Working in a childcare center can be fulfilling yet challenging, especially during a time when many businesses are currently facing staffing shortages and employee burnout. Taking care of young children requires patience, energy, and dedication. Therefore, showing your childcare staff how much you appreciate their hard work and commitment is essential.
Recognizing your staff's hard work can boost their morale and increase retention rates, ultimately leading to better care for the children. This article will share creative and thoughtful childcare staff appreciation ideas and why incorporating them is important.
Importance of employee recognition and appreciation
Early childhood educators can sometimes be overlooked, despite their constant contributions to children's safety and well-being and helping to build a solid foundation in children’s early learning. Whether it's during Teacher Appreciation Week or any other time, like Employee Appreciation Day, you can show your staff how important they are. Showing them how much they're valued can:
Create a positive work environment
When employees feel appreciated at work, they are more likely to be happy, satisfied, and fulfilled. This can lead to a more positive and supportive work culture, ultimately leading to better teamwork, communication, and collaboration among staff members. This can create a more cohesive and effective team, benefiting the staff and the children.
Increase employee retention rates
Employee turnover can be a significant problem in the childcare industry. High turnover rates can be costly, time-consuming, and disruptive for the center and the children. However, you can increase employee retention rates by showing your staff they are appreciated. Employees who feel valued and appreciated are inclined to stay in their jobs, creating a more stable and consistent environment for the children.
Boost staff morale
A boost in morale goes a long way in the workplace. Showing appreciation to your childcare staff can make them feel better about themselves and their work, and remind them of the value they provide. Employees who feel appreciated are more motivated, engaged, and satisfied with their work. As a result, they are more likely to go above and beyond their duties, provide high-quality care, and create a positive work environment.
Improve quality of care
When educators on your childcare staff feel appreciated, they are more likely to look for ways to improve in every area and take pride in what they do. They may be more attentive, patient, and caring toward the children. They may also be more invested in their work and the children's development, leading to better outcomes, such as improved social and emotional skills, better language and cognitive development, and a stronger sense of security and attachment.
Improve employee well-being
When employees feel appreciated, they are more likely to experience positive emotions, which can have a positive impact on their mental and emotional well-being. When educators experience joy and contentment while working, these emotions make their jobs more enjoyable and easily transfer to the children and their families.
On the other hand, employees who feel undervalued or unappreciated may experience negative emotions, such as stress, frustration, and burnout. This can lead to poor mental and emotional health, ultimately affecting their work and personal life. Therefore, showing your staff they are appreciated can directly impact their well-being and quality of life.
Ways to recognize employees
From sharing messages of gratitude in your center newsletters to sending out messages to your staff, a tool like brightwheel's communication feature, can easily help you give your staff the acknowledgment they deserve. Here are some simple and creative staff appreciation ideas:
- Go for a 1:1 walk and let them know how much you appreciate them.
- Send random thank you notes in the mail. Getting good, old-fashioned mail can feel more special than picking up a note left in the classroom.
- During staff meetings, encourage your staff to go around and share why they’re thankful for the person next to them.
- Make candy grams (a sweet note + treat) and deliver them to classrooms.
- Create a notebook with "All About Me" pages for each teacher to put in your lobby area. Families and other staff can use those ideas to show appreciation at the end of the year or whenever they feel like it!
- Have a staff gratitude jar and read these notes of gratitude during staff meetings—you can invite parents to write notes of gratitude to put into this jar.
- Post teacher shout-outs or employee spotlights on your social media pages.
- Give verbal praise randomly throughout the day to make your staff feel recognized.
- Recognize teachers on their work anniversaries and birthdays.
- Create banners and pins of recognition to put on the wall.
- Send "just because you're great!" gift cards.
- Include your staff on your company website and let them write their own bios.
- Give staff a weekly card highlighting something they have done that you appreciate.
- Put up a kudoboard each week. You can do this in-person or invite families and peers to add to an online kudoboard.
- Highlight a different teacher every week in your weekly newsletter.
- Make and send “random acts of kindness cards.” Staff members can pick a card and do that action for a peer!
- Start each meeting with gratitude for each team member.
- Print out and display your center’s positive reviews.
- Put up an affirmation mural outside your center, where families can write notes of gratitude to your staff.
- Give your team choices on what makes them feel appreciated and follow through!
- Create compliment boxes—a box for each staff member, with their name on it—and leave anonymous compliments in the boxes throughout the week.
- Do random gift card giveaways when staff members are seen doing something awesome.
- Have children and their families make homemade thank you cards for teachers and encourage them to post the cards on your center’s bulletin board.
- Create a staff shoutout board in your staff room—a display where peers can recognize peers.
- Include affirmations or motivational quotes in your daily messages to staff.
- Give placemats that children have decorated. Have children draw and write thank you notes on large sheets of paper. Laminate them so your staff can reuse them.
- Celebrate staff birthdays monthly with a catered meal or cake.
- Gift teachers at-home meal kits to tell them how “soup-er” they are. Add dry soup ingredients, like beans, lentils, and stock powder, to a glass jar.
- Set up a trail mix bar for your staff in the staff lounge.
- Bring in donuts or bagels on the first Friday of each month.
- Tap into your parents' skills to offer staff a thoughtful gift or service. Examples include family photoshoots, car washes, or home-grown fruits and vegetables!
- Make a thankful centerpiece for the staff lounge—create a pretty platter of healthy snacks or treats.
- On parent-teacher conference days, give teachers little bags with energy bars, chocolates, breath mints, hand sanitizer, and other treats to get them through the day.
- Prepare a quick, on-the-go breakfast to surprise teachers on busy mornings.
- Give staff members the day off on their birthday.
- Offer staff frozen treats on particularly hot days.
- Do Secret Santa gifting around the holidays.
- Bring in a massage therapist for 15-minute massages.
- Treat your staff to surprise lunches once in a while.
- Send flowers or birthday baskets on employees' birthdays.
- Give a holiday bonus.
- Have a coffee, tea, or hot cocoa station in the staff lounge in the winter.
- Surprise staff with coffee or gift cards to a local coffee shop.
- Encourage your staff to randomly bring in treats for the whole team to show appreciation to each other.
- Cover staff members’ classrooms for a few minutes so they can take a break.
- Create a Parent-Teacher Association that plans staff appreciation treats and activities.
- Prepare a week of treats during Teacher Appreciation Week.
- Have parents donate $5 gift cards that you can save for use throughout the year.
- Hire a food truck for a staff meal.
- Organize a scavenger hunt around your center where staff can find notes of appreciation.
- Have a self-care day, where you give mini candles, face masks, and fuzzy socks to your staff.
- Celebrate 12 days of Christmas during the holiday season and give out something small each day leading up to your staff holiday party.
- Bring in coffees for your staff with a note that says “Thanks a latte!”
- Have dance party breaks.
- Organize a staff potluck.
- Host a movie night—don’t forget the popcorn!
- Give out personalized coffee cups or water bottles with your staff members’ names on it.
- Give staff a self-care day off.
- Host a board game night.
- At the beginning of the year, have staff fill out a “favorites form” so you’ll know more about their interests and hobbies and things like their favorite food, drink, or color.
- Bring in homemade goodies like brownies or cupcakes!
- Have a staff awards ceremony where you can call out each staff member's strengths.
- Host a candle-making workshop.
- Go to an arcade together.
- Try to complete a ropes course as a team.
- At staff trainings, allocate time for team building activities.
- Take your entire staff out for weekend brunch.
- Host a spa day.
- Treat teachers to a car wash during school hours.
- Every month or two, have staff get together to have dinner.
- Give random self-care afternoons so your staff can get some time away from the classroom!
- Host a staff picnic.
- Do a staff outing once a quarter.
- Host a lunch and learn where staff can share a hobby or interest with the rest of the staff during lunch.
- Send employees to a leadership training or attend a professional development conference as a team.
Give your staff the recognition they deserve
Showing employee recognition and appreciation is crucial in any workplace, including childcare centers. Using creative and fun staff appreciation ideas makes your employees feel like they matter and that their hard work hasn't gone unnoticed. Take the time to show your staff how much you value them and their dedication, and you will reap the benefits right away, ultimately creating a better environment for everyone.
Brightwheel is the complete solution for early education providers, enabling you to streamline your center’s operations and build a stand-out reputation. Brightwheel connects the most critical aspects of running your center—including sign in and out, parent communications, tuition billing, and licensing and compliance—in one easy-to-use tool, along with providing best-in-class customer support and coaching. Brightwheel is trusted by thousands of early education centers and millions of parents. Learn more at mybrightwheel.com.