Do you love working with kids and are wondering how to start a home daycare? We’ll walk you through all the steps needed to open a successful home daycare center so you can earn an income as a work-at-home mom.
Ever thought about starting a home daycare as a way to earn money from home?
This can be an especially good choice if you have young kids at home and are finding it hard to juggle a more traditional work-at-home job (although these remote jobs can also be a great choice if you want to avoid using daycare).
Running a home daycare can be a stressful job with long hours, but it is also very rewarding and can allow you plenty of time with your own kids as well.
My home daycare experience
When my oldest son was only a few months old, I went back to my job as a teacher. I loved my job, but I did not love leaving my son during the day.
I fantasized about finding a way to work from home. Today we are lucky and work-at-home jobs have become fairly standard. In 2003, not so much.
My backup plan was to find a job where I could bring my son to work with me. I started interviewing at daycare centers, hoping to find one willing to let my son attend too. During an interview with a home daycare provider I thought was going well, the woman stopped and said, “Why don’t you just open your own home daycare?”
The thought had honestly not occurred to me, but I was curious, so I started doing some research. It turned out that opening a home daycare was a fairly easy process.
I didn’t know this at the time, but starting down this path led to a five-year career that helped me bring in more income than my teaching job while staying home with my kids.
Are you curious about how to start a home daycare center?
If you love working with kids and want to work from home while being present for your kids in a way that is impossible with other remote jobs (even ones that don’t require daycare), running a home daycare may be a great fit for you.
We’ll walk you through the process of getting a home daycare set up, marketing it, and running it in a way that doesn’t take over every aspect of your life.
How to get a home daycare license
The first step to starting a home daycare center is to get a childcare license. If you are tempted to run your daycare without a license, I’d suggest that you don’t. Not only is it illegal to run an unlicensed daycare in most places, but you’ll also be turning your back on some amazing training resources and grants.
Childcare license processes vary from city to city. In general, you will need:
- A business license
- A fire inspection (to ensure your home is safe for kids)
- A background check
- Infant & Child CPR certification
- A food handlers permit
- First aid certificate
- A childcare license
That sounds like a lot, but each of these is fairly simple to do and many counties offer a local resource and referral agency that I would highly recommend joining. They usually offer help getting through the daycare licensing process.
Connect with your local Childcare Resource and Referral Agency
Before I started running a home daycare, I had no idea what a childcare resource and referral agency was, but it will be your lifeline.
They are usually the organization that will license you (or help with licensing), and they can also provide:
- Grants to help you buy toys and supplies to set up your daycare space
- Lending libraries
- Training to help you improve as a daycare provider
- Many R&R agencies also help parents find daycare providers, so once you are set up, they can send business your way.
My local R&R paid most of the cost to get me set up and sent me so many families that I had a waitlist within a few weeks of opening.
Many states also have food programs that give you a daily stipend for feeding not only your daycare kids but also your own kids (under a certain age). The stipend usually isn’t high, but it adds up over time.
How to set up a home daycare space
While working through the childcare licensing process, you’ll want to begin setting up your daycare space. It is best if you can have a dedicated area in your home to devote to your daycare. This makes it easier to run things during the day and lets you have a bit more separation between your work and personal life.
Everything needs to be babyproofed. Seriously. Everything.
Toddlers can find a way to hurt themselves with a pillow. As a daycare provider, there’s nothing worse than a child getting hurt in your care. You will be liable for any accidents, so it is important to prevent them before they happen, and no one wants to see a child get hurt.
Check with your Resource and Referral agency. I was able to get a grant to cover all of the babyproofing supplies that I needed when I first got started.
Post your childcare license in a visible place
Most states will require your child care license and business license to be posted in a visible place (even though your home is not open to the public). Either way it’s a good idea to have it posted so parents can clearly see that you are doing things by the book.
Make spaces for messy play
Toddlers love sensory or messy play. I can’t tell you how many hours I spent as a daycare provider letting kids play with shaving cream.
Be sure you have a designated space set aside for messy projects. Make sure it is somewhere that won’t damage your furniture or home. I set up a table over a tiled area in my home to make cleanup easy.
Create a contract
Being a home daycare provider is a high burnout job. One of the most common mistakes I see in providers who struggle is not having a solid contract in place.
A daycare contract prevents parents from taking advantage of you with late pickups, late payments, and other difficult behaviors. You’ll want to include things like who is responsible for providing diapers, wipes, and food as well.
The absolute best thing you can do is read Tom Copeland’s Contracts & Policies book. It sounds like a dry read but I promise it is the best resource I’ve found for setting up a home daycare contract and it will save you so much stress down the road.
Set your pricing
Part of creating a contract is going to involve setting your pricing (including late payment and late pickup fees). Other providers are not allowed to tell you what they charge (to avoid setting pricing standards) but you can call around as a parent to get an idea of what the going rate is in your area.
Be sure and charge what you are worth. If you don’t, it’s a recipe for burnout.
How to promote your home daycare
You can set up the most amazing daycare space but unless people know it is there, you won’t succeed. The good news is there are so many ways to promote your daycare.
First, register with your resource and referral agency (if you haven’t already) because they will send you leads directly. I often didn’t have to do much more than that.
Use local Facebook groups to share when you have an opening. Just be sure to follow the group rules and only post in groups that allow it.
You can print a yard sign for fairly cheaply that will let people in your neighborhood know that you are running a home daycare. People don’t want to drive far for daycare drop offs so this can be a great source of promotion. The families I signed up that didn’t come through R&R usually came because of my yard sign.