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To Open a Daycare, How Much Space Does Each Child Need?

State licensing laws differ regarding how many square feet of space children in a day care need. Different amounts of space are necessary for both indoor and outdoor spaces, and the amount of space required also depends on the ages of children in the day care. Check with your state’s day care licensing department for the regulations regarding opening a day care center or a family child care home. Examples here are for both types of facilities.

Different Ages

If a child care center has less than a state licensing-specified number of children in it at any one time, an indoor or outdoor activity space can be used for both children over a certain age or under a certain age. Check with your local fire marshal and local laws, as they may only allow a certain number of children in any given space as well.


The physical development of children requires space for them to move around. In addition, day cares find that the more space there is available between children, the less likely behavior problems will be. Germs are also less easily spread in day cares with plenty of space between children.

What is Measured

Licensing representatives will measure usable activity space in the child care center. This often does not include fixed furniture, kitchens, bathroom facilities or other spaces in which children cannot play.


The State of Texas requires licensed child care centers to have at least 30 square feet of indoor space per child in the center. Child care centers must have 80 square feet of outdoor space per child using the space at the same time. Centers must also have outdoor activity space that is at least equal to 25 percent of its indoor licensed capacity.


Nebraska requires at least 35 square feet of indoor space per child in a licensed family child care home. Outdoor activity space must have at least 50 square feet available per child.


Maine also requires at least 35 square feet of space per child. This is applicable to child care centers. Maine’s licensing regulations state that “The facility must have access to an outdoor play area with sufficient space for safe play for all children.”


Thirty-two square feet per child is required for indoor activity spaces in family child care homes in Alabama. Outdoor play areas must be of at least 300 square feet.


Leyla Norman has been a writer since 2008 and is a certified English as a second language teacher. She also has a master's degree in development studies and a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology.