not sure if it’s worth your time, because you ‘ve been sharing your social security number with client families for years and haven’t had any problem. Or maybe you’re thinking “I’m going to be retiring shortly”. Here’s a recent event that has raised the value of having an EIN:

The Office of Child and Family Services recently shared contact information on licensed providers that were level 3 and 4 on Quality for ME with the Department of Education . This was done to support providers possibly working with local school district in offering distant learning within their programs. OCFS was made aware that for providers without an EIN their social security numbers were part of the information shared. The situation was immediate handled between OCFS and DOE, but this is a perfect example of the value of having an EIN.

But, I’m not a Quality for ME level 3 or 4, so the OCFS release didn’t impact me.

Legal guardians need an identification number from their family child care provider so they can claim their child care tax credit. Without an EIN you are providing your social security number. Do you really want families and whomever is doing their taxes to have your social security number?

Simple Fact: Having an EIN helps you avoid identity theft problems.

Once an EIN has been assigned, whether the EIN is ever used to file Federal tax returns, it is never reused or reassigned to another business entity. If you later determine you do not need the number, the IRS can close your business account after submission of the necessary paperwork.


Posted in Business Practice

Update Your Provider Portal on Child Care Choices!

Ever since the county Resource Development Centers (RDC) closed providers have been asking for a way to provide information about their current openings for families looking for care. We now have it!

The new Program Portal allows individual programs to update the information displayed on the Maine’s online search for child care programs: Child Care Choices.

To access this new portal go to childcarechoices.me and access the “Search for Child Care” section of the menu. Once on the landing page for this section you will see 3 tabs at the top: Search Licensed Programs / Search Licensed Exempt CCSP Programs / Program Login. You want to click Program Login. (here’s direct link).

Once on the Portal page you will see this:

Use the username and password from a Maine Roads to Quality Registry online account to login. If you need to retrieve your username and password, if you need to create a Maine Roads to Quality online account, or if you need to enroll in Maine Roads to Quality, please go to: https://mrtq-registry.org/Account/Login // You will also need your license number.

Once in the active portal you can change:

  • Number(s) of openings, listed by age:
  • If the program accepts Child Care Subsidy Program (CCSP) funding.

MRTQ PDN Guide to the Program Portal (pdf)

You can access and change your openings as often as needed.


For providers wondering why they should take the time to do this here’s what families looking for care see.

If they search for all programs they see:

If they check off specific ages of care they now see this: (sample of infant & toddler opening search)

There’s a big difference.

You want to be sure your program is found if you have openings. It only takes a few minutes to access and update.

Posted in Business Practice, Opening a FCC

Opening a Family Child Care: Part 3 ~ Equipment

In Part 1, we discussed if fcc was a good fit professionally for you, the need for developing your policies and meeting the requirements of licensing. In Part 2, information was provided on the need for a business plan to get a handle on what a sustainable budget would look like for your small business. In Part 3, we are looking to provide some direction to type of equipment that has continually shown it’s value in meeting the developmental needs of children. You might be surprised with how easy it is to provide a nurturing, developmentally responsive environment for the children you are looking to provide care for. 

Every family child care is unique and thus it’s impossible to say “Here get this….” or even “You need this….”.  Deciding – what equipment works for your program and space / what is really necessary / and what can be put on the future purchase list – is only a decision that you can make.


Now it’s time to focus on preparing your space for opening?

This starts with being sure your space is safe. That information is well covered in the current Family Child Care Licensing Rule. You should read the Rule over carefully, noting areas of concern and address those concerns before moving items in.

Following are some questions to consider before you acquire any specific piece of equipment:

  • Is it sturdy, well-designed and built to last?
  • Is it safe? Does it meet current safety standards?
  • Is it easy to keep clean?
  • Will it retain children’s interest over time?
  • Can it be used in a number of different ways, by different ages?
  • Can it be used by children of all abilities?
  • Does it fit well with what I already have?

Starting out you will probably have limited funds, so let’s look at some ideas for acquisition of the equipment you might use in family child care. 

  • Find DIY directions. You’ll just need the skills and materials to complete the DIY project.
  • Is it available through local online yard sale sites?
  • Can you find at local thrift store?
  • Do you need long term or can you borrow?
  • Can you purchase local and transport? Or is it best to purchase with delivery?

Reminder: Not all equipment will be used by all ages, but much of it is adaptable across the ages.

While the aim of a nurturing child care environment is to encourage children to freely explore, choosing independently from a variety of activities, it also needs to be safe. You also have to think about basic furnishings and equipment that will support the daily routine care activities such as food preparation, cleaning, personal hygiene and paperwork, that will be part of your unique program. 

Let’s look now at equipment recommendations thinking as a family child care provider whose program services mixed ages. Mixed ages is a program that provides care for infant thru school-age. There are providers who will specialize in infant/toddler care, preschool programming or after-school care, but a majority of providers service mixed ages. Those that specialize can also get ideas from our equipment listings.

General Program or Routine Equipment:

  • Office: It is important to have a secure place for you to keep information, first aid kit/emergency bag, notice board for parent information…. This can be as simple as a file box, tote bag and a bulletin board.
  • Maintenance: vacuum cleaner, general cleaning supplies. Since you are doing business from your home you should already have the equipment needed for general maintenance/cleaning. 
  • Bathroom Equipment: sink, toilet. Again it’s your home and Licensing requires a working bathroom facility, but let’s look at what else you might need:
    • liquid soap dispenser – Easier for children to handle, cleaner 
    • paper towel dispenser or individual cloth towels for each child – The dispenser does not need to be a commercial dispenser. You can have a simple paper towel hanger or use a basket for bulk folded paper towels. The children can easily grab single paper towels. The cloth towels will need to be designated for each child and laundered.
    • potty chairs – Floor setups need to be cleaned between uses. The toilet seat adaption seat will need a stool to access the toilet height.
    • toilet tissue dispenser – You probably also already have one of these as part of your home setup. For young children and to save on toilet tissue you might find a small basket you can place on the back of the toilet that holds tissue length you have pre-pulled works easily and saves on overuse of toilet tissue.
    • changing table or changing mats – This is a provider preference. It is ok to change children on the floor as long as you have a cleanable surface, such as a changing mat, under them. Changing stations require a designated space.
    • container for soiled diapers as needed – Again preference, but needs to be covered and secure from children.
    • sturdy step-stool – 1 stool can be used for both sink and toilet.  If using a changing table you will probably want another step-stool for that.
  • Kitchen: drinking cups – Whether you provide snacks and meals or not, you need to have water available for children at all times. They each need their own cup.
  • If providing food you will need: cutlery, refrigerator, trash receptacle (closable), sink, stove, liquid soap dispenser, paper towel dispenser, cooking utensils, pots and pans, baking pans, mixing bowls – All this should already be part of your home environment. 
    • You may want to consider unbreakable plates, bowls, cups that are sized for children.

General Child-sized Furnishings: 

  • a cot or foam mattress with waterproof cover for each napping child (non-infant)
  • a crib for each infant – These need to meet current safety standards. Pack and plays are acceptable.
  • child-size table* – These do not need to be special child tables, or a certain shape. It does not even need to be high enough for child size chairs to fit under. It can be a low table that children sit around on the floor or on pillows. It really the stable flat surface you want.
  • child-size chairs* – One for each child if want them at a table high enough to fit chairs.
  • chair/rocker – You want something an adult can sit in.
  • child-proof gates – Only if needed to secure stairs, or close off doorways for safety.
  • large wall mount mirror (shatterproof) – All children love having mirrors available, but especially developmentally important for infant/toddlers. 

*child size tables and chairs are ideal if you have the space, but they are not necessary. If you use your regular table and chairs you will need to be sure seating is safe/secure.

Storage: Your storage space will have a large impact on both the amount of and size of the equipment you have within your program.

  • Daily storage: open units to store toys and equipment, and cubby or other private storage area for each child (e.g. individual coat hook with drawstring bag or plastic bin). 
  • For toy storage you can use baskets, purchased storage tubs, recycled cardboard boxes, etc. If your space is shared with family or designated for child care alone might impact how you handle storage. There are many creative ideas for storage options online.
  • Plan on larger storage needs for additional supplies and/or for “Rotating” sets of toys. Rotating toys avoids crowding and overstimulation within your program space. Rotation adds a degree of surprise and enjoyment when unfamiliar equipment replaces the all-too-familiar. 

Soft Spaces/ Private Places: This is not necessarily an area that you would think is a must have for equipment, but children frequently need the assurance of a soft, comfortable, safe place. Small, quiet retreats allow for times when children want to be alone, or one-on-one with a caregiver.  

  • Bean bag chair, oversized pillows, or multiple older pillow recycled into one large pillow case. Be sure covers are washable. 
  • Fort – oversized boxes, fabric forts  
  • Plenty of blankets
  • Washable stuffed animals.

Additional Equipment Needed for Infants: playpen/play yard fencing, high chair, infant play seat/chair – This is not one per infant, but within your program. 

Now that you have an idea of the heavier general equipment you will need to set-up the structure of your program, let’s look at the equipment that most families will be noticing when they visit and see what type of program you will be offering……. the play equipment – toys!

Providing both indoor and outdoor activities that encourages the development of large and small muscle skills is important for all ages developmentally. It also helps children regulate behaviors. In order to develop large muscle coordination and balance, children need to use their legs, arms and back muscles in activities such as crawling, climbing, throwing and catching. Small muscles are developed through activities which require finer coordination, for example, grasping rattles, constructing with blocks, and art activities. Ideally, neither your indoor or outdoor play should be limited to either small or large motor activities. 

Toys are best when they are ‘open-ended’. Children use their imaginations and problem-solving skills to find many different ways to engage with this type of toy.  Research is also indicating that children do not need as many toys as we think they do. More is very often not better, but actually is overstimulating. TOYS ARE FOR DEVELOPING IMAGINATION and problem solving skills, not to entertain. Toys for children are about being able to “explore” their world. Anything which they can feel, look at, hold, shake and bang will work.

Open-ended toys include:

  • blocks 
  • balls 
  • cardboard boxes 
  • Arts and craft materials – like: coloured paper, stickers, crayons and markers 
  • Everyday household items like pots and pans, plastic containers, pegs, clothes baskets and blankets often make great open-ended toys. 

If this is all you were to start with you could provide lots of learning opportunities, but we know for most of us we would be looking at having more pieces of equipment, so let’s look at more focused equipment options.

Include “loose parts” such as boxes, planks, fabric pieces, log sections, etc. in both inside and outside play spaces. There is little to no cost, just what odds and ends you can gather for children to use within their creative play. Having sets (like stones, shells) within your “loose parts” also adds to the play potential.

For Large Muscles: 

  • Climbing Equipment:
    • Infants & Toddlers: cushioned area where infants can safely pull themselves up; tubes/tunnels to crawl through, in and out of; slide; rocking toys 
    • Preschool Up: add in planks; tires; balance beam 
  • Wheeled Equipment:
    • Infants & Toddlers: small push/pull toys; non-pedal riding toys 
    • Preschool Up: tricycles; wagons; scooters 
  • Games Equipment: 
    • Infants & Toddlers: assorted balls, bean bags
    • Preschool Up: add assorted sets of special games equipment like: floor hockey, bowling, ring toss; jump rope; parachute; hula hoops 

Small Muscles: 

  • Manipulative Toys:
    • Infants & Toddlers: squeeze toys; containers and safe objects to fill and dump; dolls
    • Preschool Up: Add in: shape sorters; stringing beads/sewing cards; small world toys ( vehicles, animals, and people (multi-ethnic))  

General Toy Categories:

  • Blocks: Blocks are important at all ages. Ensure that there are enough blocks for groups of children to complete projects. Blocks do not need to be wooden or squares. You can use tin cans, recycled smaller boxes from crackers/cereal, pvc pipe sections and even sponges.
    • Infants & Toddlers: large, soft and lightweight washable blocks of varying sizes, shapes and colours 
    • All Ages: love loose part accessories like cars, animal sets, and miniature people to expand play with blocks.
  • Games and Puzzles: Help children develop skills for remembering, sorting, predicting and reasoning.
    • Infants & Toddlers: simple 2-8 piece puzzles
    • Preschool: 5+ pieces puzzles; picture dominoes; memory games
    • School Age: 30+ piece puzzles; playing card;, board games
  • Art Equipment: Cutting, painting, and drawing develop small muscles.
    • All Ages: playdough; crayons; paper. Add in markers, colored pencils, tracing shapes, scissors and glue after infant age. With infants it’s about safety with items going into the mouth. 
  • Developing the Senses: Think supplying soft and contrasting textures throughout the environment. Do this through varied floor surfaces, floor pillows/blankets, play doughs, and toys.
  • Sensory Materials: One of the best sensory experiences for all ages is play doughs with cookie cutters, rolling pins and small loose parts.
    • Accessories for dry material bins (sand, cornmeal, rice or pasta): digging tools, containers for measuring and molding, funnels and sifters, 
    • Accessories for wet material bins (water, snow, ice): boats, items that float or sink, squeeze bottles, pumps, sponges, containers to fill and measure with, funnels
  • Cooking Equipment: Cooking helps children to learn concepts in math science, socialization,and expands language. Have measuring cups, mixing spoons, pots, pans, chopsticks, spatula, cookie cutters that can be explored while really cooking. 
  • Science Equipment:
    • Living things: plants and animals which can be adequately cared for plus cages, tanks, and accessories as appropriate 
    • Nature collections (e.g. cones, shells, rocks, wood slices) 
    • Sets of plastic wild animals, farm animals and dinosaurs 
    • Magnifying glasses 
    • Magnets and items made of metal 
    • Materials for Classifying, Ordering and Sequencing: Sets of toys which can be sorted or put in order.
    • Infants & Toddlers: nesting and stacking toys, sets of safe objects of various sizes and colours 
    • Preschool Up: objects to sort and classify (geometric shapes, small blocks of different types, buttons, cylinders, rocks, shells, marbles), sorting boxes/cans/ trays, materials to string (beads, pasta of various sizes and colours) 
    • Environmental Understanding: outdoor green space and also bringing it indoors with nature collections (such as shells, rocks and seeds), bird feeders, and wind chimes
  • Spatial Relationships: Children need to develop visual perception and recognition of objects as well as an understanding of spatial relationships. Toys in a variety of colours and shapes, pictures/posters/artwork at eye level, toy storage at eye level
    • Children at all ages need activities and materials that encourage creative endeavours such as music, art, movement, imaginative play, storytelling and construction. 
  • Art Equipment and Supplies: It is important to have enough art supplies for several children to use at one time. Have markers, crayons, sidewalk chalk, paint, finger paint supplies, paint smocks, gluing supplies, scissors, and watercolours.
  • Music, Dance and Movement: Instruments and dance props help children develop rhythm and creativity.
    • All Ages: simple rhythm instruments (rattles, drums, cymbals, tambourines, wooden blocks), selection of music from various cultures and tool to play it on, scarves
  • Dramatic Play: Dramatic play provides materials that allow children to fantasize and practice role-playing.
    • All Ages: multi-ethnic dolls and accessories (both genders), play kitchen (dishes, pots and pans, play foods, food containers), puppets, small world figures (doll house, farms, airports), and capes
  • Books and Storytelling: Books should include stories and people from various cultures and races, people with disabilities, and should show men and women, boys and girls, in a variety of roles.
    • All Ages: books, flannel board, puppets

Ok, now you’re thinking about everything you need and want within your space. The question is how you are going to get it all working together? Whether you are just starting up or well established, a proven way to discover best usage of your space is by drawing up a floor plan.

Make moveable paper pieces that are close to scale of your floor plan for all the larger pieces of equipment you need in the space. Now you can move these paper pieces around until you get the flow you want to meet the expected needs of the children you will be providing care for, as well as, your family. This is a handy tool to keep as you will often find your space needs to change some as the child in care also change developmentally.