Adult to Child Ratios at Daycare/Preschool

Editor Note: Adult-to-child ratios in daycares and preschools are regulated by the California Community Care Licensing Division. For general guidelines and numbers, see About Childcare Licensing in California .

Parent Q&A

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  • Preschools with low child/teacher ratios?

    (3 replies)

    Hello! I'm wondering if you know of any preschool programs in Berkeley with teacher/child ratios that are better than 1:6? Most places I've seen seem to be 2 teachers to 12 kids, or 2 (plus an occasional assistant) to 16-18 kids. This is for 3 and 4 year olds. Thanks!

    I don't think you'll find better than that; preschool ratios are set by the state, and most preschools are barely making ends meet even at the mandated ratios. If you've found some staffing at 1:6 (better than state licensing requires), you're already ahead of the game.

    I want to say that I sympathize. Before we left Berkeley, I did extensive research on preschools there, and I agree with the previous comment: a 1:6 ratio was on the very low end. We've recently moved to the South Bay, and I'm going through the whole process again, and it is the same story. I've found a couple of places that offer 1:5 in the South Bay, and those places acknowledge that this ratio is rare and on the very lowest end of what is generally offered for preschool. If you want lower ratios than 1:6, one idea is to get together with a couple of families and set up a micro preschool for 3-4 kids and hire an instructor. There are ECE certified teachers on, Urban Sitter, BPN, and Facebook groups that advertise these services. It usually comes at top dollar, but it would provide a small group size and the low ratios you are seeking. The other alternative is parent participation schools, but that generally requires you to be there with your kid, which may not be possible if you work.!! my daughter went here for a couple years and it such a lovely space for kiddos! 

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Teachers bringing their babies to work

Oct 2007

The preschool that my child goes to has two teachers that are well loved and respected. They both have babies under a year old. One teacher started bringing her newborn to school, which we figured was a temporary thing because they were short on teachers and really wanted her to return from maternity leave. But this year another teacher started doing it as well. Apparently this is fine with the director as it is not uncommon to see baby jumpers hanging from the doorway of her office. And both teachers are often seen carrying their babies in bjorns while in the classroom.

I just don't know how safe this is for the other children that are paying tuition. Isn't it a hinderance to have an infant to attend to (or to have strapped to your body) especially if they need to run after one of the students or keep them from getting hurt? I know it must be hard to juggle a baby with having to work, but I can't help but feel that my child is getting the short end of the stick in this situation. Besides the fact that it's also unprofessional, are there laws against this in the classroom? I don't think anyone has yet to bring it up to the director because we all love the teachers so much and don't want to see them go. And it's not really their fault. So what would you do? Not Sure If I Should Be Worried

One concern might be whether the additional babies pushes the total number of kids over the legal limit for the number of adults present, per age group. The care-takers' own children are included in that total. The permitted ratio is lower for babies than pre-schoolers, but I don't have precise numbers. It also depends on the setting, I believe (home vs. center-based day-care), so you might want to check into that. On the other hand, if there is enough adult presence for the number of kids, and it isn't detracting from the enrolled children getting the care they need, it's a great perk for the teachers. Happy teachers are more likely to stay around! R.K.

I would be proud to bring my child to a school where the teachers are allowed to wear their babies. It is setting a wonderful parenting example for the children. Of course they can run after the children. The teacher will just have to support the baby's head with a hand. Many people have babies and toddlers at home. They do just fine. Why would you want to cause problems for a school which is treating its employees so respectfully, has a great teacher, and is instructing the preschoolers on how to be an attached parent? Maybe you should look elsewhere if you'd prefer a place that has the teachers put their infants in daycare. dont see a problem

Hi- These women, as preschool teachers, probably couldn't afford to pay for childcare on what they earn. They may not be able to afford to stay home. I think it's terrific that the school, as an employer, supports children in the workplace.

I think it would be nice if we all, as mothers, tried to support each other. It takes a village to raise a child, right? Remember that your school is part of the community and that we all have a responsibility to each other. Look for the positive- it will be exciting for the children to watch these babies grow, especially for those who don't have younger siblings. It's a wonderful learning opportunity for you child, and he gets to keep the two teachers he knows and loves.

As long as the school is keeping approprate adult to child ratios and is making sensible safety accomodations, such as one adult present not carrying a baby, I see no issue. I think it's wonderful. Give it a chance. anon

There is a licensing law that states that non-ambulatory day care children cannot be mixed with ambulatory day care children. Even though the director of your school may try to claim the babies are not enrolled in the school, Licensing will count them in the school's count and probably cite the school for being over-capacity, if that is the case, and for mixing ambulatory and non-ambulatory kids, which will cause everyone headaches, and most likely result in fines.

You should discuss this with the director and let her know that you are not telling her to complain, but to help protect the school's parents and its reputation from being tarnished with unnecessary licensing violations, which will be public. (All it takes is one parent complaining to Licensing to get them out there to investigate.) one who knows licensing laws

Sounds like we may have our children in the same preschool or maybe it's just a coincidence but I don't see a problem with the babies being worn by the teacher/ moms or watched around the premises by other staff as long as the teachers abilities to perform their job is not compromised. The school my child attends has more than enough aides to pick up any slack or to run after the occasional wild child (which doesn't happen too much inside--more on the playground). I figure once the babies become more active, i.e. not satisfied with being worn/pre-walking, the moms will have to make a decision on where to put them. The 2 teachers at my sons' school are so fantastic at what they do I welcome their babies being with them if it keeps them in the school rather than quitting to be home with them. If anyone is losing here in this scenario it is the teacher-moms who must be completely wiped out by the end of the work day! Besides, the babies are not too far away from joining the infant room. Finally if you are really concerned you should definitely let the director know what your specific fears/concerns are so she has an opportunity to address them. community-minded mom

I disagree that bringing your baby to work, especially in a daycare environment, is ''unprofessional.'' This country has far FAR too few family-friendly workplaces, and I think your preschool is really cutting-edge in terms of promoting a workplace environment that works for both parents and workers. I work for a government office (granted, a very progressive one in a progressive county) that has a baby-friendly policy that allows employees to bring their baby to work for the first year of life. That policy has considerably reduced the turnover rate in our agency, improved the quality of employees, and increased the satisfaction and loyalty of workers. As long as it doesn't negatively impact the working conditions of another employee, it's fine. I think we should be celebrating and commending employers for reducing the burden of an impossible balancing act for parents who work. If more employers were family-friendly like your preschool, there would be far more skilled, professional, content and capable women in the workforce. Bravo to the director of your preschool! (As a side note- IF and WHEN you actually see a decline in the care that your child recieves, then it would be appropriate to raise the issue of the quality of care at the school with the director.) my two cents

My son attends a co-op preschool. Unless children under two are strapped to parent, in stroller/carseat etc. during drop- off and pick-up our school can be fined a very large (I think 1000 dollar) fine by licensing, should they happen to see this, which did happen to one of our sister co-op preschools. In order to have babes at school during the school day we must stay within mandated parent-teacher ratios and have a safe playspace for the babes that the over 2 yr olds cannot access. You should check the licensing requirements for your particular preschool configuration to determine what is kosher - these rules are mandated by the state, I'm pretty sure you can look them up online and different regions have advocacy reps you can contact with questions - this is probably posted at your preschool somewhere. Co-ops are subject to different (more limiting) rules than are other - teacher driven - schools - and you may be licensed to include a certain numbers of children in various specific age-groups. I can't really weigh in on if your child is getting an inferior experience in the presence of newborns. I think this is a very individual decision that you should discuss with other parents and with your teachers. I tend to want to support new mothers and their bonding with their babes as much as possible. Unfortunately, it is very hard to obtain proper maternity leave in this tight economic climate. And difficult to find qualfied educators as well. And we've lost the art of raising our children in community and weaving them into the fabric of our worklives. My advise: make sure you are not in violation of licensing so there is no unexpected punative action, but solve this with discussion, not government enforcement. bout to have a babe - how will I do it all with 2...?

I don't know anything about the legality of bringing a baby to work at a preschool, but I think your concerns about your child getting the ''short end of the stick'' may be a bit extreme.

As a mom who had her caregiver bring her two children (ages 4 and 6) to work with her while she cared for my son (age 2) and newborn, I can tell you that it was a great experience for my kids and for my caregiver. She was so grateful to have her kids with her that it made her even more dedicated and attentive to my kids. My children learned about sharing and taking turns and how to socialize with older kids as a result of the experience, which better prepared my son for the arrival of his younger sibling and later, for preschool.

Obviously this is not an apples to apples comparison to your situation, but if you don't notice any difference in the quality of care or learning your child is doing, I would leave well enough alone. Just because something isn't the traditional way to go doesn't mean it's inherently bad. That said, if your gut or your child's ACTUAL experience are telling you that his quality of care is declining as a result of this situation, you must speak up. Don't allow your love of the teacher to deter you from doing what is in your child's best interest.

As my final two cents, I will add that I have to imagine that at the point that the babies in question are mobile and potentially disruptive to the class the teachers will have to make other arrangements or enroll them as students! In the meantime, it seems to me like it might be an unexpected benefit to your child that you should welcome. I think it's great that your child is in such a family-friendly environment. anon

If the school is going to let teachers bring their babies in, then they ought to tell prospective parents about this policy up front so the parents have the option to not pick that school if they disagree with the policy.

My youngest child went to a preschool co-op where parents with babies could bring them on their work day as long as the baby was in a front pack or backpack. When the babies started walking they couldn't come anymore. There were 4 or 5 moms who came with babies on their weekly participation day. I think this was nice for the moms, but truthfully these moms were way more preoccupied with their babies than with the children at the preschool. Since she was only one of five parents participating, and since there was also a teacher there, it didn't matter so much -- the other parents without babies could pitch in. But you said there are only two teachers, and one of them is caring for an infant. I think all of us know that if we have a baby with us, even if we're hands-free because baby is in a sling, our attention is going to be on that baby a good part of the time, and the preschoolers are going to get less attention. I personally would not be very happy about this if I were in your place.

My older child went to a preschool co-op that had a no siblings policy. It provided inexpensive sibling care on site for the parents (like me) who had babies. The director explained that when parents brought their babies in on participation day, they just weren't able to fully participate, and that is the truth! A Mom

I know when we were in that stage, we had a wonderful preschool situation with wonderful teachers. MOST of them had kids at that time or later while they were teachers. They cut back their hours as you would at any job. We would see the babies occasionally - they may see them at lunch, etc., a little more often than you could at any other job. I feel it would get in the way definitely. Can you imagine taking care of your baby... PLUS eight other little kids. The quality is going to suffer somewhere and it won't be with their own babies. If you haven't already, maybe talk to other parents and see if they share your concerns, then I would communicate openly with the teachers. I'm sure other people will post with good food for thought! Anon

Preschool and daycare teachers are really tough to come by -- especially loved and respected ones. My guess is that your director is making some special accommodations so that your child can continue to benefit from the teachers' talents. Otherwise, the school would probably lose the teachers. If you are really bothered by the situation, then bring it up with the director. Perhaps she thinks that everyone is supportive of the situation.

I work in a casual daycare situation (in a gym) and bring my children to work with me. When looking for preschools for my own children I was offered several jobs (a college educated woman who WANTS to work with children rather than have someone else care for them while pursuing a high powered career -- lets grab her). One offered to pay for Montessori training for me. I looked into it, but found that a) I would pay more in childcare that I would be earning or I would be netting about $500/month and b) I didn't want to give up teaching my own children to teach someone else's children. We aren't in a financial position to need that extra $500/month...well, everyone needs more money, but you know what I mean. My guess is that the circumstances are similar for the teachers of your child. -like babies at work

I think, if anything, bringing their children will probably help them be more focused on their work (rather than spending the time thinking about their babies in someone else's care). I also concur with others about the difficulty to find and retain good preschool teachers, the low pay and difficulty for child care workers to afford childcared themselves, and the importance about mothers supporting each other. Having said all these, yes, the California Department of Education, Child Development Division, has strict guidelines about the teacher-student ratio that are organized by children's ages (smaller ratio with smaller children). Dreaming of work-site daycares

I used to be a preschool administrator at a co-op preschool. Our policy for infants in the classroom was based on the licensing requirements. Infants were to be in a backpack(not a frontpack or sling) at all times while in the classroom. The reasons were clear: 1. Our preschool was not licensed for children that young, and 2. A teacher or participating parent needs to be able to pick up students in case of emergency (which they couldn't do if they were holding an infant). Some of the other co-ops don't even allow parents to bring babies at all. I totally empathize with preschool teachers (low pay, lack of childcare), but I also think that the original poster had every right to question the safety of her own children while at school. Parents are paying a lot of money for preschools and expect that the teachers will be paying full attention to their students. A lot of parents would never hire a nanny who brings her own kids to work for the same reason. Of course, there will be teachers who can handle this situation very well, especially if the school is well-staffed, but that's not always the case. If a preschool is licensed for infants and has the policy of allowing their teachers to bring babies to work, maybe it should be spelled out in the admission agreement so that parents can decide (before enrolling) if they are comfortable with it. Had to Enforce the Regulations


Are you comfortable with a 1:6 provider to child ratio?

May 2002


I'm interviewing at home-based day cares for my son, who will be approximately 5 months old when he is placed. I'm curious if people are comfortable with a 1:6 provider to child ratio, which I believe is the state maximum. Should I be looking for a lower ratio? How do I evaluate if the providers are spread too thin? jm

I started my son in his current daycare at 6 months. It's a family daycare, staffed by one very skilled, very kind woman. When he started, there was only one other baby.That was heaven. Then a third baby came. The place was still good. And now there's a fourth. I've noticed a definite reduction in the amount and quality of attention he gets with this latest addition--the difference isn't striking enough to pull him out,in part because he's now a toddler and getting less needy of one-on-one attention, but if he was younger, I'd be concerned. 1:6 sounds too thin to me, unless there are other staff people around who can pick up the slack--like when two (or more!) babies are crying at once.

One way to tell if a particular daycare has too many babies per grown-up is to go to visit around 9:30 or 10 am, when babies are getting hungry, sleepy, and otherwise ornery. See how organized the staff is about responding to everyone's needs and, generally, how chaotic the place feels. It has taken me two whole babies and several daycare situations to learn that going for interviews after hours or during nap times is totally useless--every place seems like a quiet haven during those times! It's what happens when things are tough that really matters. Anonymous

I am a research psychologist and am fairly familiar with the child care research literature. As you might suspect, the staff-to-child ratio is a very important indicator of child care quality. For infants under 1-year-old, I have read that a 1-to-2 ratio is best (assuming, of course, that a 1-to-1 ratio is not an option). I am shocked that the state law allows a 1-to-6 ratio. I would recommend choosing the best ratio you can afford and believe that 6 infants sharing the attention of one caregiver is not a good situation. Liz

Well, I am a stay-at-home mom so I don't actually have experience looking for daycare providers. However, I would ask yourself, ''How many five-month olds could I take care of?'' People with twins have it hard enough let alone six babies and toddlers. I think six is definately too many for one person to handle. Also think about the amount of attention your baby will be getting. I know that daycare providers work very hard but it just isn't possible to give the type of attention to each baby that they need at such a young age. Good luck in your search! Liza

As for ratios for infant day care, I think the legal ratio is actually lower than 1:6 for infants (I hope it is!) -- and regardless, you should definitely look for a lower ratio than that. I think 1:3 would be about as high as would be reasonable ... Your baby will only be 5 months old for 1 month -- and so on. Keep in mind that he will soon be mobile and will soon require more chasing around. Also, the one on one interaction with a caregiveer will be important for your child's development -- and the more other children there are, the less of that there will be. Keep in mind that this is bound to be the most expensive day care period of your child's life, and think of it as an investment in his/her future.... Sabrina

I had always heard that the ratios were 1:4. I'm no expert, but 1:6 sounds way too high. We send both of our children to AOCS where the teacher to infant ratios are 1:3. I would check with Bananas to see if they have any information that would help you - and also help you find a better daycare situation. Ellen

I am a shared nanny that used to do daycare. I've been more than a few scaret daycares!

A daycare provider, one her own, cannot have more than 3 kids under 2. So, while she can have have 6 preschoolers, don't let anyone fool you about how many babies she is allowed. With a helper, she can have 6 babies or 12 preschoolers, with an option of 2 afterschool kids.

First of call licensing, check her record. I cannot urge parents strongly enough to do this. After that, if you are still considering enrolling your child, ask her, point blank, about the citations found on her license.

Also, follow your gut... If you have a bad feeling about leaving your child DO NOT DO IT. Find a friend to help you, find a stay at home mom that needs some extra cash, find a new daycare.

Here is a list of warning signs; a daycare provider being short with you or your child, the children there don't act quite right, if the home daycare is to clean (this is an indication that the kids aren't really acting like kids, also if you have 6 little ones to run after, you won't be able to keep things perfect), or if your child has strong adverse reaction to the provider...

Lastly, listen to your baby. Not every child will get along with everey childcare provider. Do you really want to send your baby somewhere that they hate? Rachel