Child Care Provider Reading to Children

The number of adults who are present to teach and care for your child and the other children who are playing, eating, and sleeping together in a group is known as the child-to-adult ratio.

In a child care center, a group of children is usually considered to be the children who are in the same classroom. In a family child care home, the group is all the children who are receiving care at any one time. The maximum number of children in a group is called the group size. Ratio and group size are two factors that are critical to your child’s health, safety, and development.

Low child-to-adult ratios and small group sizes help ensure that your child gets enough one-on-one attention from an adult who is available to take care of each child’s unique needs. This responsive caregiving is extremely important to your child’s social and emotional development, physical well-being, and overall learning.

This one-on-one attention helps children feel safe and secure and reduces feelings of being overwhelmed—for both children and adults. A smaller group size with enough trained adults present is easier to manage. Because adults are better able to watch and respond to a smaller group, children will be less likely to get injured or sick.

Ratio requirements vary by state and type of program. In general, the younger the children, the more trained adults should be present and the smaller the group size should be.

The following are some general recommendations from early childhood experts. Family child care homes most often care for mixed-age groups, which makes child-to-adult ratios and group sizes vary. However, smaller group sizes are always better because children receive more individual attention. Be sure to check your state’s requirements to learn more about groups with children of mixed ages and other requirements for programs in your state.

Your child’s age No more than this number of children per trained adult (child-to-adult ratio) Maximum number of children in each group or class (group size) Total number of adults in a full group or class
Infant (younger than 12 months) 1 trained adult should not care for more than 3–4 infants No more than 6–8 infants together in a group 2 trained adults should always be present in a full group of 6–8 infants
Young toddler (1–2 years) 1 trained adult should not care for more than 3–6 young toddlers No more than 6–12 young toddlers in a group or classroom 2 trained adults should always be present in a full group of 6–12 young toddlers
Older toddler (2–3 years) 1 trained adult should not care for more than 4–6 older toddlers No more than 8–12 older toddlers in a group or classroom 2 trained adults should always be present in a full group of 8–12 older toddlers
Preschooler (3–5 years) 1 trained adult should not care for more than 6–10 preschoolers No more than 12–20 preschoolers in a group or classroom 2 trained adults should always be present in a full group of 12–20 preschoolers
School age 1 trained adult should not care for more than 10–12 school-age children No more than 20–24 school-age children in a group or classroom 2 trained adults should always be present in a full group of 20–24 school-age children