Scrambling to figure out child care options that feel safe right now? As you can imagine, with COVID-19, child care will look different this fall, and it’s become even harder to find spots in many programs. But working from home with a toddler is basically impossible, and the benefits of socialization, routine, and engaging activities are as real as ever, so many parents are looking for small-scale options that keep kiddos engaged and safe at the same time. If that sounds familiar, here’s a new solution that every mom should know about.
NeighborSchools, a Boston-based start-up, has created a platform that matches parents with small-scale, licensed child care programs in every neighborhood. It’s almost like Airbnb, but for home daycare.
How much do you know about home daycare? Some moms swear by them, while others aren’t as familiar. Smaller ratios, more individualized attention, closer to home, more affordable… what’s not to love?
What most moms don’t realize is that there are more than 5,000 home daycares in MA, and each is fully licensed by the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC), just like bigger centers. The providers are professionals, many have decades of experience, and they have all undergone training in childhood development, nutrition, medication administration, pediatric CPR and first aid, etc. Their home environments have been inspected for health and safety, and they receive annual visits from a licensor to ensure they are following all the rules. And since COVID, they have stepped up their health and safety protocols, like wearing PPE, increasing sanitation, and moving toward more outdoor activities for the children to keep everyone safe.
For moms who have found a home daycare in the neighborhood, it can feel like winning the lottery. You and your child build a relationship with a provider who comes to feel like an extension of the family, and your child grows up with a small troop of other children, often with a mix of ages, which can be beneficial for their learning as well. It just has a different feeling than a bigger center where there are more kids, the teachers often change over, and the hours are more rigid. The hard part can be finding the right one. Because most providers take just six children, finding one with an opening for you can feel like a needle in a haystack.
The real game-changer is NeighborSchools’ MagicMatch technology, which makes it easy for moms to actually find a home daycare with the right opening. A few years ago, if you wanted to find a home daycare you might have gone on a Facebook group, asked for a recommendation, gotten a few names, and then tried to call them, leaving voicemails, etc. Now, with MagicMatch, you just plug in your zip code and child care needs (age, schedule, start date), and it searches hundreds of providers to automatically show you which ones have openings for you. Then it’s one click to see photos, read program descriptions, and start chatting with providers right in the app.
With child care, you’re always going to go take tours, meet with providers, and ultimately pick the one that “feels right,” and NeighborSchools makes it way easier to find these hidden gems in your backyard. In just two years they’ve helped thousands of parents across Massachusetts and they are now scaling up to the rest of New England. You can follow their progress on Instagram, where they talk about the challenges of raising good humans and celebrate working moms every day.
To learn more about home daycare and find options near you, check out NeighborSchools.com.