If you are planning on providing child care in your own home, it is worthwhile to carefully plan your child care space. A carefully designed environment will be one that is safe, inviting and fun. Your first step is to check with all local applicable rules and regulations for your daycare. Often there will be rules regarding health and safety precautions as well as equipping your program.
Health and Safety
Children respond best to an environment that makes them feel safe and secure. Ensuring your child care space is a safe and healthy place for children to explore and play is the primary consideration. Beyond licensing regulations, here are some basic considerations. (This is only a partial list, find comprehensive resources for childproofing your home.)
- Make sure the play area is clean. Vacuum rugs daily if you have infants and toddlers. Sanitize all toys frequently, particularly ones that children may have had in their mouths.
- Each year, unintentional poisonings from medicines and household chemicals kill about 30 children and prompt more than 1 million calls to the nation's poison control centers. Learn more about poison prevention.
- Remove any breakable knickknack or trinkets. Be mindful of small objects that younger children could choke on.
- Cover all outlets and secure loose wires.
- Other items to be removed from your child care space include: lighters, matches, and firearms or other weapons.
- Regularly wash hands and observe diapering santation and safe handling of food.
Getting Set Up
Operating any business out of your home can be a challenge. You will need to decide how you will designate and separate child care space from living space. You may wish to have a separate room for the "daycare" filled with centers and activities. You may also opt to have each room serve a different function; living room-play room, kitchen-art area etc., Remember you want to be able to supervise the children as they are engaged in different activities. Be sure it is clear which areas of your home are "off limits" to the children. It may help to clearly define each area by using shelves, tables, or tape.
As you set up different activity areas there are some things to consider. Think about where each area will be in relationship to other area. If you separate noisy areas from quiet ones children will be able to play with less disruption or conflict. Take note of traffic patterns, are children able to move easily from one area to another? Place areas near needed resources. Art or messy activity areas should be near a sink and ideally on tile or easy to clean floor. Store toys and materials near the area where they will be used. Can you allow children to choose from different areas and still safely supervise them? You may wish to only open a few areas at a time if they are located in different rooms.
Most family child care providers have a limited area for their child care and space is on short supply. The first rule of thumb is "A place for everything and everything in its place". Help children learn where things belong and how to take good care of materials and toys. They are also learning to be independent and self-reliant when they are able to access materials on their own. All toys should be stored on shelves both visible and accessible to the children. Clear bins or plastic shoe boxes are perfect for small toys like Legos and beads You can use larger tubs to hold blocks, play food and dishes, or train sets. Maximize wall space by hanging nets for stuffed animals or using hooks for dressup clothes.
Remember this a place for young children. They will know it is a special place for them and be more independent if there is child sized furniture and equipment. You can find some great check lists for selecting toys that are both fun and educational. It is often easiest to equip you child care by considering each activity area or center independently.