We covered church design principles for children’s spaces on Sundays and special church events. But what about a daycare or preschool that is open for business during the week? The design principles for these kinds of church building spaces are a little more complicated. First off, the appropriate state agency will have to certify any daycare or preschool program, which means meeting certain standards and following additional, stricter rules. We’ve provided some points below to consider.

Understanding Church Building Childcare Terminology

There are two basic types of childcare programs churches commonly offer, and each requires state licensing and approval. Daycare programs for children will usually take children of all ages and is a year-round program. Preschool programs, however, generally handle a certain age range and only happen during the school year.

Preschool and Childcare Church Design Numbers and Ratios

For preschool children, state agencies generally require room size between thirty and thirty-five square feet per child, which is larger than the numbers you’re allowed for Sunday use. If you intend to use your church building for preschool or childcare, you need a church design with more generous children’s spaces.

Another factor to consider is the number of children per teacher. State agencies also set these ratios, which vary according to age and location. For example, if the ratio for newborns to twelve-month-old children is 1:5, then you need one teacher for every five babies. The ratios increase as the children get older. A typical ratio for five- to eleven-year-old children might be 1:18 (one teacher for every eighteen children). 

Churches occasionally miscalculate these ratios, which should be carefully considered in your business plan. For example, you might design a nursery for ten babies that’s only 260 square feet, which is fine for church use at 25 square feet per child but is not enough for a daycare space that might need at least 30 square feet per child. Although you’re allowed to have ten babies under one teacher’s supervision, the room design itself only allows for eight. The income for two babies is lost, which might mean the difference between your program breaking even or losing money. Remember: because the numbers vary from state to state, check the rules and ratios for your state.

Additional Requirements and Special Program Opportunities

In addition to classroom space for preschool and childcare, you need to follow state requirements for restrooms and playgrounds. Because many states require one restroom fixture for every ten children, you may need to incorporate larger restrooms into your church design. Your outdoor playgrounds will need between 50 and 60 square feet per child, and after you determine how many classrooms’ worth of children you want on your playground at one time, you will need to make it big enough.

Finally, state programs rate daycare and preschool programs, and you can improve those ratings by including special program spaces, such as an art room for preschoolers or a computer room for older daycare kids, in your church design. If you’re aiming to make your church building a magnet in your community, this is another way to make your program stand out.

Preschool and childcare spaces require careful planning and consideration. And we’re not done yet—our next post will address the impact of building codes and ADA on childcare and preschool spaces. Meanwhile, take a look at our upcoming free i3 webinars, where you can learn more about creating the best church design for improving ministry in your community.