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Archive for the ‘Tech Tips’ Category

Tech Tip: Great Photos that Sell Your Child Care Services (Part II)

Once you have the tips down pat from our first blog about taking pictures of your child care center, you may want to consider trying some of these. Don’t worry if you have to take a ton of pictures at different settings to get one you like. As long as you are not still using film, it should be relatively low-cost. If you get one winner for every thirty, you are doing pretty well.

  1. Crop: Less is more – Have someone’s elbow or people you don’t want in the photo, then crop them out.

    Cropping – If you don’t have a better way, use PowerPoint to crop files. Then, right click to save the photo, not the presentation, to a new location.

    This does not mean you have to be a photoshop expert. Use PowerPoint, or even Flikr. Just about every photo uploader has a way to crop photos.
  2. Flash Outdoors – When sunlight is intense, it can cast strong shadows. Get within 4-5 feet, and take a picture with the flash on. It’s often called ‘fill flash‘. You can force this on a lot of cameras by clicking on the lightning bolt symbol until it is forced on no matter what.
  3. Over-expose portraits to hide blemishes – Over exposing portraits of people softens wrinkles. (I do not want to speak for young and fabulous looking childcare directors and teachers out there, but this old-guy will take a little wrinkle reduction any way I can get it.) To change the exposure, you will normally have to use your camera’s manual mode. Dial the exposure up so that things get whiter. Usually about one step above where the auto or normal mode would set it.
  4. Hold Still– When light is low, the ‘shutter’ has to stay open for longer. That means the image will be more senstive to your natrual wiggles and vibrations. The best thing to do is put your camera or cameraphone on a table, beer bottle, or empty water glass. (Please be careful not drop your iPhone in the water glass.)
  5. Take shots after breakfast – It’s a fact that you know well. Kids are more likely to be in a good mood after they eat. Take pictures then and they will be more content-looking. (This is true for adults too!)
  6. Golden hour, golden photos

    Bangkok Skytrain at Sunset (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

    Most pictures and movies filmed outside, are either early in the morning or before sundown. That warm, soft, side light just makes photos more attractive. It’s called “The Golden Hour” is so well-used by photographers. It’s like natural photoshop for people, whatever age group.
  7. Be un-centered– Things are more interesting when they are off-center (see the rule of thirds for more info)
  8. Maintain focus – To lock the focus, center the subject, push the shutter button halfway down and then move the subject off-center. For camera phones, like the iPhone, touch what you want to focus on.
  9. Use Smart Filenames – Google and other search engines use image file names to rank your site. Before posting your pictures to the web, rename the file from IMG_00815812.JPG to something relevant to the picture contents. If your childcare is “Tiny Explorer Care” and you take a picture of your playground, perhaps title your photos ‘tiny-explorer-child-care-playground.jpg’.
  10. Use a soft focus – That cool blurred background you see in a lot of photos is difficult to acheive with most inexpensive cameras. Even still, a lot of cameras have a ‘macro mode’.

    Sunflower picture example of soft focus. Some cameras can shoot this in “Macro Mode”

    In macro mode, get close to the subject and snap the picture. This will help put the focus on your subject.
  11. Negotiate the portraits from your photographer– I have seen that some child care centers offer portraits to families and invite professional photographers in to take them. Consider having the photographer take some shots of your facility as part of the deal.
  12. Use professional examples– Use examples on Shutterstock or 123rf.com to get ideas on what poses and backgrounds make good photos of childcare and preschools. Then reproduce those (or buy them) in your own center with your staff and children.
  13. Be a Director – You may be a child care director, why not also be a photo director? Tell people to move together, lean in, get cheek to check, put hands on their smile, sit pretzel style, or even be silly. It will be fun and your pictures will standout.

Tech Tip: Great Photos that Sell Your Child Care Services (Part I)

Tech Tip: Great Photos that Sell Your Child Care Services (Part I)
child care photo worm playing in the mud

An example of showing children playing without any risk to privacy.

You can have better photos for your childcare center without hiring a pro or getting an expensive camera. Whether for your child care center website, newsletter, or art projects, great photos are the difference between projecting an hobby or professional image.

Like anything, practice makes perfect. Here are some tips from BumbleBee to think about when taking photos (Ordered from beginner to advanced)

  1. Get permission – It goes without saying that the privacy of your families is your utmost concern. It’s a good idea to get permission from families before publicly sharing photos. However, taking a pictures of children’s shoes, a hand with a worm, or other neutral subjects might not require consent of parents. Also, don’t delete those blurry photos of kids running wild. Some of those photos can be great and show active children.
  2. Turn off the fake shutter noise– This simple trick allows you to take candid, natural pictures without making people feel like they need to be super-models.
  3. Get low – Children look more natural when you get down low on their level. This will make them look more natrual and keep them from craning their neck.
  4. Use an iPhone – I (Jeff) am a dyed-in-the-wool Android phone user and even I have to admit the photos from almost every Android phone just do not compete with iPhones. Newer iPads also have the same camera (and are a great way to browse data in BumbleBee). Smartphones or tablets also make it convenient to quickly edit and post photos to web sites, facebook pages, etc.
  5. howcast howto cute baby pictures

  6. Avoid fake styles – Using some well-known smartphone apps like Instagram will put a haze over all of your photos, making the look ‘vintage’. Camera+ is only $2 and will significantly improve your iPhone/smartphone flexibility.
  7. Find your light – You already know this if you watch the reality show Top Model, but light will make or Taking photos in natural light is better. Generally, you want the light coming over the photographer’s shoulder.break your photos. Generally, you want your primary light (ideally a big window) source behind you and facing your subject (e.g., the child). Natural light is ideal, as flashes are intense (and cause red-eye), and florescent lighting is not very flattering.
  8. using "rule of thirds" compose picture childcare center marketing images sell services

    How does your eye respond to these two bee photos? The difference is subtle. To my eye, on the left bee, I am focusing on the bee and it’s details. On the right, I focus on “what is the bee doing?”. In other words, moving the bee to the upper third intersection gives the 2-D still image energy. This would be the same principle for taking pictures of children playing at your center.

  9. Use the rule of thirds – Most people instinctively compose a photo with the focal point (e.g. the person’s face) dead center in the frame. If you study professional photos you start to see the “rule of thirds.” Imagine horizontal and vertical lines dividing the frame into 3 even pieces each way. Putting your subject (or the eye of a person in a close-up) at one of these intersections will create more compelling photos.
  10. child care center photo single focus

    In this picture, the subject (i.e., the paint tubes) is up-close and takes up the entire frame.

  11. Sneaker zoom – If you have a huge hulking Digital SLR, feel free to zoom away. But if you are just using your point-and-shoot camera or cameraphone, you probably should not be zooming in on a shot. Better yet, walk toward your subject and make sure your zoom is at 1x.

In Part II, we will walk through some more advanced techniques you can use to create even more authentic images for marketing and informing families about your child care center’s services. Let us know if you have your own beginner tips that you find useful for capturing photos at your center.

Early Childhood Educators Should Avoid Internet Explorer

Early Childhood Educators Should Avoid Internet Explorer
Question:“Does it matter which internet browser childcare administrators use?”
Answer: “You betcha!”

The Bottom Line on Browsers for Child care centers: Switching to another browser is not going to end your security risks permanently, but for the near term, it will help you minimize your risks and probably give you some nice features you were not expecting.

While most child care administrators we talk to user either the Firefox or Google Chrome browsers (both are free to install and use), a surprising number still use Internet Explorer. We at BumbleBee highly encourage you to install Firefox or Chrome or contact your technology support staff to request the upgrade. It will likely be a breathe of fresh air and make you wonder why you did not switch sooner. The Opera browser is also an option, but is less common than Firefox or Chrome.

browser market share

Chrome and Firefox are becoming more widely used than Internet Explorer

Why Should Child Care Managers Care?

The German government warned yesterday for people to temporarily stop using Internet Explorer. The problem relates to Java a technology used by the browser You could surf to a website and unknowingly infect your computer with a virus. (Yikes!) It’s a large hole, and needs to be fixed.

Also, older version of Internet Explorer do not automatically update to the latest version. As this blog goes to press, I am writing Chrome 21, but do not ask me what happened to versions 14 through 20. Chrome automatically updates in the background without me moving the mouse.

Worst of all, Internet Explorer’s and browsers lack support for international standards and rules. Have you ever gone to a website and had it look different from your iPad or home browser. This happens more frequently, particularly for IE 8 or lower. This is a constant headache for web page designers and web applications like BumbleBee. Internet Explorer requires a lot of extra cartwheels to make it work.

Get More Done in Less Time

Using a newer browser means you could be getting faster results. How fast things move on the internet depend on many complex factors, but for sure, Internet Explorer’s older versions (version 8 or less) will loses out on any sort of performance test against newer browsers.

How Do I Know which Browser I Am Using?

If your are using a PC click on the menu button “Help” > “About Internet Explorer” that will tell you the version. If that says anything less than 8, you are severely behind and highly vulnerable. If you are using a Mac, it’s extremely unlikely you are using Internet Explorer.

“But I ♥ IE”

The anticipated launch date for Internet Explorer 10 is October 26th. No word one one IE will plug the security hole.

If you really love-love Internet Explorer, the good news is Microsoft intends to fix the bug. Also, on October 26th, the scheduled launch of Explorer 10 will happen. The big downside of that is that Internet Explorer 9 and 10 will both require Windows 7 or 8. I am guessing there are a lot of computers out there in childcare centers that do not run Windows 7 yet.

Side note: As always, keep your anti-virus program up-to-date.

What browser do you use and why?

Building Your Childcare Community with Public and Private Websites

Building Your Childcare Community with Public and Private Websites

member hub group management and collaborationDid you notice we just updated our website? We wanted to show a better representation of all the new capabilities BumbleBee delivers to childcare centers to help boost enrollment, to manage waiting lists and to organize classrooms Of course, please let me know if you see have any feedback on the new design (or find any spelling errors.)

Updating our public website reminded me of how much of an investment (time and/or money) it can be to have a site that accurately represents your services and looks professional. While making large scale changes to our BumbleBee public website, I thought, “how do child care directors find the time to do this with all of the immediate demands of a successful early childhood education provider?”

Not only that, you are communicating with two audiences, your existing clients (i.e., your childcare’s families) and prospective clients (i.e., new parents). Balancing the two while managing an child care can be a real challenge for childcare owners, directors and administrators.

I thought there must be a better way to manage all this for child care administrators.

It turns out, for child care management there is: MemberHub.com. MemberHub.com is a one-stop-shop for everything you need to build a public website and a private online community for your child care or early childhood education center. MemberHub’s core, web-based software provides private group collaboration and member management. That’s great for securely engaging with parents and increasing involvement in your programs.

Not only that, MemberHub provides services to help you build your external public facing website, affordably and professionally. Plus, after getting to know Matt Harrell, I know you are going to get great service. I recommend you check out MemberHub for childcare communication management and building your public website.

Child Care Software = Good — Child Care Robots = Bad

Child Care Software = Good — Child Care Robots = Bad

These videos illustrate the role of technology & automation in daycare. Of course, we take the opposite approach at BumbleBee – we focus on streamlining the non-care aspects of the business so you can focus on developing children, coaching staff, and nurturing parent relationships.

Have fun!

Here are the out takes

5 Tips to Build a Facebook Presence for Your Childcare Center

5 Tips to Build a Facebook Presence for Your Childcare Center

Interview with Joanne Hurt, Executive Director
Wonders Child Care


Wonders Child Care is an accredited, non-profit early childhood education provider with nine locations throughout DC, Maryland, and Virginia. Through its 35 years, it has earned a reputation for delivering high-quality, affordable care in a flexible way to families of the Washington DC metro area. Wonders offers programs for infants through school age including full-time, before/after, and summer programs.

They have an exemplory Facebook presence to accompany their diverse programs featuring photos, announcements, and links to articles on child development.

What input or reactions did you get from families when you were planning to create a Facebook page?
There was a mix of responses. Most of the respondents said they were excited and would be interested in seeing Wonders on Facebook. A few expressed little interest in learning more about Wonders via Facebook and a very small minority felt Facebook was not appropriate due to concerns about using photos of children.

Was there anything surprising you learned from your survey?
About 95% of the respondents thought the page should be private, restricted or hidden.

What is the primary benefit you see for the page on Facebook?
I think the Facebook page helps to further communicate the Wonders philosophy and mission both to our current families and families who are thinking about enrolling in one of our programs. We have nine different centers that each have their own unique qualities. By using the page to share information about activities at the various sites, it helps connect all of our families and programs.

  1. Survey Parents– Either through an online tools, paper, email, or in person, get input from you parents on what they would like to see and how they would use a Facebook page
  2. Keep it Private– The easiest way to avoid offending families is to keep most of the content private
  3. Mine Newsletters– Use gems from the content you are already creating for newsletters and other family updates. Keep it brief and post links to relevant child development articles online.
  4. Connect with Staff (Past and Present)– Staying in touch with staff will benefit you on many levels. Some might even “like” you.
  5. Get Consent for Photos– The last thing you want is to share something that a parent considers private. Let parents opt-out of sharing photos of their children.

We recently learned from a parent survey that close to 20% of our current families found us through a web search. I think social media is a valuable aspect of a web presence.
Some former employees are also connected to Wonders through the Facebook page. I really like this aspect because we like staying connected to former staff after they move away.

20% of our current families found us through a web search

Your page has photos, articles, and news about Wonders, how much work does it take to create all of that content?
We have two staff members who contribute to the page. I have been doing it primarily. I recently hired an assistant who has been also adding content. Each program director writes a weekly e-newsletter to his or her families at their site. We get ideas and content from these communication tools, too. All directors are asked to send photos to for our photo “bank”. It doesn’t take much effort once you are set up.

What is your secret to getting so many “Likes” and “Friends”?
We used the center-based e-newsletters to promote the Facebook page. I also sent encouraging notes to my Facebook friends who have some connection to Wonders. We did offer a Wonders t-shirt to the 100th person who “liked” our page. The winner was a mom at one of our school age programs. When we contacted her to let her know she had won, she was excited!

Do you have any specific policies regarding privacy for Facebook posts?
All parents sign a photo permission form at the start of the year. They can opt out of having their children’s photos used in any promotional way. Parents who have not granted permission to use photos will often give us permission for a particular photo if we let them know how we want to use it.

How do you get such great photos?
Primarily our teachers and program directors take most of the photos.

Wonders has an excellent social media presence, specifically their Facebook page

Do you know how many new families or connections you have made because of your Facebook presence?
We haven’t tracked this. I do know from conversation with some folks that they pay attention to what we are posting there.

Tech Tip: Setting up Your Childcare Location in Google Maps

Tech Tip: Setting up Your Childcare Location in Google Maps

Expert Childcare Marketing Advice: “Be on the MAP!”

I recently attended a very informative webinar at Early Childhood Investigations (signup there for other great webinars http://www.earlychildhoodwebinars.org/) on how to build enrollment and fill empty spaces (follow this link to slides and recording) presented by Kris Murray, President of Child Care Marketing Solutions. She offered a lot of great marketing insights for Directors, Administrators, and Owners of childcare centers.

Among the many gold nuggets Kris Murray offered during the webinar, was “You MUST be found on Google for your keywords – be on the MAP!”. Instantly, the Q&A board lit up with questions about how to address the issue.

google-maps-for-child-care-centers

On the left hand column you will often see the location Google is using to improve your search results

Frequently, childcare centers I visit are not “on the map” (i.e., not on Google Maps.) Consequently, when someone searches “child care 20006”, there is no “marker” on your location. If you search for “child care” on your smart phone, Google uses your current location for the search. Here are just some of the reasons this is important to your child care center:

  • Google and Bing web searches are based on your location, by default
  • Lots of other sites like Yelp! and Foursquare, reference Google Maps data for their own services
  • Improves your ranking on other search sites
  • Let’s you control spam and counter unwanted or negative reviews
  • Another place to market your quality services
  • On and on …

Google Maps search for "child care" despite the lack of location information. Small round dots represent places Google thinks are child care centers but it is not certain of. Results include many childcare centers but also a clown.

Step-by-Step: Getting your Child Care on Google Maps

Here is a step-by-step how to of how to take control your childcare center’s appearance on maps:

  1. Go to Google Maps
  2. Search on “child care” and your zip code
  3. Find your current maps listing, if it exists, on the map or on the list in the left hand side  (If your location is not listed, go to google.com/places and follow the instructions for getting your business found on Google)
  4. Click on the title of your child care center (e.g., “Washington Kids Inc”) which should bring up a Google Maps Page (not your URL)
  5. Find the link “Business Owner?” in the upper right hand corner. (If it is already managed by someone, you will see “Owner Verified Listing (✔).” If it says it is verified and that is not you, you should do some sleuthing to find out who it is.)

    Step 5 - The link in the upper right will allow you to claim your listing

  6. Select Edit listing. Click Continue.
    Step 6
  7. Fill out relevant information. Put in Child care as the category and try a few others you think might be relevant

    Step 7

  8. Click “Submit”
  9. You can verify by regular mail or phone (faster)

Frequently Asked Questions

But my childcare location already comes up in Google Searches why do I need to do this?

Google Maps has different data and you want to be on both. Also the results you see on your browser are different from you smartphone and are different depending on your search history, a whole other ball of wax

Isn’t Google going to start spamming me?

No. In fact, the worst thing that could happen is they will sending you valuable coupons for Google Adwords.

Won’t this make it easier for people to give me undeserved or unfair reviews?

No, this will give you more power to dispute unfair reviews, if necessary.

What about Bing, Yahoo, etc.?

Those are important too. But sometimes it is important to take a first step, and Google Maps is a really easy one with a big upside.

Tech Tip: The Childcare Grapevine

Tech Tip: The Childcare Grapevine

No need to set up a deep space antenna on your childcare facility, Google Alerts will do just fine

The director of a small childcare center asked, exasperated, “how was I supposed to address an unjustified review of my childcare center on Yelp when I did not even know what Yelp was…” My first tech tip: breathe. Deeply.

To say that childcare directors wear many hats is an understatement. Directors must manage their center’s reputation. Thankfully there are some easy (and free) tools to help you know when relevant content about your center appears online.

For this, we recommend Google Alerts. Google Alerts scours the web for keywords you want to watch and sends you a concise email daily, weekly or monthly with any developments in your area of interest.

Here is a suggestion for how to configure the five options on Google Alerts:

google alerts childcare directors online

Test keywords to make them not too broad and not too specific. In other words, just right.

Search Query: Choose keywords to keep your alert from being too broad. For example, “explorers childcare northern virginia”. The location information would cut down on the noise if you have a common name in your childcare centers title. (keywords are not case sensitive)

Result Type: Leave it as “Everything”. You can change this later if it sends too much information.

Frequency: We recommend “Once a week” or “Once a month.” It is pretty easy to get saturated with these emails.

How Many: Leave it at “only the best results”

Deliver to: Use your Google account if you have one.

Then click “Create Alert”. This will take you to a management screen where you can edit, test, or remove alerts. It’s easy to setup alerts and it is no cost to you, so experiment and see what works best. If you find yourself getting too many emails, simply go back and delete ones that are not relevant to you or your childcare center.

childcare alerts

Edit and Delete Your Alerts

One caveat, you will not see alerts for member-only sites like Angie’s List* so you will have to deal with those separately. Setting up alerts for your childcare center will help you get ahead of the grapevine to make sure there are no distortions or inaccuracies going unaddressed.

Give it a shot and you’ll be surprised how easy it is.

Are you using Google Alerts already? Can you think of other alerts you could set up for career development or other fun things? How about “awesome discounts teachers childcare directors preschool”? Or maybe you just want to track what is being said about your competitor across town. Let us know what you think!

* Angie’s List provides a free login for you to manage your childcare center’s reputation.

Tech Tip: Browser Shortcuts for Childcare Center Directors

Tech Tip: Browser Shortcuts for Childcare Center Directors


Everyone loves a shortcut. In Worcester, MA, I taught a class to high school age students on how to use Excel, Word, and Publisher. I would visit a few times during the semeseter and walk through some hands on labs. It was a lot of fun, and I learned a lot. Most of the time, I would have to work hard to keep the students’ attention, but each semester, I taught a unit on shortcut keys. During that portion of the lesson, every student sat on the edge of their seats taking note.

There are a lot of small time savers in your internet browser that can add up to an avalanche of time savings. Here are some shortcuts that will work in equally well in your childcare center, whether using a MAC or PC in any browser (IE, Chrome, Firefox) :

  • CTRL-F (command-F in mac) – Pressing CTRL and F at the same time will bring up a small box, sometimes in the upper right. Simply type the word you are looking for and hit enter to go through each place it occurs. This works not only in the browser but just about every other program including Word, Excel, and Adobe Acrobat. How many times do you find white rabbit mentioned on this page?
  • CTRL F childcare search

    Use CTRL-F to quickly find a name or word on a web page

  • SPACEBAR (spacebar) – Pressing the space bar will scroll down the page. This way you don’t have to move your hands to the arrow keys or your mouse wheel after you type in the URL. SHIFT+SPACEBAR will move you back up the page
  • ALT-D (command-L) – This jumps up to the internet address bar and highlights it. So say you are on google.com and you want to try bing.com. Hit ALT-D, and start typing the new address
  • CTRL-T (command T) – Start a new tab. Does your desktop get cluttered up with browser windows? Start a new tab and check your email while leaving your current page undisturbed. Then go back to your original tab by clicking it with the mouse. This will neatly keep all of your browsing in one window.
  • CTRL-ENTER (command ENTER) – Tired of typing all those non-sensical “http://www.” and “.com”‘s? Instead, type the center part (e.g., “google”) and hit CTRL-ENTER. For example, type “bumblebeehq” in the address bar and hit CTRL-ENTER, it will magically create sandwich and add the “http://www.” and “.com” to bumblebeehq and take you to the page.

CTRL-ENTER will sandwich your internet address between "http://www." and ".com"

Now that you have pulled the white rabbit out of the hat, the question is: what are you going to do with all of that extra free time?

What are your favorite browser shortcuts that you think other childcare directors need to know about?

(If those are old hat, try these)

What Google Can Teach Childcare Directors

What Google Can Teach Childcare Directors

We would like to think here at BumbleBee Childcare Software that everyone is thinking about quality childcare and simplifying waiting lists all year round, but that is just not true. At least, not according to how often people are googling childcare search terms. This should influence everything from when you should pay for Google Adwords to market your childcare center to when you send out that re-enrollment form to families.

Google Trends for Backstreet Boys

On Google, the keywords "backstreet boys" says bye bye bye to "nsync"

Google Trends (http://www.google.com/trends) is a fun tool for you to make all kinds of unscientific conclusions for just about anything. For example, say you wanted to prove for all time that the Backstreet Boys were and always will be better then ‘N Sync. Google Trends confirms what we already knew, Backstreet Boys rule.

Aside from settling old grudges, there are some legitimate teachings that childcare directors can glean from Google Trends. First, on the search term for “childcare”, you will see that predictably, it falls of by one half to one third at this time of year, the end of the calendar year. You do not have to be a childcare director to guess at the cause of that. An implication of that could be that you should budget less for Google Adwords for your childcare center during November and December.

Also, you see that the search volume spikes up in January and gradually falls of throughout the year. This could mean that you want to target your outreach programs like open houses to this time of the year when people are most interested in childcare. Or if you are the contrarian and you zig when everyone else zags, you could target those times when no one else is conducting heavy outreach for your programs.

Google Childcare Trends

Traffic on Google for the keyword "childcare" dips towards the end of the calendar year and spikes in January

A couple of things to keep in mind. The results are relative. They don’t tell you that childcare was searched for one million times. Only that whatever the average volume is that is equal to 1. Also, key words that overlap with other search terms will confuse the results. For example, brady bunch could overlap with sports celebrity Tom Brady’s dedicated fans.

Please tell me what you think? Does this line up with how many interest calls you field at your center?

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