Business development

How to choose the best childcare management software for you

There’s plenty of options out there. Here’s how to select the best one for your center.
How to choose the best childcare management software your center
February 16, 2024
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In a rush? Here’s the quick run-down.

  • Picking the best childcare management software for your center is not an easy decision, but it’s a critical one. 
  • In this article, we’ll go through questions you should ask yourself when comparing softwares, and the key features you should look for.
  • There are multiple parts to a successful childcare business, and the software should have features that support you in all of them: business and administration, finances, child development, and family engagement.
  • The best childcare management software for you is one that promotes more effective management, and will support your way of working, rather than forcing you to adapt to it. I’ll show you what I mean.

So, you’ve finally decided that you would like to implement a childcare management software at your center, but you are not sure which one to get. With a growing demand for these software solutions, there are a lot of options out there to pick from and it’s crucial to be selective, and to only switch to a new one after careful consideration. 

So, you’re probably asking, how do I choose the best one for my center? I’m here to give you some questions you should be asking, and some specific features you should be looking for when doing software comparisons and making your final selection. 

Simply, the best childcare management software for your center is one that will make every aspect of your business more efficient: administrative tasks, finances, family engagement, reporting and child development. 

Let me explain how a childcare management software (like Famly) and its features could do that just for you - yes one platform can do all of that! 

No more using multiple softwares or digital tools and keeping track of various passwords!

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The big ideas

What to look for when doing a childcare software comparison

In early childhood education, everyday is busy with a laundry list of to-dos, parents and staff trying to get in touch with various requests and questions, and usually something unpredictable occurs and needs your immediate attention. 

Basically, you’ve got a lot going on, and each day can feel chaotic, stressful and exhausting. You're juggling countless responsibilities and there never feels like enough hours in your day.

When comparing softwares to find the best one for you and your center, you should evaluate the softwares in various areas. I’ll break it down into 5:

  1. Time management
  2. Boost revenue
  3. Safety and security
  4. Child development
  5. Family engagement

Childcare software features that help manage your time

The best childcare software is one that doesn’t cut corners, but instead, supports you in doing all the things you need to do in a more seamless and time-efficient way. 

When comparing softwares, these are some questions to ask. 

This may look like a lot of questions, but it’s because there are so many possible ways for a childcare software to help save you hours! 

  • Will this make managing staff schedules take up less of my time?
  • Can I clearly see every staff member’s hours, in order to minimize overtime?
  • Is it easy to see staff’s time-off requests?
  • Is it easy to manage all types of staff - full-time, part-time, substitutes, floaters, etc? 
  • When a staff member calls in sick last minute, can I quickly fill that shift and edit the staff schedule?
  • Is it also a staff scheduling software that is accessible and efficient for the staff?
  • Will this software help ensure that every classroom is in ratio?
  • Can I easily communicate with each staff member at any time?
  • Can I easily communicate with family members at any time?
  • Can I easily communicate with one person in a private way, and also send messages to multiple people and post announcements for the community?
  • Do I feel more knowledgeable and in control of logistics, general whereabouts of the children, and the general day-to-day?
  • Does it generate reports that I need?
  • Does it generate reports in a way that is easy to understand, so that I can make smarter business decisions and improve the quality of care at my center?
  • Does it help reduce the number of softwares and digital tools and platforms that I need to maintain and update?
  • Does it help me meet requirements and be compliant with regulations and policies?
  • Will learning this platform take too much time and add more stress?
  • Will my staff see the benefit of the software, and feel it is also helping them with their daily responsibilities?
  • Does the software offer 1-to-1 support and training?

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When comparing softwares, look for the following features

1. Staff scheduling features

Many childcare centers have various types of staff: full-time, part-time, substitutes, floaters, etc. That’s a lot to manage for anyone. In ECE it is even more critical to be on top of staff scheduling since you are legally required to follow a specific staff-child ratio.

Some specific features to look for: 

  • Plan schedules weeks in advance and make sure you are always in ratio. 
  • Automatic notifications when a classroom is out of ratio.
  • Staff can request time-off, which you can then review and approve - all through the digital platform.
  • Digitally track staff hours - their actual hours compared to the hours in their contract, so you can reduce overtime.
  • Export staff hours directly for payroll.
  • A view for staff to see their individual shifts, and an overview of all shifts.
  • Easily switch shifts and add substitutes in just a few clicks.

2. Staff and family communication features

Logistics are a big part of your day with little ones - who is picking up, what time, is someone out sick, do the families know that school is closed next week, do we have enough diapers, do we have the most recent immunizations, are the nails on the playset loose…The list goes on.

Staying on top of all these logistics requires multiple adults and carers to be on the same page. Rather than trying to track down each other, you should look for a childcare software that makes communication accessible and efficient.

Some specific features to look for: 

3. Automated reports

Within childcare, there are a lot of requirements and policies to follow. This means there is a lot more tracking and recording on your part so that you can show that you are compliant.

Some specific features to look for: 

  • Attendance is logged and tracked in the software so that you can easily see and export how many hours each child and staff member have been at the center
  • Staff reports that clearly show their hours at childcare compared to their contracted hours, their time-off requests and amount of paid-time off available
  • Financial reports to help with budgeting and revenue forecasting (but more on this below!)

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4. Seamless integrations 

Some of those policies mentioned above require you to share reports and data through other softwares. 

You should look for a childcare management software that seamlessly integrates to those programs, so again, everything you need to do is all in one platform, all in one place, all with one password. 

Some specific features to look for: 

  • Does your state require attendance records for children receiving subsidies? Many of those state governments are using digital tools to track that (ex. KinderConnect). When comparing softwares, look for one that can export that data automatically for you. 
  • As mentioned above, staff hours and attendance are also tracked digitally. Many childcare softwares can do that, but the best softwares can also export those hours directly to payroll for you

5. Easy onboarding

A majority of directors or staff who are hesitant to go digital is usually because they are overwhelmed by the amount of time it will take to learn a new software - especially for those staff who don’t consider themselves very tech-savvy. 

Some specific features to look for: 

  • Look for a clear, modern, user-friendly software that feels more intuitive.
    For instance, some softwares may have similar components to Instagram or Facebook, which will be easier for your staff to learn if they are already familiar with those channels. 
  • Look for a software that offers onboarding tutorials for the entire team, and also, consistent support whenever you, your team or even just one staff member needs it. A director has enough to worry about, so teaching staff how to use a software should not solely fall on the director!

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Childcare software features that help you boost revenue

At the end of the day, your childcare center is a business, and in order to be successful, you need to generate revenue. The best childcare software will help make managing finances so much easier, and help you boost your revenue.

When comparing softwares, these are some questions to ask. 

  • Does it help me track attendance and occupancy?
  • Does it help me reach full occupancy all the time, and thus maximize revenue?
  • Are the financial reports easy to understand, and helpful in making realistic budgets, and more accurately revenue forecasts?
  • Does the software support the payment plans that we use? 
  • Will the software make sending bills and invoices less time consuming?
  • Will it encourage families to pay on time?
  • Will parents and carers find it helpful and easy to use?
  • Can I add additions and ad-hoc sessions?
  • Will families be billed for those add-ons, or do I have to still do it manually?

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Early Childhood Platform - Famly Home

When comparing softwares, look for the following features

1. Digital attendance and occupancy management features

The majority of a childcare’s revenue comes from tuition fees, and therefore it is critical that your center is always at maximum occupancy. 

Some specific features to look for: 

  • Digital sign-in so that your attendance is stored and tracked, which enables accurate, auto-generated attendance and occupancy reports.
  • Clear overview of attendance patterns and projected attendance and occupancy.
  • Occupancy reports that show you where you have openings and room to admit more children.
  • Easily recognize part-time and full-time attendance, so you can add ad-hoc sessions easily.
  • Digital waitlists, so as soon as a spot opens up, you know exactly who is next on the list to admit.

2. Automated financial reports

No matter how much you may not like numbers and data, it is essential in order to make accurate, realistic budgets and revenue forecasts. 

Some specific features to look for: 

  • Historical data storage to generate reports that will help you understand your revenue and spending patterns over time.
  • Reports that are easy to understand, so you can feel in control of your finances, and can make data-informed revenue forecasts and budget plans.

3. Billing and invoicing features to increase on-time payment

To stay in budget as planned, it is important that families pay their bills on time. We all know those parents who constantly forget to drop off the check, or who is impossible to track down when their credit card on file expires. 

Some specific features to look for: 

4. Automated management of ad-hoc sessions & additions

Plans change, and a parent may need their child to come to daycare an extra day this week, or an extra half-day next week, which also means they need to pay for an extra meal that was not in the original plan. 

Instead of adding this on a random sticky note so that you remember to manually bill the family for the add-ons, look for a software that does this for you.

Some specific features to look for: 

  • Allow you to add this ad-hoc sessions and additions digitally with just a few clicks
  • When bills and invoices are sent, you can be certain that all additions will be included and families will be charged the correct amount

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Childcare software features that help you improve your safety and security

It goes without saying how important safety and security is at your childcare center. 

When comparing softwares, these are some questions to ask. 

  • Will I be able to clearly see who comes and goes from the center?
  • Will it minimize the chance of a stranger entering the center?
  • Even though all information is in one place, can I keep confidential information private?
  • Can I control what staff and families can access?
  • Do I feel confident that staff will have access to the same information, so that anyone who needs to know can see if a child has any allergies or any other relevant health concerns?

When comparing softwares, look for the following features

1. Secure sign-in and sign-out

Some specific features to look for: 

  • Digital sign-in with a passcode or QR code scan with a geo-location tag. This tracks who signs in and out - both children and staff. With a special passcode and QR code, you will be certain that only those who have access will enter the center.

2. Permissions and customizable roles 

Some specific features to look for: 

  • Ability to assign specific roles and permissions to each staff member and families, so that they can only access what you want them to. 

3. Unique child profiles

Some specific features to look for: 

  • Individual child profiles enable easy access to any critical information at any time
  • For example, photos with every contact that is allowed to pick up and drop off children 
  • Also, any relevant health, allergy, and immunization information. 
  • Or, any other notes or comments that should be easily accessible for any adult involved in the child’s care.
  • Profiles that are easily accessible at any time, so even a substitute can check if any of the children have allergies or special information.

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Childcare software features that help support children’s development

Streamlining all of your tasks is definitely a priority when selecting the best childcare software for your center. However, we know that most of you did not get into early childhood education because of the laundry list of to-dos every day. 

The children and their development and learning journey should always be a top priority, so when you are comparing softwares, you should look for one that understands how important early childhood development really is, and has features that assist teachers with development and help improve the quality of care.

When comparing softwares, these are some questions to ask. 

  • Does the software help staff offer higher quality of care?
  • Is the software easy to use, so that teachers are still spending the majority of the time interacting and engaging with the children?

When comparing softwares, look for the following features

Some specific features to look for: 

  • Daily activity logs, so you can easily keep track of nap times, meals, and diaper changes. Look for a feature that offers a user-friendly way to do this, so you still spend the majority of the time doing what you do best - being with the children.
  • Also, daily activity logs that can also be seen by the child’s parents and carers. This way you won’t have to spend time at pick-up speaking and updating every single parent or carer.
  • Ability for parents to share observations in the app. What happens at home can impact a child’s behavior at childcare, and teachers should be updated with any specific changes - for example, grandparents visited for the weekend and just left, or a new sibling is on its way. Just like pick-up, drop-off can also be chaotic, and parents may be in a rush to get to their job. This way, they can just easily send a message, or share it in their child’s profile via the app.
  • Activity and pedagogical resources, so that you can always be inspired with new lesson plans and activities in all the development areas.
  • Observations that - just like the activity logs - are user-friendly and accessible, so you don’t waste too much time writing about the children, and spend more time interacting and engaging with them

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Childcare software features that help improve your family engagement

Effective and consistent communication and collaboration between parents and staff is essential. And this is easier said than done. 

Which parent prefers to be emailed or called? Is this parent coming to pick-up today? Which guardian should I call first? Let’s remove all of those questions, and just make communication between ECE staff and families easy. 

When comparing softwares, these are some questions to ask. 

  • Does it make parent-teacher communication and famly involvement more accessible, open and direct?
  • Will it encourage more open, consistent communication between staff and families?
  • Will families feel more confident and comfortable in the quality of care their children are receiving?
  • Does it foster a stronger sense of community?
  • Will parents, carers and families find it easy-to-use, and believe it enhances the overall childcare experience?

When comparing softwares, look for the following features

Some specific features to look for: 

  • Newsfeed or digital bulletin board, so you can post updates and announcements for the whole community to see. Rather than informing each family one at a time, or hoping that everyone reads your emails and newsletters, you can be certain that families will know where to look whenever they need to get an update.
  • Direct and group messaging: send private messages to one parent, or direct group messages to multiple families at once. 
  • Newsfeed and messaging where you can see who has read the comment, post or message. Now you won’t be surprised if Lucy’s dad didn’t know about the bake sale because you know he didn’t see the announcement you posted.
  • Direct messages between teachers and parents. Directors have enough going on and don’t necessarily need to know that Mrs. Daniels asked Lucy’s dad to bring more diapers in tomorrow. This also builds stronger partnership between carers and their child’s teachers
  • Parent-parent messaging: Let parents make plans for their children outside of the center, or coordinate carpool arrangement.
  • Calendar and event RSVPs, so every family can see upcoming events and holidays all in one place. Also, you can track how many people are planning on attending each event, which will help you budget and plan accordingly.
download pdf
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Official Danish Government Reopening Advice

Guidance from the Danish Health Ministry, translated in full to English.

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UK Nursery Covid-19 Response Group Recommendations

The full recommendations from a working group of over 70 nursery chains in the UK.

Please note: here at Famly we love sharing creative activities for you to try with the children at your setting, but you know them best. Take the time to consider adaptions you might need to make so these activities are accessible and developmentally appropriate for the children you work with. Just as you ordinarily would, conduct risk assessments for your children and your setting before undertaking new activities, and ensure you and your staff are following your own health and safety guidelines.

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