The daycare regulations you should know about

If you're looking around for daycare services, regulation and licensing vary by region. But who enforces them? And which aspects of your child’s care are affected by these regulations? Here's a general overview to orient you.

The daycare regulations you should know about

If you’re looking around for a daycare service for your child and want to know if it’s better to choose a regulated facility, it’ll help if you know:

  1. Exactly which factors are involved in the regulation of daycare.
  2. Who issues the licences.
  3. Which aspects of your child’s care are specifically affected by these regulations.

Here is a general overview to help get you oriented:

Provincial and territorial regulations

The regulation of daycare is overseen by the provincial and territorial governments.

  • The provincial departments of child and family services set the requirements that regulated daycare facilities have to meet in order to receive a licence to operate.
  • Keep in mind that it isn’t a legal requirement for all daycares in Canada to be regulated. In fact the Childcare Resource and Research Unit, a Canadian policy research institute, estimates that regulated daycares accommodate only 20 per cent of Canadian children under age five.

Areas covered by daycare regulations

The standards set by the provinces and territories are designed to ensure the health and safety of children. In general, they cover the following areas:

  • The maximum number of children per group and per caregiver
  • The minimum amount of space that must be available to each group of children
  • The safety features of outdoor play areas
  • The number of hours that must be dedicated to outdoor activities
  • The educational requirements and training of daycare staff
  • Health and safety considerations
  • The quality of meals and snacks
  • Educational programs
  • Discipline and behaviour management

Varying standards in Canada

Since the regulation of daycare varies by region, the standards you encounter in your area may be different than those of another. Here are some examples:

  • In Quebec, a regulated home daycare can only accommodate six children under nine years of age, including those of the caregiver. Within that group, no more than two children may be under the age of 18 months.
  • In Prince Edward Island, a home daycare operator can welcome up to seven children, including her own children if they are preschoolers. Only three of the children may be under age two.
  • In Nova Scotia, daycares must provide outdoor play opportunities for children for at least 30 minutes in the morning and again in the afternoon.
  • In Ontario, children over two-and-a-half must have at least two hours of outdoor activities every day, weather permitting.
  • The Northwest Territories do not define standards for daycare education programs.
  • Daycare regulations in Newfoundland and Labrador don’t include policies on behaviour management.
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