One of the most common questions new parents have is when their babies can start daycare.
But you might be surprised how many parents wonder the opposite:
When does a child stop going to daycare, or when are they too old to attend?
Let’s take a look at the age limit for daycare, and the minimum and maximum ages a child can attend.
Age limits for daycare really depend on what state you live and which daycare facilities you’re looking at. I can only tell you how things work from my experience, where I live (in Georgia), but it should be a good baseline for you to get a sense!
Children must be enrolled in full-time school by their sixth birthday, making them ineligible for daycare. First grade (here in GA) is mandatory but kindergarten is optional, so some 5-year-olds may stay in daycare. However, school-aged children that have aged out of pre-K and other full-time daycare options can still attend daycares before or after school or during special summer programs.
On the opposite end, babies almost always need to be at least six weeks old, at a minimum, to begin daycare.
OK, that was a mouthful! Let’s break it down a little further and make it all make sense by looking at the different age levels of daycare.
Infant Daycare (0-1)
Your baby’s first experience with daycare will likely be in the Infant room.
Babies and newborns usually need to be about 6 weeks old to start daycare, though many parents choose to keep babies home longer.
(It all depends on the length of maternity or paternity leave for working parents, and of course, personal choice and comfort.)
Babies in this room get a high level of care, with teachers juggling bottles and feeding schedules, naptime, supervised play, and more.
Young Toddler Daycare (1-2)
At some point around your child’s first birthday (though it may be a few months sooner or later), he or she will move into the Toddler daycare room.
Some daycare centers do this by age, and others do it according to your child’s development and how independent they’ve become.
Children in the young toddler room are usually walking and eating basic food with their hands, so it will more closely resemble a classroom instead of a nursery.
They’ll start to get a foundation in proper learning: colors, weather, shapes, counting, simple Spanish words, and more.
Older Toddler / Early Preschool (2-3)
Some daycare providers break up the “Toddler Room” into two rooms.
Older toddlers around 2 or 3 years old, will be separated from the littler ones.
Usually older toddlers are potty-trained (or at least close) and have mastered many of the basic learning activities done at the 1-2 year old level (colors, weather, shapes, etc.)
These kids are ready for more of a challenge!
Children at this age are getting even more of a foundation in reading and math that will serve them in Pre-K and Kindergarten.
Generally, children at this age are pretty close to being fully potty-trained.
(What’s the difference between Preschool and Daycare?)
Preschool is all about prep for Big Kid School!
Here’s where things start to get a little bit unpredictable.
Where I live, there are Private Pre-K programs (paid) and State Pre-K programs (free), sometimes in the same building.
My oldest daughter stayed at one single Primrose all the way from the infant room up to Georgia state pre-K, which was taught down the hall from all the classrooms she grew up in.
Here in GA, kids have to be 4-years-old to enter the Pre-K program.
It closely resembles “real school,” with a more rigid drop-off time and the day usually closes out around 2-3pm. Of course, at a daycare facility, parents can spring for aftercare, as well, for a price.
You should learn more about the preschool and pre-K laws in your state. At many providers, preschool is the end of the daycare experience, and kids will need to move on to Pre-K elsewhere!
Where I live, children must be enrolled in full-time school by their sixth birthday. That correlates to first grade, making kindergarten optional, but most working parents choose to enroll in kindergarten for obvious reasons.
In most parts of the country, you can expect no more access to full-time daycare once your child is around 5 or 6.
(Missed kindergarten registration? Read this.)
Daycare Options for Older Kids (And Alternatives)
I’ve had people ask me before if a 13-year-old can go to daycare!
13 might be a stretch… but 11? 12? Can kids that old go to daycare?
Believe it or not… the answer is Yes! (Sort of)
Of course, a 13-year-old (like any child over the age of 6) is required to be in some sort of full-time schooling. A 13-year-old, for example, should be in roughly the 8th grade.
A lot of daycare providers offer summer day camps, summer programs, and before and after school programs for school-aged children.
Usually (but not always) those programs only go up to about age 12-13 at an absolute maximum.
So technically, a 9-year-old could go to daycare before or after school, or for special camps during the summer.
After a certain age though, I’d start to question if there might not be a better childcare option for those kids. Remembering back to when I was that age, I’d probably be mortified if my parents were dropping me off at daycare for the summer!
However, it makes a ton of sense for older kids to do some childcare at a daycare center if they have a younger sibling that also attends.
But otherwise, most public and private schools also offer before/after school activities for a small fee — these can really help working parents cover difficult hours.
And for summer camps, you’ll find amazing options at local churches, YMCAs, nature centers, and more.
To put a bow on it, children need to be enrolled in full-time school by the time they’re 6-years-old in most parts of the country.
That means no more daycare after 6.
However, older kids can still attend daycare before and after school and during the summers. If your kid is happy there and you love the teachers and staff, it can be a great childcare option up until the preteen years!
I’d encourage you to look into your own local regulations for a more specific answer, as it varies by state.
And for more daycare guides, check out:
Hope this helps!