Overview

In Ontario, child care providers must follow the rules set out in the Child Care and Early Years Act, 2014 (CCEYA) and its regulations. The act helps ensure the health and safety of children and child care providers in child care settings.

The act applies to:

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

The act does not apply to:

  • nannies or babysitters who are not overseen by a licensed agency and hired directly by parents to provide care in the children's home
  • relatives that provide care for children
  • camps that only care for children ages four years old and older
  • programs with a primary purpose of academic or skill-based recreation
  • private schools that only care for children ages four years old and older

Learn more about types of child care.

The Ministry of Education licenses child care centres and home child care agencies. Individual home child care providers and in-home services providers are not licensed by the Ministry of Education. They are overseen by home child care agencies that the ministry licenses.

Rules as of March 2021

Longer hours for some authorized recreational programs

Some authorized recreational and skill building programs are permitted to run for:

  • more than three consecutive or non-consecutive hours a day
  • full days on non-school days during the school year

Ask your child's recreation program provider if they are offering longer hours.

Stronger health and safety rules

For home child care agencies

Home child care agencies must:

  • Store any items that could harm children out of their reach (previously only applied to poisonous and hazardous substances).
  • Carry out the direction of a medical officer of health when it comes to the health or wellbeing of children in their care. Previously, the Child Care and Early Years Act, 2014 only required this from licensed child care centres.
  • Make sure any volunteers or students who are on an educational placement are immunized and have a health assessment as directed by local public health units.
  • Extend their health and safety requirements to child care providers offering in-home services. Providers who are already offering in-home services will have until July 1, 2021 to meet this new requirement.
  • Ensure that home child care providers have a daily attendance list for each group of children, which medical officers of health may inspect.

For licensed centres

Licensed centres must:

  • store any items that could harm children out of their reach (previously only applied to poisonous and hazardous substances)
  • ensure volunteers and students on an educational placement are immunized and have a health assessment as directed by local public health units
  • have a daily attendance list for each group of children, which medical officers of health may inspect

Home-based child care

There are two types of home-based child care in Ontario:

  • home child care providers overseen by a licensed agency
  • unlicensed home child care

Home child care providers overseen by a licensed agency

Number of children allowed

A home child care provider that is overseen by a licensed agency can care for up to six children under the age of 13.

All home-based child care providers must:

  • count their own children if they are younger than four years old
  • care for a maximum of three children younger than two years old

Vulnerable sector checks

People working or living in home child care settings that are overseen by a licensed agency must get vulnerable sector checks. This means they need a background check from the police.

This applies to:

  • home child care providers
  • in-home services providers
  • agency staff who visit home child care settings
  • students on an educational placement
  • volunteers
  • other people who live at the home, like the provider’s spouse

Individuals must:

  • update their vulnerable sector checks every five years
  • provide offence declarations in every year that vulnerable sector checks are not required

In some cases, home child care providers can begin working with children before they get their vulnerable sector check as long as:

  • they apply for it as soon as possible
  • the length of time it takes to receive it justifies any delay

Home child care agencies must make sure that additional measures are in place to protect children until a provider gets their vulnerable sector check. For example, the agency may require additional supervision or monitoring of the provider or conduct additional reference checks.

First aid training

Home child care providers overseen by a licensed home child care agency must have a valid standard first aid certification, including infant and child cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

Program requirements

Home child care providers that are overseen by a licensed agency must have a program statement that aligns with How does learning happen?, the Ministry of Education's framework to guide programming.

Unlicensed home child care

Number of children allowed

An unlicensed home child care provider can care for a maximum of five children under the age of 13.

All home-based child care providers must:

  • count their own children if they are younger than four years old
  • care for a maximum of three children younger than two years old

Unlicensed child care providers must:

  • not operate in more than one location
  • inform you in writing (in hard copy or electronic) that they are unlicensed. Their communication must say “This child care program is not licensed by the Government of Ontario.”
  • keep proof that they disclosed this to you for two years

Rules for all child care providers

All child care providers must:

  • provide you with receipts for payment of services if you request it and without charging a fee
  • with a few exceptions, allow you to access their premises and your child

The rules for child care providers apply at all times of day.

Licensed child care centres

Staff to child ratios

Licensed child care centres must meet the following minimum staff-to-child ratios. They may choose to have more staff but may not have less staff than set out below.

Age group Age range Ratio of staff to children Maximum number of children inbgroup
Infants younger than 18 months 3 to 10 10
Toddlers 18 to 30 months 1 to 5 15
Preschool 30 months to 6 years 1 to 8 24
Kindergarten 44 months to 7 years 1 to 13 26
Primary and junior school age 68 months to 13 years 1 to 15 30
Junior school age 9 to 13 years 1 to 20 20

Vulnerable sector checks

All staff, volunteers and students working at licensed child care centres must have:

  • a criminal reference check, including vulnerable sector screening, that they must update every five years
  • offence declarations in every year that vulnerable sector checks are not required

In some cases, staff can begin working with children before they get their vulnerable sector check, as long as they apply for it as soon as possible and the length of time it takes to receive it justifies any delay.

Employers must also have additional measures in place to protect children until staff obtain their vulnerable sector check. For example, they may require additional supervision or monitoring of the individual or conduct additional reference checks.

First aid training

All child care supervisors and employees counted as part of the staff-to-child ratio must have a valid standard first aid certification, including infant and child cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

At least one first aid certified employee must always be onsite and close enough to the children that they would be able to respond to an emergency. Other employees have three months to get or renew their certification.

If an accident or incident occurs

If any accident or incident occurs that could affect the health, safety or well-being of your child, the child care centre must:

  • notify you
  • complete an incident or accident report and give you a copy of it

Program requirements

Every licensed provider must have a program statement that aligns with How does learning happen?, the Ministry of Education's framework to guide programming.

How does learning happen reflects the province's view of children as competent, capable, curious and rich in potential. It is based on current research in early child development and provides a positive framework to support children and families.

Child care centres in schools

A child care centre located in a school for kindergarten-aged children and up is considered part of the school.

This means the building standards that apply to the school also apply to the child care centre. Separate requirements such as zoning, building code, playground regulations and window glass are not required for these centres.

If a child care provider does not follow the rules

If you have a concern about a child care provider in Ontario, you can make a complaint.

The Ministry of Education conducts inspections and investigates complaints about licensed and unlicensed child care.

Providers who do not follow the rules under the Child Care and Early Years Act, 2014 and its regulations may face administrative penalties, convictions that could include fines, or both.

An administrative penalty is a monetary penalty that the Ministry of Education can issue for breaking some of the rules under Child Care and Early Years Act, 2014. It is not the same as a fine, which relates to the conviction of an offence.

If the Ministry of Education finds that a child care provider broke the rules, we will take appropriate action. Typically, we will also take progressive action, such as issuing a compliance order before issuing an administrative penalty. Administrative penalties could increase based on:

  • how long the provider has not been complying with the act
  • previous violations

For example, if a provider has more than the permitted number of children in care, the penalty would start at $2,000 per child per day.

We will also post online a child care provider that is issued either:

  • a compliance order
  • administrative penalty
  • protection order
  • restraining order

Search for licensed and unlicensed child care violations.

Updated: June 28, 2021
Published: January 27, 2021