Overall, this childcare management software is a leader in its field for a reason. While it doesn't magically make every stress of the day disappear, it does streamline and centralize a lot of tasks. Although it can be a challenge to find time to input real-time updates while managing a busy classroom, Brightwheel is a favorite with parents because of its deep engagement and direct updates. Taken one by one, the multiple things to remember each day can be a hassle. With the help of Brightwheel you can increase parental engagement and classroom organization. In addition it can give you a clearer grasp on daily business and financial matters.
The Inside Scoop on Brightwheel
First off, let’s be honest: Brightwheel is a leader in childcare management software for a reason.
It dubs itself as “the most powerful and most affordable system in early education.” As I outlined here, Brightwheel has made some big steps forward in early childhood education with its comprehensive, easy-to-share features. So, does it live up to the hype?
Let’s take a look!
Brightwheel is a subscription app that works for schools, childcare and summer camps. It functions fairly smoothly on all devices, including web and smartphone.
Brightwheel started as a kid-tracking app called KidCasa and evolved into a comprehensive childcare management software package. The app was designed by entrepreneur Dave Vasen to be an “all-in-one solution.” Vasen went on to score a sweet $600,000 deal on the show Shark Tank with billionaire Mark Cuban. Needless to say, this helped propel his app into the limelight.
It has an easy-to-use interface divided into Rooms, Students, Parents, Staff, Learning, Billing, Reports. Each of these sections contains multiple useful and convenient features that keep your daycare center humming along at optimal happiness. From tracking attendance, scheduling, meals, immunizations, wait-list management, employee wages and daily highlights, Brightwheel is a superstar in its field.
Wearing Two Hats
As Vasen has observed, the unique challenge of being a daycare provider (or director) is wearing two hats. “They’re not just managing a classroom, but managing a business, too.” Too true!
It’s these kind of down-to-earth insights that show that Brightwheel was made because of experience, similarly to Hopping In which rose to the challenge of filling a daycare center completely (without the extra marketing work).
Brightwheel evolved out of a solid starting point: providing decent childcare management software with features that will enrich parental engagement and satisfaction. For detailed how-to resources, Brightwheel’s YouTube channel is a recommended stop.
- Check in / check out
- Photo gallery
- Attendance tracking
- Enrollment management
- Parent portal
- Faculty / staff management
- Student information / records
- Online registration
- Feeding / meal records
- Payment processing
- Behavior management
- Menu planning
- Text messaging
- Parent portal
- Daily reports
- Wait list management
Even more …
- Classroom management
- Facility management
- Student portal
- Parent / child records
- Room ratios
- Billing & invoicing
- Parent auto pay
- Messages, reminders and alerts
- Improved learning tracking
- Individual student reports
- Staff only & approved posts
- Food tracking (CACFP aligned)
- Check-in kiosk
- Multi-location manager
- Incident reports
Details and pricing
Brightwheel is a subscription-app that offers a free, 30-day trial of Brightwheel Premium. If you don’t purchase Premium the account will revert to a free basic Brightwheel account after 30 days. Keep in mind that the free version is only usable for smaller capacity daycare centers. The free version also only allows you to manage one staff member.
It’s the premium version that can handle large daycare centers and multiple locations. Trying it out for the 30-day trial is the best way to see what it can offer your daycare center.
Pricing is determined based on capacity and number of locations. It ranges from around $40 to $200 per month. You’ll even receive a prompt e-mail soon after signing up offering assistance. The e-mail also specifies convenient features like the Free Roster Upload that let you fast-track the setup process.
Big Advantage: parental involvement
Brightwheel’s number one selling point is the parental engagement.
Besides just having their kids taken care of, parents need to develop a healthy relationship with the daycare owner. When it comes to this business, the personal touch matters. That’s why features like the ones Brightwheel offers go a long way. For example, if you use Hopping In and offer parents refunds for absences while allowing other parents to pick up the dropped spots, that can really show how invested you are in their satisfaction.
In terms of childcare management software it offers some of the best on the market. Teachers can also use Brightwheel to make notes on in-class activities, meal tracking, highlights and behavior and share this with parents. They can also snap photos during the day which go straight to the parent who is tagged.
How to get parents signed up? On the Brightwheel homepage you just click on the “Parents” tab at the top of the page. You are then given easy instructions for how to invite parents into the app. Firstly, you just enter a parent’s name and e-mail on a student’s profile. They then receive an invitation and are able to create a Brightwheel account using their phone or computer. You can also print out an invitation for parents to participate in Brightwheel. Watch the app in action. Pretty cool, right?
Downsides: it’s gotta have some, right?
Well, not many.
On occasion Brightwheel’s timing system can be a bit inaccurate. There are also features under lesson plans that are not yet on the site and it’s unclear when they’ll be put there. Brightwheel also requires WiFi to function, which can be a hassle on field trips or other outings where you want to use it.
In addition, another potential hangup is the fact that staff can sign up a kid into a different class without checking with the administrator. They can also send reports, photos, etc., also without checking with the administrator.
Another issue with Brightwheel is the customer service. It’s done online by instant messaging and it takes a few hours to get a response. If a real issue came up that needed to be resolved ASAP, you would be out of luck. According to same user reports, Brightwheel can also occasionally freeze and have loading issues.
At our daycare we use Brightwheel and here’s how I’d describe the experience so far:
At my daycare, the director manages 15 teachers who all use Brightwheel. They’ve been using it since we opened about one year ago. The app is installed on in-daycare tablets, as well as on staff mobile phones.
Parents love Brightwheel because it provides them with updates on their child’s day, everything from fun activities to meals and diaper changes. Photos are private because parents can see just the specific photos and videos sent to them. At the same time, it can be a challenge for busy staff to always update Brightwheel in real-time. To be able to find that time to input those things while still taking care of the children is a tough task. Since the updates are live, parents come to expect updates throughout the day which does put a little pressure on staff to enter data immediately rather than doing it during a break.
Brightwheel has also been hit and miss in terms of running speed. My teachers have quite a lot of problems with it being slow.
Nonetheless, Brightwheel has been working fairly well overall and is more popular with parents than the program we’ve used in the past. It’s also easy to add new kids into Brightwheel.
It’s very popular with parents because they love the level of engagement, and staff will need at least several hours of training to learn Brightwheel before their first shift but I’d say it’s worth it.
With Brightwheel’s vast array of features, issues are easy to forget. After all, Brightwheel gives daycare owners and caregivers more options than any software before.
Author: Hopping In Blog
Sholom Strick is an expert on the business of running daycare centers and founder of Hopping In, a tool that helps childcare centers and family daycare providers fill unused spots.
To contact him or for media inquiries email firstname.lastname@example.org