Community Children’s Center: 7 things you can do for your early childhood care provider on Provider Appreciation Day (Column)

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Note: The Lawrence Times is offering some space for area organizations and organizers to express their views, provide updates and attempt to reach other folks who might share their mission. This post is contributed content (i.e., not produced by the Times staff) and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Times staff. See more in our Community Voices section, or see how to submit your own piece.

Hello, fellow parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and honorary family members of Douglas County kids! May 10, 2024 is Provider Appreciation Day, a special day dedicated to recognizing the invaluable role of early childhood care providers. 

Early childhood is an incredibly dynamic time. In the first few years of life, children are building millions of neural connections a second, and as any parent or caregiver can tell you, the changes happen on a daily basis. And no one sees that learning happens more than early childhood care providers.

Our providers in Douglas County are sadly underresourced and undercompensated — many home providers need benefits packages and substitutes if they are ill, leading to long hours with few vacations or sick days. They cannot afford to charge more to cover these expenses because parents can’t afford to pay more — the monthly cost of caring for an infant in Douglas County averages just more than $1,100 a month, with one year of infant care roughly equal to a year of in-state tuition at the University of Kansas.

Community Children’s Center is working hard to address that situation by providing resources, training, systems navigation, and support for early childhood care providers to promote high-quality, accessible, available and affordable care to all children in Douglas County. 

As part of our support of early childhood care providers on Provider Appreciation Day, we at CCC are sending thank-you cards to more than 80 home providers and child care centers in Douglas County. However, your support as a caregiver can make an even bigger difference. 

Here are seven great things you can do to celebrate your early childhood care provider:

1. Consider the power of a handwritten thank-you note. It’s a tangible expression of gratitude that can brighten your early childhood care provider’s day. The more specific you can be with your appreciation, the more meaningful the note becomes. A note provides a fantastic opportunity to acknowledge their positive impact on your child.

2. Gift baskets: Gift certificates for coffee or dinner, their favorite snacks, and a bottle or two of whatever beverage they like in a gift basket can make a huge impact. Include items they can use to relax after a long day of care. 

3. Educational materials: Consider donating educational materials or books to their classroom. If you need help with what to donate, check with the provider. They may have a wish list of educational materials they’d like. Providers have different educational philosophies and resource needs, so we encourage you to speak with them before buying educational materials. Still, it can be a great way to help, as many early childhood care providers must pay for these materials out of pocket.

4. Artwork or crafts: Encourage the children to create artwork or crafts as tokens of appreciation. There are a ton of excellent art supplies that are safe for infants and toddlers. Handmade gifts can be significant and serve as a reminder of the impact they’ve had on their kids.

5. Self-care packages: Caregivers often prioritize the well-being of others over their own. To encourage them to take time for themselves, put together self-care packages containing items like candles, bath bombs, or relaxation tools. Consider talking to the provider in advance, as everyone self-cares differently.

6. Classroom supplies: Donate classroom supplies such as art materials, books, or educational toys. Providers often have a wish list of what they need, and it is best to ensure your present is suitable. These resources help relieve financial pressure on providers and demonstrate your support for their work.

7. Public acknowledgment: Shout out your early childhood provider on social media. It’s essential to get consent from providers, as different providers use different media outlets to inform folks about their services. Still, a positive review on Google Business or Yelp, a social media post about how much they mean to you on Facebook or Instagram, or sharing stories and testimonials on comment threads or local outlets can help them with getting the word out about their business and show your appreciation in a meaningful way. Sharing stories about their positive impact can raise awareness and recognition for their vital role in the community.

If you’d like to know more about Provider Appreciation Day, please check out Child Care Aware’s dedicated page at providerappreciation.org.

For more information about Community Children’s Center, its Provider Support Services, children’s programming, and upcoming early childhood care center, visit communitychildrenks.org.

— Will Averill has been the director of communications and development at Community Children’s Center since 2022. He would love to show everyone CCC’s Early Childhood Community Center and take a tour. Email will.averill@communitychildrenks.org to learn more.

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Community Children’s Center: 7 things you can do for your early childhood care provider on Provider Appreciation Day (Column)

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”Here are seven great things you can do to celebrate your early childhood care provider” today on Provider Appreciation Day, Will Averill writes in this column.

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