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  #1  
Old 05-18-2016, 09:04 PM
Discoverylane
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Default New Reggio Emilia Inspired Preschool- Building Enrollment, Need Help

Hello All,
We recently opened a Reggio Emilia Preschool (licensed for 60 students). I wanted to get suggestions and ideas to build are enrollment. What we've done so far is delineated below:

Local newspaper did a story about the opening of our school (twice)
Blog/Website dedicated to parents with preschoolers posted information about our summer program
Distribution of flyers in the community (weekly)
Hosting a Saturday Camp (to get people to visit our school)
Open House (two)
Website (www.thediscoverylane.com)
Facebook advertising
Social Media pages (Instagram and Facebook)
Newsletter (sent to all families that inquired about our school)
Provided literature to churches that do not offer preschool in the summer
Working with the School District to distribute flyers about our summer camp to elementary schools in the surrounding area.
Great location (very visible). Most of the calls we get people say they drove by and saw our school sign

We opened just about 2 months ago. I would say on average we have 2-3 tours a week. We constantly (3-4 times a week) get calls about our program and we've had about 20 tours in the last 6 weeks. The challenging part is getting parents to enroll. Perhaps we are still fairly new and my expectations are too high, or perhaps I'm doing something wrong. Any and all suggestions are welcome! I'm very transparent and I appreciate your expertise. Thank You!!
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  #2  
Old 05-18-2016, 09:33 PM
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Welcome to the forum!

Very nice looking facility and website. I see that you are searching the forum. I suggest you also search our tabs. We tend to tag each thread personally. http://www.daycare.com/forum/tags.php

Last edited by Michael; 05-18-2016 at 09:35 PM.
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  #3  
Old 05-18-2016, 11:10 PM
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First, your website looks great and your center looks awesome!!!

As far as advertisement, it seems like you get a lot of interest. The other places I advertise that makes a difference is Yelp and yp.com. I would consider adding some free advertisement that route. You can also boost your Facebook ads for a small fee.

When it comes to enrollment or lack thereof, I would first look at what I provide. Is there a market? Am I charging too much? How do I compare to the competition? Is there anything I should change or improve on during the tours?
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Old 05-19-2016, 03:34 AM
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Thank you!

I forgot to mention we have a Yelp page and a YouTube page too.

Generally our tours are 1 hour, parents and kids generally not wanting to leave. I did a needs assessment and our tuition rate is competitive especially for the service we offer (researched pedagogy, organic and healthy meals, the look of the school, also my experiences). The most challenging part is after the tour and parents filling out their enrollment packet and signing up for our program.

Thank you I will reassess our program comparative to others. I still ask myself does it take time?? Perhaps parents aren't as eager because summer has not come, August either, both natural times of change.
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  #5  
Old 05-19-2016, 05:48 AM
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How many are currently enrolled?
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  #6  
Old 05-19-2016, 07:47 AM
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We have 1 student enrolled that starts in June. However several (5-6) have expressed their desire to enroll. After the tour the parents just do not complete the paperwork. It sort of stops there, although I do follow-up immediately after each tour. I've had 4 parents circle back to us but they did not complete the enrollment packet.

I think the problem we are facing is, no one wants to be the first. I also talked with a close friend who happens to be a parent and stated that timing is everything. I'm well aware that changes happen at certain times in our lives e.g. right before summer, end of the year, start to a new school year. I just don't know if this is to be expected with a new preschool.
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  #7  
Old 05-19-2016, 09:20 AM
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I think you are likely right about nobody wanting to be first. Once you have a group maybe they'll be pounding at the door. Could you do a survey of check-off positives and negatives for those who come to see the place? Maybe it would give you a clue if times are not convenient, or there is something about the space that they don't like or don't understand.

I don't know anything about what's typical for a start-up but others might.
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  #8  
Old 05-19-2016, 09:29 AM
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I'm a blunt person, I'm really trying to nicely offer my opinion and suggestions, but it might sound meaner than I mean for it to be. I apologize in advance if I sound harsh. So, my thoughts are...

I looked at your pictures and, in my opinion, they are too... clean/plain/sterile... There's nothing really on the walls. The toys and tables, although great items, are not 'alive' nor intriguing. When I think of Reggio, I think of plants, outdoor life brought indoor for the kids to experience. I think you need plants, shells, modeling clay, a sand table, rocks, pine cones, etc. I think of things that spark kids' interest in ways that adults typically don't even think of. Meaning allowing kids' curiosity in the world, nature, getting messy with mud, etc. that many adults don't do.

My suggestion is that you wake it up in there. Hang some plants or put some plants on some tables/shelves. Get some of the items I suggested and either create a science/nature area or incorporate (better idea) some of the items in each area of the center. Put some posters of natural things such as sea animals, mountains, lakes, land animals, etc. on the wall. Bring nature inside and liven the place up.

You're right. No one wants their child to be the only kid in a center. You mentioned having a friend that has a child. Do you know a couple of people, family and/or friends (even if they are stay at home moms) who will basically lend their children to your care and let you watch them (for free if needed) for a few hours per day or all day for a week or two so that it looks like you do already have a few kids enrolled?

Or you could offer 1/2 price for the first month for the first 5 kids or something like that to entice people to enroll with you even though there aren't many other kids.

It sounds like you have advertised your butt off and have received a LOT of interest in people who might want to attend a new center. You just have to figure out what the people want in a new center.

You might want to research other centers and home daycares in your area to see what they have/offer. Again, if you want to think of it, it's ahhh... immoral, pulling the wool over people's eyes, and at times, bold faced lying. But.... trust me, Target has people checking out what Walmart's doing and Walmart has people checking out Target. It's business. You HAVE to KNOW your competition in order to know what they are doing right to get customers/clients, what they are doing wrong to lose/not obtain customers/clients, and what they offer that customers/clients want/expect, and then take all that information in and think of things that you can do/offer that goes above what the 'others' offer so you can let people know why they should hire you rather than the daycare down the street.

Since many people know your face and voice from the advertising and tours that you have done, in order to secretly check out your competition, you will need someone to do your 'research' for you. You need someone that is loyal to you and your daycare, but who no one knows is associated with you or your daycare.

Now, keep in mind, if anyone in the daycare world realizes that you have checked their daycare out in secret, you might make some enemies in the daycare world. But, if you do it right, they won't know you 'researched' them.

Or, if you don't want to lie, you can straight up tell other daycare providers and center owners that you need some suggestions and see what they suggest.

You could also ask people to fill out a form when they first enter your center or ask them over the phone, and get them to tell you what they are looking for in a daycare. Ask what they do and don't like about their current daycare. Ask what things, activities, and surroundings (environment) they want in their child's day. You could make a pre-made form that lists things and asks the level of importance those things are. Such as:
Activity/Surroundings Level of Importance
Block play 1 2 3 4 5
Organic Foods 1 2 3 4 5
Learning about Plants/Flowers 1 2 3 4 5

And then give a section for the parents to make their own suggestions on what they want a daycare to offer and how they want their child's day/surroundings to be.

If you get them to fill that form out before you take them on the tour, you will get their answers before they decide not to do paperwork and just walk off after the tour.
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Old 05-19-2016, 10:00 AM
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Another question I have is what are the children doing while they are on the tour? I suggest that at some point during the tour (the paperwork part, or some other part that isn't very interesting for the children), have a teacher engage the children in a fun, hands-on activity. Or, especially if you have multiple families on a tour at the same time, you can have parents and children do an activity together and while they are doing the activity, you can talk about why that activity is important and how/when the children would typically doing that type of activity when enrolled in your daycare. It can be something such as planting a seedling in a cup, watering it, and drawing a picture of their plant after planting it (depending on how long they have for their activity). But, if you can get that much time, then you are giving them a take-home activity of something that they did there, plus you are showing the parents that you do hands-on fun nature-involved activities that then lead to an art activity. If you can, see if some of the kids want to leave their picture at your center and get them to let you put their pictures on the wall of the center. That shows parents that you show pride in children's artwork and display it in the center. Some kids will and others won't want to part with their artwork. Just ask the kids if they want to put their picture of their plant on the wall.

Or if you don't want a messy project like planting a seedling, do something, anything that is a fun, hands-on (preferably educational) activity with the kids at some point during the tour so that the child feels welcome, interacted with, and has truly enjoyed being there which will make the child request that he/she be allowed to go back (be enrolled) in the center so he/she can continue doing more fun activities there.
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  #10  
Old 05-19-2016, 12:41 PM
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I appreciate transparency and direct responses. There is absolutely nothing offensive anyone could say about our preschool because while it's a labor of love it is certainly the communities.

Sterile and Clean- The biggest compliment we get about our school is the appearance. I cannot make this up...lol. Parents typically say "this is hands down one of the best looking preschools I've ever seen." I can certainly agree to adding plants, however the negative space (explained during the tour) allows for autonomy and for students to create their unique learning environment. I actually modeled our school after very successful preschool programs in California and DC, all of which have a collaborative curriculum. Classic Reggio programs (all of the ones I've seen in action) start off very bare and it's of course very challenging for people to understand until the classroom starts to come to life, through the art work and documentation of the students.

Parents talk and they have no problem telling you about all the other preschools or daycares that they have visited that were either cluttered or unsanitary. The biggest compliment we get is how the school looks. Several bloggers and other social media connoisseurs have asked could they feature our photos (most of which are parents).

I think plant life is a great idea and I've worked with a botanist to identify plants that are ideal for a school. Our architect also designed a hatched wall and plants could be put on the ledge and hang down as they grow.

Tours- Generally our tours are 1 hour and parents are engaged throughout. We never review paperwork with parents during the tour. We are an eco-friendly school and as a follow-up email we provide parents with parent packet. They are given literature at the end of the tour along with documents that need to be signed. I've heard people suggest having parents complete a form to get an idea of what is desirable for them at a school.

I actually just spoke with the co-owner about touring other schools. GREAT IDEA. Thank You!

Again, if someone could please tell me if this typically of new preschools and what are typical steps after you have a successful tour? We are having no problem getting tours. In fact we just had an unexpected tour today for two children. 1 today at 4pm and another tomorrow at 10am. We need advice with next steps after the tour.

What do you all generally do when a tour is over. We typically email parents and thank them for coming in and stay connected to keep them abreast to our program. Any other suggestions or ideas?

Saturday Art Camp: Not sure if one visited our Facebook page but we are having a Crayons and Cookies event Saturday so parents can see us in action engaging with students conducting a lesson. Several parents will be attending this event.
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  #11  
Old 05-19-2016, 12:51 PM
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Maybe this is crazy, but if the space looks plain, what if you put up large photos or posters of what a Reggio space looks like once it's in progress? Maybe with short text explaining that "your child's work will be here!"
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  #12  
Old 05-19-2016, 12:54 PM
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My reasoning being that it sounds like people are interested, but SOMETHING is keeping them from following through. It could be the unfinished aspect, or it could be rates, hours, etc. Something makes them "not see themselves there."
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  #13  
Old 05-19-2016, 01:30 PM
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I love that idea of having a finished Reggio School!! I am pretty strong on not changing the integrity of the space, because that would be a lie to the pedagogy. I cannot stress enough my frustration when I see schools that have all this "decor" for the adults. Children never run up to a stagnate poster board and say "look birds," however their own work delights them constantly.

I actually had two parents complete their paperwork before we opened immediately after a tour. One family the dad lost his job, however they still communicate with us. The other just dropped off the face of the Earth. Recently got a call and she expressed how family events altered their lives a little but she is wanting to go through with enrollment. She also expressed how happy she was that we stayed connected. Again, we have been open a little over a month and it's May...are people really that pressed about making a change right now?

I had a parent say I'll make the change in July/August when the school year starts. Actually a few parents made that statement. I also had another parent say "parents will wait to the last possible minute to enroll their children in summer programs.

We are going the school district because many of the elementary schools have preschool programs. We are going to give them literature to send home with their preschool students advertising our summer enrichment program. We are not competing with them in any because schools will adjourn for the summer.

Thank you all!! This is getting me so excited.
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Old 05-19-2016, 01:42 PM
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When we were doing renovations we a "hard hat" tour and students were given pretend tool belts and plastic hard hats while they toured. They also got to take them home!

When parents tour the school students typically attend and they are actively engaged. I have strong Education background and so I'm able to confidently speak to our curriculum while engaging with students. Every child with the exception of 3 cried when they had to leave. Of course I'm like "yessss help me." hahaha.. A little humor!
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Old 05-19-2016, 02:18 PM
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It does happen sometimes. I just had a great interview. A purportedly shy 13 mo child who came to me of her own accord repeatedly, and ended up coming to me at the end and waving goodbye to her parents
But they chose a new dc home two blocks from home. (I am 5-6 blocks. They drive to work.) But there ya go. Who knows if that dc provider will be in business in a few months. And 4 blocks difference in a car? Phhfft
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Old 05-19-2016, 02:29 PM
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Yes that's why my friends urge me not to change much. Obviously see what's trending but maintain the integrity of the space. I had a parent not enroll because they used all their vacation time and can only be off during Federal Holidays. So what happens if their child gets sick.

You could possibly be asking for a never exhaustive list of desires that may be temporary desires. We should be educating families and it should be collaborative.

I appreciate the story. Again, thank you for taking the time to respond.

Any other suggestions?
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Old 05-20-2016, 05:41 PM
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I agree with the PP who thought that your environment looks sterile. It's not just the all white that throws me off, it's also the materials chosen and lack of differing textures. It doesn't feel warm or cozy or like a place that I could be creative. Obviously, these are just my opinions and I'm just some random internet person. But, I do have a Master's in Human Development and have studied with several people who have visited the Reggio centers in Italy as we were considering adopting this philosophy for our centers.

A couple of suggestions:

It's clear that you would like your environment to reflect and really, be created by, the children. I understand this completely, but the lack of personality may be offputting to parents. Your center does NOT lack in history, so perhaps you could create a visual timeline of you and your partner's opening of the center. You could put this on the wall. It'd be great if you had pictures depicting your shopping trips/purchase of the building/late nights setting it up, etc.

Another way to create personality would be to have each child who does a tour create a piece of art that you could put on the wall and create a 'quilt' with

Have you had any open houses? It sounds like you've received a lot of press. I would invite city council members, school administrators, all parents that you've met with, etc.

I would consider adding some textures to your environment...baskets, pillows, rugs, even stuffed animals, big comfy chairs, etc. Perhaps items that refect the diversity of your neighborhood or city.

I also wonder about your materials. Obviously, we're only seeing a snippet of your center. Is there an art center (more than the easels)? I would love to see a picture of it. It seems like a lot of your materials are not very open ended or would inspire creativity. Do you have blocks and building materials? Do you have a sensory space?

Who typically does your tours? Do you and your partner have a sense for who is better at conducting interviews? What is your interview process like?

How many rooms do you have? How many children will be in each age group? Do you have an atelier?

I hope to hear from you, I would love to see you succeed, I'm a preschool person who was able to find a particular niche market in my town and love to see others' love for particular a particular aspect of early childhood.

I do love the simplicity of your space. It really is a blank canvas that will grow with your children, but I do think its difficult for parents to visualize what the space can become.
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Old 05-21-2016, 07:18 AM
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While I understand your concept and how you are intending to use the space (since I base my program off Reggio as well), where I think the "snag" lies is that we sometimes forget your SELLING the package to the parents. So while you ARE getting interviews and the space MAY be perfect for the children and teachers, the parents don't see their needs being met and walk away to the next.

While they may be telling you the environment is crisp and clean and uncluttered, my first (parental) thought is "oh man, will my child get in trouble if they mess it up". You can tell me that they won't- but I won't necessarily believe you looking at this nice, white space. As humans, we are visual creatures who have a hard time grasping the overall picture unless it's smack dab in front of us.

It needs a lived in feeling. I think it looks nice, but institutional. I don't mean to sound harsh with that. It just needs warmth.... it needs staging.

As far as closing the sale:
1. Are the parents asked for the sale? Meaning at the end of the interview, are they asked to sign documents to capture their child's space?
2. Is there a time limit given to create a sense of urgency? I see you offer signed families a perk of locking in rates for their duration of childcare, but I don't necessarily think that's a great idea. Setting specific and immediate deadlines for specials may be more effective to get people signed on immediately. Ex: Sign by May 31st to lock in rates for 2 years or sign by June 30th to lock in rates for 1 year.

Good luck!
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Old 05-21-2016, 07:54 AM
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I'm in the wow that is a crisp, clean, well organised set up. It is amazingly beautiful and pinterest picture perfect. Yet while I was impressed for sure, I too thought I would not sign MY kid up to go there. My kid is an amazingly imperfect beautiful little mess. The set up does not convey warmth, comfort and a place lively little wee ones can feel at home in.
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Old 05-21-2016, 09:31 AM
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Are you marketing towards the right group? Families that would seek out that sort of setting? I wonder if you're getting in families who when they think "preschool" they are thinking more of the traditional style, bright colored rooms they remember as kids. I know here, if you targeted the natural food co-op, hiking trail bullention boards, farmers markets etc you would definitely get families who are seeking out that care. Others may like the look/idea of it but may be nervous to sign on to something different then what they're used to.
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Old 05-21-2016, 02:45 PM
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Hello everyone. Thanks for all your input!!

Well since I last posted roughly two days ago.... 3 kids are now enrolled!!

I guess a few parents liked that clean and "sterile" look. We had an event titled Crayons and Cookies and 2 parents signed up on the spot, first payment made, and their children won't start for weeks. They were so excited about the program that did not want to a loose spot. After the parent left she sent me a message indicating that another parent wanted to sign up that she was speaking with at the store. You know what we did??

Offered a tuition rate that couldn't resist....to the first 5 parents that enrolled. This taught me two things: While parents certainly care about where their kids are enrolled they do not want their kids to be the first and if you offer them a great tuition rate they'll start advertising right away. It makes them feel like "gee this person is offering this rate to say thank you for being first?!"

Well I'm a happy and we got great pics of Crayons & Cookies (Saturday Art Camp). Please feel free to see our pics by clicking on our social media links on our webpage.

I will of course keep everything in mind that you all said about the space, again the obvious is not always obviously the solution. Believe me Crayons and Cookies was messy introduced the activity with the book "Willow."
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Old 05-21-2016, 02:58 PM
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https://www.instagram.com/discoverylane/

Please feel free to see just a few photos from our Crayons and Cookies event! We had a blast. I appreciate those that stated it is a blank canvas for the students to create. Our floors are epoxy and not carpeted, so students can have good time getting involved without staff worrying about mess. The walls are bare because nothing is competing with each other. I cannot express as an educator how over stimulated I am when I walk in a classroom and posters that are for the adults are posted everywhere. When have you ever seen a kid run to a poster and say "look crayons!" However kids go back time and time again to see their own photos and art work. That's what today's event captured. I do not want to sound offended however I cannot imagine decorating the walls with posters and things that I did. Once kids are in....the walls will be filled with their documentation and art work. I'm absolutely not changing the integrity of the space to compromise great education. I understand for years people believe their kids should have the ABC's at the tippy top of the wall because of decor, however what does that me about the brilliance of a child. Can you learn in an environment that is cluttered with competing themes??

https://www.instagram.com/preschoology/
The link above is inspiration from around the world

Quote about one of the spaces...

"It's so simple. Nothing competing for attention. It just looks like a place where you can take your time."
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Old 05-21-2016, 03:42 PM
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It is how we did:
The first two families that we wanted to have as our customers has got 40% discount for 1! year. The next two families got the same discount for 6 months. The all next families were not scared to be a first because they were not.
We announced about a discount only during an interview. All ours internet announcements had no mentions about any discounts.
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Old 05-21-2016, 03:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Discoverylane View Post
https://www.instagram.com/discoverylane/

Please feel free to see just a few photos from our Crayons and Cookies event! We had a blast. I appreciate those that stated it is a blank canvas for the students to create. Our floors are epoxy and not carpeted, so students can have good time getting involved without staff worrying about mess. The walls are bare because nothing is competing with each other. I cannot express as an educator how over stimulated I am when I walk in a classroom and posters that are for the adults are posted everywhere. When have you ever seen a kid run to a poster and say "look crayons!" However kids go back time and time again to see their own photos and art work. That's what today's event captured. I do not want to sound offended however I cannot imagine decorating the walls with posters and things that I did. Once kids are in....the walls will be filled with their documentation and art work. I'm absolutely not changing the integrity of the space to compromise great education. I understand for years people believe their kids should have the ABC's at the tippy top of the wall because of decor, however what does that me about the brilliance of a child. Can you learn in an environment that is cluttered with competing themes??

https://www.instagram.com/preschoology/
The link above is inspiration from around the world

Quote about one of the spaces...

"It's so simple. Nothing competing for attention. It just looks like a place where you can take your time."
I completely understand what you're saying. I'm not a fan of posters at all. However, all of the pictures in your inspiration have a sense of comfort and warmth. I would definitely consider using some art work from one of your events or have each child who tours do a project to decorate the walls. For example, I just had my children each paint a small flat canvas with glue, watercolors, tissue paper and salt. They looked so neat and colorful. If you put a bunch together, it would make a wonderful collage that can add warmth and character to your walls. Just a suggestion .... I think your space looks wonderful but I agree with the others that perhaps it needs a bit more character. I hope that helps
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Old 05-21-2016, 03:58 PM
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No ABCs at the tippy-top here either. Ours curves all around the floor, for playing and dancing on.
I don't personally believe that any one way of being is right for every child or family.

A chacon son gout
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Old 05-21-2016, 04:24 PM
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I agree about the pictures on the wall which is why we had an Art Camp this weekend...most kids wanted to take their art with them...haha. The event provided great photos of kids in action too! We will host that event once a month.

The walls will fill up as time progresses. I'll also add plant life. I have to admit I loved a few plants too much and they past away...however I'm working with a horticulture teacher who provided great details and written notes giving us instructions to help our plants thrive.

Yes...We gave parents 50% off to the first 5 families that enrolled the entire time their kids are enrolled. It worked and now parents are rolling in the door! We are already working on our next promotion.
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Old 05-21-2016, 09:45 PM
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Personally I love your preschool and hope that I can either work in or manage a place like this in the future! Plus, I just LOVE ikea....all of my stuff comes from ikea as well!
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Old 05-22-2016, 04:25 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nisaryn View Post
Personally I love your preschool and hope that I can either work in or manage a place like this in the future! Plus, I just LOVE ikea....all of my stuff comes from ikea as well!
Thank you!! I love ikea too for the minimalist look!
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Old 05-22-2016, 07:09 PM
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Reggio question: Are you planning to use natural clay? I was just reading about it, and I want to use it with my daughter, and my teen son is taking ceramics for his fine art requirement in Fall and Winter, but I wasn't sure about using it with all the daycare kids. The recommendation seems to be to use it outside...but I haven't tried it yet.

I was reading about it in a CareCourse that I just did for Professional Development.
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Old 05-22-2016, 08:02 PM
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We use clay. Be sure to have parents send kids in old clothes or use waterproof aprons because it stains. Nothing like the real thing though!
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Old 05-25-2016, 11:24 PM
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I was at a Reggio-inspired center that opened in January. The time of year was a big challenge. Many families were looking for fall enrollment. I did a lot of the tours and many parents couldn't grasp the play-based, emergent curriculum. It became a lot easier to sell once we had a couple of projects under our belt and the documentation on the wall. We're in a very competitive academic environment and it was necessary for us to know what parents' concerns are and be able to address them.
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