Posted in Business Practice, Opening a FCC

Opening a Family Child Care: Part 3 ~ Equipment

In Part 1, we discussed if fcc was a good fit professionally for you, the need for developing your policies and meeting the requirements of licensing. In Part 2, information was provided on the need for a business plan to get a handle on what a sustainable budget would look like for your small business. In Part 3, we are looking to provide some direction to type of equipment that has continually shown it’s value in meeting the developmental needs of children. You might be surprised with how easy it is to provide a nurturing, developmentally responsive environment for the children you are looking to provide care for. 

Every family child care is unique and thus it’s impossible to say “Here get this….” or even “You need this….”.  Deciding – what equipment works for your program and space / what is really necessary / and what can be put on the future purchase list – is only a decision that you can make.

Now it’s time to focus on preparing your space for opening?

This starts with being sure your space is safe. That information is well covered in the current Family Child Care Licensing Rule. You should read the Rule over carefully, noting areas of concern and address those concerns before moving items in.

Following are some questions to consider before you acquire any specific piece of equipment:

  • Is it sturdy, well-designed and built to last?
  • Is it safe? Does it meet current safety standards?
  • Is it easy to keep clean?
  • Will it retain children’s interest over time?
  • Can it be used in a number of different ways, by different ages?
  • Can it be used by children of all abilities?
  • Does it fit well with what I already have?

Starting out you will probably have limited funds, so let’s look at some ideas for acquisition of the equipment you might use in family child care. 

  • Find DIY directions. You’ll just need the skills and materials to complete the DIY project.
  • Is it available through local online yard sale sites?
  • Can you find at local thrift store?
  • Do you need long term or can you borrow?
  • Can you purchase local and transport? Or is it best to purchase with delivery?

Reminder: Not all equipment will be used by all ages, but much of it is adaptable across the ages.

While the aim of a nurturing child care environment is to encourage children to freely explore, choosing independently from a variety of activities, it also needs to be safe. You also have to think about basic furnishings and equipment that will support the daily routine care activities such as food preparation, cleaning, personal hygiene and paperwork, that will be part of your unique program. 

Let’s look now at equipment recommendations thinking as a family child care provider whose program services mixed ages. Mixed ages is a program that provides care for infant thru school-age. There are providers who will specialize in infant/toddler care, preschool programming or after-school care, but a majority of providers service mixed ages. Those that specialize can also get ideas from our equipment listings.

General Program or Routine Equipment:

  • Office: It is important to have a secure place for you to keep information, first aid kit/emergency bag, notice board for parent information…. This can be as simple as a file box, tote bag and a bulletin board.
  • Maintenance: vacuum cleaner, general cleaning supplies. Since you are doing business from your home you should already have the equipment needed for general maintenance/cleaning. 
  • Bathroom Equipment: sink, toilet. Again it’s your home and Licensing requires a working bathroom facility, but let’s look at what else you might need:
    • liquid soap dispenser – Easier for children to handle, cleaner 
    • paper towel dispenser or individual cloth towels for each child – The dispenser does not need to be a commercial dispenser. You can have a simple paper towel hanger or use a basket for bulk folded paper towels. The children can easily grab single paper towels. The cloth towels will need to be designated for each child and laundered.
    • potty chairs – Floor setups need to be cleaned between uses. The toilet seat adaption seat will need a stool to access the toilet height.
    • toilet tissue dispenser – You probably also already have one of these as part of your home setup. For young children and to save on toilet tissue you might find a small basket you can place on the back of the toilet that holds tissue length you have pre-pulled works easily and saves on overuse of toilet tissue.
    • changing table or changing mats – This is a provider preference. It is ok to change children on the floor as long as you have a cleanable surface, such as a changing mat, under them. Changing stations require a designated space.
    • container for soiled diapers as needed – Again preference, but needs to be covered and secure from children.
    • sturdy step-stool – 1 stool can be used for both sink and toilet.  If using a changing table you will probably want another step-stool for that.
  • Kitchen: drinking cups – Whether you provide snacks and meals or not, you need to have water available for children at all times. They each need their own cup.
  • If providing food you will need: cutlery, refrigerator, trash receptacle (closable), sink, stove, liquid soap dispenser, paper towel dispenser, cooking utensils, pots and pans, baking pans, mixing bowls – All this should already be part of your home environment. 
    • You may want to consider unbreakable plates, bowls, cups that are sized for children.

General Child-sized Furnishings: 

  • a cot or foam mattress with waterproof cover for each napping child (non-infant)
  • a crib for each infant – These need to meet current safety standards. Pack and plays are acceptable.
  • child-size table* – These do not need to be special child tables, or a certain shape. It does not even need to be high enough for child size chairs to fit under. It can be a low table that children sit around on the floor or on pillows. It really the stable flat surface you want.
  • child-size chairs* – One for each child if want them at a table high enough to fit chairs.
  • chair/rocker – You want something an adult can sit in.
  • child-proof gates – Only if needed to secure stairs, or close off doorways for safety.
  • large wall mount mirror (shatterproof) – All children love having mirrors available, but especially developmentally important for infant/toddlers. 

*child size tables and chairs are ideal if you have the space, but they are not necessary. If you use your regular table and chairs you will need to be sure seating is safe/secure.

Storage: Your storage space will have a large impact on both the amount of and size of the equipment you have within your program.

  • Daily storage: open units to store toys and equipment, and cubby or other private storage area for each child (e.g. individual coat hook with drawstring bag or plastic bin). 
  • For toy storage you can use baskets, purchased storage tubs, recycled cardboard boxes, etc. If your space is shared with family or designated for child care alone might impact how you handle storage. There are many creative ideas for storage options online.
  • Plan on larger storage needs for additional supplies and/or for “Rotating” sets of toys. Rotating toys avoids crowding and overstimulation within your program space. Rotation adds a degree of surprise and enjoyment when unfamiliar equipment replaces the all-too-familiar. 

Soft Spaces/ Private Places: This is not necessarily an area that you would think is a must have for equipment, but children frequently need the assurance of a soft, comfortable, safe place. Small, quiet retreats allow for times when children want to be alone, or one-on-one with a caregiver.  

  • Bean bag chair, oversized pillows, or multiple older pillow recycled into one large pillow case. Be sure covers are washable. 
  • Fort – oversized boxes, fabric forts  
  • Plenty of blankets
  • Washable stuffed animals.

Additional Equipment Needed for Infants: playpen/play yard fencing, high chair, infant play seat/chair – This is not one per infant, but within your program. 

Now that you have an idea of the heavier general equipment you will need to set-up the structure of your program, let’s look at the equipment that most families will be noticing when they visit and see what type of program you will be offering……. the play equipment – toys!

Providing both indoor and outdoor activities that encourages the development of large and small muscle skills is important for all ages developmentally. It also helps children regulate behaviors. In order to develop large muscle coordination and balance, children need to use their legs, arms and back muscles in activities such as crawling, climbing, throwing and catching. Small muscles are developed through activities which require finer coordination, for example, grasping rattles, constructing with blocks, and art activities. Ideally, neither your indoor or outdoor play should be limited to either small or large motor activities. 

Toys are best when they are ‘open-ended’. Children use their imaginations and problem-solving skills to find many different ways to engage with this type of toy.  Research is also indicating that children do not need as many toys as we think they do. More is very often not better, but actually is overstimulating. TOYS ARE FOR DEVELOPING IMAGINATION and problem solving skills, not to entertain. Toys for children are about being able to “explore” their world. Anything which they can feel, look at, hold, shake and bang will work.

Open-ended toys include:

  • blocks 
  • balls 
  • cardboard boxes 
  • Arts and craft materials – like: coloured paper, stickers, crayons and markers 
  • Everyday household items like pots and pans, plastic containers, pegs, clothes baskets and blankets often make great open-ended toys. 

If this is all you were to start with you could provide lots of learning opportunities, but we know for most of us we would be looking at having more pieces of equipment, so let’s look at more focused equipment options.

Include “loose parts” such as boxes, planks, fabric pieces, log sections, etc. in both inside and outside play spaces. There is little to no cost, just what odds and ends you can gather for children to use within their creative play. Having sets (like stones, shells) within your “loose parts” also adds to the play potential.

For Large Muscles: 

  • Climbing Equipment:
    • Infants & Toddlers: cushioned area where infants can safely pull themselves up; tubes/tunnels to crawl through, in and out of; slide; rocking toys 
    • Preschool Up: add in planks; tires; balance beam 
  • Wheeled Equipment:
    • Infants & Toddlers: small push/pull toys; non-pedal riding toys 
    • Preschool Up: tricycles; wagons; scooters 
  • Games Equipment: 
    • Infants & Toddlers: assorted balls, bean bags
    • Preschool Up: add assorted sets of special games equipment like: floor hockey, bowling, ring toss; jump rope; parachute; hula hoops 

Small Muscles: 

  • Manipulative Toys:
    • Infants & Toddlers: squeeze toys; containers and safe objects to fill and dump; dolls
    • Preschool Up: Add in: shape sorters; stringing beads/sewing cards; small world toys ( vehicles, animals, and people (multi-ethnic))  

General Toy Categories:

  • Blocks: Blocks are important at all ages. Ensure that there are enough blocks for groups of children to complete projects. Blocks do not need to be wooden or squares. You can use tin cans, recycled smaller boxes from crackers/cereal, pvc pipe sections and even sponges.
    • Infants & Toddlers: large, soft and lightweight washable blocks of varying sizes, shapes and colours 
    • All Ages: love loose part accessories like cars, animal sets, and miniature people to expand play with blocks.
  • Games and Puzzles: Help children develop skills for remembering, sorting, predicting and reasoning.
    • Infants & Toddlers: simple 2-8 piece puzzles
    • Preschool: 5+ pieces puzzles; picture dominoes; memory games
    • School Age: 30+ piece puzzles; playing card;, board games
  • Art Equipment: Cutting, painting, and drawing develop small muscles.
    • All Ages: playdough; crayons; paper. Add in markers, colored pencils, tracing shapes, scissors and glue after infant age. With infants it’s about safety with items going into the mouth. 
  • Developing the Senses: Think supplying soft and contrasting textures throughout the environment. Do this through varied floor surfaces, floor pillows/blankets, play doughs, and toys.
  • Sensory Materials: One of the best sensory experiences for all ages is play doughs with cookie cutters, rolling pins and small loose parts.
    • Accessories for dry material bins (sand, cornmeal, rice or pasta): digging tools, containers for measuring and molding, funnels and sifters, 
    • Accessories for wet material bins (water, snow, ice): boats, items that float or sink, squeeze bottles, pumps, sponges, containers to fill and measure with, funnels
  • Cooking Equipment: Cooking helps children to learn concepts in math science, socialization,and expands language. Have measuring cups, mixing spoons, pots, pans, chopsticks, spatula, cookie cutters that can be explored while really cooking. 
  • Science Equipment:
    • Living things: plants and animals which can be adequately cared for plus cages, tanks, and accessories as appropriate 
    • Nature collections (e.g. cones, shells, rocks, wood slices) 
    • Sets of plastic wild animals, farm animals and dinosaurs 
    • Magnifying glasses 
    • Magnets and items made of metal 
    • Materials for Classifying, Ordering and Sequencing: Sets of toys which can be sorted or put in order.
    • Infants & Toddlers: nesting and stacking toys, sets of safe objects of various sizes and colours 
    • Preschool Up: objects to sort and classify (geometric shapes, small blocks of different types, buttons, cylinders, rocks, shells, marbles), sorting boxes/cans/ trays, materials to string (beads, pasta of various sizes and colours) 
    • Environmental Understanding: outdoor green space and also bringing it indoors with nature collections (such as shells, rocks and seeds), bird feeders, and wind chimes
  • Spatial Relationships: Children need to develop visual perception and recognition of objects as well as an understanding of spatial relationships. Toys in a variety of colours and shapes, pictures/posters/artwork at eye level, toy storage at eye level
    • Children at all ages need activities and materials that encourage creative endeavours such as music, art, movement, imaginative play, storytelling and construction. 
  • Art Equipment and Supplies: It is important to have enough art supplies for several children to use at one time. Have markers, crayons, sidewalk chalk, paint, finger paint supplies, paint smocks, gluing supplies, scissors, and watercolours.
  • Music, Dance and Movement: Instruments and dance props help children develop rhythm and creativity.
    • All Ages: simple rhythm instruments (rattles, drums, cymbals, tambourines, wooden blocks), selection of music from various cultures and tool to play it on, scarves
  • Dramatic Play: Dramatic play provides materials that allow children to fantasize and practice role-playing.
    • All Ages: multi-ethnic dolls and accessories (both genders), play kitchen (dishes, pots and pans, play foods, food containers), puppets, small world figures (doll house, farms, airports), and capes
  • Books and Storytelling: Books should include stories and people from various cultures and races, people with disabilities, and should show men and women, boys and girls, in a variety of roles.
    • All Ages: books, flannel board, puppets

Ok, now you’re thinking about everything you need and want within your space. The question is how you are going to get it all working together? Whether you are just starting up or well established, a proven way to discover best usage of your space is by drawing up a floor plan.

Make moveable paper pieces that are close to scale of your floor plan for all the larger pieces of equipment you need in the space. Now you can move these paper pieces around until you get the flow you want to meet the expected needs of the children you will be providing care for, as well as, your family. This is a handy tool to keep as you will often find your space needs to change some as the child in care also change developmentally.


FCCAM works to unify, promote and strengthen quality professional family child care in Maine. We understand the critical role of child care providers in the lives of children and families. Through collaboration with other organizations we work to increase awareness of our profession and the value of a strong child care system to Maine's diverse communities.