How to start a daycare in Ontario

Table of contents

Getting started
Other resources


Daycare businesses provide care for infants and children. Your daycare can be a home-based operation, or a commercial centre that serves a particular area or community. The choice of daycare size, location and specific services you provide are up to you.

Some examples of daycare services include:

  • babysitting
  • 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 legally responsible for their safety and well-being.

Getting started

Getting started

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.

Read online:
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 BizPaL to find licences and regulations that may affect your business.

Use online:
Permits and licences search

Some common licences, permits and regulations that may apply to starting your daycare include:

General child care licensing standards

The licensing included in this section applies to:

  • unlicensed child care providers
  • licensed child care centres and home child care agencies
  • home child care providers and in-home service providers that are overseen by a licensed agency

It does not apply to:

  • relatives that provide care for children
  • nannies or babysitters who are not overseen by a licensed agency and hired directly by parents to provide care in the children's home
  • camps and private schools for children four years old and over

Child care centres and home child care agencies must be licensed through the Ministry of Education.

If you plan to provide licensed home child care or in-home services, you must be contracted through a licensed agency.

Unlicensed home child care

Unlicensed home child care providers can care for a maximum of 5 children, regardless of how many adults are present. The maximum includes:

  • the provider's own children under the age of 4
  • no more than 3 children under the age of 2

As an unlicensed home based daycare, you must inform parents/guardians in writing that you are an unlicensed provider.

Licensed home child care

Individual licensed home daycare providers can care for a maximum of 6 children under the age of 13 and must be contracted to a licensed child care agency. The maximum includes:

  • the provider's own children under the age of 4
  • no more than 3 children under the age of 2

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 child care services, you can email the Ministry of Education to confirm whether you need to be licensed.

In your email, include the following information about your program:

  • description of the program, equipment and facilities
  • hours of operation
  • number of children served and their ages
  • schedule of activities
  • list of other programs offered
  • if transportation to or from the program is offered

Contact the Ministry of Education:

Read online:
Start a child care program
Types of child care
Home child care and unlicensed child care: how many children are allowed?
Operating a licensed child care program 
Before and after school programs: what parents and providers need to know

Caregiver requirements for licensed home child care

You need to meet provincial health, safety and caregiver training standards, including:

  • Caregivers must be over the age of 18
  • Caregivers must have valid first-aid certification, including infant and child cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)

People working or living in licensed home child care settings must also get vulnerable sector checks every 5 years.

Contact the Ministry of Education:

Read online:
Child care rules in Ontario

Day camps or summer camps

Day camps can operate without 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 4 by the end of the calendar year

Day camps in Ontario that want to offer programs for children under 4 years of age need a child care licence, or need to follow the rules for unlicensed child care.

Consult the Ministry of Education's web page and fact sheet for more on day camps in Ontario: 

Read online:
Day camps: what parents and providers need to know

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

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.

Read online:
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.

Contact CFIA:
Food licences
Food safety for industry
Toolkit for businesses
Labelling, standards of identity and grades

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.

Contact OMAFRA:
Food Inspection Programs

Ontario Ministry of Health

Home-based food businesses are allowed to sell low-risk, home-prepared foods and are exempt from certain regulatory requirements, such as specified handwashing stations in food premises, compliance with commercial dishwashing requirements and food handling training certification.

Low-risk food items are generally considered non-hazardous and do not require time and temperature control. Some examples of low-risk foods include:

  • Most breads and buns (without meat, cream filling, etc.)
  • Most baked goods (with no custard)
  • Chocolate, hard candies and brittles
  • Fudge and toffees
  • Pickles, jams and preserves
  • Granola, trail mix, nuts and seeds
  • Cakes (icing that doesn’t require refrigeration), brownies, muffins and cookies
  • Coffee beans and tea leaves

For more information contact your local public health unit:
Ontario Ministry of Health - Food handler training and certification
Local public health contacts

Legal questions

Legal questions

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, immigration 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:

Read online:
Pro Bono Ontario - 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.

Use online:
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.

Read online:
Taxation guide

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.

Contact CRA:
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.

Search online:
Business Benefits Finder


Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care (CWELCC)

If you are running a licensed daycare in Ontario, you may be eligible to participate in the CWELCC system. Successful applicants will enter into a service agreement that outlines the amount of funding they will receive and guidelines they must follow to receive funding. The funding is provided to help you reduce your fees for parents.

Unlicensed child care providers are not eligible. This includes:

  • unlicensed home child care providers
  • authorized recreation programs
  • school board-operated extended day programs

Contact your local service system manager to apply:
Service system managers for child care and early years programs

Read online:
Canada-Ontario early years and child care agreement

Other resources

Industry-specific information