Running your own home daycare is a job like no other. No other job requires you to use quite as much of your personal space. Sure, a web developer or accountant that telecommutes will need a dedicated office with a desk, office equipment and so on. But with home daycare, you’ll need a play area, an eating area, a sleeping area and a bathroom/diaper changing area. The good news is that all of those areas will be write-offs at tax time. The bad news is that if you don’t plan wisely, the daycare could completely consume your house.
For my family, it was really important for us to have spaces in our house that were untouched by the daycare, and for our own kids to have a place to escape to and keep their personal belongings and toys out of reach. It was also important for me to be able to have the daycare kiddos always within my sight, except for the babies while they were sleeping (and of course, I always had the monitor on then).
So here’s what we did.
Entrance: Originally we had the daycare families come in through our front door. We had a cubby for each child along with hooks and a boot mat. Each cubby had the child’s clip board with their Daily Report, and the Sign-In Sheet was on the end. Here’s what it looked like:
Soon we realized that it was just too crazy to get 8 kids (5 daycare + 3 of my own), plus me, plus my husband ready to go outside at once all in our tiny entrance way (hubby leaves for work at the same time as we leave for the bus). We quickly converted the back door into a daycare entrance, allowing hubby and our boys to get ready at the front door, while I and the daycare kids and my youngest got ready at the back door.
Playroom: We converted the living room, which is directly adjacent to the kitchen, into a gated playroom. Our back door opens into the living room so it became our new daycare entrance. This allowed storage space for all of the daycare kids’ outdoor clothes, bags, etc, and also cut off their access to the rest of the house. The daycare kiddos ate in the kitchen of course, and with this arrangement, I could supervise kids both at the table and in the playroom.
Kitchen: The kitchen was for eating and craft time, but beyond that I didn’t feel it was safe enough for the kiddos to be wandering around in there. As soon as they were done eating or crafting, the kiddos would go right back to the playroom.
Bathroom: We have 3 bathrooms in our house, but for obvious reasons, I didn’t want the daycare kiddos to have access to all of them. The upstairs bathroom became our pottying/diaper changing bathroom. Yes, that meant we all had to traipse up and down the stairs 5 times each day, but those kids became expert stair climbers very quickly! I had a change table and enough potties for everyone, so we did all of that simultaneously which minimized our time up there.
Napping Areas: I had two nap areas. The older kids (18 mos-4 yrs) slept on daycare cots in the playroom. Of course, the cots were pulled out for nap and put away immediately after. The babies slept in playpens in my daughter’s bedroom. Before she started school, she napped in my bedroom or on a cot in the playroom. Because the babies were in playpens, they didn’t have access to her toys and things. Besides when the babies were sleeping in there, the room was completely off limits.
The off-limits rooms included bedrooms, the basement, and the main entrance to the house (except during our evacuation drills). This made it so much easier for child-proofing, and also for making sure none of my own kids’ “special” toys were played with. My kids knew that they needed to keep their own toys out of the daycare areas to keep them safe.
This set up drastically reduced the amount of stress, and even of disciplining I had to do. The daycare kiddos knew the boundaries, and they were always within sight/earshot so that I could intervene before a situation started to escalate.
Take a look at your own daycare space, and see if there are some things you can change to make it easier to share your home, not just for you but for the rest of your family too!