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How to Start and Run a Daycare, Childcare or Preschool

Updated on December 8, 2012

Start and Run a Daycare, Childcare or Preschool in any State

Starting your own daycare may seem a bit overwhelming at first. Rules. Regulations. Babyproofing your house. Finding families. Creating Contracts. Etc.

It doesn't have to be so difficult! In fact, we can show you how to start your daycare quickly and with no money (check out our website for more info on that!).

1. Do a little Research - State Rules and Regulations


- Check out our Quick Start State by State Childcare Licensing Pages

- Research Your Competitors

Rules and Regulations

Take a weekend to visit our website and look at the Quick Start State by State Childcare Licensing Pages for your state. Chat with our team if you have any questions about getting your daycare up and running. Keep in mind, you don't have to get licensed right away. In some states you can have 4 or 5 kids kids without having to get licensed with the state. Start small and grow as you go. It really does work.

Research your Competitors

Check out where the nearest In-Home Daycares and Childcare Centers are in your area. I even went to the extent of marking them on a map so I could say to potential customers that the nearest daycare was about 10 miles from me. Research what services they provide, what their hours are, how much they charge, if they transport, if they serve meals, etc.

Get all the info you can. To make it easier for you we created a worksheet that reminds you of everything to ask. This form comes in our Start Your Daycare System and our Daycare Forms and Contracts - - but we are providing it to you at no charge. Simply download the PDF by clicking here

Don't get discouraged if you are surrounded by great daycare facilities. Keep in mind that YOURS can be unique. You may have better pricing, better class ratios, better teachers, or spend more time exploring outside. You can make yours special.

2. Think Small - Grow as You Go


- Consider nanny work in your home

- Consider teaching preschool out of your home

Starting a daycare DOES NOT have to be expensive. In fact, you probably have everything you need to start with right now! So let's think small.

Every state has different rules, like we talked about in the previous paragraph. Almost all allow for an exempt category.... a group of daycare homes or facilities that are not required to get licensed. This might be because they have only kids from one family, there are less than 3 kids being cared for or possibly because they only operate a couple hours a day. Check with your state to find out what is considered exempt and start by staying within those parameter until you get big enough to get licensed.


You can "nanny" for 3 kids at your house (depending on what is considered EXEMPT in your state) to build up an income that will cover your business expenses quite quickly.


Teach Preschool

Teach preschool to 10 students. In some states, if each student spends no more than 4 hours a day at your school, you can still be considered exempt (confirm the exact hours and number of students with your state childcare division)

3. Find Parents FAST - with FREE Marketing


- Join

- Join a group and attend some play groups

- Host a play group at your location

Join and Host with

I'm all about FREE marketing. is a great FREE option that will help you network and begin marketing your FUTURE daycare right away.

Don't worry. I know you don't have the daycare ready to go yet. It's okay. You can begin marketing your daycare way before it is actually ready to launch because you have to cultivate the leads slowly. You have to get to know a group and build relationships.

As always, be safe and don't give out too much info.

Start a Meet-Up Profile

Creating a great profile on meet-up is easy. be honest and real. Don't splatter the profile with info about your FUTURE business. Just put details about you that apply to that group. If you want, you can mention that you are starting up a daycare. But don't over-stress it.

Go to to start your profile.

Look for groups

Now that you have your meetup profile started, its time to start looking for established groups in your area. If you have kids of your own, get active in groups for those ages.

If you don't have kids, ask a friend if you could borrow their child to attend some meet-up. They will appreciate the time off, the child will enjoy the social interaction and you won't look creepy attending a meeting with no child. A couple families I nannied for were part of neighborhood meet-ups and I took the children to the meet-ups for them. You might be interested in playgroups, mom groups, exercise groups etc.

Attend some meet-ups

Attend a few meetings and get accustomed to the group. Network with the parents. Be real, be relaxed and be fun. The rest comes naturally. Don't sell what you do - - meaning, don't start in about your business right away. Just make friends and let relationships grow. Once you host an event, they will have a great idea of what you do.

Sometimes people talk about what they do for a living at the meetings, and of course you can talk about it if prompted. Focus on doing more listening than talking. The best sales people do 90% listening and 10% selling. So just listen. Listen to what elementary schoolsor other daycares they mention. Listen to frustrations they have. Listen to what services parents might be interested in.

Host Meet-up Play Groups at your Location.

After you have gotten to know a meet-up group, find out how you get on the list to host one at your location. They are very easy to host and there isn't a lot of prep work. Most meet-ups don't require refreshments be served at all.

If you feel like you really must serve refreshments, always assume people don't want to give their children sugar (no cookies, though it is tempting). Cheese and crackers, fruit (moms love fruit), goldfish, etc. Just chilled water is perfect. The parents are just meeting up to get out of the house and have a little social time.

Statistically, most of these parents you meet WILL return to work sometime in the first 5 years of their child's life. So cultivate the leads.

This is great on so many levels:

- See how baby/kid-proof your place really is

- Figure out what age group you would really enjoy

- Meet lots of potential clients

- Make friends who will spread the word for you

- Find out what toys you need more of

For more VERY EFFECTIVE and virtually free ways to market your daycare, visit our website at

4. Creating Spaces Kids & Parents Love - Four Corners of Fun


- Setup the four corners of your classroom / daycare space

I love this topic. It is by far one of my favorite to talk about, because there is so much you can do for a child's growth and development simply with the design of their play area.

Smaller spaces require a more simplistic layout. Let's say you have a relatively square room. Break it into four quadrants or as I call them, the four corners.

- Building Corner

- Creation Corner

- Comfy Corner

- Action Corner

Building Corner

If you were to guess, what do you think the most educational area is for children? I never would have guessed it when I was posed with the same question years ago..... Give up? BLOCKS. Surprised me too! A good set of blocks (soft for babies and smooth wood for the preschoolers) means hours of fun, pretend play, problem solving, math, drama, gross motor, fine motor and so much more.

Props are great for the building area.... zoo animals, bugs, Barbies, whatever you can find. Play with them for a bit to give them some ideas and then let them go.

The building area is where I put my bin toys had small wooden blocks, Legos, Lincoln Logs, Tinker Toys, tool sets, train sets, car tracks or garages with slides and Matchbox cars, etc.

To define the building area, I recommend a small square rug or a train table if you have the room (as I did in the picture). You can get the rugs at Walgreens or Wal-Mart with car track printed on then. They are no bigger than 3ft x 3ft. They cost around $10 (to soften the sound of the blocks falling, but also to add a boundary for where blocks can go. Remember boundaries make happy kids and caregivers.

Creation Corner

You can get a little kids table from IKEA, Wal-Mart or Kmart for around $10. Only about 2 ft x 2 ft is necessary. It's important that it be a level they can stand at or sit at. The Ikea table and chairs sets are just $19.99. They are light, cheap and durable.

I loved to give my early preschoolers and pre-kinders a chance to create without boundaries. So I had an art cart (I put a picture of one down in the amazon section) with drawers to sort art supplies in. If you care for toddlers, you can use portable organizers instead of an art cart and just set them out when little ones are eating or napping.

A basic art cart should have the following basic supplies. Buy them as you go so there isn't too much upfront cost. A great time to shop for supplies is in the summer because everyone has back to school sales.

Necessities: (always keep extras on hand of these)

- Glue (They do sell small bottles. Get a few and refill them as needed so you don't end up with a river of glue)

- Crayons (Jumbo ones, normal size and maybe even some triangle ones if you want)

- Markers (WASHABLE, I can't say enough about washable markers)

- Scrap paper and cheap copy paper cut in half (Fits in the cart and it helps your little ones feel accomplished when they fill it up)

- Kid scissors (Keep these up high if you haven't worked with your little ones on scissor safety yet)

- Stickers (Cut up a couple sheets so there are only a few in there. Kids love to create with stickers. Replenish every now and then)

- Tablecloths from dollar store (I cut mine in four so it covers the little table)


- These are fun to have in the art area, but kids sometimes go through them too fast. I put a few in the art area and keep a bin of extras out of kid reach:

- Washable tempera paints (white, black, red, blue and yellow)

- Watercolor paint

- Paint brushes and sponges

- Pom poms

- Glitter

- Glitter glue

- Popsicle sticks

- Clothespins (the wooden kind)

- Party confetti (different shapes are at the dollar store all the time)

- Easter grass

- Google eyes

- Pipe cleaners

- Tissue paper (dollar store is great for rainbow packs)

Comfy Corner

This area has so many uses - reading area, cool down area, drama area, transition area (I talk more about this in the Transition Chapter they will make your life SOOOOO much easier).

In most of my classrooms I used a bean bag chair since it can double as a laying spot if you have a little one who needs to cool down (or a time out area, if you do that). A little camp chair or a couple body pillows work great too. If you have room, an old crib mattress with a calming colored crib sheet on it makes an awesome cozy soft spot to read a book. Again, pick calm and soothing colors. As with all areas of the four corner method, you should limit the number of students playing in this area to 2 or 3 kids.

If you have a small bookcase, add it to this area. A simple bin will do if you don't have a book case. Pick out say 10 books and make it a goal to read them all to the kids throughout the week. The more the better. Double or triple that even!! You don't have to buy books, though I think it's a great investment in your classroom. Just check books out at the library that follow the theme you are doing.

Depending on the unit I was doing, I would also decorate the comfy area. I thought of it as drama area also - - it might have a tent (camping), an couple of round floaties on a blue blanket (ocean), a brown blanket with flower pillows (garden) etc. There are so many ways to change it up for the kids.

Puppets or stuffed animals in a bin near this center allow kids to cozy up and read to a stuffed friend. Wash the toys often to prevent spreading colds.

I usually decorated the walls in this area with the artwork of the kids. They could go reflect on their work and absorb the beauty of what they created. It also helped reinforce the themes that we worked on. Add color to this area by stapling butcher paper on the wall. You won't have to commit to a certain color and it adds an instant warmth to the class that will impress visiting kids and parents.

Action Corner

This should be a space big enough for you to do parachute play (a blanket can be a great parachute in a pinch), indoor basketball (stuffed ball and a bucket), dance floor, etc. If you can get your hands on a big rug, it's great to add boundaries. Again, this helps the kids contain their energy and play safely.

Have music ready to go for the mood you want to set in the classroom. Best purchase I ever made was an iPod dock with good speakers. Be aware of how much the music will change your class mood, though. Intense music creates agitated behavior, stress and conflict. Want them to be active and creative? What them to calm down? Select your music accordingly.

EXCERSIZE...I had a teacher that was big into dance. During exercise time, she taught the kids popular dance moves (ballet, jazz, hip hop), stretches and even a dance routine. It was super cute and great exercise for the kids and teachers. I will never forget the Cotton Eye Joe song now.

DANCE PARTY... Kids go crazy for this. Four favorites my kids asked for every time: "The Gummy Bear Song", Crazy Frog's "Axel F", Madagascar's "I like to move it"and "The lion sleeps tonight"to stretch and end it.

Other good things to do in the action corner:

Tossing games:

- Laundry basket with pairs of socks balled up

- Create a target from a cardboard box by simply cutting a hole in the middle and decorate for any unit. Have the hole on top or on the side. Kids love a challenge.

- Indoor basketball sets were always popular too. Hard to control, but very fun.

Target games:

- Hang some stings with bells on them way above where your kids could jump to. Give them balloons to hit the targets with. To muffle a loud bell, wrap it in tape. They love hitting the target because the reward is the sound and everyone looking.

- Cut a couple holes of different sizes in an old sheet and hang it in a doorway. Let the children throw DRY nurf water play balls at the targets. They are so soft, they can't possibly hurt anything.

Rolling games:

- Bowling with water bottle "pins"and a beach "bowling"ball. Want a new challenge? Try hitting the ball with your head or with a plastic golf club. Yes, silliness is great in a daycare.

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If you would prefer more one on one coaching, please visit our website and chat with our team.


Tell Us Your Thoughts! - Got Questions? Concerns? We want to help!

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    • StartYourDaycare profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      @anonymous: Our new lens is up now with lots of great money making ideas! Please visit How to Make Extra Money for Your Daycare - Food Programs, Date Nights, Grants and More! If you have any questions at all, please leave us a comment or CHAT LIVE with our team from our website:!

    • StartYourDaycare profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      @anonymous: Hi there, San! Thank you so much for checking our website out! I am really glad you liked it. I think many people are wondering how to get money to start their daycare and how to make extra money during the holidays. So I am going to create a new lens that I think will be very helpful. I will post links as soon as it is all done. In the meantime, please do sign up for the 5 secrets to daycare success on our website since you get many money saving tips in there and ways to market your daycare for FREE.

      Thank you so much for the great question and I look forward to helping you get a great answer very soon!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      hi lm san lve just opened a day nursery month ago its doing well but financially lm falling abit short to pay rent but trying to find ou how to save abit and looking for funding any info you can give me and your web site is good

    • StartYourDaycare profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      @StartYourDaycare: Let's do that as a link....

    • StartYourDaycare profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      @lynndy: We have a state licensing page that will help you to get your daycare started in Tennessee. Visit for a great outline of rules, regulations and tips to get your daycare going quickly. Tennessee does recommend that you give yourself a couple months to get everything setup if you are linking of getting licensed. You can have 4 or fewer kids before you get licensed, though. Start small and grow as you go. it's a great way to get setup a daycare in a new state. Feel free to contact me or chat live with our team online at We are here to help!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Such good advice! I am anxious to see more lenses from you! I might be moving to Tennessee, do you have any advice about how to start a daycare there? I know the rules are totally different then California.... Thanks again for the great info!


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