Read The Manual! The importance of School and Parent Manuals in Childcare

It may come as a surprise to some parents that some Child Care centers, Camps, Preschools and Nursery schools have a Parent (or Family) Manual, often detailed, that is provided to all families upon enrollment. Most parents did not go to schools with family manuals when they were children, so the idea that families need to read and review a multi-page booklet to send their small children to daycare or preschool seems a little overboard. Who has time for that? Well, there is a lot of merit in having a parent manual, and a school with both a detailed parent and an employee manual is already better organized, professional and a cut above other schools.

What sorts of things do parent and employee manuals cover, and why bother to read them? There are many important items in a manual, from school rules, to payment policies, and safety measures. For instance, a good childcare center parent manual will include:

  • A rundown of the school’s emergency policies in event of fire, lockdown, or evacuation. Some schools may also have plans for power outages and road closures, snowstorms, hurricanes, and earthquakes. Meeting points may be listed there, so in the event the children have to leave the school, parents will know where the safe meeting place will be.
  • Safety policies such as communicable disease and illness rules, allergy policies, medication policies, and injury policies.
  • Simple rules such as dress codes, school supplies, and bringing toys from home
  • Lunchtime and snack rules about what can be packed in lunches from home. Many schools have rules about prepackaged food waste, treats, and juice.
  • A basic rundown of the classroom discipline method and what steps the school will take in the event a child is injured by another child.
  • Expectations for parent conduct and communications with other parents, and with staff.
  • Parking lot, pick up and drop off policies

Just as important as the Parent Manual is the Employee Manual. In addition to the items listed above, an Employee Manual will have additional information and rules regarding emergencies, discipline, mandatory reporting of suspected child abuse, and employee codes of conduct. Another important addition to the employee manual is a section on documenting incidents or accidents and conflict resolution between employees and parents. In the event that a parent is upset about something that happened in the classroom, clearly stated procedure on how to deal with conflict benefits both staff and the parents. In some cases, but not all, child care centers will provide their employee manual to parents.

When touring prospective schools for your child, do ask about both parent and employee manuals, and if possible to review them before enrolling. If a school has neither, that’s a red flag. It is important for everyone involved in the school’s network to be on the same page when it comes to the operations of a school and its personnel, and the expectations for parents.

For parents whose children are already enrolled at a center with a parent manual, find 20 minutes to peruse the manual as it should be informative, answer questions you may have had but not asked, and provide you a peace of mind. Knowing the contents of your school’s parent manual will also help to prevent confusion and embarrassment if a parent isn’t sure about what is OK to pack in lunchboxes, or if a child’s Lovey is allowed to come to school. Overall, the manuals serve an important purpose. It is the staff’s job to teach the children the rules and to reinforce them, not to teach the parents the rules that are outlined in the parent manual.

Prime Time Early Learning Centers prides itself on having a detailed and well organized parent manual that is updated on a regular basis. Due to different regulations in New York and New Jersey, the parent manuals for our two centers serving Middletown, Goshen, Farmingdale and Melville New York contain slightly different information than the parent manual for our New Jersey centers serving Paramus, Oradell, Ridgewood, Edgewater, Fort Lee, Hoboken and East Rutherford communities. Prime Time Early Learning also has a detailed employee manual, to train, guide and hold our staff accountable to our many professional performance standards.