Tales of a Child Care Provider: Paper Record Keeping

Since I posted the previous “Tales of a Child Care Provider” entry, I’ve gotten numerous emails asking for tips and suggestions for all sorts of organization issues. The first one I’ve decided to weigh in on is paper record keeping. 

Licensed providers (both home based and centers) need to keep paper records required by the state you are licensed in. There is no way around it and if you do not have your records straight, it could lead to big trouble down the line. 

I’m licensed in Connecticut, so our requirements of what we need to have paperwork wise may be slightly different than your state or country but the basic principles of how to organize them should be the same. I refer to inspections in my post and when I do so, I’m referring to an inspection of a licensed family day care home in Connecticut. 

The first thing I made sure to do in order to keep my paperwork neat was a file box specifically to daycare records. Nothing else is in that box. Not a spare piece of paper with your old grocery list on it, no tax records, nothing. Why nothing additional? Well, if you keep your records in a large file cabinet in your office and you have other miscellaneous items mixed in, licensing has the authority to view anything in your cabinet, including personal documents that have nothing to do with your license. My recommendation is to always keep your records seperate. I have a portable filebox that I can carry to a table for the yearly inspections that the CT Office of Early Childhood is now doing. What is nice about having a portable box system is that if it’s organized how I suggest, you can leave your auditor to look through the box and you are free to continue your regular scheduled programming with your children. 

So you’ve got a seperate file box, great! You’ll also need hanging file folders, file folders to fit inside them, and of course, labels and a marker. Let’s get those crazy papers organized. 

First, I’m going to talk about “Family Folders”. I create a “Family Folder” anytime a new family enrolls in my care. Each family folder is a hanging file folder has the families last name written on one of those plastic labels. Create one for every current family that uses your care. 

Inside the hanging “Family Folder” is a regular folder for each child in that family. On the folders tab, I write the child’s last then first names (Example: Smith, Susan) and on the front of the folder I write their birth date and starting date of care. I also write when their medical form was signed (because in CT we need a new medical form yearly for children that are not yet school age) . 

Connecticut seems to require that providers hold onto a hefty amount of paperwork from each enrolled child. I’m not sure how we compare to other states but in each child’s folder I have the following:

  • Ct Medical Form
  • Ct Enrollment Form
  • Salt Meadow Academy Contract
  • CT Incident Log
  • CT Emergency Medical Form
  • CT Permission for Application of Non-Prescription Topical Medications

If Salt Meadow Academy distributed prescription medication, we would have a plethora of other other forms. 

Okay, so each current family has a “Family Folder” which you should place right in the front of your file box in alphabetical order by family last name.  Excellent, but you’re not done (especially in CT where we need to keep records of past clients as well).   Do the same thing for your past families except on the hanging folder label mark PAST in bright red. Also mark PAST on each child’s folder. I keep those files in the far back of my file box. When a current family discontinues care, simply relabel their hanging folder with PAST and move it on back. 

Phew, tired yet? If so take a break and come back to this blog post later.

The next hanging folder that is in my file box is “Licensing Requirements”. Sounds pretty vague doesn’t it? Well, in this hanging folder is a few regular folders each holding one piece of paper (or perhaps a couple). I have regular folders tabbed with the following items your inspector (in CT at least) will ask to see:

  • First Aid Certificate (on the front of this folder I mark the expiration date for easy access and I set a calendar remind two months before expiration so that there is enough time to register for a class)
  • Adult Medical Statement (I also mark when this was signed because we need to renew it yearly, and schedule a calendar reminder two months in advance to remind to renew)
  • Pet Rabies Certificates (Write on the front of the folder the expiration date of each pets Rabies vaccine. Only keep the certificates in this folder to eliminate clutter.)
  • Past Inspection Forms (all of them, in chronological order with the most recent in the front)

Aren’t you feeling so much more organized? Make sure to check your states requirements for paperwork that your inspector will want to view. 

The next hanging folder is “Enrollment Forms”. At Salt Meadow Academy when a family enrolls with us they are required to fill out a good amount of state mandated paperwork as well as some forms that we require. I keep copies of blank forms at all times in the file box. You’ll never know when a parent wants to enroll quickly, has a change in emergency medical information that they need to make or their child has a doctor appoiment that afternoon and the parent would like to bring a copy of the required form. Having copies on hand makes it simple to keep everyone organized. Have you ever had a family call in the middle of the day looking for childcare to start ASAP? While it’s exciting that you are gaining a new client, it’s also panic-at-the-disco if you realize they will be stopping for forms in a half hour and you’ve got a classroom of kids and no spare time to make copies. I have folders labeled:

  • Salt Meadow Academy Contract
  • Salt Meadow Academy Handbook
  • CT Enrollment Form
  • CT Medical Form
  • CT Incident Log
  • CT Emergency Medical Form
  • CT Permission for Application of Non-Prescription Topical Medications

No panic-at-the-disco for this provider. I can open up the file box and pull a form from each folder to create an instant enrollment package for a new family. 

Onward! The folder in my file box is labeled “Town Of Clinton”. Ahhh, many providers don’t realize that they most likely have to notify their town and get zoning permission to operate a licensed daycare home. For myself, it was a painless process, perhaps because I am bit of a stickler for the details. In my “Town of Clinton” folder I have the following subfolders:

  • Zoning Permit Application & Approval
  • Certificate of Trade Name 

Lastly, I have a file labeled “Certificates”. Other than the items listed in the  Licensing Requirements section above, I am not required to hold any other special endorsements or certifications. However, because I’m me, of course I do. I have folders for each of the many additional certificates that hang next to our license:

  • Eco Healthy Child Care
  • CT Charts-A-Course
  • CT Head Teacher Designation 
  • Natural Teachers Network
  • CPR Certification (not required for home providers in CT, insanity right?!)

In this section, I also keep a three-ring binder with any continuing education courses or certificates that I’ve earned. I keep each certificate in a plastic page protector. The spine of the binder is labeled “Education”.

So that’s that for paper record keeping in the daycare file box. Of course, it’s not the only papers I need to organize, but they are the only ones that  I don’t mind my licensing agency thumbing through. I have folders of tax information (yup, I do ALL of my taxes myself and I actually enjoy it!) ,receipts, parent payment schedules etc in a whole different location for my use only. I also keep a pretty fabulous planner with childrens schedules clearly written (in pencil, because we all know schedules can change).

Do you have any record keeping tricks or tips that you’d like to share? What’s  the next “Tales of a Child Care Provider” topic you’d like to know more about? Leave a comment below!


Loose Parts: Corks, Tape & Paint

I’m a huge fan of loose parts. We have baskets of smooth river rocks, corks, spools, glass jewels, plexiglass circles, etc etc all over our classroom. Lately, there has been a huge interest in painting. I get requests to paint every.single.day. It’s really taken an interesting turn lately with the materials the children want to paint with. In the beginning of the school year we used natural brushes and since then the children’s ideas keep circling back. This provocation was a simple one; a basket of corks, a roll of masking tape, a paintbrush and a palette of paints. 

“The corks look like a flower. I painted it different colors using the paint brush. Then I stamped them.”

“I painted my flower half purple and half yellow.”

“The colors came out really good. The petals look wavy. There might have been to much paint on the corks . Look there is a bubble.”

“The colors mixed on this flower. i can see blue, purple, red, and green. It looks like a planet. I saw one in a magazine. iIt was all swirly.”

“This is a red rose. I like how the petals didn’t fill in all the way. So now it looks like a red and white rose. I think I just invented a new flower.”

“They all came out so different. That one has too much paint and that one did not have enough paint. i stamped it three times and the paint went away . I like the m all, I dont have a favorite. I like that the paint got all mixed together.”

This provocation turned out to be a lot of fun. I was surprised that the student did not try stamping with just a single cork or with a different pattern. When applying the paint to her stamps she used the brush rather than dipping  them into the paint. When discussing her actions the student didn’t want to mix the colors  on the palette by dipping the corks into the paint. She explained, once she “dipped red into white I wouldn’t have white anymore, it would always be pink”. 

All in all, a fun time had and next time we will paint with a new material. 

What materials have your students painted with? Please share any ideas or suggestions that I can share with my paint obsessed students!

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Painted Branches

We tend to use a ton of natural materials. The kids love coming into the classroom and finding bowls of pinecones, piles of sticks, or a basket of rocks and shells. We had an early dismissal day last week so I set out a provocation with sticks that I had sanded (they were previously in our building area and the children weren’t building with them anymore) and cups of paint. Coming into the classroom after school, they are always excited to see paint. 

The beginnings of Painted Branches…which quickly took an interesting turn…the children were painting WANDS!

The discussion at the table was that they were painting magic wands! What a FABULOUS and totally unexpected turn of events.  

Our two year old was excited to get into the paint action.

Workers at a wand factory creating magic wands with special powers.

The workers let the wands dry between paint coats .

Details on a child’s wand.

Details on a child’s wand.

In hindsight, I probably should have guessed that these wands branches would  become wands. Some of the children have become very interested in Harry Potter recently. 

A proper wizard must have a spellbook.

One of the lovely outcomes of an activity such as this is that even children who dislike writing willingly joined in the fun because it was their idea! Children helped each other with spelling and punctuation. New words were invented and pictures drawn to match their magic spells. The children really cranked the creativity up a notch!

Proper wizards need hats, right? Our two year old casting a spell as our 9 year old plays along. Once again, this is the absolutel beauty of a mixed age group.

The wonderful effects of a child led curriculum unfolded before my eyes today. The children were workers in a factory, practiced writing unprompted, and played cooperatively. The littles learned from the bigs and the bigs even learned a bit of patience by actively incorporating the littles into their fantasy world. 

What surprising turns have your provocations taken? Share them below in the comments!

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Tissue Paper Watercolor

It’s always fun to watch the children experiment with materials. Last year, we had created these amazing jellyfish by coloring with markers on extra large coffee filters and then placing them out in the rain to allow the color to spread. The ink spread in the rain and created a watercolor effect. Since the children have been exceptionally interested in using eye droppers to drip water (since our snow painting) I set out some canvas boards, tissue paper, water and eye droppers. 

Tissue paper was cut and/or torn and placed so it covered the entire canvas.

It was difficult to wait to drip the water, so before the canvas was covered, the addition of water began.

Once the first bits of tissue were wet, she went back and added more to cover the white spots. She was surprised that the new tissue paper soaked up the remaining water on the canvas.

She added a little bit more water to make sure that every bit of tissue was wet enough. The canvas was set aside to dry. Note: We did blot some of the excess water off of the top with a papertowel.

After the tissue paper dried (it took about a half day) she peeled it off. what was left behind was beautiful.

This provocation turned out to be really fun and a good lesson in color mixing. The girl that was documented noted that if she was going to do it agai she would use the brighter and darker colored tissue paper because they left the most color. Pretty keen observation for a 6 year old to make. She also noted that the black and white tissue paper left no color and she thinks that’s why there are white spots left on her canvas. 

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If you give this provocation a try with your children, let us know how yours have come out. If you have any suggestions for us to try next time, leave a comment below! 

Tales of a Child Care Provider: “How Do You Do It All?”

It’s funny to think about, because I don’t really anymore, but when I pay attention, I sure do get a lot of astonished looks from people that see me walking down the road. I’m not sure why you’re staring….I’ve got (2) 2-year old’s in a double stroller making truck noises, a 3-year old walking beside holding on, a 4 year old singing a song from Frozen, a 9 year old & a 7 year old talking rapid-fire about Minecraft, and (3) 6 year old’s discussing the latest gossip from music class. Yup, I’m by myself. Nope, they aren’t all mine, well…they aren’t…but they are (in a way).

“How do you do it?” followed by an exasperated glance at all my kiddos (neatly lined up along side the road on the way back from the bus stop) is probably the question that I get asked most often, and typically by complete strangers that can’t comprehend the situation they have laid eyes on.

“How do I do what?” would be the answer I’d prefer to give with a laugh. I’m organized and I’m in charge. It’s honestly pretty darn easy. I’m NOT patting myself on the back, it’s hard work and most days my back is so sore at the end it would be hard to bend that way to do the patting.

Okay, okay…the key to “doing it all” is….drum-roll please………………………………………………………….ORGANIZATION!


That’s it. It’s really quite simple. Oh yes, and a real, legitimate love for children. If you don’t love kids…well…that’s a whole other blog post and you should probably consider a career change.

If you’re not organized, you will never survive. Never is a bold statement but that’s how I feel. If there isn’t a nice, neat notebook with each and every day’s schedule of enrolled children expected to attend, and nice neat piles of shoes, coats and backpacks at the entrance, your life will be chaos. The kids you are caring for will be in chaos. The families attempting to find someones missing glove and a missing shoe will be in chaos.

You may has well just leave the building and let the kids go all Lord of the Flies.


Okay…maybe not that extreme, but you get my drift. Being a child care provider, organization needs to be a constant, not “One of these days I’m going to get myself organized”. You either are or you aren’t”.

So, thank you for asking “How do I do it all?” while I’m keeping my tribe of children together on the side of the road. I love meeting new people and so do the children. However, please keep the conversation short so our organized line doesn’t start looking like a chopped up worm. Take my word for it when I smile and say “It’s fun, you just need to be organized”. I really do love my job and I’ve worked hard to have this lovely line you see.

If you need tips on being organized as a child care provider (or even a family with lots going on!), I can help! I’ve got some systems in place at Salt Meadow Academy that work extremely well for me. Feel free to shoot me an email or comment below!

What do you do to keep your group organized?

Product Review: Minute Menu Pro

I haven’t taken the time to review any of the products I use on a frequent basis at Salt Meadow Academy, but with tax season coming to a close, I thought I’d take the time and review Minute Menu Pro software. **NOTE: I was not solicited by this company to write this review**

I’ve been following Tom Copeland’s blog for a while. If anyone is in the field of child care (especially home child care), and they don’t know who Tom Copeland is, they may have been living under a swing set on a deserted playground somewhere. It was on Tom’s blog that I first came across Minute Menu Pro.

Minute Menu Pro is advertised as “the most comprehensive online record keeping software designed specifically for family child care providers.” Tall order to live up to…but last year, I decided to give the free trial a whirl. I was so impressed I purchased the software in full about 30 minutes later.

I’m quite tech-savvy, so at first glance, this software program looked like something I would have seen in the early 90’s running on Windows 3.1. It’s not visually impressive. However, as you give it a chance after getting over the shock of such an old looking program, you realize that its simplicity is part of its charm. The tools you need are right in front of you on the main screen. Providers can log attendance, track payments received, track expenses, keep track of meals provided to children and even accept payments online (though I don’t use that feature).

The ease of entering my expenses was probably what excited me the most about this program. If you’re a daycare provider, you’ve likely got a stack of crinkled receipts stashed into a folder somewhere, in some filing cabinet that you are dreading adding up (and pulling your hair out if you mistype a number in the calculator and have to start again)and taking your time/space percentage of…it’s a CHORE. This program makes it SO MUCH EASIER!

If you keep your attendance through Minute Menu Pro, like I do, it’s incredibly easy to track your time. At the end of the year, the program will figure your Time/Space % for you! No manual calculations on your part AND you can easily print a report to include with your taxes to show the IRS how you’ve come to that percentage. No guessing, no math errors, just simple!

My last favorite feature is receipts. I create an invoice for every week for my parents (though they don’t actually get a copy, it’s for my records only) and I log their payment into Minute Menu Pro. I’m able to note the day they paid, by what method and even note the check #. At the end of the year my gross sales receipts are automatically tallied onto a report! I can print out end-of-the-year statements for my parents which lists all of their payments for the year along with my EIN so that they can possibly take advantage of the tax deductions for dependent care.

So is it worth the yearly subscription fee? You bet your stack of crinkled receipts it is! It saves me so much time at the end of the year and takes a lot of guesswork out of tax time. Also….it’s pretty great if you are obsessed with organization like I am.