How to Create an Outdoor Play Area for Your At-Home Daycare Center
It is also a fantastic idea for people who may or may not have children of their own but who enjoy working with kids and want to build a home-based business.
You do not need to have children of your own to run an at-home daycare center, but experience working with children or a related educational background will certainly come in handy as you embark on this venture.
The most common reasons for people to choose to open a daycare in their home include the desire to stay at home with their children, the need to contribute to the family income as a stay-at-home parent, or a love of children combined with the dream of working from home and being their own boss.
Opening an at-home daycare might seem like an expanded version of the babysitting gigs you did in high school but, in reality, you will be a small business owner – as well as a childcare provider.
This will mean permits, paperwork, marketing plans, tax write-offs, payments to collect, laws to follow, clients to please and all of the other things that come along with being a business owner.
It also means setting up your home and yard to create safe, comfortable, appealing areas for children to play, eat, be creative and rest.
Setting up an At-Home Daycare Center: First Steps
Before you begin decluttering and kid-proofing your home, or setting up play areas, you will need to find out the basic requirements and laws related to opening a daycare in your home.
Laws vary by state, including how many children you can care for at a time, and some states have education and age requirements for childcare providers.
Contact the agency that regulates home-based childcare centers in your state to learn more about basic requirements, necessary permits and the steps needed to become licensed as a childcare provider.
Once you are aware of requirements in your state and determine that you can meet them, evaluate your home to decide which areas are appropriate for use as eating, sleeping or play areas.
Declutter your home, including removing breakable, sharp or expensive items or placing them out of reach of little hands.
During this time, you will also need to implement a child-proofing plan, including moving house plants out of childcare areas, relocating chemical cleaners and other potentially toxic household items out of reach or to other rooms, adding electrical outlet covers and cabinet locks, and creating a cleaning schedule to keep the area clean and small objects out of the mouths of infants and toddlers.
Keep in mind that you and your family should still be able to use your home for your regular activities, including enjoying family meals, entertaining guests, relaxing, doing homework and watching television together.
If you plan to create one or more outdoor play areas to use as part of your childcare business, you will either want to create dedicated areas that are separate from your family’s outdoor living spaces, or you will need to create play areas that can be easily transformed back to their regular use to fit your family’s needs.
Setting up an At-Home Daycare Center: Creating an Outdoor Play Area
Whether you have an at-home daycare center or a childcare facility in a commercial building, you will want to create some type of outdoor play area where the children in your care can enjoy outdoor activities in the fresh air and sunshine.
If you are in a situation where an outdoor play area is not an option – or is not a year-round option – it is also possible to create an indoor play area with outdoor features, such as ample natural lighting, synthetic grass and paving stone walkways, to at least provide children with the closest thing possible to an outdoor play area.
Before you can add playground equipment, outside toys and kid-friendly landscape features, you should first make sure you have a sturdy fence that will safely keep the children inside the play area, and passing dogs or strangers outside of the area.
You will also want to consider other potential safety issues, such as poisonous plants, shrubs with sharp points, trees that drop acorns or other small objects children will likely put in their mouths, slippery concrete walkways, playground equipment in need of repair, and garden hoses or pipes that may be tripping hazards.
Walkways and patios should be made using slip-resistant hardscape options, such as pavers, while questionable plants or shrubs should be removed or relocated to other areas of your yard outside of the play area.
If your landscaping includes water features, such as ponds, fountains or a swimming pool that could be a potential drowning hazard, these items should be fenced off to separate them from the children’s play area or relocated to another section of your yard, if possible.
If you have a natural grass lawn in your designated outdoor play area, keep in mind that chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides should be avoided to limit the amount of toxins children are exposed to while in your care.
This can be easily avoided by opting for artificial grass instead, which is discussed further below.
While you cannot avoid all accidents when children are playing outside, you can limit injuries by removing potential hazards and making safety a priority as you create your daycare’s outdoor play area.
Safety is, of course, a priority, but it is also important to make sure you set up your outdoor space to fit your needs and require as little maintenance as possible.
Some things you might want to consider for an outdoor play area include a place for the children to eat outdoors, playground equipment, space for active play, a small vegetable garden where the children can help as they watch food grow, and an area where children can relax to read or be alone outside.
As you select landscaping options, playground equipment, outdoor tables and chairs, toys and other items to include, keep in mind that children tend to spill and drop things, and you will be tired after keeping up with kids all day, so finding easy-to-clean and easy-to-maintain options should be a priority.
Setting up an Outdoor Play Area: Is Artificial Turf Right for You?
For most people, the image of a dream home includes a lush, green lawn that invites people into their front yard or an expansive back lawn where their children can play on the grass, have tea parties or wrestle with the family dog.
But with a natural grass lawn that is conventionally maintained, that could mean rolling around in bacteria left from pet waste, or tea party cookies being contaminated by chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
Traditional lawns also tend to have uneven surfaces that often mean more trips and falls when little ones run and play.
Then, of course, there are also the unappealing brown spots left behind by family pets using your lawn as a restroom, as well as all of the maintenance that comes along with a conventional lawn, such as weeding, mowing, watering, aerating and fertilizing.
Eco-minded homeowners might also be interested in knowing that natural grass lawns are among the biggest culprits when it comes to residential water usage.
Luckily, there is an excellent alternative that can be particularly beneficial to folks considering starting a daycare at home, or looking to create or renovate an outdoor play area at a commercial childcare facility: artificial turf.
Here are just a few of the benefits of choosing synthetic grass:
1. Artificial turf does not get brown spots from family pets relieving themselves, and solid pet waste can be easily removed, while liquid waste can simply be rinsed away.
2. You can save time and money, since you will never have to mow, fertilize, aerate, water, or apply pesticides and herbicides to your lawn again.
3. With proper installation, artificial grass provides a flat, even surface that reduces the chance of little ones tripping and falling during play.
4. Fake grass is easy to clean and maintain, requiring only minimal maintenance to keep it looking and feeling its best.
5. Since no chemical-laden fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides are needed when you have synthetic grass, outdoor picnics and tea parties on the lawn can be enjoyed without these toxic products being around the children’s food.
6. Artificial turf is lush and green throughout the year, which means your yard will always look verdant and visually appealing when parents come to pick up their children or your family has guests over for a barbecue after the childcare center has closed for the day.
Setting up an Outdoor Play Area: Additional Landscaping Ideas
If you are considering an outdoor eating area with tables and chairs, you may want to consider installing a small patio made of paving stones.
Pavers are a durable, attractive option that will beautify your yard while creating an outdoor dining area that is easy to sweep or rinse clean.
Since children tend to drop and spill things, this option is an ideal choice that is difficult to damage and easy to replace if damage does occur – and you can replace just one or a few pavers at a time, since they essentially zip together.
You can also use paving stones to create walkways leading from one play area to the next or to provide a border separating the daycare area, vegetable garden or playground from other areas of your yard.
If your yard has areas of dirt around plants, in empty flowerbeds or in side yards, you might want to consider covering the earth with mulch or another ground cover.
This will help to keep weeds down while limiting the amount of bare dirt accessible to the children that can then be tracked into your home.
Finally, you may want to consider including a few plants and shrubs that are known to attract local wildlife, such as hummingbirds or butterflies, which can provide entertainment and educational opportunities for the kids.
Setting up an At-Home Daycare Center: Saving on Supplies
Startup expenses can be scary, particularly if you need to make some bigger repairs or improvements to your home or yard before opening for business.
Fortunately, before and after you begin providing childcare services, you will be able to save money on everyday supplies, which will hopefully help you offset these startup costs.
The first thing to remember when shopping for daycare supplies is to save all of your receipts.
You likely will not be able to write off every box of crayons or cleaning supply, but make sure to save your receipts to go over with your tax professional to see what you might be able to write off as a business expense at the end of the year.
When it comes to shopping for the various supplies you will need while running your day care center, such as plastic plates and cups, games and toys, healthy snacks and drinks, printer paper for marketing flyers, art supplies, costumes for dress-up play, child-size chairs and more, be sure to hit up dollar stores, thrift stores and garage sales for some of the best deals.
As for food shopping, coupons are available in newspapers and online for many healthy foods, drinks and snack items.
By combining those coupons with store sales at your local grocer, you can significantly reduce your food expenses.
You may also want to check out various grocery stores in your area to see if one or more of them has a good bulk food section.
When you buy in bulk and do not pay for packaging, you can see significant savings on many items, such as cereals, pastas, rice, beans, candy, crackers, hummus, baking supplies, oatmeal, trail mix and dried fruit.
Starting a daycare center in your home can be a rewarding experience that helps meet your family’s financial needs or allows you stay at home with your children.
By following your local laws as you establish your business and taking the time to plan interior and exterior areas that will serve their purposes well and be easy to maintain, you can help set yourself up for success.
Whether having an at-home daycare is your dream or just a way to make extra money as a stay-at-home mom, these tips on how to get started and how to create a safe, appealing outdoor play area should help you get off to a good start.