6 Signs You Have What It Takes to Become a Childcare Provider
Growing up, you were the babysitter with a waiting list. You genuinely enjoy spending time with children, and they feel the same way about you. Perhaps you have already toyed with the idea of becoming a professional childcare provider, but how do you know if pursuing a career in childcare is the right move for you?
We spoke with experienced childcare providers about the most important qualities and attributes to succeed in the field. We found that while all described childcare as a uniquely challenging profession, they also found a great deal of joy and value in their work. With the right skills and characteristics, it’s possible to have a fulfilling and stable career in childcare.
6 Signs you’d be a great childcare provider
Becoming a professional childcare provider takes skill—but there are plenty of natural traits and tendencies that lend themselves well to this role. Who knows? You may already be drawing upon the skillset of a childcare provider in your day to day life. Read on to learn more about the signs you have what it takes to become an excellent childcare provider.
1. You can see things from other people’s point of view
Your friends come to you to settle an argument. They know that you take the time to think through everyone’s needs, values and communication styles before offering potential solutions. Your ability to empathize may have come naturally from years of sibling squabbles, or maybe you took the time to carefully develop the skill with lots of trial and error. Either way, your thoughtful perspective would make you a valuable childcare provider.
“Each family you enroll in childcare will bring their own set of values and ideas about what kind of experiences their children need,” says Roz Addler, owner of The Empowered Provider. “The one constant among all families was that they wanted their children to be honored, cared for and loved. I poured my efforts into connecting with each child and creating an environment that was child-centric; offering the children experiences to explore and learn through play.”
2. You love to learn new things
When you’re mindlessly scrolling on your phone, waiting in line at the coffee shop or killing time before an appointment, it seems you somehow always end up reading and learning new things—like how France has more time zones than any other country (12? C’est beaucoup!) or that cats fit into small spaces because they lack collarbones. You might not always be making a conscious decision to continue learning in these moments, but your inquisitive nature shows much you’re drawn to learning new and fantastic things about the world.
That’s a great thing for childcare providers—children share your curiosity and that enthusiasm is infectious. Your ability to mix learning and entertainment will help make learning even more fun for children.
“The biggest surprise has been the amount of knowledge that children are able to absorb at an early age,” says Albert Jacobs, founder of Bright Beginnings Child Care Center. “A child’s mind has almost endless capabilities. As long as we provide engaging opportunities to learn, they will take them in and assimilate them.”
Jacobs says the key for providers is to make learning a fun experience. Your enthusiasm for learning can help turn even a simple activity into an enjoyable experience for children.
“Children love to learn but they love to play even more,” Jacobs says. “Mixing the two is the secret to maximizing each child’s full potential.”
3. You are consistent
You enjoy the holidays and an occasional long weekend, but they also tend to leave you feeling a little discombobulated. You are a fan of your schedule. Mornings are a predictable combination of alarm, shower, breakfast. You’ve been going to the same Sunday evening yoga class for so long you know the instructor’s birthday.
The ability to provide consistency as a childcare worker is critical in creating a safe and stable environment for children. Your ability to remain consistent in how you treat others and act as a provider will also help build a strong relationship with families.
“We are responsible for people’s most prized possession, at a time when both the parents and children are at their most vulnerable,” says Daniel Koffler, founder of Explore + Discover Early Learning Center. “Our role is ensuring a safe, stimulating and collaborative dynamic between all parties.”
4. You’re not afraid to be a little silly
People have always told you they like your laugh. You like it, too. If there’s a chance to be goofy with your friends you take it and run—there’s always a reason to have fun. You enjoy drawing people out of their shell and making them feel comfortable singing loudly in the car or dancing awkwardly, but happily, in a room full of people.
“You need to be able to make your environment fun, stimulating and inspiring for children,” says Sarah Hurst of Arthurwears Parenting & Play Based Learning. Your ability to make room for silliness will help the children in your care feel comfortable and confident.
5. You’re there for your friends when times are tough
You show up. That goes for the bad times just as much as the good times. When your best friend went through a brutal break up or got lost in a family crisis, you spent hours with them. You didn’t force them to talk if they didn’t want to, you didn’t try to distract them with a hundred meaningless things, you provided unconditional support and company for as long as they needed it.
“It is crucial for a childcare worker to provide true care,” says Julie Britt, childcare provider with Smart Sitting. “Meaning they care about the well-being of each child they come into contact with beyond the basics.”
Your ability to support people in your life when they are struggling rather than becoming uncomfortable with their unhappiness is an incredible asset as a childcare provider. Children experience extreme joy, but also deep sadness and fear—particularly in the early days of separation from their parents. An effective childcare provider helps children feel supported and nurtured even when they’re feeling emotional extremes.
“While behaviors such as hitting, biting, potty training [issues], running, are not pleasant they are developmentally appropriate,” says Addler. “We must know how to coach children through these milestones.”
6. You’re adaptable
Though consistency is valuable, you know not everything will go exactly to plan—and you’ve got no problem rolling with the punches and adapting on the fly. While there are plenty of universally positive approaches, there’s no “one true method” to fostering healthy child development. Kids’ learning styles and needs are as unique as their personalities and your ability to adjust plans as needed is valuable.
“Over the years, I’ve gotten to witness and interact with many different types of parents and parenting styles,” says Britt. “I have found there is not just one, or even just two or three, good ways to raise children. Every family cooperates with each other in a unique way, and I love this insight as I am constantly discovering new things about family life and parenting methods old and new.”
Learn more about the world of early childhood education
The need for childcare is universal, but there are many approaches to providing that care. If you are interested in learning more about childcare read our article, “Home-Based vs. Center-Based Child Care: Which Work Environment Fits You?”
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published in 2017. It has since been updated to include information relevant to 2020.