Each day we strive to keep families connected to their child's day. Whether it is using pen and paper or an app, we are all using something. We know that our families are what keeps us in business, without them we would not exist. So how do we build the trust and connection to keep them engaged with us daily on all the great things we provide to their children? Communication. How that is delivered is up to you.
I have used paper daily reports, emails, text messaging, and more recently an app. Paper and pen is time consuming and not very practical in this day and age. Spelling, grammar and accuracy are not easy to achieve when hand writing reports for 10-20 children a day. Plus who has time for all that, especially if you're a toddler teacher, lol. Text messaging is common but can leave that door open for families to message you or your staff when you are not in the center.. Emails are fine, but we all know how busy we can get and checking our email is not always possible. Apps are becoming more and more common, but how to choose the right one for you can seem like a daunting task. There are the apps that are independent and only do family engagement, and then there are the ones that are connected to your childcare management systems.
So what are some things to consider when shopping around for the right parent engagement app.
Ease of use. Lets face it, not everyone is as tech savvy as we want them to be. We want it as seamless and as ready to use as possible.
It supports what you are wanting to provide to your families. Pictures, videos, messaging. Is it easily accessible?
Cost. Startup cost, monthly fee, materials. What type of devices does the software support? If you are just starting with a parent engagement app, the cost of devices will be a big one. And don't forget the cases and screen protectors, after all there will be children around.
Getting started and training. What is the time commitment to get started? How much training is involved?
If you don't like it, what is the contract commitment. As much as you may love a product in a demo, actually getting the product and using it may be different.
With all the different options how is one to choose? Investing time in various demos and research is not always easy. Being able to see a product at your own time and pace is not always possible. When I was researching products I wanted to ensure that MY time was not wasted. My time is valuable and often times was stretched very, very thin. I was skeptical of an app because it was different. How would I manage all the devices and staff using it? Would my families be accepting of it? Would I be able to use it and then be able to feel confident enough to train my staff on it? All things that quite frankly made me want to keep the good ole paper daily sheet.
I have used 4 different apps, and only kept 1 of them. The 3 I didn't keep all had some really great features, but all lacked what I needed the most, which was ease of use and time. One of the products required a 4 hour training- 4 hours! Another one was a quick get you started and set up video to watch and sent you on your way. I had questions and that sent me down the rabbit hole of waiting on hold in a queue until they answered. And let's be frank- who has time for that? And lastly the 3rd app I did not keep, allowed for messaging that went to the tablets where the teachers could see them but lacked notifying myself and my admin team until I logged in on a desktop computer or my laptop. By the time I logged in, the messages had been viewed, and in a lot of cases had been archived out if the inbox, meaning I could not see them easily. That is a huge problem. Not all messages are meant for teachers to see or respond to.
If you are looking for an all in one easy to use management system and app, take a look at Child Care Seer and their parent engagement tool Family Connection. Families are connected to the center and their child's classroom with 1 app. Real time notifications, messaging and a complete daily journal to view at the end of their child's day. Not only can mom and dad have access to family connection, but other family members such as a grandmother or uncle can also be given permission to see what their little one is doing each day. Parents and family members can easily download pictures and videos to share with other family or especially in this day and age, social media. From a directors position, you can see what your teachers are sending out before it is even sent to the families. All messages, and anything added to the daily journal, are sent to a release queue before being sent out to the families. No more worrying about a message going out with spelling errors or one too many exclamation points, or the wrong picture being attached to the wrong child. I know for me, the ability to see what is going out and being able to pause or hold a message, is invaluable. We all have had those 1 or 2 messages that have made us cringe.
You can try Child Care Seer for free without ever needing to talk to anyone, wait on hold, or schedule a demo that you just don't have time for. It's like a test drive without the salesman pressure. At the end of the day, the choice is yours. You need to make sure that whichever family engagement tool you choose, it works for you and your school's needs.