How Old Do You Have to Be to Start a Daycare?

Many of us know the typical age ranges of children who attend daycares, but what about the child-care providers themselves? What age is appropriate to start a daycare?  Several factors impact the age requirement for running a daycare business.

The age of a person running a daycare business varies due to differing state laws and regulations. States with fewer requirements make it possible for younger adults to own and operate a daycare business, especially for home-based daycares. States with more extensive requirements, especially with regard to daycare owners or directors, may require individuals to be in their mid-twenties or older. Some states will disclose a minimum age but may have additional requirements that take time to achieve. Regardless of age, fulfilling your state’s requirements will ultimately determine your ability to start a daycare business.

The factors that often influence the age of starting a daycare business are:

  • The state you live in

  • The size of the daycare business

  • Experience and education required

  • Additional certifications required by state

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The State You Live In

The state you are starting your daycare business in will determine the minimum age of a daycare owner. While some organizations issue certifications on a national level, each state has the ultimate authority over requirements for becoming a daycare owner. Research all necessary steps for opening a daycare in your state by consulting an online resource. You’ll find licensing requirements for all states and contact information for state entities. Requirements can even vary within a state, so consider the specific area for your daycare center. 

The Size of the Daycare Business

Be clear on how large you want your daycare business to be. The regulations within a state can vary between home-based businesses and a stand-alone daycare center. There are a couple of things to consider here:

  • Home or Center – Do you have enough capital for a daycare center?  Do you have enough square footage at home to start your daycare business there? The physical size of your space needs to be taken into consideration as it determines how many children you can care for.
  • Number of Kids – Knowing the number of children you can care for based on your square footage will help with other operations. State regulations require a certain ratio of employees to children in your daycare. Some requirements, such as experience and education,  might fluctuate based on the number of kids in your center.

Setting up a daycare business and organizing your operations takes time, especially if you must renovate the physical space to bring it up to code. This process could take a few months but could be done sooner or even later.  It is very unlikely a minor would be able to complete these steps before age 18. Therefore, fulfilling the requirements is more important than the age of the daycare owner.

Experience and Education Required

It’s crucial to have experience in this field, which is why many states demand that you do. If your state lists a minimum age of 18, you will most likely be several years older by the time you obtain the necessary experience. For this reason, it is difficult to accurately specify a minimum age for owning a daycare business.

Owning a business also requires you to have more experience and education than your employees. Most daycare employees have minimal requirements, such as a high school diploma or GED. The daycare director, however, will likely need at least 2 years of experience in early childcare and have a related degree or teaching certification.

Most employers would rather hire individuals with some additional training. Having a high school diploma and meeting the age requirement does not necessarily guarantee you a job. Experience is more important than age, but experience normally correlates with age. It is likely that daycare owners will be older than the minimum age specified by their state.

As an owner, depending on the state you live in you could end up needing to complete certifications which also takes time.

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Additional Certifications Required by State

Your state might require specific certifications, which contain multiple requirements that will take time to complete. You may meet some requirements already, but you will need to complete the rest, and that takes time. This is another reason why it is difficult to specify a minimum age for daycare ownership. 

You’ll find that some of these certifications require a combination of:

  • A High School Diploma
  • Secondary Education 
  • Experience (whether working or training program)
  • An Exam Completion
  • An Observation of Work

Check with your state to determine any specific requirements that you need to obtain your certification.

Some states mandate daycare directors to go through certification processes. It’s not unlikely for some daycare businesses to require their workers to obtain them, too.

Many states require a certification issued from the Council for Professional Recognition known as the Child Development Associate Credential.  They require the following in their certifications:

  • Secondary Education
  • Work Experience
  • Observation of Work

There is also a Child Care Professional Certification from the National Early Childhood Program.  The requirements for this certification include:

  • High School Diploma
  • Secondary Education
  • Work Experience
  • Successful Examination

Licensing is another process that daycare business owners might need to undergo. Even child-care workers operating home-based businesses may be required to go through the licensing process. This process can be time-consuming also as it consists of:

  • Background Check
  • Immunizations
  • Training Program Completion

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Many are curious to know what the age requirement is to start a daycare business. However, credentials ultimately matter just as much as – if not more than – age. Education, experience, and licensures are among the necessary credentials, and these take time to complete. Generally speaking, it takes a few years to fulfill all requirements before opening a daycare, so it is not likely for a daycare owner to be the minimum age. Understand the time it will take to complete the requirements that you specifically need to start your daycare business.  Remember, owners and directors (sometimes owners play both roles) require more credentials than a regular daycare employee, who may have little to no experience. Once you become familiar with your state-specific requirements, you will understand that an age requirement is not of the utmost importance. Business owners will almost always be of legal age after completion of requirements.

Related Questions

If certain education or certification requirements are not met, can they be overlooked if an applicant has more than the required work experience? 

Refer to your state’s guidelines or call the clerk’s office to ask for clarification. Overlooking these requirements may not be a possibility, but it’s best to ask if you aren’t sure.

Does age matter to the parents enrolling their children in my daycare?

Most parents find comfort in daycares with a staff that is professional and experienced. Some people begin gaining experience at younger ages, so you may see a daycare staff of a variety of ages. Age isn’t as important to parents as the credentials are just as it is to the state when starting a daycare business.

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.

Our business startup documents have been designed with you, the daycare business owner, in mind! Take a look at them here.

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