Welcome to the exciting journey of starting an infant program in Texas! Whether you’re expanding your school or opening one for the first time, this step-by-step guide will help you easily navigate the process. Starting an infant program is a rewarding venture, and with the right guidance, you’ll be on your way to creating a space where young minds can thrive.

Whether you are opening your first program or expanding into infant care, we’re here to help!  If you are opening your program for the first time, our post about starting a childcare program is a must.

I’ve been in your shoes. I started a registered family home, RFH, for infants when I was 21.  I later opened a center caring for children 0-5 and eventually had four centers caring for children 0-12.  If there is something to mess up in childcare, there is a decent chance I’ve done it.  Learn from my mistakes and successes.

Setting up an infant program is one of my favorite things to do.  All of my centers offered infant care, despite the fact that it is the most expensive type of care to provide for healthy children.

Save money where you can in the equipping the room, so that you can focus on hiring and training the best staff available.  I framed in rooms, installed windows, did sheet-rocking (not well), built furniture and trolled any type of sale I could find.  Let me save you a bit of work…

-TLDR- We discussed this topic on ChildCare Conversations with Kate and Carrie Episode 187

Overview

Step 1: Review to Licensing Standards

Before you dive in, please be sure to familiarize yourself with the licensing minimum standards. This step ensures you meet all the necessary requirements, such as having a handwashing sink, a fire exit, and the required square footage per child (If you are in a home based program the square footage requirement is waved). We’ll provide insights into deciphering these standards and understanding their implications for your setup.

The first thing I want to point out is that according to licensing all children under 18 months are “infants.”  I personally don’t think of children walking around as infants, but as toddlers.  In this article we are talking about rooms for any children under 18 months old.

All of the infant specific regulations can be found 746.2401 for center-based programs or 747.2301 for home based care.

Step 2: Research

Don’t forget the crucial step of researching your competition and setting competitive prices.  Before launching your infant program in Texas, a thorough market analysis is essential for understanding the local landscape and positioning your program effectively. This process involves gathering and interpreting information to make informed decisions about your childcare venture.

1. Identify Your Target Market:

Define your target market by considering factors such as age groups, demographics, and socio-economic backgrounds. Understanding the specific needs and preferences of your potential clientele will guide your program’s design and service offerings.

Two examples are families with multiples (twins, triplets, etc.) for six hours a day or offering infant care to college students you will set the program up differently.  The college students will need care on a Monday/Wednesday and Tuesday/Thursday schedule.  The family with multiples may not be able to afford full-time care, but a part-time program will allow the parents to continue working.

2. Analyze Local Demographics:

Examine the demographics of the area where your infant program will be located. Consider population density, income levels, and the number of families with infants. This information will help you tailor your program to meet the unique needs of your community.

Will you need to have a contract with your local Workforce board to provide subsidized care for the lower income failies in your area?   Can the families afford to pay $2,000 per month for infant care?

3. Research Competitors:

Identify and analyze other childcare providers in your area, especially those offering infant programs. Look into their services, pricing, reputation, and overall market positioning. This analysis will help you identify gaps in the market and opportunities for differentiation.

4. Seek Parent Feedback:Talking to infant parents

Engage with parents in the community to gather insights into their preferences and expectations for infant care. Conduct surveys or host focus groups to understand what factors are most important to them when choosing a childcare provider. This direct feedback is invaluable in tailoring your program to meet the needs of your target audience.

5. Leverage Online Resources:

Explore online platforms, forums, and social media groups where parents discuss childcare options. Analyze reviews of existing childcare providers to understand both positive aspects and areas where parents feel there is room for improvement. Online resources provide real-time insights into the community’s sentiments.  They are a goldmine of information!

6. Collaborate with Local Agencies:

Connect with local childcare agencies, parenting organizations, and community centers. These entities often have valuable information about the needs of families in the area. Building relationships with these organizations can also help with referrals and community engagement.

8. Pricing Strategies:

Consider various pricing strategies based on your analysis. Evaluate the average rates charged by competitors, taking into account the services and facilities they offer. Your pricing should not only cover costs but also reflect the value and quality of care you provide, setting you apart as a preferred choice in the market.

9. Differentiation and Value Proposition:

Identify unique aspects of your infant program that set it apart from competitors. This could be specialized curriculum features, experienced staff, or innovative facilities. Clearly articulate your program’s value proposition to attract parents seeking high-quality, distinctive childcare options.

Conducting thorough market analysis is a crucial step in laying the foundation for a successful infant program in Texas. By understanding your target market, analyzing competitors, and aligning your pricing and services with community needs, you’ll position your program strategically for long-term success.

Setting the right prices is not only about covering costs but also about providing value that sets you apart from others in your area.

 

Step 3: Make Necessary Space Changes

Adapting the space is key. Learn how to add essential elements like a handwashing sink or a door to meet licensing standards. In case a sink isn’t feasible right away, we’ll explore portable sink options to maintain hygiene standards. The goal is to create an environment that not only meets regulatory requirements but also prioritizes the well-being and safety of the children in your care.

Regardless of your setting you need to have a way to take all the infants outside everyday.  This means you need a door.  The door needs to be large enough that you can use it for evacuation…it should be at least 36 inches wide.  This will allow you wheel a crib through it.  You can technically use a window, but that isn’t really practical.  Your local fire marshal may require an exterior door to be in the infant room.  YMMMV.

Each area with children who are in diapers must have a handwashing sink.  This typically means that you need to have plumbing.  If you are adding plumbing you need to pull permits from your town or county & get inspections.  Don’t try to have your sister’s ex-boyfriend do it for you on the cheap.  This can cost you your license.

If plumbing isn’t in the card right now, you can use a portable sink like they use in food demonstrations in grocery stores.

portable handwashing sink

This model is available on Amazon

You can buy one or make one.  The one hang up is that the handwashing sink for the diaper-change area needs to have both hot & cold water.

The other thing to keep in mind is that in center-based programs you need 30 square feet per infant of usable activity space (746.4201).  That means that large fixed pieces of equipment like a changing table, base cabinets, and counters will be subtracted from the total square footage in the room.

If your space allows you to care for 6 infants, and you do all your planning based on that number you will need to have 2 caregivers in that room all day.  If your tuition can support that, you are good to go.  If not reduce the number of “infants” you are caring for in that room to 3, 4, or 5 depending on the age of the children.

Once you have the boring part handled, you want to think about wall color, where your cubbies will go, and floor covering.   Because I want to preserve as much floor space as possible for the infants and for safety, wall mounted cubbies work best in infant classes.  We don’t want curious hands to get into diaper bags.  Safety first.

10 wall mounted cubbies for the infant room

You may want two sets of these cubbies, one for over your diaper changing area for diapers, a change of clothes and and needed ointments & one by door that parents come in most often for the diaper bags, backpacks, or jackets.

Now I will freely confess that I made my cubbies.  I love an opportunity to use power tools, and cubbies are an excellent place to use my carpentry skills.  Feel free to explore your inner Bob Villa, if you have the time, tools & talent.  There are plans available all over the web for units like this.

Having most of the floor carpeted and an area for eating tiled is the go-to flooring solution for this eage group.  Who am I kidding?  This a good plan for amy room.  The only difference is that in the infant room you want installed carpet instead of area rugs.  This keeps infants from getting stuck & is easier on knees that are trying to crawl across the room.

Now add the little things.  You’ll need at least 1 bulletin board.  I suggest 3: 1 for parent information, 1 for the children’s art & pictures, & a third at the the children’s eye level with pictures of their classmates & families.  The last one will need to be laminated or covered with plexiglass.

Step 3: Purchase Supplies & Equipment

The heart of your classroom lies in the supplies and equipment. From cribs and refrigerators to toys and highchairs, this section covers it all. We’ll emphasize cost-effectiveness and durability, guiding you to make informed decisions. Discover the must-haves for a well-equipped infant program and explore options that balance quality with affordability.

Large Equipment

  • Cribs
  • 1 Evacuation crib for every 4 children
  • Comfortable adult chair for feeding
  • Changing station
  • Hand washing sink
  • Bottle sink (optional)
  • Highchairs or feeding table
  • Bouncy seats (optional)
  • Swing (optional)
  • Floor cushions
  • Low shelves for toy display/access
  • Cubbies for diaper bags, etc.
  • High shelves for storage (diapers, cleaning supplies, etc.)
  • Carseat storage (optional)
  • Soft climbing structure (optional)
  • Baby safe mirrors
  • Cots or mats
  • Easel (optional but strongly encouraged)
  • Dramatic Play Furniture
  • At least 1 toddler-sized table with chairs

Smaller EquipmentInfants playing with toys in classroom

    • Safe objects from the adult world (pots,
    • pans, large wooden or plastic spoons, ladles)
    • Teething toys & rattles (wooden or plastic)
    • Small, cloth or vinyl grasping toys
    • Squeeze toys
    • Nesting cups
    • Containers to fill and dump (juice lids with smooth edges, baskets, big and little boxes with lids)
    • Simple stacking
    • Large pop beads
    • Cause-and-effect toys with sounds or other responses when buttons are pushed
    • Musical toys
    • Scarves & fabric scraps (too large to be a choking hazard)
    • Small push toys
    • Soft balls (variety of sizes and textures, such as beach balls, clutch balls, balls with
    • holes, rubber, cloth)
    • Activity centers for young infants
    • Indoor/outdoor pad, mat or blanket
    • Low platforms/ramps (vinyl-covered foam)
    • Sturdy things to pull up on (low, carpeted bench, rails)
    • Containers
    • Large soft blocks (cloth or vinyl-covered foam)
    • Light-weight wood or plastic blocks, five centimeters (two inches) or more of various sizes, shapes, colors
    • Large cardboard blocks
    • Light-weight unit blocks in different shapes and sizes (triangles, squares, rectangles, arches)
    • Small age-appropriate toy vehicles (trucks, cars, boats, airplanes)
    • Small age-appropriate toy people (various ethnic groups, ages, abilities)
    • Small age-appropriate toy animals (nonfrightening zoo, farm, domestic)
    • With close supervision, natural objects and smaller materials can be stored and used with young children. Larger materials, such as shells, can be left out and accessible
    • Picture books of animals, plants, birds, fish
    • Posters of real animals, people plants
    • Photos of real animals, plants
    • Mobiles of realistic birds and butterflies. Etc.
    • Soft dolls & soft toy animals
    • Safe hanging things to bat at or grasp
    • Display area for showcasing work
    • Art materials, including chalk, paint, paintbrushes, paper & crayons
    • Large cardboard boxes, milk crates, thick planks or structures to climb into, out of and around
    • Wheeled riding & pushing toys

Step 4: Notify Licensing of Change of Use

Before you can change the use of the space, you must notify licensing.  They may have to come out & remeasure the space, or they may be able to refer to their records.  In either case, you must have their approval before you can care for infants in a new space.

Keep everything above board by notifying licensing of the changes you’ve made. Compliance is crucial for the success of your infant program. Make sure you do this in writing via email so that you have a record of the communication.  If you & you licensor talk on the phone or in person, follow up with an email confirming what was said.  Clear commubnication is key.

Step 5: Staff the Room   

Well-trained staff is the backbone of any successful infant/toddler program. Learn about onboarding and training procedures to ensure your team is equipped to provide top-notch care.  Creating a supportive and knowledgeable staff culture is key, as this directly impacts the quality of care your infants receive.

The success of any infant/toddler program hinges on the dedication and expertise of its staff. In Step 5, we emphasize the significance of well-trained professionals and the creation of a supportive staff culture.

Onboarding Procedures:

Launching a successful infant program begins with a robust onboarding process. Ensure that new staff members are introduced to the philosophy, goals, and values of your program. Familiarize them with the specific needs and routines of infants and toddlers, emphasizing the importance of individualized care.

Effective onboarding is a month’s long procedure.  You may start with the 8 hours of mandatory pre-service for caregivers new to working professionally with young children.  Then you need to have an orientation where you go over the procedures at your center.  Where are the bandaids kept?  How do you ask for a day off?

Once those two elements are handled you continue the onboarding process by touching base on an ongoing basis and continuing to give them additional training.  The training should be in small bites as often as possible.  Teach her about how to use a nail brush to get the dirt form under muddy nails after a muddy day on the playground.  Next time go over process versus product art in the infant class.  You can use youtube videos, articles, chats, and visuals to communicate different topics.

Part of the onboarding process is connecting the new team members to the existing team.  Let them know about an upcoming special event.  For instance I love Talk Like a Pirate Day.  If you celebrate tell them ahead of time and suggest they chat with your resident pirate for costume ideas.

Training Protocols:

Invest in comprehensive training programs that cover key aspects of infant and toddler development, health, safety, and responsive caregiving. Equip your staff with the knowledge and skills needed to navigate the unique challenges of caring for young children. Regular training sessions and workshops can keep your team abreast of the latest research and best practices.

We offer some training tools for your staff.  Another great source of childcare training is Agrilife.  My favorite Agrilife training for new infant caregivers is All About Infants.

Supportive Staff Culture:

The atmosphere within your infant/toddler program greatly influences the quality of care provided. Foster a culture of support and collaboration among your staff. Encourage open communication, shared insights, and a sense of teamwork. A positive work environment not only enhances job satisfaction but also contributes to a nurturing atmosphere for the children.

Your infant care team has to work very closely together.  The children can’t share information, so it is up to your caregiving team.  Help them to communicate clearly and positively.  You may need to trouble shoot some social conflict in the begining, but if you model it & insist that they communicate maturely, they will.

Individualized Care Training:

Recognize that each infant is unique, and tailor your training to emphasize the importance of individualized care. Educate your staff on recognizing and responding to the specific needs and cues of each child. This personalized approach builds trust between caregivers and infants, laying the foundation for healthy development.

Health and Safety Protocols:

Prioritize health and safety training to create a secure environment for infants and toddlers. Ensure that staff members are well-versed in emergency procedures, sanitation practices, and any specific health requirements outlined by licensing authorities. Regular drills and updates keep the team prepared for various scenarios.

Continuous Professional Development:

Promote a culture of continuous learning within your staff. Encourage them to pursue further education, attend relevant conferences, and engage in professional development opportunities. This commitment to ongoing growth not only benefits individual staff members but also elevates the overall quality of your infant program.

In addition to online training & those you offer there are trainings around the state that you can go to or send yoiur staff to without you.

Effective Communication Strategies:

Establish clear lines of communication within your team. Regular team meetings, check-ins, and feedback sessions contribute to a cohesive and well-informed staff. Encourage caregivers to share observations, insights, and successes, fostering a collaborative approach to child care.

Mentorship Programs:

Implement mentorship programs where experienced staff members guide and support newer team members. This hands-on approach enhances the transfer of knowledge and provides a structured avenue for professional growth. It also helps create a sense of camaraderie among staff.

Staffing the room is more than just filling positions; it’s about building a team dedicated to the well-being and development of the infants and toddlers in your care. By prioritizing onboarding, training, and cultivating a supportive staff culture, you create an environment where your team is not only equipped to provide top-notch care but is also passionate about contributing to the growth and happiness of the children they serve.

Step 6: Enroll     

With everything in place, it’s time to welcome little ones into your nurturing environment. This section provides insights into effective enrollment strategies. From marketing your program to building relationships with parents, we’ll guide you through the process of attracting and retaining families. Creating a welcoming atmosphere is key to a successful enrollment period.

Creating a Warm and Inviting Atmosphere

With the groundwork laid and the physical space ready, it’s time to invite families to become part of your nurturing infant/toddler program. Step 6 focuses on implementing effective enrollment strategies that not only attract families but also build lasting relationships.

Crafting a Compelling Marketing Strategy:

Develop a comprehensive marketing plan that highlights the unique features and benefits of your infant program. Utilize both online and offline channels to reach your target audience. Leverage social media platforms, create an engaging website, and distribute informative brochures within the local community. Emphasize the personalized care, qualified staff, and stimulating environment your program provides.

Open Houses and Information Sessions:

Host open houses or information sessions to provide prospective families with a firsthand look at your infant/toddler program. This allows parents to tour the facility, meet the staff, and gain a deeper understanding of your program’s philosophy and daily routines. Create a welcoming atmosphere during these events to make families feel comfortable and excited about your program.

Online Presence and Reviews:

Maintain a strong online presence, ensuring that your website is user-friendly, informative, and reflects the warmth of your program. Encourage satisfied parents to leave positive reviews on platforms such as Google, Yelp, or social media. Positive testimonials can significantly influence the decision-making process for prospective families.

Collaborate with Local Businesses:

Build partnerships with local businesses, such as maternity stores, pediatrician offices, or community centers. Display your program’s information in these locations or consider joint promotional events. This helps you tap into local networks and increases visibility within the community.

Parent Engagement Activities:

Host parent engagement activities, such as workshops, playdates, or themed events. These occasions provide opportunities for parents to connect with each other and become familiar with the caring environment you’ve created. Building a sense of community contributes to positive word-of-mouth referrals.

Responsive Communication:

Implement a responsive communication strategy that promptly addresses inquiries and concerns. Clear communication builds trust and showcases your commitment to providing a supportive environment for families. Offer multiple communication channels, such as email, phone, and in-person meetings, to accommodate diverse preferences.

Tailored Enrollment Packages:

Design enrollment packages that cater to the specific needs of families. Consider flexible scheduling options, transparent fee structures, and any additional services that might enhance the overall experience for both parents and children. Tailoring packages demonstrates your program’s commitment to meeting individualized family needs.

Follow-Up and Feedback:

After the initial contact, follow up with prospective families to answer any remaining questions and express continued interest in welcoming them into your program. Seek feedback from those who visited but did not enroll, using their insights to enhance your enrollment process and address any concerns.

Personalized Welcome:

Once families decide to enroll, create a personalized welcome experience. Introduce them to the staff, share important information about daily routines, and provide resources that ease their transition into your program. A warm and personalized welcome sets the foundation for a positive and lasting relationship.

 

Starting an infant program and enrolling families in your infant/toddler program is not just about filling spaces; it’s about inviting them into a community built on care and support. By implementing effective marketing strategies, hosting engaging events, and prioritizing responsive communication, you create an environment where families feel valued and eager to be part of the nurturing experience you offer.

Step 7: Profit

Discover how your dedication and thoughtful planning translate into a successful and profitable infant program. We’ll explore strategies for managing finances, setting appropriate fees, and ensuring your business thrives. Building a sustainable model is not just about revenue but also about creating a lasting impact on the lives of the children you serve.

Things To Remember: 

  • Outdoor Play for Muscle Development: Highlight the importance of ample playtime outside of cribs and baby seats for healthy muscle development. Explore ways to incorporate outdoor activities into your curriculum, fostering a love for movement and exploration.
  • Multiple-Use Items: Focus on the practicality of multiple-use items like low shelves that serve both as toy storage and support for those early walking attempts. Look for versatile furniture that maximizes space and functionality, catering to the dynamic needs of infants and toddlers.
  • Well-Trained Staff & Curriculum: Stress the complexity of infant/toddler care, underscoring the need for well-trained staff and a thoughtfully designed curriculum. Focus on training programs, ongoing professional development, and the importance of a curriculum that promotes holistic development.

 

Embarking on the adventure of starting an infant program in Texas requires meticulous planning and dedication. By following these steps and emphasizing key points, you’ll create a nurturing space that benefits both children and your business. Remember, it’s not just about meeting standards; it’s about exceeding them to provide an exceptional environment for the little ones who will shape the future.

 

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