What Do Parents Expect of the Day Care Worker?
As a day care worker, one of your most important jobs is building strong relationships with the parents of the children in your care. While every parent is unique, there are some common expectations that most parents have when entrusting their child to a day care provider. Understanding these expectations can help you be better prepared to meet the needs of the families you serve.
A Safe, Nurturing Environment
One of the first and foremost expectations parents have is that you will provide a safe and nurturing environment for their child. This means supervising the children properly, childproofing your facilities or home, and having safety practices in place for things like drop-off and pick-up, meals and snacks, naps, medicine administration, illnesses and injuries, emergencies, and more.
Parents want to know you will comfort their child when sad or hurt, praise them for their efforts and achievements, and facilitate positive social interactions. Showing genuine care and affection for each child is hugely important. No parent wants their child feeling neglected, belittled, or mistreated while in your care.
Open, Honest Communication
Most parents also expect open, direct communication from their child’s day care provider. They want to stay updated on how their child is adjusting to the new environment, any behavioral or developmental concerns you may notice, their child’s relationships with peers, and details about their daily activities and routines.
Many parents appreciate periodic photos or diary entries showing them “a day in the life” of their child while at your day care. Updates should be provided on a regular basis and not just when significant problems arise. Parents want to feel “in the loop” about their child’s experiences in your program.
Adherence to Policies and Procedures
Parents choosing to use day care put a great deal of trust in your services. Because of this, they expect you to be professional and consistently follow the policies, procedures, and care practices you outlined during their initial orientation to your program.
Things like your hours of operation, fees and payment schedule, vacation and sick day policies, safety protocols, etc. should be clearly defined and adhered to unless otherwise agreed upon with a parent. Making exceptions for some families while refusing to do so for others or frequently changing rules can damage relationships with the parents.
Respect for Parenting Decisions
While a day care worker cares for children for much of the day, parents are still the ultimate authority and decision makers when it comes to their children. Most parents do not want caregivers undermining or contradicting their parenting choices regarding things like manners, meals/snacks, toilet training, discipline, nap times, etc.
You may not always agree with a parent’s decisions or preferences for their child while in your care. However, voicing criticism or trying to impose your own childrearing values onto families is inappropriate. As much possible, try to align your policies and procedures with the expressed wants of parents.
Qualifications and Training
It probably goes without saying that parents want their children in the care of properly vetted, qualified, and trained professionals. At a minimum, having certifications in pediatric first aid/CPR, safe sleep practices and child abuse prevention displays critical competencies parents look for.
Ongoing participation in early childhood development courses, workshops and other training is also valued as it shows parents your commitment to continually enhancing your skillset. Maintaining these credentials and expanding your knowledge through regular professional development is key.
Warm Welcome for Parents and Children
Day care workers shouldn’t underestimate the importance of providing a warm, welcoming environment to both parents and children during drop-offs/pick-ups. Personal greetings, smiles, asking how their day is going…these simple efforts go a long way in making families feel comfortable and happy to be there.
Some children struggle with separation anxiety when saying goodbye to mom and dad. Having consistent transition rituals (like looking at a book together or waving through the window) helps ease both parents’ and children’s anxieties during these emotional moments.
Care and Concern for the Whole Family
Caring for young children also means caring for their families. Parents want to feel you have genuine concern for the wellbeing of everyone in their household, not just the children enrolled in your program.
Occasionally asking parents how they are coping with work stresses, financial challenges, illnesses or blended family dynamics shows support beyond the professional caregiver-client relationship. You may be limited in what direct help you can offer, but showing empathy and compassion for each family’s unique circumstances builds trust.
While meeting all of these expectations is certainly a tall order, doing so is essential for parents to feel at peace with having you care for their precious children day after day. By keeping these common hopes and desires in mind and prioritizing responsive, individualized care for each child and family, you will be on the right path to excelling as a day care professional. Parents and children will be glad to have you as part of their lives!
Facilitating Smooth Drop-Offs and Pick-Ups
Saying goodbye to mom or dad and separating from parents – even if only for a few hours – can be very difficult for some children. As a day care worker, how you handle these transitions both when children are dropped off to your care and later picked up again are extremely important. Your goal is to facilitate exchanges that are as smooth and stress-free as possible for the children, parents and yourself.
Preparing Children in Advance
Children often benefit enormously when caregivers proactively acknowledge and normalize feelings of apprehension, anxiety or sadness about separating from parents:
“I know it’s hard to say bye-bye to mommy and daddy sometimes. And that’s okay. Lots of children feel sad or nervous when their parents drop them off. I used to feel the same way when I was little too! But we’re going to have lots of fun playing here together. And your mom and dad will be back at the end of the day to pick you up before you know it.”
Giving reassuring words and a warm, understanding tone helps children manage difficult emotions. You might also ask parents to bring a comfort item like a special stuffed animal or blanket to ease their child’s distress.
Establishing little goodbye rituals can be hugely comforting as well. Maybe you read a book together while waiting for the parent to arrive, then blow kisses at the window as they drive away. Or the child gets to place mom’s keys in a special basket after hugging her goodbye. Often these little traditions, when done consistently, become joyful.
Children know just what to expect and even look forward to “their special job” as part of saying farewell. Having consistent rituals and routines in general tends to provide children a great sense reassurance and stability.
Distraction and Re-Direction
Once the parents have left, quickly shifting focus away from the departure is wise. Inviting the recently-dropped off child to join an activity already in progress with peers is often an effective distraction technique. Or consider saying, “Your mom said you just learned a new song. Will you teach it to me?”
Appealing to their sense of empowerment and capability is usually a winning re-direction method. Just be sure the activities presented match developmental abilities to set children up for successful engagement rather than frustration.
Prepare Parents Too
It is equally important, if not more so, to prepare parents ahead of time for potential separation anxiety experiences. Let them know crying, clinging or acting out of fear/anger is developmentally normal and expected at times. Help them process their own anxieties about leaving their child.
Empathizing and normalizing parents’ worries over separation while also expressing confidence in your ability to calmly re-direct their child soon after is often the right balance to strike. This helps minimize parental guilt while signaling trust in you.
At pick-up time, be ready to give parents thoughtful updates about their child’s day and behavior while in your care. Share funny anecdotes, developmental milestones you observed, any concerns needing follow-up, etc. Giving parents a warm, smiling farewell with their child shows what a positive, bonding experience the day has been for everyone. This leaves families happy and at ease about returning another day.
Making diligent efforts to facilitate smooth, stress-free drop-offs and pick-ups lays solid emotional groundwork for children to then fully engage in all the stimulation, nurturing care and fun the rest of the day with you has to offer! The whole experience is elevated for little ones when transitions into and out of parent care are thoughtfully handled.
Promoting Healthy Physical Development
Promoting healthy physical development in infants and young children is a responsibility day care workers take very seriously. We play a pivotal role through the environment we create and activities we plan in gently nurturing each child’s growth, coordination, mobility, balance and expanding physical capabilities.
Common parenting expectations around facilitating their children’s emerging fine and gross motor functioning include:
Safe play spaces
Parents trust providers to ensure play areas both indoors and outdoors have developmentally-appropriate toys and materials accessible. All safety hazards like stairs or furniture edges are either removed or gated. Surfaces should allow freedom to practice crawling, pulling up, rolling over, etc. without injury.
For infants, most doctors recommend showing parents how you safely incorporate “tummy time” into their child’s day. This builds arm, neck and shoulder strength essential to preparations for crawling/walking. Even short, supervised sessions prevent flat spots on baby’s still-soft skull too.
As they near walking age, standing while supporting weight on your fingers or “walking” while held under the arms are great skills builders parents appreciate you doing. Just be sure to always support baby’s head until neck muscles strengthen.
For mobile toddlers and preschoolers, active play is vital. Have balls, push/pull toys, riding toys, swings, etc. as well as outdoor time for running freely without space constraints. Develop both fine motor control (stacking blocks, holding crayons) and gross motor abilities.
Narrate your own movements during care routines, like “Clara is waving bye bye!” while waving their arm. Also modeling crawling, stepping, kicking or rolling a ball back and forth inspires children to mimic activities developing new muscle groups.
Day after day, the combined effect of safe spaces, assisted practice and independent movement facilitates infants’ and young children’s emerging physical competencies. Keeping parents apprised of milestones met reassures them of the healthy foundation you help build.
Encouraging Positive Behavior
Among day care workers’ many responsibilities in caring for young children is encouraging positive social behaviors as they interact with both peers and adults. Parents rightfully have high expectations when it comes to supporting their child’s emotional intelligence and conduct.
Here are some key ways providers can facilitate optimal social-emotional development:
Model Desired Behavior
Children learn primarily through observation and imitation. How providers speak and act directly informs children’s own conduct. Using kind language, employing patience, apologizing for mistakes…these good habits rub off on little ones! Also openly narrate demonstrations of empathy, inclusion or compromise you hope children mirror.
Toddlers and preschoolers exerting independence often behave best when given some autonomy over their activities. Infusing their day with simple choices like “Would you like to play with the red ball or blue ball?” respects their preferences and still accomplishes the caregiving goal at hand.
Use Positive Reinforcement
When children cooperate well, share toys, use gentle hands, or comfort a sad friend, be quick to provide enthusiastic praise immediately afterwards. Things like high fives, claps and “Great job listening!” reinforce helpful behaviors. This motivates repetition.
Inevitably, conflict over toys or unkind words will arise. Having a calm, warm presence while re-directing misbehavior avoids escalation. “It looks like that made Aiden sad when you grabbed his toy. What could you do instead next time?” gives children a chance to self-correct.
Acknowledging children’s feelings, even during less ideal behaviors, before addressing consequences respects their emotions before correcting actions. “I know you really want to keep playing. Clean up time can be frustrating, I understand. Let’s put the blocks away quickly so we can go have lunch.”
Raising socially and emotionally intelligent children is no easy task. But research shows nurturing these fundamental skills from a very young age pays dividends throughout their entire lives with better academic performance, career success and personal relationships. It is well worth the concerted cultivation efforts of parents and providers alike.
Fostering Early Learning and Development
In addition to physical care, safety and positive behavioral support, facilitating learning and development is central to quality day care. The early years, especially ages 0-5, are a period of incredible growth for young minds.
Parents choose day care not only for reliable supervision while they work but also the hope you will nurture their children’s blossoming capabilities. Specific expectations may include:
Exposure to frequent adult speech and rich vocabulary builds communication abilities even for infants not yet talking themselves. Narrate your days, name objects, read books, sing songs and value children’s early verbalization efforts through active listening.
Engaging infants and young children in games, activities and materials that stimulate emerging intellectual competence is hugely worthwhile. Sorting shapes, making sensory bins, simple puzzles together build cognitive foundations.
Use everyday routines like meals, clean up and outdoors play to introduce early learning concepts. Comparing amounts, counting pieces, identifying colors/animals, noticing weather conditions, incorporating sensory textures…find ways to gently infuse basic concepts.
While formal schooling comes later, piquing children’s natural curiosity with letters, numbers, science concepts (magnets, textures, buoyancy), and open-ended questions supports later academic success. Read-alouds also grow early literacy. Meet them at their developmental level.
Support Goals Parents Prioritize
Ask each family if they have particular social, emotional, physical or cognitive developmental priorities for their child right now. Custom-tailor your facilitation efforts to target skill-building in those goal areas to supplement whatever you provide universally.
Day care workers enjoy the unique privilege and responsibility of nurturing infants and youngsters during profoundly formative years. Our attentive devotion to stimulating their growth across developmental domains helps both secure life-long gains for these children and grant much-needed peace of mind for their parents.