Simplify Planning with Five Strategies

Establishing a child care business is quite the endeavor. Identifying the ideal space, purchasing materials, hiring staff, and enrolling families comprise the bulk of the work and require significant effort. Once everything is up and running, a question remains: How do I best support my teachers in caring for and teaching children every day? Maybe you’ve opted to purchase a curriculum like FunShine Express, or
maybe you’re writing your own. Curriculum choices aside, there are several simple strategies you can
use to simplify your overall planning time and allow teachers to do what they do best—connecting with
children and making a difference in their lives. You can start saving time by implementing these five strategies:

Strategy 1: Prepare the Environment

Think of the environment as a “third teacher.” This was the philosophy of Loris Malaguzzi, the early
childhood educator and founder of the Reggio Emilia approach. Malaguzzi proposed that next to the
parent and teacher, the classroom setup greatly influences the kinds of choices children make in how they learn, move, and play. Make planning simple by keeping the environment simple. Set up clearly marked areas in your learning space and have adequate storage. Support children in knowing where things belong, but do not place limits on how imaginative they are with materials or where they choose to play with them. It’s okay if the blocks become loaves of bread in dramatic play—these cross-domain connections are essential for children’s growth. What’s important is that children have enough space to play, learn, and create.

Strategy 2: Shop Around

Like any industry, early childhood has its go-to organizations and resources for supplies. Certainly, there are specialty, novelty, and must-have items that are sensible to purchase from an industry standard. However, searching for supplies in unexpected places and buying wholesale may turn up some good deals and save you time searching for discounts and items elsewhere. Consider purchasing art and snack supplies from places like Webstaurant (offers chalk, paper products, cups) and Qosmedix (applicators for painting, sponges, pipettes and funnels) to stock up without overspending.

Strategy 3: Repurpose Projects

When planning craft and art projects, think about their function beyond decorating walls and bulletin
boards. How might you use a craft or project to teach a math or science concept? How can a craft be
included in dramatic play? For example, FunShine Express often includes projects such as crowns,
puppets, and masks that can be incorporated into dramatic play. We also include patterns for
bookmaking that could be turned into storytime activities, and offer magnifying glasses to observe items for drawing. Sometimes the attitude is that we need to have more to make more. Get the most out of your materials by thinking about what you can make with what you have on hand and how you can use the resulting project in the future. Using what you have on hand in multiple ways is a huge timesaver (and money saver).

Strategy 4: Don’t Try to Fit it All In

Perhaps the biggest challenge for early child care providers is striking the balance between providing
care and teaching. The consequence is often feeling like you have a lot to fit into each day. The reality is that providing high-quality care means individualizing care. Children’s needs should take precedence over your curriculum. For example, a FunShine Express day could involve four to 10 different activities depending on whether you work with infants and toddlers or preschoolers. With any curriculum, the goal is to choose and do the activities that make sense for your group. Maybe you have a mixed-age group of 10 children in your setting and after accounting for care routines, you can fit in three activities each day. Whatever the number, it’s fine! Learning doesn’t have an expiration date. Don’t be overwhelmed by options—just know that you have them and keep the activities you don’t get to in your back pocket.

Strategy 5: Find Your Community

Most importantly, you can reduce planning time by strengthening your resources. Attend professional
development trainings and conferences, talk with other teachers and directors, and visit with your local
librarian. The more early childhood professionals you are in touch with, the more knowledge you’ll have. When it comes to planning, knowledge equals time saved because it’s one less thing you’re researching or searching for on the Internet. Encourage others in your setting to maximize their resources as well to improve efficiency across the board.

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