For most churches, children are in some way a vital part of their ministry. Whether it’s taking care of kids during church activities or providing full daycare and education beyond Sunday school, there are many ways that children can figure prominently in a church design.

The last few posts have addressed the features for church-related children’s spaces. When it comes to childcare and preschool spaces, rules and regs make things a little more complicated. These vary by state, so let’s start discussing some general guidelines regarding ratios and space concerns to factor into your church design plans.

Preschool vs. Childcare

First, some definitions, as there is an important distinction between preschool and childcare. Preschool focuses on early education and is typically attended by children from ages 3-5. Most of the time, preschool operates only during the school year.

Childcare is for kids of all ages and does not have a prime educational component. It’s mostly just adults watching the kids.

Square Footage and Teacher Ratio

When planning a preschool or daycare design, and depending on what state you’re in, you should factor 30 to 35 square feet of space per child. It’s important to plan correctly, as the number of children a space can accommodate relates to how many teachers will be needed. Typically, as this chart shows, the younger the children are, the smaller the teacher-to-child ratio. A space for school-age kids usually will only need one teacher for every 18 children in the room.

Why is this important? The mistake some churches make is not creating a business plan for their childcare or preschool first. Even if a profit isn’t the goal, knowing what the potential costs and revenue are can help you plan. If you’re designing a classroom for 3-year-olds, for example, and you only put in enough square footage for 10 kids, but the church down the road has space for 12 3-year-olds, you’ll both be paying the salary of one teacher, but you can only collect fees for 10 kids, not 12, each month. The difference in revenue can negatively impact the bottom line of the school or daycare quickly, with issues like lower pay for teachers and cash-flow for your church.

Playground Regulations

Playgrounds are also space-regulated, typically at about 50 to 60 square feet per child, though this also varies by state. This is based per child on the playground at the same time, not per child in your facility. So, if you have 100 kids in your care, but are only taking 20 kids out to play, then you need 1,000 to 1,200 square feet of playground.

Playgrounds usually need to be divided by age, too, such as toddler, preschool, and grade school. Each will have different equipment and will need to be segregated from other ages’ play areas. It’s important to take this into consideration when you’re incorporating playgrounds into your church design.

Next week, we’ll continue our focus on childcare and preschool spaces by looking at building codes. To learn more about other topics and trends in church building and design, sign up for our free i3 webinar series.