If you’re looking at starting a daycare, one of the first few things you may ask is what square footage you need to operate in. And while it may seem tempting to just pick any property at the cheapest price in your ideal location, there are state laws that set minimum square footage for daycares. But trust me, it’s not too difficult to find your ideal square footage!
On average, daycares require a minimum of 35 square feet per child, excluding space such as hallways, kitchens, and other administrative rooms. This means for daycare of 20 kids, you will need a minimum of 700 square feet in space reserved for children.
Although, despite the 35 square feet per child minimum, there are additional space needs for your daycare.
Factors That Affect Your Square Footage
It may be tempting to go ahead and purchase the cheapest space for your daycare, but there are so many more things to keep in mind before you pull the trigger. From my own experience, the best things to keep in mind when looking for the best size for your new daycare are:
Proximity to Homes and Other Businesses
One of the most important things you must do when starting your search for your daycare workspace is to ensure that it is in a convenient place for the children’s parents or guardians.
While on paper it may be ideal to spend a few thousand dollars less on a property further out from your city, it can be detrimental to your business. You may end up having to spend more for your initial property investment, but the influx of new clientele due to your proximity to parents’ or guardians’ workplaces or homes will surely offset this. It’s ideal to make sure that you poise your daycare as a place for parents or guardians to drop off their kids on the way to work or home, rather than it being another unnecessary trip for an already stressed and overworked individual.
One thing that is often overlooked by many new daycares is space for employees. A lot of the focus is on the children, but to run your daycare, employees need space too. It would be outrageous to expect each administrative employee to work in the same space as children, so it’s ideal to make sure you have enough square footage for administrative purposes in addition to space where the actual daycare happens.
Administrative-purposed rooms can be anything from offices, printing spaces, or even employee bathrooms. By knowing your employee count, you will be able to run a more efficient business by having a much better understanding of the space needed for operating the back-end tasks of your business.
When focusing on purchasing a new space for your daycare, your first instinct may be to focus solely on the minimum amount of square footage you may want to purchase. While this sounds good in theory, there is also a need for other required amenities to be implemented in your daycare space. This can be anything from bathrooms, which add roughly 40 square feet each, to drinking fountains and sinks, which can take up roughly 10 square feet. It’s extremely important to plan for these as at first; they may seem small but can quickly add up as you scale up your daycare. As always, check your local ordinances and state laws to know exactly what is needed of your daycare.
Below are a few of the most common amenities and the square footage they take up:
- Bathrooms – 40 square feet.
- Water fountains – 10 square feet.
- Sinks – 10 square feet.
- Sick bays – 80 square feet.
- Adult bathrooms – 60 square feet.
Zoning and Local Ordinance Requirements
Another thing that may affect your square-footage is where you can have your daycare. Some states and city governments may restrict areas that daycares can operate in. This may mean that a piece of property that you have been eyeing for a long time may be ineligible to run your daycare. It’s always important to check your local laws and ordinances for these zoning requirements so you don’t run into any hiccups while setting up your daycare.
However, in many circumstances, you can set up your daycare in a residential area. This means that a cheap home in a great area might be a perfect spot for your new daycare. As always, double-check state and local laws before doing this.
An often-overlooked part of buying daycare space is kitchen space. It’s easy to overlook – there are so many other parts of your business that you need to ensure can run. But it’s undoubtedly necessary. And if you’re looking at setting up your own kitchen in a remodel, the required space for a kitchen can add up fast. On average, most kitchens take up around 100-200 square feet. But, depending on your needs, you may need to increase this size.
If necessary, you can cut down on the space needed by instead using a warming kitchen instead of a full-size kitchen. This would mean instead of needing all sorts of appliances and space to store, prepare, cook, etc. you would only need space to warm up pre-made meals.
Despite the intrigues of cutting costs initially, I recommend investing in a full-size kitchen from the get-go. It can really increase the appeal of your daycare if you are doing the cooking all house and it can be even better if you offer things like vegetarian or vegan options. It makes your daycare much more marketable, and it also helps you out if a child does not like what is cooked that day, as you can easily adjust for this by cooking an alternative as well.
Not only do you have to have adequate space on the inside, but outdoor space is also extremely important for your daycare. Children love to play outside and having space outside is required in many states. This means that you may have to evaluate your daycare’s location based on the outdoor areas in conjunction with all the other factors described previously. Outdoor space adds up quickly, and usually, you should plan to have around 1,500 square feet for your play yards.
Keep in mind that this does include space for playgrounds, so you will have plenty of room to work with. Outdoor spaces can include things like playgrounds, sandboxes, and other areas for children to play.
Other things that affect how much outdoor space you will need can be things from parking to drop off. Your staff will undoubtedly need space to park unless you live in an area easily accessible by public transport, and parents will also need space to drop off and pick up their children. This may rule out some areas where traffic may be a problem, such as on a busy street or somewhere without much parking.
To rent or not to rent?
Congratulations! You’ve found your perfect daycare space. Now, all that’s left is to pay for it. But wait- how do you purchase it? Are you supposed to rent it? Buy?
The first thing you should have done before purchasing your land is setting up your business with your state government. This protects your personal belongings, as you are not liable for the debts in your business, only the business entity itself. If you have not already done this, go and ensure that you are registered with your state government.
After doing this, the next best step is to figure out whether it’s best to rent or to buy your property.
If you decide to rent, maybe because the space you’ve found is already suitable and doesn’t require many changes. It also might be better to rent your space if you don’t have the best credit. It also is ideal to rent if you don’t have much cash to start with, as renting doesn’t require as much cash from the get-go as purchasing a space outright does.
If you decide to buy, it’s probably because you’re building this daycare from the ground up. This means a complete teardown of the building that’s already there, a complete makeover from head to toe inside, or major changes need to be made to the inside. It’s better to purchase your space outright if you want complete control over what you can do to your land (obviously within reason).
Learn what makes a good daycare HERE!
Do I really have to buy an entirely new space for my daycare business when starting?
No, but it’s ideal when starting to separate your work life and your personal life. If you have enough space, state and local ordinances allow for it, and you may not have the best line of credit, it may be ideal to go this route. But it’s probably for the best to look for space elsewhere.
Do I have to have a license to start my daycare business?
Yes. Most states require courses to become an accredited daycare business in addition to applying for a daycare. For example, the state of Georgia requires staff to attend Licensure Orientation Meetings before you submit their license application.
Is there a minimum number of employees I have to have for my daycare?
Generally, ratios for care providers to children vary by state. For example, the state of Georgia requires there to be a 1:10 ratio of providers to children of 27 months. This number also varies by age, so it’s once again important to check your state and local laws for more information.
Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal expert to address your specific needs.
To learn more on how to start your own daycare checkout my startup course and documents here.
Meet Shawn Chun: Entrepreneur and Childcare Business Fan.
I’m a happy individual who happens to be an entrepreneur. I have owned several types of businesses in my life from a coffee shop to an import and export business to an online review business plus a few more and now I create online daycare business resources for those interested in starting new ventures. It’s demanding work but I love it. I do it for those passionate about their business and their goals. That’s why when I meet a childcare business owner, I see myself. I know how hard the struggle is to retain clients, find good employees and keep the business growing all while trying to stay competitive.
That’s why I created Daycare Business Boss: I want to help childcare business owners like you build a thriving business that brings you endless joy and supports your ideal lifestyle.