Every morning and every afternoon the great parent stampede occurs. In the morning, parents line up to sign in their children so they can rush off to work. In the afternoon, they line up to sign out their children so they can rush home to fix dinner.
Who is stressed? Everyone…parents, staff, and kids. Anything that can make the drop-off and pick-up process quicker and easier is welcome, indeed. It would be nice just to skip it, but you have such procedures for several reasons:
- Keeping children safe and secure
- Making parents feel at ease with their childcare option
- Tracking enrollment and attendance to help plan for activities, food, and supplies
- For licensing purposes
Below are some tips on streamlining the sign in and out procedures at your childcare facility.
Begin at the Beginning: Planning
Planning for a smooth process will get everyone off on the right foot. If you have not developed a procedure for signing kids in and out, now is the time. If you already have a procedure, consider observing it for a few days to determine if changes are needed at any stage.
Where to concentrate your planning:
- New enrollee processing
- Printing sign-in sheets ahead of time
- Placing sheets in alphabetical order
- Assigning responsibility for parts of the process
- Backup planning
Make sure new enrollees are added to the sign-in sheet before their first date of attendance. The parents will get into the habit of following the procedure from the beginning, and there will be no delay while a new sign-in sheet is created in the middle of the drop-off period.
Print sign-in sheets ahead of time. If you print out the sheets before the week begins, you can avoid delays caused by printer issues. Also, if you have a power outage you will already have the sheets ready. If you never leave printing to the last minute, you can ensure a little less stress in your life from an obstinate piece of technology.
Keep the sheets in alphabetical order. Help parents find their child’s sheet quickly by placing the sheets in alphabetical order in a heavy duty binder and separating the sections with alphabetical markers. To minimize the size of the binder, section the sheets into two or more small binders. Also, use heavy duty paper to mitigate tears and rips.
Assign responsibility for different parts of the process. Assign a staff member to take care of various steps in the process:
- Preparing sheets
- Checking sheets
- Reviewing records
Always have a backup plan. Know what you will do if one or more staff members call in sick, in the event of a power outage, and in cases where a classroom you typically use is unavailable.
Keep the Process Simple
The easier it is for parents to sign in and sign out, the happier everyone will be.
- Keep the sign-in sheets in the drop-off area with enough spacing to allow parents to flow through unhindered.
- Check the sheets at the end of each day for missing or incorrect information.
- Have each program within your organization or facility use the same procedure.
Missing signatures, incorrect times, and parents signing out the wrong child are typical problems you need to resolve to keep your records ready for audit. Accurate records are an important part of the licensing process.
If you review the sheets daily instead of weekly or monthly, you can catch errors early and address them the next business day. Using the same procedure across all classes will help parents with multiple children as well as staff keep the process straight.
Communicate and Educate
Teach parents the process for check-in and out as early as possible, preferably from the first day of attendance. Take the time to explain why these records are important, so parents don't think you are just picky.
- Names, dates, and times must be legible to keep accurate records for licensing
- You need to know when a child will be absent for planning and safety
- Staff need to be made aware when a child is dropped off and picked up
- Adherence to check-in and out time windows keeps everything running smoothly and without the disruption of people coming and going
Always make parents and staff aware of any changes to the procedure and ask parents to talk to you about any changes they wish to make to their child’s schedule.
Beyond making the process easy for parents and staff, think of ways you can eliminate the most common problems.
- Are parents putting the wrong time or date? Place a small digital clock and calendar next to the sign in sheets.
- Are parents signing on the wrong line and therefore, for the wrong child? Provide a separate sign-in sheet for each child instead of listing all children on one.
Anytime the same error is made during the process, take a look at that step to see if changes can be made to help avoid the issue.
Childcare Management Software vs. Paper
Many of the issues you face with paper sign-in sheets can be eliminated by using a software application customized for childcare management.
- Sign out sheets
- Incorrect timestamps
- Lack of signature
- Signing out the wrong child
The application automates the procedure and uses the data to calculate the hours attended for each child for billing plus overall attendance for budgeting purposes. Records are easily accessed for auditing and licensing. Parents will spend less time signing their kids in and out. Everybody wins.
When researching software, consider the following:
- Ease of set up and use
- Amount of time and number of records that can be stored
- Availability of electronic signature
- Customer support
- Time savings
Taming the check-in and check-out process helps maintain everyone's sanity. Parents appreciate simplicity in caring for their children, and your staff is less stressed when all children are accounted for.
When it comes time to renew your license, your stress levels will fall if you can provide easy access to accurate records. By planning ahead, creating a simple process, and keeping parents in the loop, the mornings and evenings at your center can be ones of joy and happiness instead of cranky misery.