How to Start a Daycare in the United States

You love caring for children whether they are your own, in your family, or even your friends’ children. Have you thought about starting a daycare to care for children full time?

It’s a tall order to start a daycare with gathering experience, obeying child care laws and regulations, and more. But do not fear!

Follow these steps for the best way to start a daycare in the United States.

  • Build your educational background in early childhood development.
  • Meanwhile, engage in hands-on experience by working at a daycare for 1-3 years.
  • Earn the credentials necessary to become a Daycare Owner.
  • Start by opening a home daycare.
  • Expand your daycare services to a physical business location.
  • Optional step: If you have children, count this towards your child care experience.

1. Build Your Education Background in Early Childhood Education

You can build your educational background in early childhood development in one of two ways.

    • Go to college and get your Associate and/or Bachelors’s degree in Early Childhood Education.
    • Get your Child Development Associate credential with the appropriate classes and work 480 hours with children in the age setting that you have selected.

Go to College

Many community colleges and universities offer Associate’s and Bachelor’s degrees in Early Childhood Education. You can get your Associate’s or both an Associate’s and Bachelor’s degree in this field. The more college experience that you glean, the more competitive you will be amongst other daycare owners.

Parents will look to see that you as the daycare owner are well-educated in early childhood education.

As long as you take the full course load, you can finish both degrees in 4 years total. If you want to dedicate less of your time to the traditional college education, you can get your Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood Education while also working on your Child Development Associate (CDA) credential.

Earn your Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential

Within 3 years before you apply for your CDA, you must work with children in the appropriate age setting for 480 hours total. If you can get a child care job that is 40 hours How Much You Should Pay Your Childcare Traineesper week, you can finish this requirement in only 12 weeks. Of course, it will take longer if you only have a part-time position at a daycare.

About 6 months before applying for your CDA, you must compile a CDA Professional Portfolio. Find the requirements for this step here.

For your CDA to nationally be recognized, you should select a course that is 120 hours long. To maintain flexibility with your current work-life balance, you can earn your CDA totally online and have affordable monthly payments that fit your budget.

When it comes time to renew your CDA after 3 years, the renewal coursework will only be 45 hours long. Keep in mind that you can only renew your CDA in the original age specialization in which you originally signed up. Select from preschool, infant/toddler, home visit, and family child care.

To learn more about how to earn your CDA, visit this CDA Council.

2. Engage in Hands-on Experience by Working at a Daycare for 1-3 years

Whether you choose to earn your CDA or not, you should work in a daycare for 1-3 years to gain experience caring for children of all ages. In this experience, you will find your daycare’s age specialization.

If you find that you prefer to work with infants and toddlers in your daycare experience, you may choose to run a family daycare center for children ages infant to age 5. If you prefer to work with older toddlers (fewer diapers to deal with as they learn to potty train, of course), you can open a preschool center.

Should you decide to want to receive your CDA down the line, choosing an age specialization in which you are most comfortable is vital because, as mentioned before, you can only renew your CDA in that same specialization.

Engage with children of all ages by:

    • Talking with them about everything even if he or she cannot talk.
    • If the children can talk, ask questions about what they are doing.
      • What color are you using to draw your picture?
      • What letter is this one? (point to the letter on the paper)
      • What is this in the picture?
      • How are you feeling today?
    • Be calm, collective, and understanding in all situations.
    • Suggesting different ways to play.
      • If a toy a child wants is currently being used by another child, ask him or her what other toys in which they like to play.
      • If their favorite playground equipment is currently occupied, inform the child they can go to another open area until the slide or swings (for example) are free.

3. Earn the Credentials Necessary to Become a Daycare Owner

While you are working on becoming a Daycare Owner and even after you become one, you can always earn and renew credentials to maintain a highly educated status in the field.

If you only have college degrees in Early Childhood Education, consider trying to earn your CDA.

If you only have a high school diploma and a CDA, consider studying for an Associate’s in Early Childhood Education.

There is no such thing as too much education. Covering all your bases in learning about early childhood education and development will show parents that you care about educating yourself and your staff members about how to properly care for their children above and beyond.

4. Start by Opening a Home Daycare

Opening a home daycare is a great start to getting your feet wet as a Daycare Owner. Home daycares usually charge about $200 per week per child depending on their age according to Top Daycare Centers.

You can usually take care of a couple of children who are not blood-related to you, but after that, you should consider licensing your home child care facility.

Home-based daycares also have regulations of how many children you can care for at one time based on the space in your home and how many teachers and aides you have to assist you.

Caring for 10-12 children in a fairly large-sized home is the best bet before having to upgrade to an actual physical business location.

5. Expand Your Daycare Services to a Physical Business Location

When you are ready and have enough clients, funds to get a physical location, and the properly trained staff, expand your daycare services into a physical business location.

You will have to learn the daycare licensing regulations and the staff to child ratios in a daycare facility.

    • Trained staff in early childhood education, development, and care.
    • Proper license for state and federal.
    • Get an EIN for staff’s tax return purposes.
    • And more!

Be sure that you have a daycare facility software that will help you send out newsletters to parents, take electronic tuition payments, and check-in and check-out children in a convenient, modern way. Neglecting to sign up for daycare software will not automate these functions and cause more time on your end in operating your facility.

6. Optional: If You Have Children, Count This Towards Your Child Care Experience

If you have children, use this as your child care experience when writing your biography about your early childhood education background. Having young children at the time that you are opening your daycare center will be even better because:

    • Your children can be in different classrooms throughout your daycare and receive proper care while you are doing Daycare Owner duties.
    • You can have your children at work with you and watch them learn and grow as you watch over the other children at your facility as well.
    • Their behavior may improve if they know if Mom is only a couple of doors down in the office.

Whatever crafts and activities that you do with your children while they are young, document them with pictures and written descriptions of them so that parents of the children at your facility can also take advantage of these resources.

Get Started Today!

Find your motivation for becoming a Daycare Owner. How do you want to uniquely help the children in your community as they attend your facility? What is your “why” for taking care of the children in your community? Whatever are the answers to these questions for you, stand by them and keep on the path of opening your daycare facility today!

Related Questions

1. Are there child care work hours required for when I renew my CDA?
No, you will not have to provide proof of any extra child care hours when you go to renew your CDA. Once you have already worked the 480 required child care hours to receive your CDA for the first time, there are no more required hours. The renewal fee for the CDA is $125 to $150 depending on how you request the renewal resources and application. This is a great investment since it will last you another 3 years before your next renewal.

2. What other ways can I educate myself on early childhood education?
Besides college degrees and getting your CDA, you can educate yourself in this field by:

    • Watching seminars on YouTube.
    • Become a book reader to children for libraries and organizations throughout your community.
    • Work in or volunteer in the children’s department at your local library.
    • Babysit children in your local community at home before opening your daycare.

How to Start a Daycare in the United States


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.