101 Ideas for Boosting Staff Engagement at Your Childcare Center or Preschool

101 Ideas for Boosting Staff Engagement at Your Childcare Center or Preschool

101 Ideas for Boosting Staff Engagement at Your Childcare Center or Preschool

Working in early education is extremely rewarding, but it can also be challenging and lead to burnout for many teachers. Follow these tips for supporting your staff in four key areas—career development, recognition and appreciation, team-building, and stress management— to keep your teachers motivated, engaged, and happy at your center!

Invest in your staff members’ career development

  1. 1. Have regular 1:1 check-ins so staff can share their highlights, lowlights, and any areas they need help or support in
  2. 2. Hold staff evaluations at least once a year and offer thoughtful, growth-focused feedback
  3. 3. Encourage your staff members to self-reflect on their own career goals throughout the year 
  4. 4. Delegate small leadership tasks to your teachers, such as being a health and safety coordinator or a hall monitor 
  5. 5. Introduce leadership programs, such as “Directors in Training,” so staff have opportunities to grow and advance at your center 
  6. 6. Offer tuition assistance or reimbursement for staff furthering their ECE education 
  7. 7. Ask your staff what they want to learn about and organize trainings accordingly 
  8. 8. Subscribe to a training program for your whole staff team, such as the Childcare Education Institute, so that they can pick and choose what they want to learn 
  9. 9. Watch ECE trainings together as a staff team, such as webinars from NAEYC and brightwheel 
  10. 10. Organize an ECE book club or article club for your staff team 
  11. 11. Establish a mentor program or "buddy system" at your center and pair more experienced staff with new teachers 
  12. 12. Regularly offer advice from your own experience as a director or administrator
  13. 13. Invite other local experts, such as child psychologists or occupational therapists, to lead trainings at your center
  14. 14. Subscribe to an ECE publication for your staff team, such as NAEYC’s Teaching Young Children
  15. 15. Dedicate time during staff meetings to discuss ECE current events 
  16. 16. Hold regular professional development days that go beyond state-mandated trainings
  18. Get your free professional development day agenda - brightwheel-png
  20. Check out our free professional development day agenda template! 
  21. Show appreciation and recognition on a regular basis

  22. 17. Plan pop-up coffee days to treat each staff member to coffee and a snack 
  23. 18. Offer surprise lunches from staff members’ favorite restaurants 
  24. 19. Plan staff outings and offsite events, such as hikes or visits to local parks and museums
  25. 20. Practice active listening and implement an open door policy 
  26. 21. Work with staff members’ individual needs to offer flexible scheduling if possible
  27. 22. Schedule regular happy hours at the end of the week (that include non-alcoholic drink options)
  28. 23. Express your gratitude to your team during staff meetings and highlight specific examples of great work
  29. 24. Provide catered lunches once a month or every quarter
  30. 25. Acknowledge staff members for their unique strengths and contributions
  31. 26. Celebrate staff anniversaries as a team 
  32. 27. Give written cards and gift cards 
  33. 28. Set up a coffee/tea/hot cocoa bar in the kitchen
  34. 29. Create a space for “Positivity Post-Its” in staff break rooms
  35. 30. Provide fruit platters for snack time 
  36. 31. Host Taco Fridays, Bagel Wednesdays, and Donut Days 
  37. 32. Give chocolate and other sweet treats as "just because" gifts
  38. 33. Highlight individual and team achievements during staff meetings 
  39. 34. Send thank you emails to individual staff members—for both big and little things 
  40. 35. Ask parents to share messages of appreciation with staff members
  41. 36. Organize monthly activity calendars with themed days 
  42. 37. Give your staff birthday goodie bags
  43. 38. Have Teacher of the Week/Month awards where the winner gets extra time off work 
  44. 39. Have students make cards for your staff team
  45. 40. Organize a scavenger hunt where staff can find notes of appreciation throughout your center
  46. 41. Host quarterly staff dinners 
  47. 42. Organize regular staff potlucks 
  48. 43. Give positive verbal feedback 
  49. 44. Send your staff e-cards of appreciation
  50. 45. Walk to every classroom in the morning to say hello and see how your staff are doing 
  51. 46. Ask parents to donate $5 coffee gift cards for teachers
  52. 47. Ask families and students to respond to the prompt “why my teacher is a superhero” through notes and drawings 
  53. 48. Record appreciation videos from parents and students 
  54. 49. Organize a rotation where parents can volunteer to bring coffee, baked goods, or lunch for the week
  55. Provide team-building opportunities

    1. 50. Start every staff meeting with a fun icebreaker that helps your staff get to know each other better
    2. 51. Play fun games on your next training day, such as Fact Bingo or Telephone Pictionary
    3. 52. Implement a “staff buddies system” by assigning staff pairs that can check up on each other (and switching the pairs every month or so)
    4. 53. Implement “walk and talk” sessions by pairing teachers up to go on quick walks together during breaks
    5. 54. Encourage your staff members to give each other recognition or “high-fives” for their hard work during team meetings
    6. 55. Celebrate special holidays, milestones, and birthdays as a staff team
    7. 56. Organize family-friendly outings for your team after work, such as free outdoor concerts or picnics at the park
    8. 57. Create an optional “just-for-fun” book club or movie club that your staff can join
    9. 58. Create an optional exercise club for teammates who want to walk, run, or jog together consistently 
    10. 59. Host orientation days if you have multiple new hires joining at the same time and include fun icebreaker activities
    11. 60. Create a “Cheers for Peers” board in the staff break room 
    12. 61. Have your staff members take the Meyers Briggs test and share their results with the team
    13. 62. Host virtual Zoom “happy hours” while your center is closed for the summer
    14. 63. Have Fun Friday meetings where everyone shares a reflection or hobby 
    15. 64. Organize a volunteer day for your staff team once or twice a year 
    16. 65. Host a virtual game night that staff members can invite their families to 
    17. 66. Create a “memory wall” in the break room so staff members can post shared team memories 
    18. 67. Host a clothing or household items swap
    19. 68. Throw a hot dog party, pizza party, or Taco Tuesday party for your staff team
    20. 69. Plan a show-and-tell during a staff meeting where each person shares about an object that’s meaningful to them
    21. 70. Create a shared playlist of your staff team’s favorite songs and play it in the morning and during break times 
    22. 71. Organize teacher talent shows and fashion shows
    23. 72. Host a surprise party for your staff after a challenging or tiring week
    24. Support your staff members’ wellbeing and mental health

      1. 73. Model healthy behavior in the workplace and remember to take care of yourself
      2. 74. Create space during team meetings to share self-care ideas 
      3. 75. Host group yoga after students leave for the day
      4. 76. Give small gifts that emphasize self-care, like face masks, gift cards, and healthy snacks
      5. 77. Plan quick mindfulness sessions throughout the day
      6. 78. Let staff take dance breaks! 
      7. 79. Host morning meditation and/or prayer
      8. 80. Play relaxing music to start the day 
      9. 81. Implement Teacher Wellness Days so staff can have time to recharge
      10. 82. Plan 5-minute meetings to check in and laugh with each other before students arrive 
      11. 83. Post a list of community mental health resources in your staff break room 
      12. 84. Set healthy boundaries with parent communications for each staff member (for example, establishing times to officially “sign off”)
      13. 85. Decorate your center with fresh flowers and indoor plants
      14. 86. Allow staff to go on walks and get fresh air during the day 
      15. 87. Implement a “tap-in/ tap-out” rule so staff who feel overwhelmed can ask another staff member to step in for them while they take a quick break 
      16. 88. Create a comfortable room or space that’s separate from student areas where staff can unwind and relax 
      17. 89. Protect staff break times from interruptions, such as parent communications 
      18. 90. Make sure staff are staying hydrated by using water bottles that measure daily water intake 
      19. 91. Provide workout equipment in break areas
      20. 92. Lead guided box breathing at the beginning of meetings 
      21. 93. Give a small stipend every month for coffee or snack breaks 
      22. 94. Do personal check-in’s during staff meetings
      23. 95. Establish strong two-way communication in 1:1 check-in’s 
      24. 96. Watch self-care webinars together as a staff team 
      25. 97. Create an ongoing list of free mental health resources, such as apps that help with sleep and stress management 
      26. 98. Invite an expert to come to your center and lead a mindfulness training 
      27. 99. Give additional time off, or let staff leave earlier on select days of the week 
      28. 100. Let staff have breaks throughout the day if they seem tired 
      29. 101. Create “coupons” where you offer to take on your staff’s less desirable day-to-day responsibilities, such as changing diapers 
      31. Staff Wellness Checklist During COVID-19 - brightwheel
      33. Get your free staff wellness checklist to help your team stay happy and healthy  during COVID-19! 

      More resources for staff engagement

      To learn more about how to improve the staff culture at your childcare center or preschool, check out these additional resources! 

      At brightwheel, we’re grateful for all the ways you support your staff members. We hope these ideas will help your teachers stay motivated and ready to bring their best selves to work every day! 

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

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