*Disclaimer: If you run a daycare, work in a daycare, send your kids to daycare, or if Daycare is your middle name, please understand I am only culling together my own observations.  I have experienced the full gamut of quality child care, and this is in no way meant to disparage the good ones out there, nor the need for high-quality child care, which supports the working families in our country.  

How to make a daycare center

Find a building, any building, or a space in a building.  It can be an abandoned school, a mechanic’s garage, a storefront, a church basement, or the 2nd floor of a strip mall.  Splash paint on this building.

Think of a creative name to put forth your mission – Creative Minds, Future Footsteps, Minds Matter, Little Shepherds, Little Ones of the Future, Precious Babies, Kiddie Karriage, Kiddie Korner, Terrific Tots, Wonderfully Made, or Shake, Rattle, & Roll.  (These are actual examples.)  Now call a sign maker, and ask for your daycare’s name to be emblazoned on your storefront. Under no circumstances should you ask for a proof or – heaven forbid! – go into the store to make sure the spelling is right.  Having the name of your center spelled correctly would only make people feel insecure when they can’t spell the center’s name.  If you have extra money, have multiple signs made – for the doors, the marquee (if it’s an old movie theatre), the awning (if it’s an old laundromat), the windows, or walls inside.  Don’t worry about consistency in spelling.  Again, if you get 3 different spellings of “shepherd”, one of them is bound to be correct.  For marketing purposes, you can also write on any of your signs the attributes parents are bound to be attracted to in child care, such as “trips”  “computers” “French classes” and “open at 4am”.  

Buy lots of materials.  Make sure you buy the kit from the school supply catalog that will label the centers – science, math, art, reading housekeeping, blocks, writing – and paste these liberally to the walls, regardless or whether or not you have those actual centers at your daycare.  Repeat with the ABCs and numbers.  Make sure you have borders for the bulletin boards.  Bulletin board design is a very important way to show what creative teachers you have.  Another way to show creativity is by buying art kits.  Kids will learn exactly where to place the pre-cut, pre-glued dog’s nose on his face, and all the projects will turn out exactly the same.  

Also, buy lots of tables and chairs.  These do not have to be precisely fit to the size/age of the kids you’re serving, because kids grow into things, don’t they? And besides, small children are meant to spend long hours seated at tables doing worksheets, which reminds me –

Buy lots of workbooks to copy worksheets out of.  Don’t bother buying reference books for teachers to learn developmentally appropriate practices.  They’ll just figure it out as they go along.

Make sure you have 1 thin rug from a school supply catalog for circle time.  At this point, if you’re worried about running out of money for actual toys, fill empty bins with broken Happy Meal toys, torn books from the “Free” bin at the library, and your kids’ old Barbies and Beanie Babies.  

Staffing is not really an issue to get worked up about.  Young, inexperienced teachers will learn from older, burnt-out teachers.  Overweight teachers with Daycare Butt © will use their loud voices to command presence in the room.  Make sure each teacher is working toward a CDA so you don’t lose your license.  If teachers are really green and can’t handle their rooms of children, just put more new teachers into the room to help.  Don’t bother making one the “lead” and others the “associates” – that kind of hierarchy just makes people angle for bigger paychecks, and might give certain teachers a sense of superiority.  And you can always just move them around in the middle of the school year if they’re not a good fit.  

Lastly, use whatever money you have left to put up walls to make separate classrooms, depending on how many rooms you can legally create.  If you have just a few dollars, buy some cubicle partitions – the walls work great for displaying kids’ art projects using push-pins.  If you have more money or know a handy-man, you can put up a half-wall.  This makes sure the daycare noises of loud teachers, crying children, and the clean-up song will be able to travel from room to room, unabated.  Teachers will also be able to communicate freely over the wall about their upcoming court dates, custody battles, and new tattoos.  If you’re lucky, your building will already be divided into rooms, or if you want to spend the big bucks, go for real walls. Otherwise, you have many options.

And with that, throw up one more sign that says “Now enrolling, subsidized excepted” and open your doors to the oncoming masses.