What is the difference between family daycare and group or larger daycare?

I have been asked what a family daycare is and what is the difference between family and group daycare. There is a HUGE difference. I have worked in what is called a “group” childcare facility.

Group daycare centers are licensed for 9 or more children and there are different rules and limitations on the teacher to child ratios. For example…if you are an infant teacher, you could be responsible for the care of up to 4 infants by yourself. If there are two teachers in the room, you could have 8 infants to care for! As the children become older, the ratios decrease and the teacher can care for more children. Personally I have worked in each and every age group or “room”. I felt that the infant room was like an assembly line and they never received the one-on-one they deserved. Imagine feeding a baby and another baby starts to cry? You can’t stop feeding the baby right? You could not prop the bottles in the child’s mouth…nor should you be allowed to. Trust me, I know all the rules for all the ages.

Family daycare is licensed for no more than 8. There is usually only one teacher/caregiver. The child doesn’t have to worry about getting switched to a different room when he/she has a birthday. Family daycare is less structured and less institutional. Since the daycare is in a home, there is more of a comfort level. However, there is a tendency to regard these childcare providers as babysitters. We are required to obtain Early Childhood training and education as well as to remain current on Continuing Education. We educate our children just like any other daycare center with the goal of preparing the child for kindergarten. Our main challenge is the mixed age-group setting. However, this setting can also be a blessing. Children learn to work together, care for one another and nurture each other.

If you have questions about either group daycare or family daycare, please ask. I will try to provide an unbiased opinion. I would also be willing to visit a group daycare center with you, should you decide that this is the route for you and our child. We all want our children to grow up and be happy, healthy and well-adjusted individuals. I know what to look for in a group daycare. If you sincerely feel a larger facility will better meet your needs, let me help make sure you are choosing a good center.


53 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ann
    Jan 03, 2012 @ 18:04:00

    i was wondering if you can help. I am thinking of opening up a preschool/daycare for 2-4 year olds in my house. I want to have around 12 children. Would that be a group day care or family daycare?


  2. Ann
    Jan 04, 2012 @ 22:26:27

    thank you so much for your help!


  3. eleina
    Jan 22, 2012 @ 21:27:24

    hey am planning to put both of my girls in daycare. my girls are 1 year old and 2 year old which of the two would you recommend better. i want a daycare that would teach then the numbers, colors, alphabet, and learn. i don’t want a daycare that i would drop then off and all they would do its play.


    • tracyzkidz4972
      Jan 22, 2012 @ 22:01:20

      Both family daycare and group daycare are regulated by the state and required to provide some sort of curriculum for your children. Either would be excellent academically and socially. As far as student to teacher ratio (how many children each each teacher/childcare giver is responsible for) your best bet if family childcare. In family childcare they are limited with how many children they can have in their care. Also, care is in the provider’s home so it is more of a homelike environment versus an institution or classroom setting. Both your children can spend the entire day together in the same area. My family daycare teaches numbers, colors, ABC’s and plenty more plus your children would get more one-on-one care than they would get in a large group daycare center. Your 1 year old could be in a room with 7 other 1 year olds and only 2 teachers for example. I can only have 8 children in my entire home and I only take 1-2 infants/ones at a time. I have more time to work with the children one on one. Make sure your family daycare is state licensed or certified and they will also accept childcare assistance. Plus you can deduct childcare expenses at tax time. Good luck and feel free to contact with additional questions. I am located in Wrightstown, Wisconsin: http://www.foxtots.com/


  4. danielle
    Sep 10, 2012 @ 18:56:08

    I was wondering what I need to do to change my in-home licensed daycare from a family to a group. Is there a checklist out there somewhere?? A list of differences?


    • tracyzkidz4972
      Sep 11, 2012 @ 12:50:37

      Hello Danielle…It would depend on alot of things. You have to check to see if your house is zoned as a commercial or residential area. You can always ask the city you live in for permission to zone your house as commercial. Then your best bet would be to ask a building inspector to look at your house to see if it is possible. I was looking into it with my house and then found out I would end up spending a ton of money to have my house up to code. (would be better off renting a small external building for a daycare) They were suggesting multiple toilets, a sprinkler system for fire, etc. major money. You can contact your state licensor and ask for a recommendation for a building inspector but if will cost you about $300 for an estimate.


  5. jessilynn55@yahoo.com
    Sep 25, 2012 @ 15:24:29

    I was wondering, Can i have a group daycare center outside of my home without having to have a director? I am more than capable of acting as the “director” but I do not have the college background that is needed to open a daycare center and be the “director” So my next thought was to open a group daycare. Does that make a difference or does it need to be in my home?


    • tracyzkidz4972
      Sep 27, 2012 @ 15:27:10

      Whether you have a licensed daycare in your home or you open a group daycare, you are still required to have required classes in both situations. The requirements aren’t as strict as far as course requirements if you choose the family daycare route. You would generally only need 3 classes: Intro. to the Childcare Profession, Fundamentals of Infant and Toddler Care and Fundamentals of Family Child Care. You would also need to have a Shaken Baby Prevention Training class (which is a 2 hrs course) as well as Infant/Child CPR with AED every 2 years.
      The state is posing stricter requirements for running a group daycare and there are now 6 courses that are required.(each are 1 semester long)


  6. kim doster
    Feb 05, 2013 @ 14:46:20

    i tried to put my child in family day care and was told my child would have one on one with a teacher by herself. does this sound correct?


    • tracyzkidz4972
      Feb 05, 2013 @ 15:14:26

      Yes that is correct but is dependent upon a few things. First of all, make sure the family daycare is licensed. If they are state-licensed or county-certified, inspectors will come in periodically and check the child to teacher ratio to make sure they are legal. There cannot be more than 8 children in a state-licensed daycare and not more than 6 in county-certified. Now, if they ARE licensed, they still have to keep an eye on the number of children they have under the age of 2. If they have 2 infants/toddlers, for example, than they can only have 5 children over the age of 2. If they have 3 infants/toddlers, they can only have 2 addtl. If they have 4 babies, they cannot have any other children in care. BUT, if they do hire another caregiver, they can have 8 children regardless of the ages. (she could have 4 babies and 4 preschoolers for example) Just keep an eye on how many “little ones” she has. Hopefully she is licensed and legal, then the state will drop in periodically and do a “head count”. But 8 is always the max.


  7. Aida
    May 10, 2013 @ 23:19:23

    I will like to open a family daycare at my home age 2-4.. i will like to know if the caregiver also need to be license.


    • tracyzkidz4972
      May 13, 2013 @ 14:07:02

      yes you would need to be licensed if you plan on taking more than 4 children..if you get licensed you can have up to 8 children depending on the ages…your own children are included in the count if they are under the age of 7


  8. lee
    May 13, 2013 @ 22:48:41

    can i open a group family daycare and have 8 children by my self or do i need someone else to help me


    • tracyzkidz4972
      May 14, 2013 @ 13:11:20

      It depends on the ages of the children and the state you live in. In Wisconsin if all 8 children are over the age of 2, you can take them by yourself. If you have 1 under the age of 2, you can have 7 addtl. If you have 2 under the age of 2, you can only have 5 addtl children over 2 years of age. However, if for example you DO have someone certified working with you, you can have 8 children of any age. You could have 4 infants and 4 preschoolers for example. Here’s a link to the Family Daycare Licensing Manual. http://dcf.wisconsin.gov/childcare/licensed/pdf/dcf_p_203.pdf The ratios for number of children is on page 13. Good Luck! Tracy


  9. Tonyag.
    Sep 16, 2013 @ 16:45:39

    This information is very helpful to me. I have my lisence for a group daycare I’m having a hard time with funding. How can I find help to start my own daycare. Not to mention I’ve been working for almost 8 years in childcare .


  10. Tonyag.
    Sep 16, 2013 @ 23:21:44

    No , I live in queens New York.


  11. Jenn
    Oct 13, 2013 @ 21:21:56

    I am interested in just starting up with one age. What application do you think I would need? Family or group? Thanks so much


    • tracyzkidz4972
      Oct 14, 2013 @ 03:00:31

      It would depend upon what state you are in. Here in Wisconsin you are able to be licensed for 8 in your home. You might be able to become licensed for more if you house meets the building codes. It is possible to start up with one age but depending on the age it could change how many children you are allowed to have. For example…I am licensed for 8. But if I have more than 4 under the age of 2, I cannot have additional children. If you are working with children ages 2 and older, you can have 8 if the state allows it.


  12. rosie
    Nov 10, 2013 @ 04:51:16

    hi i was wondering what are the similarities for a group child centers and family child care center staff to child ratios and maximum group size


    • tracyzkidz4972
      Nov 11, 2013 @ 15:04:51

      If you are family daycare licensed, you cannot have more than 8 children. Then the ratios are based on the mnumber of children you have under the age of 2. If you have 2 children under age 2, you can still have 5 children aged 3 and older. If you have 3 under age 2, you can only have 2 additional children. If you have 4 under age 2 you cannot have additional children. However, if you have a staff person, you can have 8 children of any age. (For example, you and the assistant could watch 8 two year olds.) Group daycare regulations are based on the ages of the children. There are 4 infants and toddlers to one teacher, 6 two’s can be alone with one teacher, etc. It all is based on the state you live in as well.


  13. Busymomofboys
    Nov 11, 2013 @ 13:59:08

    A friend of mine asked if I would mind watching her two children (4&2)while she works 3-4 days a week. I do not want to open a day care or any sort of family group. I do not plan on advertising or even doing this long term but I am interested in helping her out. What is the difference between just babysitting her children and family daycare? Do I have to get a license just to help her out?I have three children of my own.. Ages.5,3,2.


    • tracyzkidz4972
      Nov 11, 2013 @ 14:55:07

      Depending on the state you live in, you probably do not need to get licensed. You can watch four children without being licensed and that should not include your own children. If someone from the state stops by, just say you are not receiving pay to watch them. And resist the urge to take additional children. Once you have several children, you will need to get licensed.


  14. Childcare centre in Singapore
    Dec 20, 2013 @ 09:22:00

    Excellent way of explaining, and nice article to take facts
    on the topic of my presentation topic, which i am going to deliver in college.


  15. Elaine
    Dec 10, 2014 @ 15:14:19

    What are the differences between a group and an actualcenter? I heard you don’t need a director in a group setting and restrictions change. Is it still state inspected once a year? Is it the same requirements staff wise and does it make a difference in children or employee files or ratios?


    • tracyzkidz4972
      Dec 10, 2014 @ 15:28:47

      A group daycare is an actual center but it depends on the number of children you have and the state you live in. I have a family daycare in my home and am licensed for 8. But if I moved into a commercially zoned area or out in the country, I could have a group daycare in my home. I could be licensed by the size of my home…you are required to have so mnay square feet of space per child. The difference is whether or not the daycare is on your property and part of your home. I, for example have 8 children enrolled but because of the lay out of my home…I don’t have a walkout basement and live in a residential area…I could not expand in my current home and have a group daycare. Now if I moved out in the country and it was approved by the city I live in, I could have as many children as space allows..like 25 or 50 kids. Group versus family daycare is also the number of children you are licensed for..group daycare is for 9 or more children (In the state of Wisconsin…it varies by each state rules)


  16. ebony gray
    Jun 27, 2015 @ 22:28:52

    Looking do start my own day care what is the difference between certified and license family child care


    • tracyzkidz4972
      Jun 28, 2015 @ 22:59:13

      Certification is typically done by the county that you live in. Licensing is done at the state level. When you are county certified you can usually have 6 children and the rules are more relaxed. With state licensing, there are more rules and you can have 8 children. Many people start out at the county level and build up from there. Good luck with whatever route you choose!


  17. Erica
    Feb 27, 2016 @ 23:45:56

    I just started working at a daycare and have to complete some courses. The first couple pages are proving to be quite difficult. They want to know the similarities and differences between requirements for group child care centers and family child care centers. The first question is about the educational differences. Im looking at both the DCF 250 and 251 and am having trouble finding the answer. Can you help?


    • tracyzkidz4972
      Feb 28, 2016 @ 00:30:04


      I compare the Lead Teacher in Group Daycare to the Teacher in family daycare.

      Both Group daycare and Family Daycare require the Lead teacher to have the following:

      1) SIDS training
      2) Shaken Baby Training
      3) CPR Training

      4) Intro. Childcare profession
      5) Skills and Strategies for the Childcare Profession

      If teachers in group or family childcare work with infants and toddlers, they must also have:

      6) Fundamentals of Infant and Toddler Care


      Family Childcare requires an additional course:

      Fundamentals of Family Child Care


  18. Iris
    Jun 24, 2016 @ 14:12:19

    Hi my name is Iris and I want to open a day care but I don’t know if I want to do a family or group care. I have a couple of questions if someone can please help me. I live in Pennsylvania.
    If I open a family can I still do it at a commercial place or does it need to be at my home and will the regulation change?
    Does the kids need to be related?
    I will have newborns to older toddler age 0-3 can they be in the same room but divided in groups?
    The room that I have doesn’t have any windows is that ok?


  19. Iris
    Jun 24, 2016 @ 14:26:37

    How do I know if my message was read or even sent? Because I just posted a comment and can’t see it.


    • tracyzkidz4972
      Jun 24, 2016 @ 15:41:46

      Hello Iris…I received your question. I’m not sure why I just got it this morning. I looked up the childcare regulations for your state. I hope this helps. I would personally start an in home childcare first to “learn the ropes” and get the feel of a daycare. You can always expand from there. I don’t think you can have a daycare in your home AND a group or commercial daycare both. I posted the link to your state’s regulations. Every state is different based on the number of children you can have and their ages. I would call the state if you have addtl. questions.



    • tracyzkidz4972
      Jun 24, 2016 @ 15:42:51

      I got it…I wish there was a way of telling you if it was read and sent…Tracy


  20. jan wakefield
    Jun 29, 2016 @ 11:40:58

    hello my daughter inlaw got all her licenses for licensed daycare then they told her it had a different address it cant be licensed day care a group home,so now what stuff does she have to go through this has been a nightmare.


    • tracyzkidz4972
      Jun 29, 2016 @ 15:46:27

      Depending upon what state you live in, I would get the site or home approved before you apply for a license. There may be rules and requirements in your city as well. Some cities or towns will only allow a daycare in an area if it is zoned commercial. I know where I live I can have only 8 in my home but if I wanted to get a group license for 9 or more, I wouldn’t be able to get one in my home…not zoned commercial…would have to move into a commercial area or out in the country. I would call the licensor in your area and talk to them.


  21. Iris
    Jun 29, 2016 @ 16:54:04

    If I do a family day care at a house and want to help does the people that are going to help me need to be licence or is it ok just with my license and do I have to be at the home at all times? Can my family daycare be open from 6am to 11pm or will that be a problem?


    • tracyzkidz4972
      Jun 29, 2016 @ 17:13:25

      Each stage has regulations for their staff and you might want to refer to your state rule book for specifics. However, your helper does not need to be licensed. They DO have to have several courses completed in order to work in your daycare. If they have completed these courses, they (the helper) can be left alone provided you are not needed to be there in order to stay compliant with the ratios. I would double check with your licensor to be sure..again each state different. Having a staff person will cost money, and taxes as well as workmens comps and unemployment insurance. So if you don’t need an additional person in older to meet your ratios, then it would be more cost effective to do it alone. If you are looking to have someone fill in for sub purposes, then I can understand why you would hire someone. Personally, having staff is more work than it is worth. I did my own payroll and it was a nightmare..not to mention scheduling and having them call in sick.


    • Iris
      Jun 29, 2016 @ 17:47:00

      Can I pay them under the table its basically family who will help me. Or will that be a problem? I mean I will still make her have all the courses that are necessary.


      • tracyzkidz4972
        Jun 29, 2016 @ 19:39:43

        That’s completely up to you but I personally would not recommend it. First of all, you are making less money and would not be able to write off her wages. 2nd, if something were to happen to her, you would not have workers compensation. 3rd, someone might talk or wonder where her money is coming from. If you pay her by check, there is paper trail. You ARE able to pay her cash each year up to a certain amount without claiming it, but it isn’t much. Plus if you are ever audited, there will be trouble.  Again, that’s totally up to you.

        Sent from my Verizon 4G LTE smartphone

  22. Iris
    Jun 29, 2016 @ 17:05:20

    If I do a family day care at a house and need help does the people that are going to help me need to be licence or is it ok just with my license and do I have to be at the home at all times? Can my family daycare be open from 6am to 11pm or will that be a problem?


  23. tracyzkidz4972
    Jun 30, 2016 @ 15:22:59

    You are going to pay around $350 or $400 per year. Assure Child Care is a good one. http://www.assurechildcare.com

    Most insurance will cover weird stuff like animal injury if you have pets, abuse or molestation charges, injury by daycare property, accidental dismemberment (like if a child’s hand is cut off)

    But you might look into your home owners policy and see if they would be willing to just add a clause and a small fee to cover each child. Some states require a separate policy for daycare insurance and others do not.


  24. Iris
    Jun 30, 2016 @ 16:01:35

    Wow that is not bad thank you so much for your help.You are awesome.


  25. Joy Beth
    Oct 26, 2016 @ 01:21:50

    Hello! Thank you for this blog it was helpful! I have a few questions, I am wanting to start an in- home daycare. I would like to have 5-6 kids. My plan is to get established then a friend of mine would like to join me in the same home and have 4-5 children to watch also. How would I start this? It would start out being a family daycare then after 3 or so months have an additional 4-5 kids. Would I then have to change everything or should I start out with a “group child daycare” with only 5-6 kids?
    Thank you so much for your help!! -Joy 🙂


    • tracyzkidz4972
      Oct 26, 2016 @ 02:21:26

      I’m assuming you’re in Wisconsin. Each state has its own regulations for family versus group daycare. You would probably want to get licensed for group daycare if you plan on adding additional children. Your license will set a rule for the max. number of children you are allowed to have. In Wisconsin we can only watch 8 children to be considered family daycare. More than that (9 or more) and you’d have to have a group license. You can get a license for what your space will allow…25 square feet per child. So if you plan to expand, or have a large demand for childcare, obtain a group license for as many as you think you will need. For example, If the state approved my space, I would obtain a license to open a group daycare for 25 children right away.


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