Opening a child care business is a great way to turn a passion for children into a long-term career. You can be your own boss while helping children grow through some of their most formative years. If you are considering making profits out of playtime, here is a guide to starting your own child care business:

Types of child care
Different families prefer different child care services, and which kind you want to offer depends on your personal preference and the desired scale of your business. Family care is an arrangement in which the child goes to another home for a number of hours each day. Home care is the reverse, as the caretaker goes to the child’s home. Day care centers supervise children from different homes in one central setting, where they participate in individual and group activities to foster growth and development. Additional child care models include infant care, after school programs or pre-schools.

The legal details
Depending on the type of child care you decide to pursue, you will have a few legal hurdles to jump before opening your business. If you are considering starting a day care center or family care business, license requirements pertain to your physical space, safety, fire precautions and staff-to-child ratios. You must also adhere to regulations regarding food preparation and nutrition, educational standards and record keeping. Before you put a deposit down on a building, check your local zoning laws to ensure that you can open a child care center in that space. For complete information on obtaining the appropriate license, visit your local state licensing agency.

Once you have your license in place, you have to familiarize yourself with important tax laws, regulations for employers and required insurance policies.

Design your business plan
Your child care center should have a brand just like any other business. Before you can start buying supplies or advertising to parents, you need to figure out the key components to your business. Important considerations include deciding on the type of service, age range of the children and the size of each group. You should also decide on operating houses that correspond with the local parents’ work schedules. Once the kids are in your center, you will have to figure out which methods you believe foster development. Whether structured teaching, free play or a mix of both, a cohesive plan is essential to the success of your business and to the well-being of the children.

When marketing, keep in mind the desirability of low prices, a convenient location and quality care. You can advertise through newspaper ads, local television stations or on the Internet. Start advertising your center at least three months before you open, but make sure the location looks good just in case potential parents wish to visit.

A safe and fun center
You will have to outfit your center or home to accommodate the particular needs of children. Child-proof the space by closely inspecting everything the kids will encounter. Any poisonous plants, potentially dangerous objects and chemical products should be removed and locked away. Stay aware of broken toys, as the damaged parts could come lose and pose a choking hazard.

The toys and materials your center requires will vary depending on the children’s age range. Important staples include child-size tables and chairs, outdoor play areas and napping stations. Art materials and age-appropriate books are meaningful tools for fostering cognitive development. When it comes to educating and entertaining kids, your own creativity is the only limit.

For more information on joining the industry, check out the U.S. Small Business Administration’s excellent guide on how to start a quality child care business.