How To Open A Daycare In California (7 Actionable Steps)

California is America’s most populous state with 40 million people, according to PPIC. Per the United States Census Bureau, 6% of those 40 million California residents are under the age of five. With approximately 2,400,000 children under five years old residing there, opening a daycare in the Golden State seems like a golden opportunity.

Here are seven actionable steps to start a daycare in California:

  • Choose your business entity

  • Find a suitable building

  • Obtain the necessary licenses and permits

  • Purchase equipment, hardware, and software

  • Buy adequate insurance

  • Create and launch a great marketing campaign

  • Hire your staff

  • Host an opening event

Choosing Your Business Entity

Opening any type of business is risky. This holds especially true when opening a daycare. Taking legal action regarding your daycare will alleviate you from any liabilities which may occur, whether you are a sole proprietorship or a partnership. According to the website NOLO, you have the choice between a limited liability company and a corporation. 

Wikipedia defines a limited liability company (LLC) as a “business structure that can combine the pass-through taxation of a partnership or sole proprietorship with the limited liability of a corporation.” An LLC is considered a company in many ways and is afforded the luxury of tax laws and legal protection offered to corporations in many instances. However, LLCs are subject to slightly different legal terminology. For example, they are referred to as organized”, or “chartered.” Also, their founding document is referred to as “articles of organization” instead of its “articles of incorporation.” Oxford Languages defines a corporation as a “company or group of people authorized to act as a single entity (legally a person) and recognized as such in law.” 

Obtain the Necessary Licenses and Permits

The CDSS (California Department of Social Services) states that you must obtain a Childcare license if “you are providing care for your children (or those of a relative), and children from only one other family.” This applies to either a daycare center or an in-home daycare, which California refers to as Family Child Care Homes. There is, however, a distinction between in-home daycares and daycare centers. License and renewal fees are more expensive for daycare centers than they are for in-home daycares.How To Open A Daycare In California (7 Actionable Steps)

Per the CDSS‘s Community Care Licensing Program (CCLP), obtaining a license to open a daycare center is a four-step process. You must either attend an online orientation or an in-person orientation, which are both non-refundable. You must also familiarize yourself with the laws and regulations regarding Family Child Care Homes. Upon completion of your orientation, you must submit to a pre-licensing inspection, after which you will be contacted by a Licensing Program Analyst. Finally, a pre-licensing inspection must be conducted before you will be granted your Childcare license. 

While California is home to surf, sun, and fun, it is also a highly regulated state. You must familiarize yourself with the laws, and regulations regarding the health, safety, and welfare of the children in your care. The Public Health Law Center provides links to many of California’s health and safety regulations. Some of these include screen time regulations, regulations concerning healthy eating and active play, and licensing laws.

Purchase Equipment, Hardware, and Software

Whether you purchase a building that used to be a daycare center, buy a new building, or start an in-home daycare, you are going to incur some equipment costs. New buildings usually mean new equipment purchases, which may be costly. The same can be said if you are starting an in-home daycare. Moving into a building that was previously a daycare might save you some money. However, there may be old equipment in dire need of an upgrade.

Brightwheel Blog states that some of the supplies you will need are cleaning supplies and safety supplies. Safety supplies include, but are not limited to, first aid kits, fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and an emergency preparedness kit. Amongst other items, some cleaning supplies daycares should stock are bathroom cleaning supplies, toy sanitizing supplies, sanitizing wipes, and floor cleaning supplies. 

Per Brightwheel Blog, your daycare center will need appropriately-sized furniture in sleeping, eating, and play areas. You are also going to need high chairs or boosters as well as tables and chairs for both little and bigger children. Refrigerators, ovens, stovetops, and microwaves are also a must for serving food. A washer and dryer is recommended, but not a necessity. To encourage the development of fine motor skills, you will also need play materials such as blocks. If your daycare offers an outdoor play area, you can also purchase a sandbox, a slide, a water table, and a few riding toys. 

Of course, your daycare is going to need to make a few technology-related purchases. You are going to need computers and printers for both the children and your office. Along with those shiny, new computers, you are going to have to purchase the software. If you accept credit card payments on-site, you are also going to need a credit card reader. 

Buy Adequate Insurance 

Business owners usually make purchasing Insurance a priority. However, as the owner of a daycare oh, you should prioritize obtaining insurance even higher than usual. Let’s face it. Children can and will eventually get hurt, no matter how closely you watch them. These incidents can result in costly lawsuits. You will need to be prepared.

Insurance provider Daycare Insurance states that daycares must carry a minimum of ¥300,000 liability insurance. Parents must also sign an affidavit saying they were informed of the daycare’s coverage. NOLO also advises purchasing additional insurance that covers instances of molestation or corporal punishment. While it may be horrific to imagine these instances ever happening at your daycare, you can never be too careful. 

Create and Launch a Great Marketing Campaign

A good marketing campaign can be the lifeblood of your business. Marketing Strategies suggests a marketing budget of between $15,000 and $30,000 for daycare centers with at least 50 children. However, you are just getting started. Baremetrics suggests spending anywhere from 12 to 20 percent of your daycare’s projected revenue. How To Open A Daycare In California (7 Actionable Steps)

Your marketing campaign should include in-person marketing, digital marketing, and traditional marketing. For digital marketing, Google ads and boosted social media posts are an inexpensive but effective means of reaching a large number of people. Having well thought out and professional website is another way to digitally market your business. Newsletters and email campaigns are also used quite often.

Per Baremetrics, a few inexpensive methods of in-person marketing include hosting or attending charity events and attending conferences. You can also hand out fliers and exchange business cards with other small businesses. For example, you could either exchange business cards or have your fliers posted at a small furniture store. Someone’s needing child care could potentially be shopping for children’s furniture and see your flier.

Hire Your Staff

You’ve gotten this far. You have gotten all of your licenses and regulations in order. You moved into your building and upgraded or bought all of your equipment. You’ve got your name out there with a brilliant marketing campaign. Now, it’s time to hire your staff. states that teachers must be a minimum of 18 years of age. They also “must have passed “at least six postsecondary semester units of specified early childhood education classes.” They can also have a valid Child Development Assistant permit, which must be issued by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. 

The requirements are slightly different for teacher’s aides. Teachers must also complete “at least two additional units each semester until fully qualified.” To be fully qualified, teachers must have completed at least 12 postsecondary semester units in early childhood education and six months of work experience in a daycare facility or something similar.

To be a teacher’s aide, states that the aide must be a minimum of 18 years old. The aide must also be a high school graduate or enrolled in some form of occupational program.

Check out our guide to opening your daycare HERE

Host an Opening Event

Now that all of your proverbial ducks are in a row and your name is out there oh, it’s time to wow your potential customers. Hosting an opening event can make an invaluable impression on both parents and children, making them both feel comfortable and welcome. 

One of the ideas listed by Care Lulu for hosting a successful open house is to be mindful of the date and time. You don’t want to host your own house on a date or time when nobody can attend. Another great idea they suggest is to have presentations done by your teachers. You should also make sure that your daycare looks impeccable, and advertise your open house both online and offline.

Other ideas offered by Care Lulu are to offer refreshments and have a display table set up with plenty of enrollment packets. You can also play some relaxing music if you like, but be sure to keep the volume low. You want your potential sign-ups to be able to hear what you have to tell them. 

California has a large state with a large population. Many of those people have children. They are going to need somebody to provide them with childcare services. It’s time to seize the opportunity, take what you know, open that daycare you’ve been “California Dreamin” of. 

Related Questions

How many children are you allowed to babysit without a permit in California?

News affiliate ABC10 states that you are allowed to care for between six to eight children without help from an additional adult if at least one child is enrolled in and attending elementary school or kindergarten. You must also have a second child who is at least six years of age. You may also have no more than two infants in your care while you are caring for more than six other children.

What is the average cost of childcare in California?

Top Daycare Centers list the average cost of childcare in the state of California as $11,817 annually or $985 monthly. Of the 50 states, California is ranked 11th most expensive state for child care in the United States. In comparison, this costs approximately $2,900 more than a year of in-state tuition at a public university!

How To Open A Daycare In California (7 Actionable Steps)

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.