Entries by Danielle Kitson

How software can help keep your early years’ service safe

Safety compliance is consistently an important priority for child care providers, but it is vital during this time. Many early years professionals across the country are seeking to discover ways to keep themselves, their staff, and children safe, stay open and continue providing quality care. During this time, you may feel a little anxious or stressed about how you are going to achieve this.

Software is playing a very important role throughout serval industries during this time, including the education industry. Yes, technology can be viewed as a scary thing, for most people it is the fear of the unknown and this can be overwhelming. However, educational software is a very easy and an accessible way to reduce some of your daily anxieties and keep everyone in your service that much safer.

From digitizing different daily tasks to digital sign ins, educational software can assist you, your staff and your parents receive a little more control over several things.

Childcare is an important part of a child’s life, it is your service and staff that will play a key role in a child’s life, by helping with their emotional, social and physical development. You deserve the best resources to help you care for your children who are growing up in a very odd time.

Taking this all into account, let us take a look at how we, at Child Paths can help you by providing you with the user friendly and best tools you need to keep everyone safe in your service.

Contactless forms

During COVID-19 everyone is trying their best to encourage and use contactless methods and resources as much as possible. Afterall, it is a strange and scary time we are living in. Our Form builder feature will allow you to offer your staff and parents the ability to digitally sign forms online, avoiding the sharing of pens, papers or even tablets. This will help to eliminate person to person contact.

Invoices and schemes

COVID-19 has affected services in many ways and has put pressure early years’ services bottom line due being closed, opened again and then opened only for frontline worker’s children. Creating invoices, applying schemes, and chasing payments can be tricky and time consuming. For this  reason, we have created our new Invoice and scheme feature, which will automate all of this, saving you time. Watch our Video below to learn more.

Being safe day to day

As you are aware, children are grouped into small groups (sometimes called bubbles/play pods) that are separated to reduce contact. Our Staff Rota, Staff Sign in and Rooms features, will give you a very easy overview of your team to child ratios in each of your rooms and your staff’s schedules for the upcoming weeks. This will allow you quickly see and be sure that you’re keeping to the guideline of staff to child ratio, while having to spend less time working out who can work when.

Open and clear communication

We have all experienced a time when we needed to quickly communicate changing regulations, updated, closures and even COVID-19 cases. Without software this can be very difficult and can be time consuming, not to mention trying to ensure that you contact everyone at the same time clearly. Our Conversations feature will allow you to communicate everything in one place to parents or your staff/both. You can share videos, audio files, PDF’s and more. This will reduce your stress and avoid you experiencing the chaos of trying to search through your email inbox, scribbled emergency contacts (that are very hard to read) or trying to create a large WhatsApp or Facebook group that not everyone will wish to join. There is always the possibility you will forget or leave someone out.  Software can help you avoid all of this.  

Digital transformation

Digital technologies in early years service is becoming more and more common. The rapid evolution of digital technology is helping to offer new and exciting opportunities, enhance efficiencies, promote collaboration and reduce your costs.

As the early years industry becomes more competitive, digital transformation can be viewed as a necessary. Therefore, not only will software enhance safety in your service, it will also give you a competitive edge.

Our team are here to help you with your digital transformation, overcome any barriers you may feel insecure about and support you by helping you every step of the way. We will spend time training you and you staff on how to use our software and features to ensure safety in your service.

Things only parents with toddlers will understand

Becoming a parent is life changing. It brings about new experiences, challenges and skills.

Being a parent with toddlers/a toddler is interesting, amazing, fulfilling, funny and tough, all at the same time. 

Here is a list of things our team have experienced and put together as parents. We think every parent can relate to the below in some way, shape or form. 

 

  1. You can’t take your eyes off them for a second.
  2. You need to lock all the presses because they think they are Christopher Columbus or Dora the explorer.
  3. You can’t eat your own food without having to share it with them.
  4. You will never stay clean for more than 20 minutes.
  5. You spend your whole day picking stuff up and they spend their hole day throwing things down.
  6. They always sleep with their feet in your face.
  7. If they have a bad night, they just sleep the next day, but you can’t.
  8. They will try to eat with every part of their face, expect their mouth.
  9. Needing to go to the toilet when your baby is asleep on you.
  10. You will never stay clean for more than 20 minutes.
  11. The toy aisle in the supermarket is the most dangerous place in the world.
  12. Silence is never a good sign when your kids are awake.
  13. Bedtime is a battle and they always want another story.
  14. You have to watch what you say around time, they can hang you out to dry.
  15. The words “again” and “why” are your worst nightmare.

Tips for dealing with stress

Everyone experiences being stressed; it is a normal part of your life.

Its normal to feel stress or anxious during COVID-19 as it has had a major impact on all our lives. You may be facing various challenges during this time that can make you feel stressed, overwhelmed, anxious or uncertain.

Different things can make different people stressed, this might include a new baby, your toddler having a tantrum, not having control over your environment, or feeling isolated/lonely due to obeying government restrictions. Stress can affect you emotionally, mentally, and physically. You may feel overwhelmed, irritable your heart racing, your breathing can get faster, you may feel your muscles tensing up or exhausted, you may find it difficult to concentrate or make decisions, you can experience constant worrying or that you are snapping at people for no reason.

Symptoms of stress that you might be experiencing can include

  • Headaches

  • Lack of motivation

  • Feeling tired/burned out

  • Not sleeping

  • Not being able to concentrate

  • Feeling sad, uncertain, nervous

Our tips to help you manage your stress

Identify stress triggers

Before you can reduce your stress, you need to see what is triggering it. This can include screaming kids, bill being due or a stack of paperwork growing on your desk. Its undeniable these are all stressed situations. Sometimes it may be hard to determine what is causing your stress, in this case, write down anytime you are feeling anxious or most overwhelmed into a notebook. This might help you identify a pattern and then you will be able to find ways to eliminate or lessen the triggers.

Look after your body

Try to eat healthy, exercise regularly (any type of exercise is good to relieve stress and will help you sleep better), if you are out walking leave your phone at home, get plenty of sleep. If you are finding it hard to fell asleep at night, here are some tips to improve your sleep health. Be consistent, try to go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning (including on the weekends), do not use your mobile phone or watch tv instead read a book before bed and make your room dark, relaxing, and comfortable.

Make time for yourself

Make some time during the day to do things/activities you enjoy and are interested in. Write down a list for the week and tick it off as you do the activities. This can include little things such as reading, watching your favourite movie/series, having a bath, baking or having a cuppa while listening to music/a podcast.

Mediate to reduce your stress

Meditation can provide you with a sense of calm, peace, and balance. Sit somewhere in your house that is quiet, we know that this can be difficult when you have kids at home, but perhaps when they go to bed you can find some time. Close your eyes, relax, and concentrate on your breathing. If you mind wonders and something pops into your head, acknowledge it, and then allow it to leave your mind and try to draw your attention back to your breathing. If you find it hard to concentrate, there are many meditation apps available. You may find it easier to put in your earphones and listen to a person’s voice/sounds. Some of our favourites are Insight timer, Headspace, Fiton, Breathe and Calm.

Get stuff off your chest

It can be helpful to have a chat with someone if you are finding it hard to cope with your stress. Reach out to your partner, friend, family member or colleague with a phone call, video call or message. Taking the time to share how you feel and listen/support others will go a long way. Our favourite communicate platforms are Zoom, Google hangouts, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger, all of which you can chose to have a voice or video call. It can be nice to plan a weekly call with your friends and have something to look forward to. 

Control your workload

Working from home while trying to home school your children or keeping your baby/toddler entrained, can be both stressful and hard. If work is making you feel stressed, try to avoid long hours and extra responsibilities, you are allowed to say the word “no” and this may be something you need to learn how to do. Its okay to explain that cannot take something on or to ask for help when you need it. Do not be afraid to ask your colleague to help you.

The HSE is offering free online stress control classes. These classes will cover different topics related to stress. Click here for more information.

Tips to keep your team motivated and connected during COVID-19

It is no surprise that a lot of us are feeling tested, stressed and stretched, while services have been closed and opened along with waiting on updates. The current situation has taken an emotional toll on practitioners, with serval feeling overwhelmed, tired, and anxious.

So how can you as a leader continue to motivate your staff?

 

Stay calm and positive

Due to the uncertainty now, your staff may be on edge and feeling a range of emotions. As their leader, you will help your team by being the voice of reason and calm. Try to stay positive and show empathy, respect and understanding towards your team. This will help your team to be calm and focus on their work.

Two way communication

Touch base with your staff regularly and ensure that you listen to how they are getting on, their concerns/worried or any queries/questions they may have. Each member of your staff is different reach out and see what way is best to communicate with them. Do not be afraid to about communicating with your staff too often. Communicate any news, updates, wins, helpful tips or just some friendly words of encouragement. People will take comfort knowing your there and working hard to check in on them.

Show empathy

Your staff are navigating through personal and professional challenges brought on by COVID-19. Understanding how your staff emotions/how they feel is a key skill in the workplace. It can allow you to resolve any issues, build a more productive team and improve relationships between you, them, and each other. Showing empathy to your staff can take many different shapes and forms.

Be patient: Be aware that each member of your staff is working in a different work environment and facing different challenges.

Trust your staff: Trust that your staff are completing their daily work tasks even if they are working from home.

Watch for signs of burnout/overwork/stress in your staff: Workout burnout is a common problem and can be enhanced during these strange times. Many people are very stressed and putting themselves under a lot of pressure, working more hours than before and finding it hard to separate their work and home life. Check in with your team and ask them how are they getting on with work and at home. Ask them do they need any help.

Watch your tone: When communicating electronically with your team be conscious of your tone.

Set boundaries

One of the hardest challenges when working from home or during COVID-19 is remaining focused and motivated. Boundaries can be important in continuing the momentum.

Set limits for work: Speak to your team and create clear start and end times for the working day and encourage your staff to take breaks to avoid burnout.

Create a schedule: Set clear goals for the day and timelines. Check in with your team to see how they are getting on.

Recognition

Praise their good work, give them positive feedback, and recognize their hard work, even if its something small. A simple “you thank” or “well done” will go a long way. Look for opportunities to celebrate your staffs work, ask everyone to share good news stories. Plan a weekly, biweekly, or monthly video call to create a sense of teamwork and a positive environment.

4 reasons why your service should go digital

Is your service currently offline? Are you considering moving your operations online to keep up with the current environment? Not sure how software can help you and your staff? Does the thought of technology seem overwhelming? Are you concerned that software will be hard to learn or rollout?

Technology is your friend when it comes to overseeing all of the tasks involved in running your childcare service. Change can be hard, but this decision comes with many benefits for you and your staff. We are here to help, support and guide you thought this change.

Here are our top benefits of implementing a childcare software for your service.

Improve productivity and reduce costs

Daily you and your staff are spending a large amount of time collecting signatures, recording tasks, filling out daily reports, logging incident reports and printing bills and receipts. We know your list goes on and on. Your day is a juggling act between staying on top of paperwork and providing childcare. There is no need to feel overwhelmed by the amount of ring binders, clipboards and filing cabinets you are using anymore. Our software will allow you to save hours on time-consuming duties, store everything digitally, be inspection ready and reduce your stationery and printing costs. Everything will be easily accessible in one place, simplifying the routine tasks of your service and allowing your staff to spend more time with the children.

Promote parental involvement

Parent involvement assists to extend teaching outside of your service. It creates a positive experience for children, and it can help children perform better when they are at your service. It is important for parents to support the learning that occurs in early years settings in their home as well. Parents who are aware of what is happening in their child’s service can create a connection between what their child learns at in their creche or preschool and what takes place in their home. This link is an important part of their child’s development and supporting their further learning. Some of your parents may drop their child off at your service, then your staff member takes over for the day, leaving parents wondering what their little one is up to for the day. If you communicate and engage with parents, you can build a stronger teacher- family partnership. Our software will give you the tools you need to communicate with parents in real-time, keeping them informed about their child’s day, learnings, and development. Quickly send parents messages, photos, and videos to their mobile or device, creating a sense of involvement for parents.

Child development and progress

Monitoring and tracking a child’s development milestones is essential to determine if a child’s development is on track. You will gain more detailed insights into both children’s development and progress. Our Milestones feature was built in collaborating with doctors, psychologists and speech therapists from the Adult and Child Therapy Centre to record the milestones a child should be reaching based on their age. If a child is not meeting 50% of their milestones, an action plan will automatically be created to track goals and objectives to work on with the child. 3 months later you will receive a notification to reassess the child. Our observation tools will allow you to record observations on each child in your service whilst linking in with your national framework of Aistear and Siolta or EYFS. These tools will allow you to examine patterns in child behaviour and progress in a manner that would be difficult in the form of a daily printed sheet.

Stand out from your competition by going digital

Each day you are faced with making many decisions about your service, and one of those decisions may be how to stand out from your competition. What opportunity can you use to add value to your parents and children? Our software can move your service into the 21st century by going digital, giving you a competitive edge, operate more professionally and we will be here to help you every step of the way.

How to enhance contactless relationships with parents

There is a special bond between you and parents: Together you are co-teaching the most important people in their lives and working towards the same goal: helping their child learn, development and grow. 

During the new normal, it may be harder for you to connect and make contactless relationships with parents.

Below are ways that help you enhance your relationship with parents while following restrictions.

Drop off and pick up

If it is possible, try to be present during drop off and pick-up times. Seeing an owner or supervisor with a friendly wave and a “Hi, how are you?” will put in some needed face time and show that is it important to you to see parents in any way you can-from a safe distance, of course!

Send a weekly newsletter

You may already be doing this, but if not, now is a good time to start sending regular communications to families. This can be sent through our conversation feature on our app. 

When parents are not experiencing any face time with their preschool provider, don’t worry about over communicating or if you don’t have anything “newsworthy” to share. By sending something to your parents, will help them feel connected and offering excellent care for their children is still your top priority.
Here are some of our ideas of what you can share with parents if you are experiencing some writers block;
• A meet the staff series, where you can share fun facts about each of your staff members.
• Easy recipes for parents to try at home that children loved while being in your care.
• Fun activities to try at home to keep children entertained.

Send a message "just because"

An informal message through you’re the Child Paths app will go a long way towards making parents feel like they still have that 1 to 1 relationship with you even though they can’t see you in person. This can be something simple such as “I found this recipe that that I think Kevin will really like” or “I think Emma will love these arts and crafts activities”. This will delight parents by showing them that their children and them are still the top of your mind.

Send photos and videos

Encourage your staff to take lots of photos and videos throughout the day to share with parents. It is true a picture is worth a thousand words. This will help parents feel connected while they are at work and can avoid the feeling of missing out.

Activity lists

Many parents are now spending time at home and one of the biggest questions during COVID-19 has been how to fill up their child’s day. You can easily solve this problem for them by sending parents a list of activities that will help with their child’s learning and development, along with a supply lists for activities containing fun things for families to do together at home. Encourage parents to share photos.

Tips for dealing with children crying at morning drop off

Are mornings in your house a little bit manic? You are not alone! Each morning busy parents across the country work against the clock, to get children dressed, fed and ready for school.  A simple missing shoe, soother or a sock not feeling right, can easily turn a whole morning routine on its ear. Then, add in tv cartoons or a mobile phone tug of wars and what you thought was going to be a peaceful morning, suddenly became a morning full of madness.

Next, its drop off time, arrive the tears, crying and clinging. We have all experienced that moment when you look at your child and their face is as red as a tomato and tears are running down their face.

A heart wrenching moment for all parents is often dropping their little one at creche each morning. Hearing their cries can be stressful and over whelming. We are here to help with our top drop off tips.

Avoid the morning rush

We all know the benefits for your child of having a bedtime routine. We recommend having a morning routine in place for drop off. This will make mornings more relaxed, fun and easier to prepare your child for school.

On your way to creche talk to your child about the things they might do and the people they will see. Even if your child is not old enough to talk back to you, they will start to understand that the same routine is taking place each morning. Be upbeat and confident. Your child can pick up on your moods. If you project happy confidence during drop off time, it could make your child feel better about staying in their school.

Keep your drop off quick

We know its tempting to stay around in the hope that your child will stop crying. However, your child is much more likely to become upset when you leave, if you linger around for too long.

Instead give those last goodbye kisses and hugs,  say “see you soon” and that you will be back later to collect them. Then leave.  If you don’t feel like you can leave completely, go to your car and wait for your creche to send you a message to say that your child has settled. When you drop off and collect your child from childcare, you should keep physical distance from other parents and staff and between children in different ‘play pods’.

Communicate with your
childcare provider after drop off

As a parent, you may find drop off harder than your child. Seeing your child upset can be heartbreaking. 

If you are concerned about your child, don’t be afraid to express this concern to your childcare provider. Openly communicate with them about how you are feeling and ask any questions you may have, for example;

-how long was your child crying for?

-is there anything that helped transition from me to your to the school? this could have been perhaps a toy or an activity. 

-what are the names of my child’s friend/who are they attached to?

-Is there anything that can make the situation easier that you have noticed?

Ask them do they have any recommendations or advice about morning drop offs. 

Give it some time

Your child needs time to adapt to their creche environment, it’s a big adjustment and can seem scary for your child.  Stay positive and be confident that your child will separate easily.

Our top 5 Christmas activities that will foster teamwork and individual growth

During the Winter holidays, especially if its cold outside, its easy for your children to become restless. Playing and participating in festive games and activities with your family is a magical way to bring everyone together, make memories and bond this Christmas. Here’s our list of festive games and activities that will keep your children entertained while enhancing a number of their skills and development.

Santa says

Santa says, a take on the classic game Simon says is a fun way to practice improving your child’s body awareness (seeing demonstrated movement and replicating that action), while incorporating other motor skills such as balance e.g. Santa says stand on one foot. Encouraging some Christmas dancing can help your child, build their muscles, bones and physical skills. Don’t forget to include things that Santa would do such as sliding down the chimney.

Baking Christmas cakes

Baking and decorating Christmas cakes to eat or share with others. Getting your kids into the kitchen is a win-win for everyone, they get to learn and you get to teach in a fun way, while spending quality time with them.

Baking can help your child;

  • Build basic skills. You can enhance your child’s basic maths skills by getting them count eggs or using a measuring cup. Ask them what comes after one, two etc. when spooning your dough in cake cases.
  • Try new foods. Baking can help picky eaters become more open to new tastes. When your child plays “baker” they may sample foods that they wouldn’t try if you just served them to them. Encourage your child to taste different ingredients such as raisins.
  • Improve/develop bilateral coordination. Baking presents your child with lots of opportunities to use both of their hands together in a coordinated way such as rolling dough or sifting flour. 
  • Improve Eye-hand coordination. Baking allows your child to improve and develop their eye-hand coordination skills. Let your child (or help your child) carry out tasks like pouring ingredients into bowls, jugs, cups, spooning cake mix into cake tins or squeezing icing onto the top of cakes.
  • Improve their language skills. Being shown/hearing new words from recipes and food labels can help improve your child’s reading skills and learn the meaning of unfamiliar words. 

Child Paths Christmas baking

Finger painting

There are so may benefits of finger painting for your child. Yes, it is a messy activity but finger painting exposes your child to a unique sensory world including sight, touch and sound. It can help with your child’s intellectual development. The mixing of different colours teaches your child about their colours and how to make new ones. It creates the opportunity for your child to use their imagination and be creative. It can improve their social skills by teaching them how to share paints, taking turns and working together. Using coloured paper cut out Christmas shapes such as Christmas trees or print out Christmas themed images for your child to paint.

Christmas activities

A Christmas scavenger hunt

A Christmas scavenger hunt is an easy, adaptable and fun way to interact with your child and help them to start making discoveries, practice problem solving and teach teamwork in addition to promoting social interaction. Create written and visual Christmas themed clues and place them around your house. Try to make them visible so your little ones can easily find them, hide your clues in places such as beside your tree, on your kitchen table, in their shoes, stuck to your front door or in their toy back. Your children will be excited to find their prize. 

Children and Christmas tree

What's in the bag?

Young children are curious and love a mystery. A Christmas themed what’s in the bag is a simple and fun guessing game to encourage your child’s thinking skills, appeal to their senses and teach them new words. The goal is for your child to guess what items are in the bags without looking, they can use their sense of touch, smell and hearing to help them find out what item is in the bag. 

Things you will need;

  • Items to put into the bags. We recommend gathering a handful of Christmas themed items from around your house such as a Santa hat, a pine cone, a bauble, a bell.
  • Bags to put your items in. We recommend using the same kind of bags so your children can’t see what’s inside. For younger children we would suggest showing them the items and discussing what each item is called before placing them into the bag.

Christmas bags