Beyond the Book—Organizing the Moving Parts of a Child Care Center

My fourth, and final child care center was large! It was the biggest and most visible of the four I opened and directed during my career. At capacity, there were 200 fulltime children, upwards of 400 parents, and a staff of 65 (mostly teachers). Nearly 700 human beings brought with them many, many moving parts!

With so many people and so much activity, there was the potential for important things to fall through the cracks and not be taken care of. It was necessary to be thorough, organized, and consistent. At the same time, we needed to be flexible, respectful, and fair, remembering the individuality of each short and tall person within our large family. Lots and lots to juggle.

But we did! And we juggled multiple balls very well for twenty years.

This post highlights one of the processes we put in place. These are the “how we did it” details not found in Beginning to End: The Life Cycle of a Child Care Center (Yes, this is information Beyond the Book).

“Whose job is it?” was a question I asked myself often when I looked around these 40,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space. Yes, 40,000 square feet! Whose job is it to organize, clean, and maintain all of the common spaces within our Center and the many areas that everyone used, but no one owned. The 18 classrooms were easy—the teachers were responsible. But what about all this other space, equipment, materials, supplies, furniture? We all used these at some point in the day.

We decided to enlist the help of our entire staff. Our goal was to keep the Center (which was like a second home to us) looking beautiful and well cared for. We needed to make a fair plan to maintain every square foot, and so, we would all participate.

We made a list of these spaces. There were many—some large open spaces, some closet-size. Here’s a partial listing: the entrance and lobby; the staff meeting room; infant square; the carriage closet; the playground bathroom; the common closets; the hallways; the stairwells (main and back); the art room; the laundry room; the staff room; toddler square; the preschool common; the small and large playgrounds. 

And then, we each chose our space from the listing. 

We would be the person accountable for this area. When we walked by “our space,” we saw what needed to be done. We straightened things; we pushed in chairs; we restored order (whatever that might be); we kept supplies stocked; we picked up trash from the floor; we simply made the space look more presentable. If something was broken, unsafe, needed—we would be the one to tell the director.

Each one of us continued to clean up after ourselves when we left a common space, but this new system guaranteed that an additional set of eyes would give a final look.

Before we began this project, we cleaned and organized every one of these spaces in the Center, so that we would know how each was meant to look; how the shelves were arranged; what went where. This new system was meant to maintain. We would see quickly what, if anything, was amiss, and then fix it.

We also wrote guidelines for the larger shared spaces.

The Staff Room was especially complicated with tables, chairs, a kitchen wall of cabinets, and fridge. Another part of this room had softer chairs and couches to take a break and relax. In this staff space, we made a separate plan for keeping order, since this room had the potential to be a health hazard and took more effort to maintain. Each month a different team from our large staff took on this room. And they cleaned and organized, when and where needed. 
“What was in the refrigerator?” and “How long had it been there?” had been the re-occurring problem before our new system. Now, someone owned the fridge and its contents, and food was easily disposed of in a timely way. Problem solved!

These were the guidelines posted for everyone using our Staff Room:

  • It is expected that each person using this room will take responsibility for leaving the room clean and neat for those who follow. Please clean the tables after you eat; remove trash; push in chairs and return magazines, etc. to the rack/shelves.
  • Label each item you put into the refrigerator with your name and the date. Masking tape and markers for this purpose are in the drawer next to the fridge. At the end of the month, anything old or not labeled will be thrown out.
  • You will find several cabinets marked for the storage of non-perishable food. Again, label your personal items.
  • The tall pantry units have been stocked with paper goods and plastic cutlery for your use in the staff room. Please don’t stock your classrooms from these shelves.
  • Staff room cleaning supplies can be found under the sink.

These were the guidelines for our Laundry Room:

  • This room is for doing laundry only. Nothing else is to be stored in this room.
  • Clean up after yourself when you use the laundry room:
    • Wipe up all spilled detergent.
    • Empty lint screens in the dryers after each use.
    • Place empty boxes by the freight elevator for trash pick-up.
    • Dispose of bleach bottles in the large trash can.
  • Be considerate of your colleagues:
    • Keep the top of machines free of laundry, boxes, toys, etc.
    • If you take someone else’s laundry out of a washer, put it in a dryer and notify that team of its status.
    • Use magnetic laundry tags to keep track of laundry.
    • Notify Theresa when the last box of detergent is opened.

These were the guidelines for the Staff Work Room:

  • The Staff Work Room is equipped with the following: 
    • Laminator
    • Copy Machine
    • Paper Cutter
    • Work Table
    • Work Utensils
  • Please use the equipment with respect for its value and be conservative with supplies.
  • The laminator and copy machine are for your use only after you have been instructed properly by your program coordinator.
  • Place your name on the sign-in sheet when you use the laminator or copier.
  • If either machine malfunctions, call an administrator right away. Do not leave the problem for someone else.
  • Take all your materials with you when you leave. Check the copier for your original.

As you can see, we set the expectations. They were posted. They were clearly written. And they were followed. The additional person/s to oversee these common areas helped greatly. This system worked for us! We were a very large team keeping our Center looking its best. It was a gratifying effort. Everyone participated. Everyone appreciated the results. A win, win, win!

For more details on creating positive change for your organization, take a look at Beginning to End: The Life Cycle of a Child Care Center—A Director’s Story, available on

This entry was posted in Child Care, Early Childhood, Early Childhood Curriculum, Early Childhood Leadership, Early Childhood Professionals, Early Childhood Teachers, For Early Childhood Directors, John Hancock Child Care Center, Managing Early Childhood Programs, Performance Management Skills, Quality Early Education and Care, Training for Early Childhood Directors, Training for Early Childhood Professionals. Bookmark the permalink.

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