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How to start a daycare in Ontario
Table of contents
The child care industry primarily consists of businesses that provide daycare services for infants and children. Your daycare can be a home-based operation, or it can be a commercial centre that serves a particular area or community. You can offer several different types of services; the choice of size, location and specific services will depend on you.
Some examples of daycare services include:
- Child care for older children (before and after school care)
- Unlicensed or licensed home-based daycare
- Licensed centre-based daycare
- Licensed child care agency
- Nanny services (work in home of employer as a live-in or live-out nanny)
- Early childhood education services
Caring for someone else's children involves a lot of responsibility and a serious commitment. When the children are in your custody you are responsible, by law, for their safety and well-being.
When you start a business there are several things to consider before you can sell your product or service. Most businesses in Ontario need to complete a minimum of three basic steps:
- Find out what licences and regulations apply to your type of business
- Choose a business structure and register or incorporate your business
- Determine if you will need to collect and remit HST
Our Starting a Business guide will give you more information on these steps and other basic requirements for starting a business in Ontario.
Starting a Business
Your business may need licences and permits from the federal, provincial and municipal levels of government.
In addition to the information you will find in this guide, you can use the Canada Business Permits and Licences Search, powered by BizPaL, to find licences and regulations that may affect your business. You can also contact us to speak to someone about starting your business.
Permits and licences search
Some common licences, permits and regulations that may apply to starting your daycare include:
General child care licensing standards
Child care centres and some home-based daycares in Ontario are licensed by the Ministry of Education. You may plan to offer unlicensed home-based child care, however you will need a licence if you:
- Care for more than 3 children under the age of 2 (including your own children)
- Care for more than 5 children over the age of 2 (including your own children under the age of 6)
A licence is also needed for private home daycare agencies that contract individual caregivers who provide child care out of their own homes.
As a licensed and regulated home-based daycare provider, you need to meet provincial health, safety and caregiver training standards including:
- Caregivers must be over the age of 18
- Caregivers for special needs children must have valid first-aid certification
A home visitor will meet with licensed home-based daycare providers on a regular basis to conduct general inspections and provide support.
Additional licensing may be required if you want to care for children with a physical, visual or auditory disability, or if the child has a developmental, communication, behavioural or a chronic medical problem.
If you are planning to provide daycare or childcare services you can confirm whether you need to be licensed by contacting the Ministry detailing your planned services.
Contact the Ministry of Education:
- For information about licensed child care centres or private-home day care agencies, contact the Ministry of Education at 1-877-510-5333 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- For information about unlicensed child care, contact the Ministry of Education at 1-844-516-6263 or email@example.com
Day camps or summer camps
Day camps, or summer camps, are geared for school age children and offer activities in a community setting where the children return home in the evenings. Day camps are usually run by the week or by the month, in summers or during school breaks.
Under the Child Care and Early Years Act, 2014, a day camp does not require a child care licence if the program or service:
- operates for up to 13 weeks in a calendar year
- does not operate on school days
- does not operate in a person's home
- only cares for children who are 4 years or older – or, if the program is offered on or after September 1, for children who will turn four by the end of the calendar year.
Note: Day camps in Ontario serving children younger than 4 years of age do require a child care licence.
Consult the Ministry of Education's web page and fact sheet for more on day camps in Ontario:
If you plan on preparing or serving food as part of the daycare services you provide, the following food safety regulations may apply:
Food safety and labelling
Your local health unit is the main contact for information on food safety and inspections.
Contact your local health authority to arrange an inspection of your business location, equipment and processes and make sure your business is complying with provincial and federal legislation.
The following link provides contact information for local health authorities that inspect food businesses in Ontario.
Local public health contacts
You also need to follow safety standards and labelling rules if you produce, service, process or manufacture food.
Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA)
Most businesses that buy, sell, ship, process or manufacture food will have CFIA regulations to follow.
These regulations may require you to:
- Obtain a licence
- Keep records
- Properly label packaged foods
Activities that are regulated include:
- Importing foods for re-sale
- Selling food to the public, retail food sales
- Shipping food products to another province or territory
- Producing, manufacturing or advertising food products
Check with the CFIA to find out which requirements apply to your business.
Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA)
You may have regulations or inspection standards to follow if you produce, transport or manufacture specific food products in Ontario. Regulated products include dairy, eggs, fish, meat, honey and other plant-based products. Contact the Ministry directly to find out what will apply to your business.
Regulations for the food industry
You can contact Pro Bono Ontario’s free legal advice hotline to enquire about getting help with your everyday civil legal needs (no family law or criminal law). The service is generally aimed at those who cannot afford a lawyer.
Note that service is not guaranteed and you will be asked questions as part of the qualifying process, such as the amount of personal income earned by your household, your name, postal code and age range.
Contact Pro Bono Ontario’s Free Legal Advice Hotline:
You can also contact the Law Society of Ontario's Law Society Referral Service if you have legal questions of a business nature. The service may be able to assist you in finding a lawyer or paralegal, based on your needs.
Law Society Referral Service
Depending on your location and the type of products or services being offered, federal, provincial and/or municipal business taxes may apply.
If you sell goods and services in Ontario, you may need a business number to collect and remit the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST). Most businesses that make less than $30,000 in any 12-month period are not required to charge HST; however, you can register voluntarily and claim input tax credits. Speak with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for more information.
Canada Revenue Agency
Grants, contributions, subsidies and loan guarantees are available from various government sources. Use Innovation Canada’s online search tool to look for programs and services that may apply to your business.
Grow your business
From day-to-day operations to long-term planning, learn how to manage your business efficiently.
If you are interested in finding an association, use our secondary market research service request and have us search for one based on your needs.
- Ontario Coalition for Better Child care
- Child Care Resource and Research Unit
- Canadian Child care Federation
- Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada
- Association of Day Care Operators of Ontario
You can also find books, magazines and other relevant print material at business service organizations in your community. To locate a Small Business Services (SBS) community partner, contact us at 1-888-576-4444.