Thursday, April 9, 2015

Starting a Child Care Center - Location Location Location


On Tuesday I shared business information that you'll need to consider is you want to start a childcare program, today is a little more fun, it's all about selecting a location.  

First and foremost, you'll have to decide how large your program is going to be.  If you are the only teacher for 7 or 8 children, then you might choose to run your program out of your home. On the other hand, if you'll have a staff of 6 teachers and 50 students, then you'll need a much larger space. Licensing regulations define the amount of square footage required per child, as well as the teacher to child ratios allowed in each type of care setting.  These numbers will give you something to start with as you begin your search for a location. 

You'll also want to consider how many separate spaces you'll need for your program.  If it is a small program, then just one room may suffice, but if you'll need a few classrooms and an office space or work room, it is important to know this as you start to look.  


Plumbing is a key factor in any space used by children for a few different reasons.  First, child care and food service licensing both have requirements regarding sink arrangements for hand washing and food prep. It is also really helpful to have sinks in the classroom because children are messy and we spend a lot of time washing hands.  The bathroom situation is important to consider too.  Depending on the ages of your students, you may be potty training or changing diapers, you will also have a number of different people using the bathroom during the day.  Will you have a separate facility for staff and parents? All of these issues are important when considering the space you select for your program.  


Another important factor is play space.  In my state you are not required to have an outdoor play area, but if you don't have an outdoor space then you do have to have a certain amount of space inside reserved for gross motor play.  If you do have an outdoor space, is it safe? Will you need to put up a fence? What are the requirements for play structures and fall zones?  All of these can be found in your local Child Care Licensing Manual, print a copy and take it with you while you're looking so that you can easily look up any requirements. 


Pay attention to the area around your potential space.  Is the neighborhood nice? What other kinds of businesses are close by? Are there other child care programs in the vicinity? Is there enough parking, and is the parking area safe for families? These kinds of things are not directly related to your program, but they will have an impact on families who come to visit your space, and the overall reputation of your business.  

Finally, it is important to consider your own values, especially those related to early childhood education.  What do you envision your classrooms looking like? Will you be allowed to change the space in any way (painting, hanging art, bolting down shelving units, etc.) that you want, or are there strict requirements? Is there space for storage or items that aren't currently in use? What is the lighting like? How can you incorporate safety plans? What kind of technology would you like to use, and is it possible in the space you are considering?

Ultimately, the space you chose should be one that you are completely comfortable with, you will be spending a lot of time there! Make sure that you can count on the landlord and that the rent fits in your budget.  Selecting a home for your program is a lot like looking for your own home, when you see it, you will know!


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