What Do the Parents at Your Child Care Center Truly Want?


What Do the Parents at Your Child Care Center Truly Want?

Back when my 3-year-old was a toddler with new teeth, we were purchasing a whole lot of “training toothpaste.” (Lorelei was fond of cracking it open and sucking it down like a sports gel when we weren’t looking – fortunately, part of the “training” aspect of this product is fluoride-free and safe if swallowed, though I don’t know if her toothpaste shooters were quite what the manufacturers envisioned.)

One time, the store didn’t have the brand we normally bought, so I picked up a tube of Orajel, Berry Blast flavor. It wasn’t until I got home that I really looked at it.

It was a little strange. The tube featured a cartoon of a bear sitting next to a tray of cupcakes on a picnic blanket. He was wielding a paste-laden toothbrush in front of a small black-and-white cat. It was unclear whether the bear was about to brush his own teeth, or the cat’s, or if he was just extolling the virtues of Orajel Berry Blast generally. It was also unclear why the brush and paste were broken out before the cupcakes were consumed rather than after.

I was willing to overlook all that; cartoons are weird. What really got me was the small notation on the front of the tube: Training Toothpaste PLUS Breath Freshener.

Are there really a lot of parents out there lamenting their toddler’s morning mouth? Do these kids subsist on a diet of onion rings and Lucky Strikes? One of the best things about little kids is that, dirty diapers aside, they generally smell pretty good. They’re still so brand-new to the world; most of us have stuff that’s been kicking around the back of the fridge for longer.

My guess is that the good people at Orajel were trying to find some way to set themselves apart in the (hyper-competitive?) world of kids’ oral hygiene products. But, alas, a breath freshener was not really what I – the intended consumer – was looking for in a toddler training toothpaste.

What was I looking for? Well, in addition to the above-mentioned non-toxicity, a flip-top cap would have been great. The Orajel had a screw top that was both difficult to use when wrangling a squirmy toddler and prone to rolling under the sink.

Also, clear gel would have been preferable to green, as anything meant to be used on, by, or near a child of that age tends to get on everything in that child’s immediate vicinity – their clothes, your clothes, the family cat, you name it.

I never bought that particular toothpaste again. Instead, I took the time to hunt down the brand I originally bought – the clear gel that came in the tube with the flip-top cap.

While it’s important to set your child care center apart from the pack, you can never forget about the things that parents universally want in their child care: Reliability and trustworthiness. A positive, friendly, caring environment. Staff who genuinely enjoy working with young children and are skilled at it. Good communication at all levels. A center that’s clean and in good repair.

And don’t underestimate how important it is to parents to be looped in on their children’s day with you. What they did. What they ate. How (or whether!) they slept, and whether or not they were in good spirits. You can use daily report sheets for this kind of thing, but real-time e-updates are so much better – particularly when you can incorporate photos.

Given how much time Millennial parents spend on their computers and mobile devices, a system like Kinderloop that meets them where they already are (i.e., online) is the perfect solution – less parental guilt and less staff time spent on updates. It’s truly a win-win.  

Without sound fundamentals like these, you’re offering bear cupcakes and breath freshener to a crowd that just doesn’t care about those things.

Jennifer Carsen is a proud Superlooper and Chief Chickie at Daycare In Demand – she helps child care centers boost their enrollments and hire/retain the very best teachers.