Your Home Daycare: The Environment

By Lisa Henderson, BS Child Development


When setting up your home daycare, there are many things you need to consider. By carefully planning your setup, you can provide a developmentally appropriate and stimulating environment for young children. This is the first in a series of articles to help you prepare or improve your family home daycare.

One of the first things you need to consider is space. Depending on the number of children you intend to enroll in your home daycare, you’ll need to make sure there is room to play, to explore, and to stretch out to rest. Will you set up rooms exclusively for daycare? Which rooms will be shared by both family and children who attend your daycare? Include in your plan, rooms like the kitchen and bathroom, which will be used regularly. Consider also that infants may require a back room for sleeping. Whatever your plan is, make certain that it is something you and your family can live with.

When setting up your daycare space, consider the ages of the children you will be keeping. Do you want a mixed age group of infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, or will you focus on one age group. Your daycare will need to accomodate the needs of the children you teach. The toys you choose, the activities you plan, and the safety precautions will need to be geared towards the ages of your group of children.

Research shows that organizing your daycare space into “centers” is often the best environment for children. An added benefit for the provider is that the area stays more organized and children can focus more easily. Centers can provide divisions within a room, helping children to keep the learning materials to stay within their specified areas. This makes clean up time go faster and toys with many pieces tend to stay together as they should. Ensure there are many child-sized items (such as little chairs and tables) in the room, rather than adult-sized furniture, to create a more child-centered environment.

If you are using exclusive rooms for your home daycare, this is best done with bookcases, partitions, and large toys, such as a child-sized kitchen. If you are using shared space, such as your family’s living room, you can tuck different centers into the corners of the room. Try to avoid using toy boxes; use shelves and appropriate-sized clear containers to store the toys.

The basic centers, or areas, that should be provided every day include:

  • an art center
  • a block center
  • a dramatic play center
  • a book center
  • a manipulatives center
  • a sensory center

You can also include specialty centers, such as a computer center. Each of the basic centers and the specialty centers will be discussed in detail in later articles, including the benefits of that type of play and a list of the learning materials that are recommended for that center.

Your environment should also include some type of cubby for each child. This gives the child a sense of belonging. Provide a special place to store their coat, their shoes, their artwork, and their sleeping items. This can be achieved by building an actual cubby system, or by purchasing plastic stacking shelves, or even just a small basket. Place a label on each cubby with the child’s name to help the child begin to recognize his or her name. Another idea is to have the parent bring a photo of the child from home to put on their cubby.

The walls of your home daycare are very important. You may be aware that color can create mood. Blues, greens, and purples are considered calming colors. Reds, oranges, and yellows are stimulating colors. Don’t overdo any one color either. It is best to have walls a neutral color, such as an off-white, so that you can decorate the walls with posters and children’s artwork, appropriate to desired moods. For example, you might want blues and greens near the book center, for calming effects. Your art area should be a combination of all the colors, to stimulate all types of artwork. Your dramatic play area might be yellow and blue. You may want the stimulating colors in your block area. It is best, too, to make sure your shelves and child-sized furniture are either natural wood color or white. Your toys and learning materials should color the shelves and the space.

Be sure these things are on the walls of your home daycare also:

  • your license or registration
  • a copy of your last inspection
  • any degrees or certificates you have earned
  • photos of the children in your care
  • pictures and posters of children, animals, vehicles, and other interesting things
  • a calendar
  • a clock
  • the emergency escape route

A bulletin board can be posted near the cubbies, with the following:

  • the menu for the week
  • a copy of your daily schedule
  • notices to parents

Keep in mind that your state or country may have a list of specific items that must be posted where parents can clearly see it. Check with your licensing representative for details.

Be sure that your environment is safe, child-friendly, and meets the needs of all areas of development. You need to make sure the children are developing in these areas: cognitive (thinking) skills, physical (small motor and large motor) skills, emotional skills, and social skills. Your learning materials and toys should meet the needs of every child in your care, in order to provide the optimal environment for development.

The most important thing to remember in setting up your home daycare space is that you and your family must be comfortable with it. Often, providers feel as though the daycare has “taken over” the house. Be careful to avoid this. Try to keep it in specific parts of your home or put away the “daycare” toys at the end of the day. Keep in mind that a plan is just a plan and can be altered anytime to meet the changing needs of your family and the children who come to your home daycare. But to start without a plan is not a good idea. As you read through the continuing series of articles, keep a list of those things that appeal to you and implement in your home daycare.


Lisa lives in Texas with her children Heather and Ryan. She runs a Registered Home Daycare for eight children. She is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin.

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