Wants vs Needs…Tight Budgets…Tips on being Resourceful!!!

Budgeting is a huge factor as to what and when you can buy supplies for your classroom. A teacher will question whether it is a want for the classroom or a need? Whichever one they decide, In general, teachers will encounter very tight budgets and end up buying supplies out of their own pockets. I will let you know how I overcame the budget crisis.

A little about me first. I am a very artistic and creative soul, so having a creative outlet for me was as important as providing my students with a very robust curriculum and opportunities for learning.  So, I created my classroom to allow for me and my student's artistic juices to flow.

Whatever your likes and interests are, make sure to use that as a way to create your program or classroom. If you love science, there are a plethora of ways to obtain supplies to fit those interests without breaking the bank. If you love the outdoors, same thing. Find ways that you can incorporate your interests into your program/classroom. That will create a unique curriculum for your students And fulfill your outlet as well.

  1. I had to become very creative as to how to obtain supplies that would allow for this. First and foremost, network! Meeting others in the community that are in your same line of work will connect you with many resources. For me, being part of TOTs (Teaching Others to Succeed) a local child care support group, was a huge help for me. People in this field are more than generous and willing to help and share things from gear, supplies, recycled paper, ideas, etc. So go out there and find a local group and get connected.
  2. Asking your families (clients) is a great way to be able to obtain items that you want. Make a Wish List and place it out by the log-in sheet if you don’t want to ask personally. You may have one or two families that would be more than happy to contribute without hesitance.
  3. A supply fee is also a way to go around that. Some programs do a supply fee once or twice a year.  Make sure it’s on your Parent Handbook and Tuition Rates to avoid any resistance from families.
  4. We talked about networking but also try cold calling businesses in your area. Some businesses would be more than extremely happy to help. I’ve called printing businesses, hardware stores, second-hand stores, woodworking factories (for a special wood project we did), garden centers,  and local artists in the area that may be able to lend you a hand on a special project. You could also apply to big companies like Walmart and Target for gift cards for specific items. With these big corporations, it’s a little more than just calling. You’ll need to write a letter on letterhead and then find a manager. There are more steps, but it doesn’t hurt to try!  The worst someone could say is “no” and then you move on.

The lesson to take from all this is that an inflexible budget should not get in the way of forming your program to fit you and your student’s needs. There are resources and wonderful people that are always happy to help. Hope you find something within these tips to help build your program or classroom!

Pictures below show my students dissecting flower parts brought in from a student’s garden. The mother was so excited to be able to share. All you have to do is Ask!





Entrepreneur and Teacher

Your new role as an entrepreneur and child care teacher. Be proud to call yourself a child care teacher. You are not a babysitter. You are educated, hard-working, patient and love children.  You are giving part of your heart to love other children, teach and care for them.  The difficult part of being a business person is that it is hard to differentiate your personal and professional lives. You are always in business. You yourself become a CEO without even knowing it. Your actions are underneath a microscope, what you say, who you say it to, how you said it, what you did, what you posted on social media and how you and your family behave is influential to how your business is represented.  So take a good look at the pros and cons when making your decision.

If you decide to continue in this realm of work, like anything, do your best and be open to learning new and better ways to do things. Being proud of your work and the care you give the children has great inner satisfaction. Nonetheless, this is a profession that never ceases to change. The same places as you take your initial courses are some of the same places you may continue your education.  Some states may have special funding or grants for continuing education, check with your Resource and Referral program and Department of Child and Families in your state.  Wisconsin Early Child Care Association (WECA) and Supporting Families Together Association (SFTA) are a couple of resources you could research and see how they can help.



Quality Standards and Continuing Education

Whether you choose to be licensed or certified in your state, you are required to take continuing education courses. Take those courses seriously. Working with children is not always easy and being knowledgeable about the field is extremely important. You are an enormous influence on the children you will care for. You will be helping shape and mold these children with results that influence their entire childhood and into adulthood. This job is extremely important. Always take courses that you feel will better your performance.  There are quality standards in early childhood that you will need to be aware of. Information on these will be available to you via your states Quality Rating and Improvement System. Click here to see which one your state uses.

Set Up and Time Space Percentage


Our home had the perfect set up. We had the whole downstairs to set up like a playroom and still keep our upstairs for our family (although this is only partially true).  You will find out about Time/Space percentages below. This will become a very important aspect of running your business.

One of the biggest things to consider when you open your doors to child care is that you no longer have a home, you have a business. You will need to determine how much of your home is used for business, how long you work and use the space. It is recommended that most of the space is used for some portion of the business as it will help with deductions taken when doing your taxes. In my home I had four rooms and a playroom where we spent most of the day. Each room had a playpen or crib in order to maximize our space used for business including cooking, cleaning and curriculum planning.

Click here for more information regarding time-space percentage. 


Getting Started

I started my research on the internet and was able to find several local and state resources. Before opening my in-home center, I decided to take some courses through 4-C (see below). I found this approach to be beneficial as it gave me some insight into the requirements for opening my own center. There was a lot more to the process than I expected, so having this preliminary information helped me to better understand whether or not I was making the right decision. I took the classes needed and opened up 5 months after my accident. See the list below for a few of the resources I found during my initial research (Most are specific to Wisconsin, where I live, but there are generally similar resources in most states):

  • Technical Colleges
    • It is likely that technical colleges in your area will offer a variety of coursework related to early childhood education. At Madison Area Technical College there are courses for those looking to get started in early childhood education to those seeking career advancement opportunities. For example, coursework ranges from a certificate in Early Childhood Education - Infant & Toddler, to a one year technical diploma in Child Care Services and up to an associates degree in Early Childhood Education. 
  • Correspondence Courses
  • Resource and Referral Programs
    • 4-C - Community Coordinated Child Care, Inc. (4-C) is part of a network of accredited, non-profit Wisconsin Child Care Resource & Referral agencies providing advocacy and support services for child care in Columbia, Dane, Dodge, Green, Jefferson, Rock, Sauk, and Walworth Counties. The agency strives to ensure that every child has access to high quality early care and education through integrated support and expertise.
    • Child Care Information Center - The Wisconsin Child Care Information Center (CCIC) is a mail-order lending library and information clearinghouse serving anyone in Wisconsin working in the field of child care and early childhood education. Their goal is to help Wisconsin child care professionals give the best possible start to Wisconsin's children.
    • Wi Shared Education Resources - Must go to website for child care providers in Wisconsin! You'll find forms, handbooks, policies, savings and more. With just a few clicks you can save time, reduce costs and improve quality.