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A Comprehensive Checklist to Start Your Daycare Business


If you are thinking of establishing a daycare business in your home, you may be wondering where to even start. There are a lot of steps to starting a daycare, so below is a comprehensive checklist to get you started.

Check Licensing and Certification Requirements

Daycare licensing and certification requirements vary by state, so what applies for some people may not apply for others. Start your research by checking with your state to see what it requires for operation. The state will indicate how many kids you can accept depending on the number of people in your staff. It will also provide you with rules and regulations for operation. Becoming a state-licensed daycare may seem like a lot of work, but it's worth the extra peace of mind it provides to you and your clients.

Check Zoning Regulations in Your Neighborhood

Many a home daycare has been ruined at the start by not heeding zoning requirements. Before you even set up shop, check with your city to make sure home daycares are permitted in your neighborhood. This will save you a lot of headaches and lost income later down the road.

Get the Proper Insurance Coverage

Your homeowner's insurance policy may not be enough to cover a home daycare. It's worth checking into a business liability policy, which will offer more protection to you and your business in the case of an accident.

Determine Your Size

If you are going to start out small--ie, it's just you--the number of kids you can watch will be limited. If you choose to take on some staff, make sure you run criminal background checks on everyone. Even if you feel you know a potential new hire very well, it's worth the extra effort and provides more protection to your business and your clients.

Get a CPR Certification

This one seems like a no-brainer, but it's amazing how few people are really trained in giving CPR. Make sure that your certification is up-to-date, and make sure that any staff you take on is CPR certified as well.


This is the fun part! Depending on the age and number of children in your care, you will need to get toys, books and learning materials to keep them busy. If you have no idea where to start, try checking with a local teacher supply store. The materials they offer for sale are educational and entertaining, as well as age-appropriate.

Policy Handbook and Contract

Be sure to provide a policy handbook for all your parents so they are aware of your rules and regulations. Provide a contract that spells out the details of your service; ie., how long you will be watching the child, how much you will charge, and how much notice you need if the child will be pulled out of your daycare. You might want to enlist the help of a paralegal or an attorney to make sure both documents protect your rights.

Research Your Fees

Do some research in your community and see what the going rate is for day care services. You don't want to overprice yourself, nor do you want to undervalue your services. If you are state-licensed, you will have the edge you need to charge a little more than your unlicensed competitors.

The bottom line is this: your clients will be entrusting you with the care of their children. Do everything you can to offer safe, legal and quality day care services out of your home. It's worth doing the extra homework as you start your business to make sure you are covered once you start accepting new customers.

Sarah Baker is a documentary filmmaker and writer currently living in New Bern, NC. Her first book, Lucky Stars: Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell, will be published December 2009. Read more about her.

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