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Home Daycare

Top 10 Mistakes New Home Daycare Providers Make

It’s the perfect way to make money while staying home with your kids: opening your own home daycare.  It’s easy to start up, but it’s a business that can leave you stressed, burnt out and totally mistrusting of people. 

From my own experience and from the experiences of others, here are the common mistakes people make when starting their own home daycare.


1. Not having a contract and policies in print.  It’s important to discuss your expectations, hours, pay, etc., with parents during the interview, but having it in writing is essential.  This eliminates any misunderstanding or miscommunication down the road.

2. Not enforcing their contract and policies.  Having it in writing and signed is half the battle.  The other half is making sure you enforce it, because there will always be that one parent that may think your policies aren’t that important.  You should have consequences in your policies and you should be enforcing them.  In my handbook, I have late fees listed.  But if I didn’t expect and bill for them, they would have been meaningless.

3. Not charging late fees.  It’s not that you need the extra $5, it’s that you want parents to understand that your time is valuable.  This is a job, and you need to be paid what you’re worth for it.

4. Working overtime when they don’t want to.  Just say no.  Repeat it after me: “No, I’m sorry, I can’t.”.  Trust me, I know from experience that while working overtime can be a wonderful thing to do for your families, you shouldn’t feel obligated to.  Suggest that they hire a babysitter to pick up their child from your care and take them back to their home.  Whatever you do, don’t put your own family’s plans on hold for someone else’s.

5. Not choosing the families they take on carefully.  When you meet with families, you are the one interviewing them.  Not the other way around.  The parents will be in your home at least twice each day, and their children will be with you for 8-12 hours every day — make sure you’re comfortable with them!  You should be considering whether they’ll be on-time for drop off and pick up, whether they agree with your childcare philosophy and how they feel about the style of discipline you use.

6. Not having a clear direction or philosophy behind their daycare.  Make sure you know how you’re going to spend your days.  If you prefer a routine-oriented day, make sure you convey that to your prospective families.  If you prefer a casual kind of care with spontaneous crafts and days at the splash pad, you should also make sure your families know that.  You need to have fair expectations for yourself, and your families need to know what their children will be doing during the day.

7. Not researching or understanding the legislation surrounding home daycare in their province or state.  It is so important to be operating legally, according to the legislation in your province or state.  Ontario’s has changed, and providers need to be aware of the changes.  Not only will you be protecting the children and your business, but you’ll be protecting yourself in case of the unthinkable.

8. Not communicating with parents before it’s too late, on their child’s behaviour or any other issues that arise.  Maintaining open communication with each child’s parents is so important.  Letting them know each day, whether it’s by word of mouth or written in a daily log, how their child’s day went and if they needed any time-outs or redirection, is essential.  That way there won’t be any surprises if you ever need to terminate care for a child.

9. Not treating their home daycare like a business.  Maintaining a professional attitude will save you in so many situations.  Keeping that distance and treating your daycare like a business will fend off many of the requests to stay open late or to babysit on weekends.  And trust me, you’ll need your evenings and weekends to spend catching up, resting and doing things with your own family.

10. Not requiring pay up front.  The best time to start requiring pay up front is right when you first open.  I didn’t do this, and as a result, lost a total of about $800, spread over a few families.  In each case, it was a matter of them leaving suddenly (even though I required 2 weeks notice) and of them not paying what was due.  Yes, I could have taken them to small claims court, but that would have meant taking time off work, which would inconvenience my golden families.  However, I could have avoided losing that $800, if I had just required pay up front.

What other mistakes have you made yourself, or seen others make when it comes to running your own business?

EBook-Running a Home Daycare and Doing It Well

Article written by:

Megan is a WAHM to 3 (and then some) kids, who spends the majority of her time working as an Administrative Assistant, blogging and washing dishes. She loves to write about her adventures in parenting, running a home daycare, adoption and whatever else strikes her fancy!


  1. Robin Rue (@massholemommy)

    My good friend ran a home daycare and although she loved it, I think she felt like she always walked on eggshells around certain kids & their parents.

  2. Ron

    Truly helpful tips! Some of them can even be applied to some other kind of businesses. Thanks for sharing them up!
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  3. Michele

    Those are rules that should be used by any business where you are the sole person doing it. I had a bookkeeping service for about 10 years (still have 1 or 2 of those clients) and I went to their place of business as well as did some in my home. I never did put anything in writing and yes, I did lose some money over the years–but if you are very careful it is great being your own boss.
    Go check out Michele’s latest post! Lilla Rose is Having a Sale from 6/17 to 6/19My Profile

  4. mykidsguide

    These are great tips. Michele is right that some of these tips can be applied to other businesses as well. My friend has an apartment that she lets out to friends and family. Since she knows them she didn’t require up front payments. She ended up losing a lot of money, too.
    Go check out mykidsguide’s latest post! Have a Blast with Fun 4th of July Party Games for TeensMy Profile

  5. Jacob Fu

    Wow – I can’t imagine staring a home daycare. That’s a lot of responsibility knowing how picky parents are these days.
    Go check out Jacob Fu’s latest post! Gobi Gear Hoboroll – Perfect Stuff Sack for the Modern TravelerMy Profile

  6. sharon phillips

    You are so right about running a daycare. Great ideas you shared also.

  7. Angelic Sinova

    Great list of mistakes daycare providers can make. My friends mother runs and daycare and she always says her mistake is not charging late fees.
    Go check out Angelic Sinova’s latest post! What I’m Looking Forward To This Summer (2015)My Profile

  8. Jen

    Great tips for anyone looking to start a Day Care. I am sure that many don’t get proper licenses and insurance.
    Go check out Jen’s latest post! Ad: How This Antimicrobial Soap Improves Health at HomeMy Profile

  9. Jeska

    I view this both ways. I can see where you are coming from having a business of my own but I also see it from a parent perspective as well.
    Go check out Jeska’s latest post! Tips for Eliminating Pet HairMy Profile

  10. Lovely

    One big business mistake that I see people make is not doing research. This is why this blog post is so important. You shared a lot of best practice for anyone looking to open up a home daycare
    Go check out Lovely’s latest post! Details You Should Think About Before Agreeing to Be Part Of The Bridal PartyMy Profile

  11. Becky

    I don’t think I could ever run a home daycare but kuddos to those who are willing to do it!! Great tips 🙂

  12. Franc Ramon

    I think it’s really important to set rules and guidelines when it comes to daycare services. It’s also ok to say no for extra works if you can’t accommodate it.

  13. Chubskulit Rose

    I was thinking about this when both of my kids start going to school. I thought of putting a day care but I got scared when I think of different kids that I need to take care of.

  14. Shaney Vijendranath

    You got some great points here. Many people take advantage of the situation and arrive late. I try my best to be on time always.
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  15. cai

    Although I think it’s a good business. Being solely in charge of other people’s kids is just to scary for me!

  16. Tracie

    This is a really great list. I have a friend who runs an at-home daycare, and she has dealt with some of these issues, too. Getting paid up front is definitely important!
    Go check out Tracie’s latest post! Keep Your Kids On Track For A Safe SummerMy Profile

  17. Stephanie

    When I announced that I wanted to stay home with my daughter, everyone suggested I start a daycare. I couldn’t do it in a million years.
    Go check out Stephanie’s latest post! 37th Edition Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving Celebration and Giveaway! #BallBlueBookMy Profile

  18. Joanne T Ferguson

    i think a lot of new business and business owners can be too trusting and try to do things the old fashioned way! Unfortunately life and times have changed and people will take advantage when and where they can! Great list!

  19. Amanda Love

    I’ve never had to utilize a home daycare and I’m hoping those who don’t have these tips and place would have them if I ever need to use one

  20. Felice Raina

    I loved these tips. I think it’s so important that you carefully pick the families of the kids who will be in your daycare. I also love the idea of paying upfront because people can definitely be shady and not pay you at all.

  21. Jennifer

    I run an in home child care and I wish I had seen this post before I started. After doing it for almost a year, I still am learning from my mistakes.

  22. Tabitha

    When you say payment in advance, would you recommend payments be due on a Monday?

    • Megan Elford

      Yes, Monday morning is great. Friday at pick-up is even better. That way parents can be reminded at drop-off (put up a sign, or email or text them during the day) to pick up cash on the way to pick up their child that afternoon 😉

      • Heather

        Do you require cash or do you accept checks? I am considering starting an in-home day care so that I can stay home with my son and new baby that is arriving in November. We currently use an in-home provider that lets us send checks directly from our bank. She gets them in the mail on set schedule.

    • Kathryn

      My fees are due on the first weekday of the month for that month.

      • Paula

        I don’t want to have to deal with checks bouncing. Do you think it’s too much to ask for cask or money orders or Cashiers check or money orders only?

  23. Andrea

    Running a home daycare myself these are very good points. I especially like the one about holding parents to the contract. It is so important to do so, it says that you mean business and aren’t going to be taken advantage of. Just that “one” time you let it slide could mean problems from there forward!

  24. Kathryn

    Well said!!!! I’ve been in business just over a year and wished I’d read something like this earlier. It’s been an education!
    Very very good tips. Take this seriously if you’re starting out.
    I had no idea the same family would ask for a discount, complain about having a nap time, regularly pay me late, assume I would be okay with them being late for pickup and then dictate my hours (including days off). I was shocked that someone would have the audacity to tell me what to do. It took a lot of assertive tough conversations (and them grumbling) to set things straight. After teaching for several years (over 500 families through the years) I’d never seen this kind of disrespect. Be prepared for people to view you as their servant – and set them straight!!! Caring for kids is the highest calling!

  25. Paula

    Also, as to the late fee; I think $5.00 is too low. I was thinking $10 or $15.00 late fee. This tells the parents I’m serious and this being my rule is non negotiable.

  26. Rachel

    What if they don’t pay on time or pay the late fee… Do you not answer the door to them the next morning

    • Megan Elford

      I would answer the door, however I would say that I won’t accept their child into care until payment is made. They would be welcome to take their child with them to the ATM and come right back (and I’d let them know if we’ll be at home, at the park, or wherever). Sometimes all it takes is an extra bit of inconvenience for people to realize that it’s easier just to pay on time 😉

  27. Cheryl

    I’ve had a home daycare for 31 years. It was nice having cash every Friday, now it’s email transfers.
    Having a job you love and being happy every morning when you wake up is the greatest feeling, I’m truly blessed to have made a impact on so many young lives it’s awesome. This job is long hours and sometimes overwhelming, and not secure but so rewarding, but takes a certain type of person, not someone just trying to make money and stay home with their own kids.

  28. Melissa

    Thank you so much for your wonderful tips! I am a new provider and have already had many issues with one family picking up late consistently even though late fees are listed in my contract. They are a nice family and I usually avoid confrontation at all cost but I find myself more frustrated each time so now I realize I need to face the problem head on to ensure I can switch my energies to my own family at closing time and not 15 minutes later. Again, thank you so much! Very helpful 🙂

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