The complete beginners guide to starting a home daycare
March 21, 2016
Starting a home daycare business can be very rewarding, earning you a steady income while working out of the luxury of your home. But you are being entrusted by parents to nurture their precious little ones. It is a huge responsibility both professionally and personally, and will impact you significantly more than a usual 9 to 5 job.
Once you have decided to embark on this new venture, where do you go next? The journey from ‘yes this is what I want to do’ to “open for business!” can be a confusing one. Starting a home daycare requires a lot of research, organization, and diligence.
Listed below are some considerations that will get you started, and make your experience smoother to prepare you for a successful venture.
- Licensing: Before you do anything, you need a license to operate. Understand the licensing requirements of your state, and also tap into resources that might be regionally available. Depending on the state in which you reside, there may be specific requirements to be registered or licensed as a home daycare. For example to in Ohio you can go to the Ohio Department of Jobs and services website or for Pennsylvania you can visit the Pennsylvania department of Human services. There are similar sites for all the states.
- Your Brand: What kind of daycare do you want to be? And how will you get the word out that you are open and available? The first question is an important one to determine what you want to be known for or what is your brand? What is important to you as a parent or professional? Write down 2-3 words that hold meaning to you and will help you create a brand. Everything you do after that, from marketing, set up of the house, day to day activities etc., should reflect, if not oppose, those words. So for example if creativity is important, you probably want to ensure there are lots of art and craft activities. Or if music is important to you, you may want to have music appreciation as part of the routine.
- Start Up Costs: Once you know what you want to be known for, and how many kids you can take on, there will be marketing costs that will incurred such as getting a domain name, a website built, or even getting the word out the traditional way (e.g. printing out flyers to hand out in your local area). There are always the more low-tech routes such as posting on Craigslist, however depending on the market you are targeting, you may need different routes. You may be able to target your local church or community center, and fill up spaces quickly. Or it may require some more time, and word of mouth to get your first little customers. Also as part of start-up costs, you will likely have to purchase some basic equipment such as a strollers, high chairs, rocking chairs, as well as additional toys, and supplies for your daycare.
- Preparing your home: Where will the ‘daycare’ reside? Is there a particular area in the house such as a basement or playroom? Or will the living room be the daycare? Think about this will impact your family and home life. Once you have decided where the daycare is, then look at that area in an objective manner and point out the weaknesses. After-all your child(ren) grew up in the same space. But before you open your home to other kids check for the following things:
- Make sure your house is clean and is odor free
- Clear any sharp objects, hanging cords or wire, or broken equipment
- Baby-proof your area by covering all electric outlets, oven knobs, table corners, fastening cabinets, and installing gates in places you don’t want the children to crawl into.
- Decide where you place your pets (if you have any!). Some parents may hesitate in leaving their children where there are pets, while for others it is not a big deal. It’s a personal choice, and if you have pets, make sure you have a plan for keeping the pets away from the children during daycare hours.
- Ensure there is a space for outdoor activities – if you don’t have a patio or backyard, find a park close to your house that you can access safely with the children.
- Forms, forms and more forms: There will be a lot of paperwork involved when setting up and running a daycare. While this is quite tedious, it is almost one of the most important aspects of running a daycare. There is a lot of liability at hand when you are taking care of children. You need to ensure that you have the correct forms ready to go. The following forms will be needed when you open shop - Feeding Form, Shot Record and Medication Form, Child Enrollment Form, Emergency Contacts Incident and Injury Form. You can look up ideas for different forms on Pinterest. I personally really liked the list provided by all-things-childcare website.
- Activity and Entertainment Supplies: How will you keep the children occupied during the day? You need to make sure you have age-appropriate supplies to keep the kids entertained:
- Arts and craft supplies --paper, crayons, washable markers, coloring pencils, activity and coloring books
- Reading Books – we have some great recommendations in our product section. Amazon is another great source of books and movies.
- Music – both instrumental for those naps, and also more pumped dance music for those dance parties. Kids of all ages love music and it could also be a great stress reliever for you!
- Puzzles – Puzzles are a great way to keep toddlers preschoolers busy and challenged.
- Outdoor space: Letting kids run around to blow off steam is an important part of your day. If you have a big outdoor space then you may want to think about a playhouse, slide, table and chairs, and tricycles. If you are focusing on infants, ensure you have swings and strollers.
- Supplies for naptime: Once again, based on the age of the children you are looking after you will need
- Appropriate number of cots
- Cribs or playpens
- Baby monitor
- A music player to put children to sleep with a good recyclable supply of nighttime lullaby’s
- Feeding and Kitchen Supplies: The amount you get depends on the age group you tend to but make sure you buy enough
- Plastic Plates
- Sippy Cups
- High chairs
- Booster seats
- Lunch and snacks (ensure you provide parents with a list of the week’s menu and snacks to avoid any issues)
- Other Important items
- Play mat
- Changing table and mats
- Diaper genie for disposing dirty diapers
- First aid kit
- A table and small chairs for the kids to sit on and color or do puzzles.
- Some shelves for toys
- Don’t buy everything: As most experienced home daycare owners will tell you, don't buy all at once and simply start with the basics and add as you grow.
- Label Everything: An important step in staying organized especially if you are dealing with infants. Make sure you label extra clothes, diaper boxes, wipe containers, and bottles.
- Ideas to create a great daycare space: One great resource for inspiration is the 'home daycare rooms' section on Pinterest. There are ideas that fit all budgets and creativity skills. If you want to let your imagination run wild then definitely check out Houzz. Remember, you want to create a space that will provide parents the confidence to leave their precious little ones in your care. Also, you want to provide children with a space that will enable them to learn and grow in a happy and healthy environment.
- Where to buy toys and other daycare supplies
- Garage sales; garage sales are always the best place to buy used items and save a lot of money.
- Annual fundraisers at schools or churches are other great places.
- Walmart as always is a great place to buy good quality for a low price.
- Craigslist is a another obvious choice for used cheap toys and equipment
- Checkout other daycares in your area. Often they get rid of their old equipment such as cots, tables, changing tables, toys that are still in good condition.
- Create weekly schedules for kids: Depending on the age group you are tending to, a weekly schedule can be very useful. It will help you stay organized and better prepared for the daily activities. It also helps parents in learning about what their children will be accomplishing during their time at your home daycare. You can begin by using a basic schedule and see if you need to make change to the hours for snack or meals or even the activities as you go along. If you are tending to infants only, then there may not be a need. They will be fed when they are hungry and put to bed when they are tired. Toddler and preschool kids will require a bit more structure. The ‘daycare schedule page’ search on Pinterest is great resource to finding examples of schedules that you can take inspiration from.
- Items parents must provide: Be clear with the parents about items that they will need to provide. This should include both items that will be brought when the child is dropped off and essential items that will be needed to be left behind and replenished as needed.
Items to be provided to the Daycare:
- A sufficient supply of diapers or pull-ups (to be replaced as needed)
- 2 full changes of clothing
- Two pacifiers (if needed)
- Pillows, Blankets, stuff toys or comfort object
- Diaper Cream
- Preferred pain medication
- Formula/breast milk
- Food (in reusable or recyclable containers, please!)
- Appropriate outerwear (shoes, jacket, hat, etc.)
Startup phase issues: This is a marathon not a sprint. You may not make money right away. Parents may not start lining up in front of your door. You may not have the perfect schedule down or you may not be able to fill all of your openings right away. Running a successful home daycare takes time and effort. Hopefully these insights will help you succeed. Good luck on your venture and please let me know if I missed anything.
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Marketing intern at MomDash.