Helping children get started on the right path begins at a very early age, and that responsibility often falls on daycare providers. Some of the most important role models in the lives of children are those who care for and guide them in their earliest stages of development. While parents and guardians are away from their little ones, they trust you, their daycare provider, to care for them in their stead. If nurturing and caring for young children speaks to you, it’s time to learn how to become a daycare provider. Get answers to all things daycare providers in this guide, including how to open your own daycare facility.
What Is a Daycare Provider?
When parents leave their young children for any amount of time — whether a couple of short hours or a full day — they need to know they are safe and cared for by their daycare provider. And that is the foundation of the role: caring for and protecting little ones. Daycare providers — also known as daycare workers and childcare workers — watch over children in early childhood. Depending on the age group, they care for children by preparing their food, creating lesson plans, helping with schoolwork, and providing a safe environment in which to play and grow.
What Does a Daycare Provider Do?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), daycare providers and childcare workers have a variety of duties to perform, which can vary daily based on children’s needs. Some of these duties might include:
- Supervising and monitoring the safety of children
- Preparing snacks and meals
- Changing diapers
- Responding to children’s emotional, physical, and mental health needs
- Cleaning up around the childcare facility
- Coordinating with other staff members
- Speaking with parents and guardians
- Building a schedule
- Organizing activities or curriculum
- Assisting with schoolwork
- Helping with hygiene
- Recognizing signs of potential emotional or developmental problems
Duties of daycare providers can vary greatly, especially based on the age groups of the children, as well as the needs of the facility, staff, and parents. Prioritizing children’s development is what all of the responsibilities have in common.
What Are the Types of Daycare Providers?
Factors such as age and environment greatly impact the role of daycare provider. Very Well Family and O*NET Online point out several different types you will likely find available, and depending on what you are looking for in a role, you can pursue the daycare provider position that best suits your interests. The following are some of the most common types of daycare providers:
- Preschool worker
- In-home care provider
- Nanny/au pair
- Parent helper
- After-school program worker
Who Is a Good Fit for a Daycare Provider?
It can be difficult to pinpoint what makes a good daycare provider when the role is so personal. It’s about taking care of the most precious people in parents’ lives – their children. How To Adult offers some ideas on qualities and characteristics to brush up on as you consider how to become a daycare provider.
- Being responsible, reliable, and respectful is a good start. No matter the age of the children you work with or the type of facility, these qualities are the basics of a good employee and are essential to caring for children.
- Showing up on-time and meeting expectations set forth by parents, guardians, and center directors help create a safe environment for everyone involved.
- A positive attitude can go a long way for daycare providers, as children (and parents and guardians) can sometimes be difficult to manage. Putting on a happy face in the midst of these challenges, paired with a fun-loving and nurturing sensibility, will help children stay positive throughout their care.
Finally, it’s important to have effective communication skills and a good amount of patience. While your work as a daycare provider may have ups and downs, communicating clearly — and with lots of patience — will take you far.
What Skills and Education Do I Need to Become a Daycare Provider?
If the above soft skills are attainable, then you are in a good position to pursue a role as a daycare provider. Before you do, consider a few extra ways to prepare. Education requirements will vary depending on your state and where you want to work. According to O*NET Online, 39% of new daycare provider positions require a high school diploma, 23% require at least an associate degree, and 14% require less than a high school diploma.
The BLS reports similar findings, saying a high school diploma or higher is required for entry-level positions. Additional training may also be required, and How To Adult recommends adding emergency training to supplement your preparation to become a daycare provider.
What Is the Salary for a Daycare Provider?
As the role of a daycare provider can look very different from one position to the next, the BLS finds compensation can look very different as well. Based on data collected in May 2021, the median hourly wage for childcare workers was $13.22, or $27,490 annually. The lowest 10% earned less than $8.91 per hour, and the highest 10% earned more than $17.99 per hour. For elementary and secondary schools, the pay was $14.35 hourly. Childcare workers in religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations earned $12.93 hourly. Daycare providers in child daycare services were paid $11.43 hourly.
How to Open a Daycare — What Are the Steps?
Maybe you started small — watching family and friends in your own home or working as a daycare provider at another facility. You’ve gained the experience to launch your own business. You’ve got the skills and the experience, so what else do you need to open a daycare? Follow these steps, according to FreshBooks, to learn more about how to open your own daycare.
- Check Your Education: In addition to early childhood education knowledge, foundational business skills will go a long way, as opening a childcare center is similar to launching other types of businesses. Although the BLS says the minimum education requirement is a high school diploma, going above and beyond in your preparation will set you up for success long-term. Consider the additional certifications and training detailed below to round out your education as a daycare provider.
- Get Licensed and Certified: Because you will work with children, there are several licenses you may want to pursue when becoming a daycare provider, and especially when running a business. The U.S. Department of Social Services is a good place to start applying for the licenses you need to become a daycare provider. From there, you may consider working toward additional accreditations and training that can help set your childcare facility apart. For instance, if you hope to specialize in a particular type of curriculum or behavior development, you can add to your list of certifications to acquire.
- Create a Business Plan: Every business needs a comprehensive business plan to succeed. It is an essential document for applying for financing, which you may need down the line. Investopedia smartly defines a business plan as a document that clearly states what you will achieve and how you will achieve it. A business plan contains the following components: an executive summary, description of products and services, market analysis, marketing strategy, financial plan, and budget.
- Find a Location: Next, you will need to decide where you want to open your daycare. Whether you plan to run a daycare in-home or outside of your home, there are a few factors to consider. First, you will want to find a safe space where the children have enough room to play and learn safely. Ask yourself a few questions when planning your daycare. Is the space age-appropriate? Does the space allow enough room for the number of children and activities you plan to have? Is the location zoned for running a small business? Can you take out the proper insurance on the location?
- Secure Funding and Grants: There are a few ways to finance your daycare. Unless you are financing it yourself, you may want to look into other options to help ensure your daycare is successful, such as a grant through Child Care Aware. To see if you qualify, fill out your information online. As your daycare is a small business, you may also qualify for a small business loan through the ABA. Community fundraising is a third option, as well as applying for a line of credit through a financial institution.
- Market Your Daycare: When you are ready to open your daycare, you will need to get the word out into your community. If your business is homegrown, you may already have a few children in your care. If you do, then asking for referrals is a good place to start when marketing your daycare services. You can also promote your center in your community, at local businesses, and via online reviews. The more involved in your community you get, the better your chances of getting your name out there.
What Are the Requirements of Opening a Daycare?
Each state has different requirements for opening a daycare, and it is important you fully understand your own state’s requirements to run a successful center. The U.S. Office of Child Care outlines the offices and administrators you will need to work with when owning and operating a daycare in the U.S. It is best to start the application process early as it in can take up to six months or more to receive approval in some states.
Do I Need a License to Operate a Daycare?
To own and operate a daycare in your state, you may need one or more licenses. As NerdWallet notes, your state or city may require all companies to have a general license, while also requiring you to obtain a separate license for your childcare service. To qualify for licensure, staff often must pass a background check, have a complete record of immunizations, and meet minimum training requirements. Some states require staff to have certifications in CPR and First Aid. Your state’s Department of Social Services can also provide you with licensing information for your daycare center.
Do I Need a Degree to Operate a Daycare?
While the BLS indicates you only need a high school diploma, many states require daycare centers to be licensed. These include childcare centers run in private homes. Additionally, the BLS notes some states and employers require childcare workers and daycare owners to have a nationally recognized credential. In these cases, states require the Child Development Associate (CDA) credential offered by the Council for Professional Recognition. Obtaining the CDA credential requires coursework, experience in the field, and a period during which you are observed while working with children. You will also have to renew the CDA credential every three years. Other organizations, such as the National Association for Family Child Care may also offer optional accreditation.
Overview: How to Become a Daycare Provider
Caring for young children in the early stages of development is a rewarding career, and there are many options to pursue. Whether you choose to work as an au pair, childcare worker, caretaker, or you decide to run your own daycare, you will have the chance to make a big difference in the lives of children by protecting and nurturing them. With a low barrier of entry for required education and options for training and licensing, you can become a daycare provider to help make a positive difference in the development of young children.