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There has been a well-documented shift in focus toward smaller group sizes in childcare and classroom settings in recent years. Calls for smaller group sizes only grew louder at the start of the pandemic in early 2020.
While public health was not an initial reason behind this shift, it certainly impacted the way we view group sizes. But many parents and workers may be wondering: What is the ratio of child to staff in daycare?
Is there a legal limit to child per worker in child care facilities? And are the legal requirements aligned with expert opinions?
Childcare Staff Ratios
Exact staff-to-child ratios vary across different age groups, as well as from state to state. However, the National Association for the Education of Young Children released an updated recommendation for ideal child-to-staff ratios and group sizes in 2018.
As an example, the recommended ratio and group size for infants is 1:4 with a maximum group size of 8. This means that the minimum recommendation is for 1 staff member for every 4 infants. The group size of 8 means that they recommend no more than 8 infants (2 staff) per child care group.
Other age group ratios and group sizes are as follows:
As you can see, the restrictions on group size recommendations get lighter as children age. This is because young children require more personalized care to monitor their safety, wellbeing, and development around the clock.
It is also important to note that these figures represent the “suggested best practice” for childcare staff to child ratios. Economic and financial factors are a consideration in determining these numbers. This means that it can often be preferred to aim for even smaller group sizes and ratios in early childhood development.
In the case of infants and toddlers, near-constant supervision is required. In these settings, it is often ideal to have a 1:1 ratio. This ratio helps to ensure that a child’s safety and immediate needs are cared for.
Additionally, smaller group sizes help kids form better relationships with their caretakers, which aids their social, emotional, and cognitive development. Smaller group sizes and child-to-staff ratios help facilitate all of these improved standards.
Daycare Staff During a Pandemic
The shift to smaller group sizes was already underway when the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020. But when the CDC began recommending lockdowns and social distancing, the focus on group sizes was heightened. Initially, it was difficult, or impossible, to find functioning child care facilities at the start of the pandemic.
As things slowly began to reopen, most states offered modified guidelines for daycare staff and group sizes.
As the pandemic has continued, each state has offered regular updates on childcare policies in accordance with public health recommendations. Those looking for information pertaining to specific states can find resources for certain states at the following links:
The CDC’s guidelines for child care operations can be found here.
As you can see, each state’s response to the pandemic and its effects on childcare services has been unique. But across all states, the safety and wellbeing of children are emphasized.
Connect with the Right Program
Whether you are a parent, director, or worker, connecting with great child care communities is important. For more information, resources, and access to some of the best child care programs in the country, visit Wonderschool.