Close this search box.
Close this search box.

How to Start a Daycare in Minnesota

Post by

Picture of Daycare Staff

Daycare Staff

At, our articles are penned by a dynamic team of seasoned experts who've spent years in the trenches with kids and daycare center owners. Imagine a mix of laughter, learning, and aha moments distilled into every article! From playful tips for early childhood education to navigating the wild ride of daycare provider life, we're your go-to source for reliable info with a side of fun.

Starting a daycare in Minnesota requires careful planning and adherence to state regulations.

  • First, conduct thorough research on licensing requirements and regulations set by the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS). Familiarize yourself with zoning laws and ensure your location meets all safety standards.
  • Develop a comprehensive business plan outlining your services, target market, staffing needs, and financial projections.
  • Secure necessary funding through personal savings, loans, or grants.
  • Obtain liability insurance to protect your business from potential risks.
  • Create a nurturing and stimulating environment for children by designing age-appropriate facilities and implementing engaging educational programs.
  • Recruit qualified staff members who are passionate about childcare and undergo background checks as mandated by DHS.
  • Finally, market your daycare through social media, a listing, local advertising, and community outreach to attract families seeking quality childcare services.
Regularly review and update your policies and procedures to maintain compliance and provide the best possible care for children in your facility.

Do I need a childcare license in Minnesota?

Initiating a daycare center in Minnesota mandates adherence to state law, which typically necessitates childcare providers to acquire a license or formal registration/certification unless they qualify for specific exemptions.The criteria for obtaining the license vary based on the number of children under care and the location of service provision. Oversight of the licensure, registration, and certification process for daycare providers statewide falls under the purview of the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS).

Licensed family child care

Licensed family child care providers, as per Minnesota state law, are individuals who offer childcare services within their own homes. Most in-home providers are mandated to obtain a license. The licensing categories are as follows: Family childcare program: Allows for a maximum of 10 children under care, with no more than six being younger than school age. Group family child care: Permits a maximum of 14 children under care. Specialized infant and toddler family daycare: Allows for a maximum of 10 children under care. There are specific situations where a provider may offer childcare services in their residence without obtaining a license. These exceptions are termed as providing legal non-licensed child care and encompass the following scenarios:
  • Providing care for children who are related to you.
  • Caring for children from a single unrelated family.
  • Offering care for both related children and children from just one unrelated family.
Daycare in Minnesota Licensed Childcare Center: A licensed childcare center refers to a facility that offers childcare services in a nonresidential environment, catering to larger groups of children. Certified License Exempt Centers: The Minnesota Department of Human Services also certifies license-exempt centers that participate in the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP). Certification ensures the protection of children’s health and safety and signifies compliance with specific standards. Examples of certified license-exempt centers include:
  • Recreation programs sanctioned or operated by a park and recreation board, primarily focusing on providing recreational activities for children.
  • Programs managed by educational institutions such as schools, YMCA, YWCA, or Jewish Community Center (JCC), with a primary focus on providing childcare services for school-age children.
  • Programs operated by public schools catering to children aged 33 months and older.
  • Camps licensed by the Department of Health.
  • Head Start and nonresidential programs operating for less than 45 days annually.
  • Child-oriented programs like scouting, boys and girls clubs, and arts and sports programs provided for a total of fewer than 30 days within any 12-month period.

Childcare licensing requirements in Minnesota

When formulating your daycare business plan, it is essential to familiarize yourself with the licensing prerequisites. Meeting specific minimum standards is imperative to obtain a childcare license in Minnesota. Licensed Family Child Care Provider: Individuals aspiring to establish a preschool at their residence and acquire a licensed family child care provider status must adhere to all regulations outlined in the Minnesota Rules, Rule 2, pertaining to family child care. Key requirements include:
  • Applicants must be at least 18 years of age.
  • All adults residing in the household must undergo a comprehensive background study.
  • Children aged 13 and above residing in the household must undergo a name-based background study.
  • Completion of first aid and CPR training is mandatory.
  • A fire marshal inspection must be completed.
  • Mandatory completion of pre-licensure training is required.
  • A physician’s statement affirming the applicant’s physical capability to care for children is necessary.
  • Procurement of the appropriate level of daycare insurance coverage is mandatory.
  • The requirements for space and safety in childcare facilities are as follows:
    • Each child must have a minimum of 35 square feet of usable indoor space.
    • Outdoor space should provide a minimum of 50 square feet per child, or alternative options include utilizing nearby parks, playgrounds, or play areas within 1,500 feet of the facility.
    • The indoor air temperature must be maintained at a minimum of 62 degrees Fahrenheit.
    • All areas accessed by children must be kept free of litter, toxic substances, and any other potential hazards.
It is essential to maintain appropriate capacity limits and staff-to-child ratios based on the type of childcare center operated: Must maintain the correct capacity limits and staff-to-child ratios depending on the type of center you operate:
  • Class A License: One adult
    • Capacity: 10 children under 11 years old
    • School-age children: All 10 children can be school age
    • Under school age: Of the 10 children, you can have up to six children who are under school age:
      • Preschool: All six of the children under school age can be preschoolers
      • Of the six children under school age, you can have a total of three infants and toddlers
        • Toddlers: Up to three children can be toddlers
        • Infants: Up to two children can be infants
  • Class B(1) License (specialized infant and toddler family day care): One adult
  • Capacity: Five children under 11 years old
  • School age: All five children can be school age
  • Under school age: Of the five children, you can have up to a total of three preschoolers, toddlers and infants, in any combination
  • Class B(2) License (specialized infant and toddler family day care): One adult
    • Capacity: Six children under 11 years old
    • School age: All six children can be school age
    • Under school age: Of the six children, you can have up to four children who are under school age:
      • Preschool and toddlers: All four of the children under school age can be preschoolers or toddlers
      • Infants: You can have up to two infants
Daycare in Minnesota Licensed childcare center: All licensed childcare centers must adhere to the rules and regulations stipulated in Minnesota Rules, Rule 3, applicable to childcare centers. Key requirements include:
  • Childcare center directors must meet general requirements. They must be at least 18 years old and meet the following educational requirements:
  • Be a high school graduate or hold an equivalent diploma attained through successful completion of the commissioner of education-selected high school equivalency test
  • Have at least 1,040 hours of paid or unpaid staff supervision experience
  • Have at least nine quarter credits or 90 hours earned in any combination of accredited courses in staff supervision, human relations, and child development
  • Meet staff-to-child ratios, which vary by age group:
    • Infants: One adult for four children (1:4); maximum group size of 8
    • Toddlers: One adult for seven children (1:7); maximum group size of 14
    • Preschoolers: One adult for 10 children (1:10); maximum group size of 20
    • School-aged children: One adult for 15 children (1:15); maximum group size of 30
    • Must complete background study requirements
  • The facility must meet specific physical space requirements:
    • A minimum of 35 square feet of indoor space for each child in attendance
    • A minimum outdoor activity space of at least 1,500 square feet and 75 square feet of space per child within the area during use
    • Must maintain a minimum temperature of 68 degrees fahrenheit in indoor areas used by children
    • The center must have at least one hand sink and one toilet for each 15 children

Childcare license application in Minnesota

Licensed family child care

The process to become a licensed family child care program includes several steps:

Step 1: Reach out to your local county licensor Connect with your local Department of Human Services (DHS) office for guidance and support throughout the licensing application process. Step 2: Participate in an orientation Some counties may mandate attendance at an orientation or informational session prior to submitting a license application. This orientation offers a comprehensive overview of licensing regulations and procedures. Step 3: Fill out an application Upon completion of the orientation, you’ll receive application materials. Fill out the family child care application and submit it directly to your county licensing unit. Application details are often available on county websites. Step 4: Clear a fire marshal inspection Your licensor will assist in determining if a fire marshal inspection is necessary. If you’re renting your residence, securing your landlord’s consent for the inspection is essential. Step 5: Undergo required background checks State law mandates that childcare providers undergo background studies conducted by the DHS. These studies include reviews of criminal history, records of substantiated maltreatment of children and vulnerable adults, FBI checks, and other relevant records. Step 6: Familiarize yourself with licensing regulations Ensure thorough understanding and compliance with all state licensing requirements. Step 7: Complete pre-licensure training Licensed family child care providers must fulfill specific training requirements. Completion of all mandatory initial training and submission of documentation to your licensor is necessary before licensure. Step 8: Establish program policies Work with your licensor to develop comprehensive written policies for your program, ensuring alignment with regulatory standards. Step 9: Obtain a physician’s statement of fitness Applicants must undergo a physical examination by a licensed physician within 12 months prior to initial licensure, affirming their physical capability to care for young children. Step 10: Fulfill all licensing paperwork requirements Your licensor will offer guidance as you navigate through all necessary paperwork. Step 11: Undergo a pre-licensing home inspection Your licensor will conduct an inspection of your indoor and outdoor environments to ensure compliance with standards. Necessary adjustments may be required to bring your home into compliance before licensure. Upon approval of your application by the DHS, you’ll receive your family child care license. Following that, it’s time to select a name for your childcare program and commence the process of interviewing potential families.

Licensed childcare center

There are three primary steps in the Minnesota childcare license application process:
  • Phase 1: Submit your application to the licensing board
  • Phase 2: A licensor reviews your license while you complete other application requirements
  • Phase 3: A pre-licensing inspection is done to verify that you’ve met all requirements before receiving your license
Phase 1: Application Submission In the initial phase, you are required to submit your application. A comprehensive application instruction guide is available to aid you in completing the process. The following documents are necessary for inclusion:
  • Completed application form
  • Verification of ownership
  • Proof of workers’ compensation policy
  • Floor plan
  • Policies and procedures documentation
  • Payment
All items, along with payment, must be dispatched to DHS Licensing via mail; electronic submission via fax or email is not permitted. Upon receipt of your application, it will be assigned to a licensor who will oversee your case throughout the process. As you await updates on your application, you should commence preparations for Phase 2. Phase 2: Fulfill Additional Application Requirements During this phase, your licensor will evaluate your application while you concurrently address supplementary tasks. The progression through this phase varies for each provider due to various factors. You may be required to complete all or a portion of the following tasks: Finalize incomplete policies and procedures and fulfill remaining application requirements
  • Complete background study obligations
  • Arrange and undergo inspections
  • Plan for meeting the nutritional needs of children
  • Procure necessary equipment and supplies
  • Address health consultant prerequisites
  • Compile personnel and children’s records, along with relevant forms for administrative records
Phase 3: Prepare for On-Site Inspection In the final phase, preparation for the on-site pre-licensure inspection is imperative. This inspection occurs once all other components of your application are approved. Your licensor will review the items on your licensing checklist, examine previously unsubmitted documents from Phases 1 and 2, and assess your understanding of Minnesota’s childcare laws, regulations, and requirements. Expect inquiries regarding staffing ratios, staff qualifications, emergency procedures, and other pertinent matters. Daycare in Minnesota Licensure Waiting Period Following the completion of your pre-licensure inspection, your licensor will conduct a comprehensive review of your application. Within a 90-day timeframe, they will render a decision to either accept or deny your application. Upon meeting all licensing prerequisites, you will be granted a license valid for 12 months. While navigating the application process, it is beneficial to strategize how you intend to operate and expand your business. Explore childcare marketing techniques and research tools necessary for efficient center management. There are some websites that facilitate streamlined administrative tasks, including admissions, reporting, and record-keeping, from a centralized platform.

How to stay compliant with a daycare license in Minnesota

Your childcare center license expires annually on December 31st, and it is essential to renew it before this date each year to maintain compliance. To ensure adherence to your license requirements, you must: Undergo Annual Inspections: These inspections, which may be scheduled or unscheduled depending on your license, must be successfully passed. Complete Ongoing Training: The director, staff, and unsupervised volunteers are obligated to undergo and document annual training. This training typically ranges from 12 to 24 hours and should be relevant to childcare. Pay Licensing Fees: An annual licensing fee, typically up to $50, must be paid to maintain your license. Failure to comply with licensing regulations may result in various sanctions imposed by the state of Minnesota, depending on the nature and severity of the violation. Potential consequences include:
  • Monetary fines
  • Issuance of a conditional license
  • Suspension of the license
  • Immediate temporary suspension
  • Revocation of the license

Start a daycare in Minnesota

Grasping the specific requirements for the kind of childcare service you intend to offer marks merely the initial step in your endeavor to launch a daycare in Minnesota. Nevertheless, armed with the insights and support outlined here, you can confidently embark on establishing a thriving program within your community. To best market your daycare and utilize coming tools such as all-in-one waitlist management, payment processing, and single scan solutions for parent updates, sign up at

Share this:

Related article:

Embarking on the journey to start a daycare in Alabama, whether it’s a cozy home daycare or a…...
Starting a daycare in Alaska demands thoughtful consideration of the distinct challenges and prospects posed by the state’s…...
Starting a daycare in Arizona requires careful planning and adherence to state regulations. Whether you are embarking on…...