14 must-know things about starting a child care small business

Your child care small business should not only focus on caring for children but educating them as well

Modern child care is no longer just about keeping watch over children until their parents return to pick them up. Child care centers are now centers for early education.

Parents expect that their children will be exposed to an environment that fosters early learning — something that children are very receptive to.

This, and more, is what you should be prepared to offer your clients — the parents — if you are intent on starting a child care small business and making a success of it.

From an industry perspective, the child care business has enjoyed a steady 1.5% annual growth rate since the economic downturn.

Source

Industry revenues for 2017 were estimated at $48 billion.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, child care has been identified as the industry that will experience the fastest employment growth through at least 2020, considering the increase in U.S. birthrate.

Do you feel that you have what it takes to make a living by taking very good care of other people’s children? Here’s what you must know:

To offer excellent child care you need to have the motivations, personality, skills and experience needed for the job

1. You have to clarify the reason why you want to start a child care small business

However adorable you may find children to be, you have got to weigh some solid considerations before going into this business.

Successfully running a child care center will ask a lot of you; you therefore have to be sure that your motivations, personality, skills and experience will all combine to give you what it takes.

Motivation — This typically has to do with the reasons why you want to go into entrepreneurship. Generally, you must have an urge to become your own boss, and fully comprehend the significance of making such a decision. There also has to be a demand for this type of service in the area where you are planning to provide it.

Personality — This has to do with the personal characteristics that you’ll need to start this business. The right individual will have good health, good leadership and initiative-taking qualities, good ability to respond to various situations, an ability to work well alone and with others, and very importantly, have the warmness and affection needed when working with children, as well as the firmness required to guide and discipline them effectively.

Skills and experience — You must have the basic skills required to run a child care small business and generally know what managing the business requires. You need to be a responsible person, preferably one who has reared children, or at least has experience in the child care business. You also need to know what skills you’ll need in your employees an how to identify the presence (or lack) of these skills in job applicants.

Time management — In addition to being prompt and a good observer of time you must also know how to plan your schedule in such a way that virtually everything that needs to get done in a given timeframe will get done. You also need to appreciate the fact that sometimes you’ll need to put in long hours, and then recover in time to take on the next day’s activities.

This guide is about starting a center-based child care small business

2. Identify the type of child care small business you want to start

There are several types of child care small businesses that you can start as follows:

    • Family care — This involves caring for toddlers in other mothers homes
    • Home care — This involves a nanny or sitter coming to a child’s home to supervise and care for it there
    • Day-care and child development centers — These are programs that are centered around the growth and behavior of infants and children with regards to their physical, emotional, social and intellectual development
    • Child care development home — This describes a private residence housing up to five children; the group cannot have more than two infants
    • Infant care center — This is a development center that cares for infants and toddlers (children ≤ 2 years old)
    • Before- and after- school care — This is a child development center that provides care for school-age children before and after a regular school day
    • Satellite child development program — Here a private residence is linked with a child development center or agency, and receives technical assistance and support, training, recruiting and placement
  • Nursery school — This is typically a part-time preschool development center that operates during the school year

As the above list shows, there are quite a number of different and specific child care facilities that you can base your small business on.

Nevertheless, the main difference between these has to do with their form i.e. location. You therefore have to decide whether your child care small business will be home-based or center-based.

This guide will focus on the requirements for opening a center-based child care small business.

Your child care small business will be targeting households where both parents work as well as single-parent households

3. Conducting market analysis to find out what niche your child care small business will serve

Prior to the commencement of making preparations for your proposed child care center, you must be sure that your target market, mostly families where both parents work as well as single-parent households, will provide sufficient demand for the type of service you intend to offer.

This will obviously require you to make an assessment of the said target market with the aim of confirming:

    • Whether there is sufficient demand for the service
  • If the service is already being provided, and if so, how are the provider(s), i.e. your potential competitors, doing it

Finding and analyzing your target market’s statistics to assess potential demand

There are various resources that you can scour to find the sort of statistics that you need:

    • U.S. census records
    • City economic development or planning department resources
    • Local child care resource and referral agency
    • School census systems
    • Local chambers of commerce
    • Local government agencies

With regard to your target market area, the type of information you’ll want to be looking for should relate to:

    • The number of families with children
    • The number of children in the age group you want to focus on
    • Recent marriages
    • Income levels
    • Number of businesses in the area (and therefore the population of persons in employment)
    • New housing starts
  • School systems

When looking for information about present child care services statistics you can consult the following sources in your area:

    • Department of human services
    • Local child care resource and referral agency
    • Local employers
  • The Yellow Pages

The data that you gather from your research can then be validated with information gotten from surveying the potential client families in the target area. Your survey questions should aim at gathering as much actionable information as possible.

Generally, you want to know what parents want from a child care center in terms of:

    • The type of care that will be provided with regards to different age groups
    • Center hours
  • Location preferences

You may also ask questions that will help you have a clearer picture about possible transportation needs and children with special needs.

Also, asking the respondents to offer their assessment of the current child care service providers in the area can give you several ideas of what your own service should do or not do when it finally launches.

You obviously don’t want to get into an already over-served niche. On the other hand, getting into a hitherto underserved niche, say children with special needs, may need you to have a certain skill set but which you don’t possess and have no intention of learning.

Serving two niches is an option that can work for you. For example, in addition to your daycare service for 3–5 year olds you can also provide after-school care for older children.

Answering the following questions, using the data you’ve gathered, will give you a clearer picture of how to proceed:

    • What type of child care facility you want to operate
    • Who your potential customers are
    • What the average cost of child care is in the target market for each of the age groups you intend to cater to
    • How competitive your rates will be
    • Based on the area’s economic demographic, what will your potential clients afford to pay
    • What are the area’s child care trends? What do the people prefer i.e. child care centers, home care, family care, etc.?
    • What expectations will your staff have with regards to salary?
    • Is the demand for the service seasonal?
  • What marketing strategies will you use?

Much of this information can be obtained from the local Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) agencies. You can locate your local agencies with the Child Care Finder tool.

Armed with all this data you can now make an informed decision as to what type of child care center you will start.

4. The start-up budget for your child care small business and sources of funding

Before going any further, it’s important to know one simple truth: A child care business is not a low-cost startup.

In setting up your child care center the following are the sort of expenses that you can expect to incur:

In funding your proposed child care small business the following are some of the sources you can consider:

    • Private sources — personal savings or donations from friends and family
    • Commercial banks — business loans
    • Government agencies — special financial assistance provided to small businesses by federal, state and local government agencies
    • Grant programs — Moneys provided to businesses without a repayment obligation
  • Other sources can include credit unions and life insurance companies

5. Business structure, insurance and taxation for your child care center

You can now think of a catchy name for your child care small business.

This is also the time to think about your startup’s legal structure. There are quite a number of these including sole proprietorshippartnershiplimited company limited liability partnership and corporation, etc., and each offers distinct pros and cons that you can read about here.

The legal structure that you will choose will inform the sort of tax obligations you will have as well as the tax forms you will use and the tax types that you will pay. In view of the complexities that may arise and the confusion that may ensue for you, consulting a tax specialist or your accountant for that matter will do much good.

Note that different types of child care centers have varying tax regulations as follows:

    1. Nonprofit community organizations operating child care programs may be exempt from taxes
    1. Being an employer, an owner of a child care center must comply with employee tax and benefit regulations
  1. FCC (Federal Child Care) businesses must comply with tax regulations for sole business proprietors

Your child care center will obviously require insurance.

It is also the case that some State laws don’t require child care centers to acquire insurance.

Nevertheless, carrying insurance is very advisable.

In choosing an insurance firm to work with, there are several questions that you can pose to these companies’ agents or brokers. The idea is to ask the same questions to representatives of different firms in order to compare and then choose who you prefer to work with.

Your questions will mainly focus on each company’s expertise in working with child care centers as well as the different policies that you will be considering.

Some of the policies you may require are: automobile insurance, fidelity insurance, fire legal liability, general liability, health and accident, personal liability and property insurance.

Finding a site that’s just right for your child care center can be a very challenging task

6. Finding a location and site for your child care small business

When submitting your application for a child care center license you will need to have already found a site for the facility.

That being said, you ought to appreciate the fact that finding a viable space for your child care center, with regards to adequate space and a suitable location, may turn out to be one of the most involving and challenging requirements of your preparations.

In finding a site, there are several sources that you can check on:

    • Classified real estate advertisements — Focus on homes, apartments, or condominiums for rent or sale. You can also look for boarded-up space
    • You can ask institutions like schools, hospitals and churches/synagogues/mosques if they have extra space that they can rent or donate
  • You can also approach local industry personalities, property management companies, or local government officials to find out if you can find space in one of their buildings

For any space that you find there are some important questions that you’ll need to answer in order to ascertain whether or not it will be suitable for your child care center.

Ask yourself if the site:

    • Meets licensing requirements
    • Is conveniently located for parents
    • Is served by public transportation
    • Has adequate fire and police protection
    • Requires crime insurance and if this is available at a reasonable rate
    • Is in a safe area
    • Has adequate space to support different activities
    • Has outdoor space or located near a playground
    • Has adequate kitchen and bathroom facilities for both children and adults
    • Is affordable
  • Has manageable utility bills and what they amounted to in the previous year

Zoning Considerations

Your site’s Zoning District will determine whether or not you’ll need a planning permit; the process’ type and length will be subject to your proposed project’s location.

With this in mind, it is advisable to discuss this location with your City’s Planning Division before you spend any money on it.

Depending on where your project is located within some residential and industrial zones you may need to obtain a Conditional Use Permit (CUP). This permit allows development in areas that may have special impact or uniqueness and whose effect on the surrounding neighborhood can’t be determined in advance of the specific proposed project.

You also want to get details about whether or not a pre-submittal process is available. Where available you can use it to get important inputs about your child care center project from various City Departments at no cost before the planning process goes too far along.

In case your site is in a residential district it may need to comply with special conditions for:

    • Structure
    • Fences and walls
    • Parking requirements
    • Passenger loading
    • Organized outdoor play activity
  • Lighting

Having satisfied the Zoning District requirements you can now start thinking about the state of the site.

This is the time when you should find a licensing specialist and have them inspect the building. If renovations will be required this specialist should be able to make recommendations about the same and also provide you with a cost estimate or suggest someone who can.

With this information you can now approach the landlord and discuss the lease agreement or purchase agreement. In either case it is prudent to first consult with your lawyer, and who should clearly describe everything that an agreement contains, more so your obligations.

Leasing rather than buying should be more preferable from a financial point of view. You can:

    • Lease an operational child care facility and then remodel it to fit your needs and program philosophy
    • Lease an existing building that is either empty or being used for a different purpose
  • Lease a vacant property and build your facility from the ground up

For a lease, your lawyer should advice you on how you can negotiate the best possible agreement; there are multiple considerations which, if not handled prudently at the onset, can cost you dearly later on. This article about how to proceed in leasing space will reveal these considerations.

Considering the legal requirements your child care center must comply with, designing it with the help of an architect is advisable

7. How to go about designing your child care center

The first thing you should consider before going any further with your design plans is the square footage legally required for each child.

While this is given as 35 sq. ft. for indoor requirements, this is now viewed as being quite limited; if your budget allows, therefore, planning for more square footage per child is advisable.

Your plans should therefore take this into account. After drawing the plans up you should have them approved by a Licensing Specialist before their implementation starts.

Your child care center’s playground should be spacious and full of playing options

For outdoor space the square footage requirements are 35 to 50 sq. ft. per toddler and 75 sq. ft. per child for the older children. Considering the increased enrolments in the future, you should try your best to find the largest available space possible.

In designing the playground aim to provide the children with as much variety as you can, within your budget. The playground can feature: a large sand area, a bike path, music and art area, natural areas, dramatic play options, and an open space for games.

Considerations for the construction materials to be used

Soft flooring materials, e.g. carpet, will allow children to optimally enjoy class time

Floors: The idea is to use materials that are appropriate for the concerned activities

    • Vinyl or tile can be used in areas where the spilling of water or liquids is likely e.g. kitchen and bathroom walls and floors, splashguards and counters, art classes, etc.
  • Classrooms should have a considerable amount of soft flooring. You can use carpets, rugs, laminate, wood, or cork flooring
Classroom walls are the favorite places to display children’s art

WallsPainted drywall is a cost-effective choice although frequent maintenance will be required. On the lower portions of walls you can use wood paneling, homasote, tile, stone, brick, etc. You can also consider white boards, mirrors, cork boards and Forbo wall panels.

Acoustics: It is important to not overlook the stress that children suffer when they are exposed to high levels of noise. For this reason you should look into having the walls and floors in children’s areas treated with sound-absorbing materials. Some of the materials you can use on the walls are acoustic panels, textured materials and cork boards. Padded carpets can be used on the floors.

Color: For the walls you should go for warm neutral colors while for the floors it’s advisable to use mixed hue carpets instead of solid colors.

Classrooms should allow as much natural light as possible. Mixed hue carpets are preferred to solid color ones

Lighting:

    • Classroom spaces should allow in plenty of sunshine and natural light
    • Wherever possible you should provide low windows that will allow children to see outside. Alternatively, you can provide platforms/lofts that the children will allow the children to see through one or several higher windows
Choose tables that will allow children to eat and play with each other safely

Equipment and furniture:

The use of wood furniture is advised. If colored, you should have all the furniture in the same color, and preferably a primary color.

For tables, you should avoid the “teaching tables” variety as these occupy too much space. “Group feeding tables” should also be avoided as they facilitate health and safety problems.

Adapted tables will do; with these, smaller children can play and eat with the rest of the group.

Overall design elements for your child care center

The following areas will need to be provided:

    • Security entry point
    • Reception area
    • Director’s office
    • Staff lounge
    • Staff restroom
  • Staff workroom

Storage provision around the center:

    • Built-in storage e.g. wall shelves, cubbies and overhead bins
    • Classroom storage, e.g. overhead storage and long closets, for supplies and materials that teachers can access
    • Cot storage areas
    • Cubbies for individual children’s belongings
    • Locked storage for cleaning supplies in classrooms
  • Secure storage in the office to store documents

Bathrooms: The number of these should be as required by state licensing regulations

    • There should be separate bathrooms for children and adults
  • Children under five should be provided with bathrooms in their classrooms

Kitchen — The design will depend on the kind of food service your center intends to offer; consult the local health department to ensure that your design meets their regulations for a Food Service Establishment.

    • If meals will be provided on-site your kitchen will need commercial grade equipment and will be required to comply with the health department’s sanitation rules and fire protection codes
  • If the children will bring their own meals you need not have a full-fledged facility
Classrooms should be well designed and have distinct wet play and dry play areas

Individual classrooms

Each classroom should be divided into two regions — for wet play and dry play

Basically, the wet play region is where the sinks are. The flooring in this area is easily washed. It is a high traffic area and features a parent area and space for cubbies. Activities that occur in the wet play area include art, water play and eating.

The dry play region has two areas i.e. one for quiet play and the other for active play. Activities for the quiet area include: reading and writing, alone space, math, group meetings, science, etc. In the active area activities include: music and movement, puppets, dramatic play, unit blocks, large motor play, etc.

Components for individual rooms depending on children’s age

Infant/Toddler rooms:

    • Play space
    • Crib or sleeping area
    • Diapering area with sink
    • Food preparation area with sink
  • Storage
Classrooms for younger children should have a napping area with cots

Two year old classroom:

    • Play space
    • Napping area
    • Storage
    • Diapering and restrooms
  • Food preparation area with sink

Preschool classrooms:

    • Play space
    • Napping area
    • Storage
    • Restrooms
  • Food service area

School age classrooms:

    • Play space
    • Academic/cognitive/homework area
    • Storage
    • Restrooms
  • Food service

For each of these age categories different furnishings and equipment are required. This furnishing and equipment guidelines booklet will give you ideas for what you’ll need to invest in as informed by the ages of the children your center intends to care for.

8. You need to know the licensing requirements for your child care small business

Depending on what niche of the market you intend to cater to, the following are the child care center category licenses you can apply for:

    • Infants — to care for children from birth through two years (or three years)
    • Toddlers — to care for children from 18 to 30 months
    • Preschool age — to care for preschool-aged children from two years through six years of age
  • School age — to care for children from 4 years, 9 months, and enrolled in kindergarten to 12 years (may be up to 18 years)

Child care center licensing requirements vary from one state to the next but they generally cover the following aspects:

  • Physical space
    1. Number of Sq. Ft. needed per child, both indoors and outdoors, as per the children’s ages
  1. Lighting, heating/air-conditioning, ventilation and plumbing requirements
  • Health requirements
    1. Possible annual medical examinations for staff and children
  1. Immunization records
    • Staff-child ratios — The minimum no. of adults required for a given number of children, and depending on the children’s ages
    • Food preparation and nutrition
    • Emergency procedures
    • Educational program requirements
    • Record keeping
    • Discipline
    • Building safety — Type of construction, number of exits, fire doors, etc
  • Sanitation (health) requirements
    1. Plumbing
  1. Food preparation and equipment
    • Adequate ventilation in bathrooms and classrooms
  • Fire regulations (life safety code)
    1. Posted fire drill procedures
  1. Fencing requirements
    • Type of neighborhood where small businesses may be located
  • Zoning regulations — Find out if your proposed type of child care center is permitted or if there are some restrictions. This information will be provided by the local government and property owners’ or homeowners’ associations

Steps in obtaining your State License

The licensing division of a state’s department of social services holds orientations that you must attend prior to making an application for your child care center license.

For you to always be in the know about any changes to the licensing process you must regularly visit the licensing division’s website. Regularly communicating with your Licensing Program Analyst (LPA) will help you to be clear about what the requirements for your center are.

The steps for obtaining your license are as follows:

1. Attending the child care center orientation — Here you will be given a general overview of the licensing requirements application process. The roles and responsibilities of the licensing agency will also be explained.

You’ll be given an Affidavit and certificate valid for 6 months confirming your successful completion. Being thus informed you can make a decision to either proceed with starting your child care center or terminate your plans.

To receive your application packet and State Code of Regulations you’ll need to return the Affidavit and certificate.

2. Attending the Operations and Record Keeping Orientation — This will be necessary for both you and your center’s director. Topics covered will include daily operations, center accountability, forms, criminal record clearances, staff qualifications, and ratios. Another certificate will be awarded and you’ll need this to submit your application.

3. Searching for your site — You will need to have a site when turning in your application. The guidelines in the previous section will help you to find an appropriate site.

4. Receiving the license application and filling out all the required forms and supportive documents

5. Obtaining a permit from your city — The type of permit you need will be informed by the location of your child care center. You should begin this process at the same time when you’ll be submitting your Community Care Licensing Application.

6. Begin applying for a business license with the city and also start shopping for insurance coverage (fire, liability and theft)

7. Obtaining Fire Clearance — The CCLD Office will notify the City’s Building and Safety Division to inspect your site. The Fire Marshall may also visit the facility when you are obtaining your Conditional Use Permit (CUP).

8. Participating in the site visit — This visit will ensure that your facility meets the basic health and safety standards

9. Education credentials— You will be required to do a certain amount of hours in training every year

Thoroughly prepare your child care center — you want to impress the inspection team

What the site inspection team will be looking to see:

    • Current disaster and mass casualty plan, earthquake preparedness checklist, and disaster instructions and drills
    • First aid supplies, properly stored and maintained
    • Arrangements for the location and care of children who become ill
    • Provision for naps without distraction or disturbance
    • Sufficient financial resources to fund operating costs
    • That the facility is clean, safe, sanitary, and in good repair
    • Suitable storage space provision — a “cubby” for each child’s use
    • Availability of drinking water in each playroom and on the playground
    • One toilet and one hand-washing fixture for every 15 children
    • Appropriate records maintained for each child and staff member
    • Sample menu posted for snacks and/or any meals served
    • Operational telephone line
    • Sample daily schedule
    • Proper furniture set up
  • Where playground equipment exists, a minimum of 75 Sq. Ft. of outdoor activity space per child

After the site visit, any changes you’ll need to effect will be communicated to you by your licensing Program Analyst (LPA), both verbally and on the written “Report of Field Visit”. Additional visits may be organized if other corrections and changes are required.

You should also submit your Section B documents to CCLD and then check with your LPA if everything is complete. Once the LPA confirms that this is the case you will receive your child care center license.

9. You will need to get your child care center accredited

Before opening your center you’ll want to earn your CDA (Child Development Associate Accreditation) — after completing the required professional development course.

With this, your facility will be nationally recognized as a center that’s competent in early childhood education. Client parents will be glad to know that they are entrusting their children to someone knowledgeable about appropriately educating kids at different stages of their development.

Another accreditation you want is the QRIS rating, and which will ensure that your center will be among the preschools on your State’s register. QRIS(Quality Rating Improvement System) is relatively new; this listing by stateshould guide you to the information you need. Earning this rating is in most cases a 2–3 year process but in most states getting started on it is enough to get your center listed.

Yet another accreditation is from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). This should be sought once your center has developed a well thought-out curriculum.

Ten (10) standards and criteria will be assessed including: relationships, curriculum, teaching, assessment of child progress, health, teachers, families, community relationships, physical environment, and leadership and management.

The fact that just one in 10 preschools around the country has this accreditation goes to show how rigorous the process is. Parents will naturally be impressed if your center is on the list.

Do your best to hire competent staff — the success of your child care small business will depend on the combined efforts of the team

10. Finding and hiring staff for your child care small business

If your child care center is to achieve the goals and objectives that you have in mind, it will be important for you to hire competent staff; you just can’t do it alone.

Your hiring decisions will be informed by factors such as:

    1. Your goals and objectives
    1. Licensing regulations concerning staff-child ratios and group size
  1. The needs assessment surveys that you carried out previously and for which you obtained parents’ views about the sort of care they wish their children to be given
Your center’s director must always be available on-site

Staffing requirements guideline for the child care center:

    • A fully qualified director, or designated substitute, who must always be on site
    • A assistant director in case there are ≥ 25 infants in attendance
    • For infants (6 wks — 18 months) — Teacher-child ratio is 1:4, or one teacher and two assistants taking care of 12 infants
    • For toddlers (18–30 months) — Teacher-child ratio is 1:6
    • Preschool age (ages two or three through five) — Teacher-child ratio is 1:12
    • Teacher aides may not supervise children alone but can assist a teacher with a group of up to 15 preschool age children
    • School age: Teacher-child ratio is 1:14. One teacher and one aide can care for 15–28 children, etc.
  • Your staff must also include personnel responsible for clerical, housekeeping and maintenance tasks

Steps to follow when hiring staff

    • Developing a staffing plan that includes job descriptions, an organizational chart and scheduled hours
    • Developing an application for employment
    • Developing selection criteria (i.e. training, education, experience)
    • Accessing recruiting sources (colleges, vocational schools, job ads, referrals, etc)
    • Taking applications
    • Holding interviews
    • Confirming references and arranging for criminal background checks
  • Making your hiring decisions and then getting in touch with both successful and unsuccessful candidates
Parents will need to know what policies to expect at your child care center — impress them!

11. Planning the program for your child care small business

Your center’s policies and communicating them to parents

Parents who are keen on enrolling their children in your child care center will expect you to provide them with an explanation of the policies that your facility will be using to address the crucial aspects of:

Expect that parents will carefully scrutinize your care center’s policy for children’s health
    • Illness
    • Vacation
    • Holidays
    • Field trips
    • The center’s hours
    • Person/s authorized to pick up children
    • What extra clothes will be required (if any)
  • Activities that will be taking place at the center

Explaining these policies in a section of your child care contract documentation will help ensure that parents will read and understand them before signing up.

Alternatively, you can present this information to parents in the form of a family orientation packet.

Structuring your child care center’s program

Naturally, parents are always eager to find out what their children have been up to during their absence. They, of course, want to hear something positive and developmental.

With this in mind, you need your client parents to know that you are genuinely interested in developing the intellectual, emotional, physical and social aspects of their children’s growth. This will be well reflected in the structure of your center’s program.

Providing parents with a schedule of this program, one that has a list and/or description of the various activities that the children will engage in on a particular day, is very advisable. Not only will this provide a platform for meaningful interaction and engagement, parents will appreciate and respect your perceptions and efforts.

In structuring this program you ought to consider the following factors:

    • Your program’s philosophy
    • Curriculum
    • Play activities supporting the curriculum
    • Establishing an environment for learning
    • Developmental level of the children
    • Needs and personalities of the children
    • Indoor and outdoor activities
    • Nutritional needs
    • Satisfying varying interests
    • Structured and unstructured time
    • Snacks and meals
  • Naps
Your care center’s curriculum must reassure parents that their children will have a firm education foundation

Curriculum design

In many states child care providers are required to offer children a structured educational curriculum as a condition for certification or registration. Even if this isn’t the case in your state, having such a curriculum developed certainly feels like the responsible thing to do, at least from a parent’s point of view.

The design for your curriculum must factor in the requirements for:

    • Cognitive (Intellectual) development
    • Social development
    • Emotional development
  • Physical development

You can certainly develop a curriculum if you have the requisite experience. If not, you can consult your area child care licensing specialist, local child care resource and referral agency, and relevant professional associations, for guidance in having one prepared for your center.

Purchasing a curriculum is another option you can explore.

Puzzles are great learning tools

Typical subject groupings in a curriculum include:

    • Literacy and language arts
    • Numeracy and math
    • Creative arts
    • Motor skills
    • Science
    • Social and personal skills
  • Social studies

NB: While pre-academic curriculums may seem to be an obvious choice, perhaps you want to find out what value children may get from a play-based curriculum & learner dispositions approach. It may be the case that parents will want to give this approach a try.

12. Marketing and advertising your child care small business

To effectively spread the word about your child care center, your marketing message must be created with the 5Ps of marketing in mind i.e. Product/Service, Price, Place, Promotion and Persuasion.

In addition, you must think about your competition’s marketing message; yours must convince potential clients to choose your product/service and not theirs.

These are seven strong competitive advantages you can begin with as you ponder about your own differentiating marketing message.

Having created a strong marketing message, you should find the most effective ways of getting it to the target market. Note that “effective” doesn’t necessarily mean the priciest option.

The following information (marketing message) must be provided in whatever advertising media you choose to go with:

    • Your center’s name and contact details
    • Ages of the children you’ll be enrolling
    • Center hours
    • Fees charged
    • A description of your program and your staff’s qualifications
    • Name of the person to be contacted
  • The planned opening date

It is advisable to start advertising the center some three months before its opening date. Some of the more cost-effective advertising options are:

    • Word of mouth
    • Fliers and posters
    • Brochures and business cards
    • Ads in local papers
    • Via referral agencies. You can register your center with child care referral agencies and enjoy this benefit
    • Networking
    • Various online platforms including Yelp, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter
  • You can also launch a website or start a blog

13. Understanding what parents look for in a child care center and preparing accordingly

In choosing a child care center parents are more concerned about the quality of service provided rather than the price.

While setting up such a facility doesn’t come cheap, your focus should also be on offering a top-notch service. (For your information, the largest segment of clients for child care services in 2017 is households with incomes ranging between $40,000 and $100,000.)

The qualities that parents look for in a child care center can be summed up in the following ten points:

  • School readiness — They desire a quality setting where their child will learn important intellectual and social skills
Parents prefer a low staff-to-child ratio as this guarantees that their children will receive enough attention
    • Attention — A low staff-to-child ratio assures them that their child will receive increased individual attention
    • Professional staff — They prefer their child to be in the care of someone who is trained for the job
    • Good relationships — They value a setting where a positive relationship between the caregivers and the parents is fostered; they also want to be involved
    • Opportunity — Parents want to know that their children will have access to age-appropriate learning materials thus giving them an optimal opportunity to learn and grow
    • Respect — Parents prefer a center that is respectful of them and their child’s cultural and ethnic heritage, as well as other special accommodations
  • Professionalism — This describes a center that has clear business practices and policies thus putting parents in the know with regards with what to expect in various situations
Parents will want to know if their children’s safety during play is assured
    • Safety — Parents want to know that their child’s safety has been given maximum priority
    • Stability — Parents would love to have the assurance that they don’t need to constantly change care providers in their quest to find a safe and positive environment for their kids
  • Participation — Parents appreciate providers who are continually trying to improve their service provision by taking part in various accreditation programs

14. The timeline for starting your child care small business

Approximately 6–9 months of preparation and organization may be required before you can open your child care center. This period can also be 12 months.

Going with the former, your timeline and activities will likely be as described below:

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