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In-home child care startup costs and how to keep them low

Starting a child care program in your home can be a great way to fulfill your passion for working with children, give you more flexibility and ownership over your career and schedule, and even earn more money than you would at a traditional child care center.

But even if you’ve been teaching for a while, you probably don’t already have a stockpile of cots, diaper pails, and learning materials for 6+ little ones lying around your home . . . and that’s okay! You may have read articles that say startup costs for family child care are prohibitively high.

But you absolutely don’t need to break the bank to start your own child care or preschool. Keep reading for our breakdown of costs and suggestions for getting started without breaking the bank:

The non-negotiables: licensing requirements

There are certain things you absolutely must have on hand before welcoming families to your home for program tours and, later, for the first day of learning.

From licensing expenses to everyday supplies, here’s what you should expect to purchase before the first day if you’re operating out of California, no matter what age group you’re teaching:

  1. Online or in-person California licensing orientation: $25
  2. License application fee: In California, $73 for a small license and $140 for a large license
  3. EMSA-qualified CPR course: $70-$110, depending on provider
  4. EMSA-qualified Preventative health and safety course: $70-110, depending on provider
  5. State required immunizations – In California, these are MMR (measles), TDAP (whooping cough), a negative TB test clearance, and a flu shot (although the flu shot can be waived)

NOTE: Items 3-5 are requirements for employment in any child care center, not just for an in-home family child care.

The non-negotiables: required items for health and safety

There are some basic health and safety features you need to have in place to get licensed, including:

  • Safety gates
  • Outlet covers
  • Fire extinguisher
  • First aid kit
  • Smoke alarm
  • Carbon monoxide alarm
  • Backpack with emergency supplies and water

More flexible: toys and learning materials

You exact list of supplies will depend heavily on the type of program you are planning to run, but may include:

  • Child-sized table and chairs
  • Cubbies
  • Diaper-changing supplies
  • Developmentally appropriate materials for different learning centers (e.g. a reading corner, sensory activities such as Play-Doh, art supplies, puzzles, etc.)
  • A rug for circle time
  • Cots, mats, or pack-and-plays for napping

Keep costs low: prioritize purchases

You don’t need to obsess over purchasing everything you need all at once—especially before you have students enrolled.

When parents visit your home for a tour, they are generally more concerned that you have a safe and uncluttered learning environment than if you have every material under the sun in your closet.

You can get started with the basics (books, blocks, baby dolls, toy cars, play dough, and art materials). As your program grows, so can your collection of items. Recent research has shown that fewer toys actually result in more learning, so yet another reason to pace yourself and be thoughtful as you acquire materials.

Click here for more tips on how to save money when starting your program. 

Get started on your licensing journey today!



Wonderschool is a network of quality in-home early childhood programs. Our mission is to ensure that every child has access to a home away from home that helps them realize their full potential. We work with experienced educators and child care providers to help them start their own child care or preschool out of their homes, whether they live in apartments, condos, or homes that they rent or own.