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Childcare Ratios for Your Preschool

Childcare ratios are important to maintaining safety in an early education environment. Here’s how these staff-to-child ratios impact your program.

Childcare Ratios for Your Preschool

Childcare Ratios for Your Preschool

Understanding the significance of childcare ratios in early education settings is paramount for ensuring the quality of care and education young children receive. These ratios, which detail the number of educators required per child, are not just regulatory standards but foundational elements that influence learning outcomes, safety, individual attention, and the overall development of children.

For childcare providers, maintaining optimal ratios is a commitment to delivering exceptional early education experiences. It's about creating environments where every child can thrive, receive personalized attention, and build meaningful relationships with their caregivers and peers.

In this article, we explore more about staff-to-child ratios and how they impact an early education setting. 

What is a staff-to-child ratio in child care?

A staff-to-child ratio is the number of children per adult staff member in a classroom. Ratios vary based on the program type and the children's ages. Generally, younger children require more care and attention; therefore, fewer children are typically assigned or allotted to a teacher when they're under a certain age. For instance, many states require a ratio of five or fewer infants to one teacher. However, as ages increase and children become more independent and require less supervision, that ratio increases.

Research shows that maintaining a low staff-to-child ratio can positively impact children by improving their quality of care and education. Organizations such as Head Start, the National Association for Education of Young Children (NAEYC), and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend low ratios because of these findings.

The Child Care Technical Assistance Network provides a data explorer and state profile tool that details early childhood education ratio requirements for each state. Organizations such as Head Start,, and NAEYC urge that childcare centers implement low ratios to provide children with more individual attention and continuity of care. While these guidelines are similar, you should still confirm your local and state licensing requirements as they may be even more stringent than these recommendations.

With brightwheel's staff scheduling feature, you can easily create, adjust, and manage staff schedules with just a few clicks. Set custom maximums for each room’s capacity and desired staff-to-child ratio. You can also check ratios per room, at any time, with real-time data to ensure proper staff-to-child ratios. You’ll even be alerted if a room goes out of ratio.

Staff-to-child recommendations from the NAEYC

Source: NAEYC

Staff-to-child recommendations from


Staff-to-child recommendations from Head Start

Source: Head Start 

Why are staff-to-child ratios important?

Children's early years require a lot of guidance, supervision, instruction, and individual attention. By keeping low ratios, teachers can adequately monitor the health and safety of the class. They can also form better relationships with each child, allowing them to create more meaningful connections, which will lead to a better understanding of where each child is developmentally.

Adherence to adult:child ratios is not only a best practice in child care but also a critical requirement for childcare licensing compliance. Regulatory bodies establish these ratios to ensure that child care settings meet the highest safety, welfare, and developmental standards. For childcare providers, meeting these ratios is a legal necessity, reflecting their commitment to providing quality care.

Complying with licensing requirements reinforces a facility’s credibility and families' trust, signifying that the center adheres to stringent guidelines designed to safeguard and nurture children’s growth. Providers who maintain these ratios demonstrate their dedication to excellence and their understanding of the vital role they play in the early stages of a child's life.

The benefits of low staff-to-child ratios in child care

Adhering to low staff-to-child ratios is beneficial to teachers and children. Research studies show that lower ratios contribute to better future outcomes for children and enable them to achieve better academic success. One study, in particular, found that children who received care in lower ratio environments in their early years performed better on tests later on. 

Some additional key benefits of low staff:child ratios include:

Increases safety and supervision

By implementing low staff-to-child ratios, teachers can better monitor each child's actions with fewer distractions. This can result in more safety in the classroom and fewer accidents, incidents, and injuries. This level of supervision is paramount in creating a secure environment where parents can feel confident about their child's safety.

Supports social-emotional development

Optimal ratios provide a conducive environment for children to engage in meaningful interactions with peers and caregivers, building essential social skills such as empathy, cooperation, and communication. Such interactions are invaluable in fostering a sense of belonging and developing healthy emotional intelligence from an early age.

Creates a healthier environment for teachers

Children aren't the only ones who benefit from low staff-to-child ratios. When teachers are responsible for smaller class sizes, they can reduce their job-related stress, ultimately improving the children's learning experience. In addition, in a less stressful environment, teachers can provide quality care and learning, and childcare facilities can hopefully experience reduced teacher turnover rates. 

Maximizes individual attention 

Each child has their own unique needs when it comes to how and what they learn. With smaller groups, teachers can provide more personalized learning opportunities, ensuring every child benefits from individual support and guidance. This fosters an environment where children feel valued and understood, significantly enhancing their learning and developmental outcomes.

A teacher sits at a table with two toddlers sitting across from her and one on her lap. She holds out two orange crayons to one of the children. In the background of the photo, another adult is playing with a toddler as they hold a toy.


Childcare ratios during an emergency

It's always a good idea to prepare for the unexpected. Following specific ratios and maximum classroom sizes can ensure that teachers maintain order and keep their children safe if an emergency occurs. Teachers must be flexible and swift, whether it's a medical emergency, inclement weather, or any other unpredictable event. Maintaining low ratios help to ensure that teachers can handle emergencies efficiently. 

Consider hiring teacher's aides, floater teachers, or substitutes who can fill in during classroom incidents or staff absences. For example, if a teacher has to leave the classroom or the premises due to an emergency, there should be a backup staff member who can step in to maintain an appropriate ratio.

What ratio is best for your childcare facility?

Childcare ratios can have significant impacts on both children and staff. Therefore it is important to ensure that the proper staff-to-child ratios are established so that both children and teachers can thrive in a safe environment.

When deciding on the most appropriate staff-to-child ratio for your childcare center, consider the ages of the children and your program type. Refer to local and state regulations to ensure that your staff and class sizes follow all requirements or check out the guides below for more information:


Maintaining proper childcare ratios is more than adhering to regulatory standards; it's about nurturing the full potential of every child. By ensuring individual attention, enhancing safety, supporting social and emotional growth, and facilitating quality learning experiences, childcare providers set the stage for a brighter, more promising future for our youngest learners.

Brightwheel is the complete solution for early education providers, enabling you to streamline your center’s operations and build a stand-out reputation. Brightwheel connects the most critical aspects of running your center—including sign in and out, parent communications, tuition billing, and licensing and compliance—in one easy-to-use tool, along with providing best-in-class customer support and coaching. Brightwheel is trusted by thousands of early education centers and millions of parents. Learn more at

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