There’s no greater feeling than helping to teach and guide children, and help parents have time to do what they need to do to provide for their household. But starting out can be daunting, especially if you’re unsure of what you’ll need to know to land your first child care job. Here’s a guide to get you started.
Before You Begin
Know Why You Want To Work In Child Care
It’s important to know why you want to get into this field, not just for you but also for parents. Whether it’s because you love children or because you want to make a difference in the world by helping amazing kids become amazing adults, keeping that focus can help you get through the rough days when you may be tired. It can also make parents feel more comfortable knowing that their child is in the hands of someone who is in it for more than just the money.
Know What You Want and Don’t Want
From babysitter, to nanny, to house manager, there are a lot of jobs you can have in someone’s home. Child care is obviously about physically taking care of children, but can also require things related to caring for the children. This includes but isn’t limited to: washing and putting away kid’s laundry, washing dishes that the kids use, cleaning up after them, potty training, keeping parents informed on the day to day growth/issues that arose, keeping track of supplies and letting parents know when things are getting low or need to be upgraded. Decide what kind of work you’re interested in and willing to do and allow that to guide you in your search.
While You’re Looking For Work
Understand What the Family Needs
Every family will have different desires and needs. Once you find out their needs, you can better gauge if this is the right family for you. Know the ages of the children they’ll need you to care for and what caring for that age group entails (diapering, nap training, bottle feeding, meal prep, learning activities, walks, outside time, etc.), if they want meal prep for the whole family, family dishes washed, driving requirements, family laundry, homework help, etc. It’s best to be clear on what they need and compare it to what you are willing/able to do.
Bring Confidence To Your Interview
Even if you’ve never had a child care job before, you can leave a great first impression on parents if you’re confident in the things that you DO know. Talk about fun things that you like to do or teach kids. Love to garden? Talk to parents about the parts of gardening that you can teach their kids (planting seeds, laying soil, watering, etc.). Is reading more your speed? Parents love to know their child will be read to and all of the benefits that daily reading can instill in their child. Talking about what you enjoy and what you have to share can not only get parents excited about the new things their child will learn with you, but it also makes you memorable and naturally increases your confidence during an interview. Psychologically, confidence is boosted when the topic is something the person enjoys.
Have Thoughtful References
If you’re just starting out or switching career fields, you won’t have references of previous families that you’ve worked for. That’s okay! You can replace child care experience with other work experience references. Choose people who know you personally and can tell parents all about your good qualities (reliability, honesty, openness, dependability, caring nature, etc.). Going forward, every family can be a potential future reference!
Make Sure You and the Parents Have the Same Expectations
Having a contract can help clarify what you need and what you don’t want and eliminate the possibility of you or your nanny family feeling taken advantage of. When everything is spelled out upfront, you can also more easily decide if a family is right for you. Your contract can cover things like pay rate, schedule including holidays, and sick days, travel, and illness of the children.
After You’ve Been Hired
Have A Daily Schedule
Map out a schedule based on age that includes meal time, nap time, learning time, music and movement, reading, etc. Schedules make the day go by much faster and create a structure that children thrive in. It makes them feel more confident when they know what’s coming next and can help get them mentally ready for when they start school and will have a set schedule every day. Be sure to revisit your schedule often and make sure that it grows and changes with the child’s age.
Connect With Other Child Care Professionals
Networking is essential to sustainability in child care. Having the support of others who have the same struggles and goals can help you not feel alone. Join a few groups of professional nannies and teachers, listen to others experiences/advice, and ask lots of questions! Having a network can help with job leads, troubleshooting, and general information from others who have been in child care for years.
Consider taking child development courses and/or researching different learning techniques (Waldorf, Montessori, etc.) so that you’re always knowledgeable in your field. New ideas and methods are generated all the time, so if you find one that you feel aligned with, polish it! Helping to raise children is always a growing and changing career.
The joy of nurturing little minds and hearts can bring a whole new view of the world to a child care provider. You’ll be growing right along with the little ones that you support and making a difference in many lives every single day!