Nurseries and Day Care Centers
PAS Report 55
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AMERICAN SOCIETY OF PLANNING OFFICIALS
1313 EAST 60TH STREET — CHICAGO 37 ILLINOIS
|Information Report No. 55
Nurseries and Day Care Centers
New institutions often appear in times of national stress, and when they do, they usually are thought of as temporary, emergency institutions. Temporary laws, therefore, are adopted to regulate them temporarily. But when a new institution remains through several emergencies and appears to be going strong after the crisis is over, then communities begin to think of it as a permanent thing and eventually make provision for it in their zoning ordinances.
This seems to be the case with nurseries and day care centers which have developed and grown through the economic depression of the early 1930's, the Second World War, and the defense period of the early 1950's, and which at present give no signs of diminishing in number or importance. In fact, there is strong evidence to show that the day nursery and day care programs for children of school age are a permanent feature of an industrial society that increasingly draws women (including mothers of small children) into the labor force.
In the belief that good zoning results in part from knowledge of the function and characteristics of institutions whose location and area requirements are to be established by the zoning ordinance, PLANNING ADVISORY SERVICE in this report will describe some of the causes for the persistence of the nursery institution and will outline some of the standards developed by professional agencies interested in child welfare, particularly those standards that affect the size and site location of the nursery building. The final section will be devoted to zoning regulation of nurseries and day care centers.
Why Do We Have Nurseries and Day Care Centers?
Mothers in the Labor Force
Whatever the varied social and economic influences that in the past led to the development of nursery schools and child care centers, the chief cause for their existence today (and for the past two decades) is the fact that an increasingly large number of women with young children are employed in full or part-time jobs. The Women's Bureau of the U. S. Department of Labor in Employed Mothers and Child Care (Bulletin No. 246, 1953) Superintendent of Documents, U. S. Government printing Office, Washington 25, D. C., 1953, 30¢, observes that all trends in the foreseeable future point toward the continuance of a large and growing female labor force, including the married as well as the single. They see two reasons for this fact. It is indicated in the first place,
. . . by the nature of an economic society in which many family needs must be purchased in the market rather than supplied at home, and in which pressures for adding to family income consequently are strong.
Furthermore, this country's current objectives will continue to require a considerable woman labor force, since they are directed toward maintaining a high level of production parallel with a military program that tends to lessen the supply of manpower for essential civilian occupations. Since these plans, both in their defense manufacture and their military aspects, are designed to extend through an indefinite period of time, the need for women workers, particularly for those who develop the skills most in demand, is likely to continue. (p. 1)
From 1940 to 1951, the number of mothers1 in the labor force rose from 1,500,000 to 5,262,000, and the percentage from 1949 to 1952 increased from 20 to 24. Mothers of preschool-age children are only about half as likely to have jobs outside the home as are other married women. In April 1952, about 14 per cent of all married women with children under six years were in the labor force compared to 31 per cent of all married women. In spite of this fact, there are no signs indicating a decline of this percentage, and all long-range signs point to an increase in actual numbers. Data collected since 1949 show a sustained participation of mothers with children under 18 and a slightly increased percentage, which increase may or may not be due to the Korean conflict.2
That the number of working mothers will in all likelihood increase in the future may be inferred from the Bureau of the Census' recent estimation on growth in the labor force to 1975 — assuming, of course, that unexpected influences do not upset the proportion of working women with children to total women employed. A Projected Growth of the Labor Force in the United States Under Conditions of High Employment: 1950 to 1975 (Series P-50, No. 42, December 10, 1952) estimates that the labor force participation rate of total number of females 14 years and older will be 37.5 in 1975 as compared with a 1950 rate of 31.3. Information showing the number and percentage of mothers currently in the labor force is shown in Table 1.
Labor Force Participation of Women Ever Married Having Children Under 18
|No. of Women in
|Percent in Labor Force
|Total with children under 18
|With children 6–17 only
|Total with children under 6
|With children both 6–17 and under 6
|With children under 6 only
Source: U. S. Bureau of the Census, Current Population Reports, Labor Force, Series P-50.
Although it is hard to get data on the reasons for women working (who have small children), some ideas can be gained from information on women who have been married and are of the age to have children, or even from the larger group of employed women of which working mothers are a part.
According to the Handbook of Facts on Women Workers 1952 (Women's Bureau Bulletin No. 52) wives are much more likely to enter the labor force when the husband's income is low than when it is more adequate. Census reports show that a much larger proportion of wives enter the labor force, especially in urban areas, when the husband's income is under $3,000 than when his income is $5,000 or more.3 Wives with children work in larger proportions where all children are of school age than where there are children under six. However, the more frequent employment of the wife where the husband's income is low than where it is high is a situation found both in families with and in those without children.
Other economic reasons for women working have been explored in an interesting article entitled "Labor-Force Participation and Employment Opportunities for Women" by Nedra Bartlett Belloc (Journal of the American Statistical Association, September 1950, pp. 400–410). Pointing to the often made observation that where wages are low women enter the labor market in greater numbers in order to supplement family income, the author also attempts to explain why, in some areas, women have entered the labor force in spite of large rises in real income. In an examination of income and labor force participation in 19 cities over 100,000 population (1940) it was tentatively concluded that women are more apt to work in larger numbers in communities where large numbers of jobs suitable for women are found in textile, apparel, tobacco, and electrical products manufacturing. Conversely, women are less likely to work in larger numbers in communities where the dominant industries are iron and steel, machinery, automobile, and basic rubber manufacturing. On the other hand, in some communities where manufacturing industries are operating at high levels or expanding, service industries tend to expand and attract female labor. The industrial structure of the community then may influence the size of the female labor force as well as the economic status of portions of the population in that community.
It has been suggested that economic reasons are not the only ones for mothers working. Many women seek employment outside the home for psychological or emotional reasons, and it is believed by some psychologists that in these instances, part or full-time employment of the mother is desirable from the standpoint of the child's welfare as well as the mother's. This problem is discussed at some length in an article entitled "Should Mothers Work?" by Irene M. Josselyn, M.D., and Ruth Schley Goldman (Social Service Review, March 1949, pp. 74–87) which goes so far as to suggest that the mother's decision to seek employment should not have to depend on the need for financial assistance. A growing group of professional women also continue at work while raising a family.
In summary then, mothers of small children work because of financial need, because of the pressures and inducements generated by our industrial society, and for personal reasons of psychological origin.
Children in Nurseries and Day Care Centers
Number of Facilities. Because of the various types of day care institutions (see Table 3 below) and the various auspices under which they are available, it has been difficult to obtain an overall picture of the number of facilities or the number of mothers or how many children they serve. From various sources, however, the Women's Bureau has put together an indication of the extent of nursery facilities in the United States.
Indications of Available Child-Care Facilities
|Under School Auspices
|Report of School Systems in 1,518 cities, by National Education Association.
|Over 900 cities had public kindergartens. The number of such kindergartens had increased 30 per cent in 10 years. One hundred and sixty-five cities had public nursery schools. Over 150 cities had public child-care centers.
|Report on 100 School Systems in 43 states by Office of Education.
|Fifty-four had extended school programs.
|Under Welfare Agencies
|Report to Children's Bureau by Community Chests, Inc., for 41 cities
|Day care was received by 22,400 children.
|Reports of Federal Security Agency, 1951
|Aid for dependent children was received by more than one-half million families.
|Under Various Auspices
|Merrill-Palmer School, Detroit. Directory of Nursery Schools and Child-Care Centers. Published 1951; report on 1950 data.
|Reports 3,525 nursery schools or centers in the country as a whole.
Source: Employed Mothers and Child Care. Bulletin of the Women's Bureau, No. 246, 1953, p. 21.
The Merrill-Palmer report was the first effort to prepare a comprehensive directory of nursery schools and day care centers. Of the facilities reported that could be classified, over 40 percent were private institutions, conducted on a commercial basis. Percentages of schools sponsored by other associations and public agencies are shown in the following enumeration.
Sponsorship of Nursery Schools and Day-Care Centers, 1950
|Type of Sponsor
|Private nursery schools and centers
|Community nursery schools and centers
|Public school nursery schools and centers
|State Department of Education (292)
|Local public schools (68)
|Church affiliated schools and centers
|Cooperative schools and centers
|Laboratory nursery schools (auspices of university or college)
|Philanthropic nursery schools and centers
|Industrial nursery schools
|Other nursery schools and centers
|Schools for exceptional children (76)
|Summer day camps (19)
|Not elsewhere classified (229)
Source: A Directory of Nursery Schools and Child-Care Centers in the United States. Merrill-Palmer School. Detroit, 1951. (Figures for 1950) Reprinted in Employed Mothers and Child Care. Bulletin of the Women's Bureau, No. 246, pp. 22–23.
Some other interesting facts were brought to light about the location of nursery facilities. More than three-fourths were located in only 16 states, and over half were in the six states of California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Ohio. The Bureau comments, "It is scarcely surprising that these States also are among those with the largest number of employed women in the country." Furthermore, in most of these states, by far the largest group were private schools or centers.
Kinds of Facilities. Institutions for the care of children who, for one reason or another, are not cared for in the home during the day have been given many different names. Probably the least confusing general term is that which refers to the service as "day care." There are two forms of day care: foster family day care and group day care. Foster family day care is care in a home where children are cared for by a foster mother. Foster family day care is for children under three and for those over three for whom individualized attention is desirable. Zoning recognition of the foster home service is given in the Los Angeles ordinance where it is stated that in any zone except the RS and R1 "any person may use his home for the care of not to exceed three children, which number shall be in addition to the related family of the person conducting such use."
A group day care institution may be termed nursery school, day nursery, day care center, child care center, play group, etc. As indicated above, it may be sponsored by a public or private agency, by a community group, or it may be operated by private individuals. Generally, group day care programs are for children from three to twelve years of age. For pre-school children day care operates throughout the day and throughout the year. School-age children need care before and after school, sometimes at lunch, and all day during school vacations.
The contemporary group care service, whatever its auspices, represents the converging of several different historical movements interested in the welfare of small children.4 The first day nursery in the United States was opened in New York City a hundred years ago to care for infants and children whose mothers had to work. Its function was primarily custodial, and there was no understanding of the psychological needs of children away from home. In 1898 the first National Federation of Day Nurseries was formed, and attempts were made to improve standards and to introduce educational programs.
Nurseries operating in the period between the two world wars (1920 and 1940) were influenced by the mental hygiene movement, the progressive education movement, and the new professional practices in the field of social welfare. The Works Progress Administration nursery schools gave a major impetus to nursery education, and many children were enabled to attend nursery schools whose families otherwise could not have given them this experience. In 1934–35 the Works Progress Administration reported some 1,900 nursery schools in which 75,000 children were enrolled. During this period the day nursery was usually identified as a social welfare agency whose basic support came from private philanthropic sources. The nursery school, on the other hand, was identified as an educational service for children from two to five, for which a flat fee or tuition was usually charged. The WPA nursery school combined these two functions and helped to formulate a concept of what child care programs should provide.
During World War II women were drawn into the labor force in unprecedented proportions, and the federal government early recognized that some assistance would have to be given to the children of working mothers. In June 1941, Congress passed Public Law 137 (the Lanham Act) "to provide for the acquisition and equipment of public works (community facilities) made necessary by the defense program." In August 1942 the Lanham Act was liberalized to include child-care centers. Later legislation (July 1943, Public Law 150) appropriated additional funds and established the authority of the Federal Works Agency over the wartime child-care centers. Lanham Act funds were discontinued in March 1946.
War-time experience in child care brought together the many groups associated with day nurseries and nursery schools and resulted in widespread community interest in day care programs. Furthermore, it erased some of the differences between the programs of the traditional nursery school and the traditional day nursery. Today, there is widespread agreement on the goals and functions of the various child care organizations.
Licensing of Facilities. To protect the welfare of children receiving group care, and to make sure that the program is conducted so that it will not endanger public health and welfare, approximately half the states now license nurseries and day care establishments. Twenty-one states have either specific legislation for licensing day care nurseries and day care centers or general licensing laws which specifically include the duty to license such agencies. In a few other states, general licensing responsibilities have been extended by administrative interpretation to cover group day care.
In a majority of these states, the state departments of welfare have the responsibility for licensing. In some, however, other departments are charged with enforcement. In Oregon, for example, this responsibility lies with the Board of Health, while in Washington, the state's Social Security Department and its Health Department possess it jointly. In a number of states, three or more state agencies are required by law to cooperate in administering the regulations. Some of the other state agencies that may be drawn into the enforcement of child-care laws are the fire marshall, the department of public instruction, the department of institutions, or the industrial commission.
The power to inspect as well as to license is possessed by state agencies authorized to regulate nurseries. Violations of the law in many jurisdictions is considered a misdemeanor, and occasionally provision is made for injunctive relief to prevent continued violation. All statutes empower the administering agency to adopt rules and to establish standards.
According to a study on "State Regulation of Day Care Centers" made by the Legislative Reference Bureau of the University of Hawaii (November 13, 1952) there is considerable diversity among the various statutes as to duties to be performed by the regulatory bodies, designation of day care agencies to be regulated, and standards to be observed. All statutes examined by the Bureau, however, give greater attention to such factors as health, safety, plant and equipment than to staff qualifications and program requirements.
Standards for Nurseries and Day-Care Centers
At the onset of World War II, when it became apparent that the demands of wartime production were drawing into the labor force the mothers of small children as well as other married women who had not worked previously, the Children's Bureau of the United States Department of Labor published Standards for Day Care of Children of Working Mothers.5 This publication was highly influential, and its standards (or modifications of them) were adopted by many state departments of welfare and local communities feeling the impact of new or expanded plants producing war goods. Until this year (1953), these standards and those modeled after them have remained the basic guides for establishing and licensing child-care centers.
The continued high rate of female participation in the labor force and the consequent need for group care services has brought about a demand for a broader guide based on the experience of the previous decade and extending into other areas of operation. Consequently, two new manuals have appeared this year in answer to this demand. Guide to the Operation of Group Day Care Programs was prepared by the Child Welfare League of America, 24 West 40th Street, New York, 18, New York, in cooperation with United Community Defense Services. It deals with facilities for children in the 3 to 13 age group. Standards for Children's Nurseries was published by the Family and Child Welfare Council, Council of Social Agencies, 1020 McGee Street, Kansas City, Missouri (1952), 69pp. and although intended for use in the Kansas City area, was prepared in consultation with several national institutions. It is concerned only with the pre-school child. As might be expected, the manuals are similar in many respects, and each incorporates some of the earlier standards developed by the Children's Bureau.
Plant and Equipment
The following statements are taken from sections dealing with buildings, grounds and equipment presented in Guide to the Operation of Group Day Care Programs (Child Welfare League of America), and Standards for Children's Nurseries (Council of Social Agencies, Kansas City, Missouri). Similar requirements are placed side by side for purposes of comparison. In some instances one is more specific than the other, or takes into account aspects not mentioned by the other. In other instances a general rule rather than a definite standard is stated.
|Child Welfare League of America
|Kansas City Council Of Social Agencies
|The location should be convenient to the children's homes.
|1. The building should be located centrally with respect to the persons served and should be easily reached by local transportation.
|There should be plenty of well-drained outdoor play space, preferably with sunny areas, trees and grass, and dirt to dig in.
|2. The building should be situated in an area free from health hazards and where safety precautions may be emphasized.
|In most climates a southern or western exposure is desirable.
|Condition of Structure
|The building must be structurally sound, well heated, with good plumbing and hot and cold running water.
|The building must conform to the regulations of:
The Health Department
The Fire Department
The Building Code (Zoning Board)
|Facilities should be inspected by local sanitation and fire officials to be sure they meet requirements for health and safety.
|A substantial one-story building, homelike and attractive, is preferable.
|Cleanliness and Safety
|There must be refrigeration and adequate kitchen equipment, including facilities for food storage and for sterilizing dishes.
|1. All of the rooms, walls, floors, ceilings, closets, cupboards, stoves, refrigerators, curtains, furniture, and other appurtenances should be kept in a thoroughly clean and sanitary condition at all times, and free from any dangerous substances or conditions.
|Tightly covered metal containers should be used for garbage.
|2. The premises, furnishings, equipment, and materials should be kept free from flies, roaches, and other vermin.
|Windows and doors should be screened from April to November.
|3. Rooms should not be swept or dusted while occupied by the children.
|4. It is desirable to have walls, floors, and ceilings washable.
|5. Stairways, if present, should be enclosed, well lighted, and equipped with railings.
|6. In the interior, no baseboards should be used unless they are so constructed as to obviate crevices.
|First floor space is best. Upper floors can be used only when fire and safety regulations are met. A basement can be used only if it is well ventilated and dry, with not more than half the room height below grade on three sides.
|Rooms used for the care of children should be located so that the floor is not more than three feet below the surface of the ground surrounding the building.
|Each child requires a minimum of 35 feet of play space, excluding stairs, bathroom, kitchen, halls and moveable equipment.
|Amount of floor space per child. At least 35 square feet of floor space for each child, exclusive of washroom, toilet, kitchen, and halls.
|Light, Heat, and Ventilation
|Every room should be light, well ventilated, warm and dry.
|1. Rooms used for purposes of child care should have one or more windows opening upon a space not less than 10 feet in depth and extending the length and width of the building.
|Window space should equal at least 10 percent of the floor area; windows should have adjustable shades.
|2. Cubic Air Space
a. There should be 300 cubic feet of air space for each child in a room.
b. Minimum window area allowed should equal at least one-fourth of the floor area.
|Artificial light providing at least 20 foot candle power should be available.
|3. All windows, doors, ventilators, and other outside openings should be protected by screens or other devices.
|Windows should be protected by guards or securely fastened screens.
|4. The rooms used most by the children should be located so as to receive the maximum amount of sunlight and ventilation. There should be adjustable shades or venetian blinds at all windows to prevent glare.
|Radiators should be covered.
|5. Artificial lighting should provide at least 25 foot candle power.
|If open fireplaces, stoves or heaters are used, they should be fenced or screened.
|6. Radiators and registers must be covered.
|The desirable temperature is about 68° at 24 inches from the floor. The figure will vary from 68° to 72° in accordance with outside temperatures and the kind of clothing worn by the children.
|7. An even temperature of from 68 to 72° should be maintained.
|Air conditioning should be considered in hot climates.
|8. An accurate thermometer should be hung in each room approximately three feet from the floor.
|9. Provision should be made to admit fresh, clean, warm air by the use of gravity or forced ventilation, constructed so that air will be evenly diffused and free from drafts.
|10. Each room should have cross ventilation.
|A great asset is soundproofing.
|It is desirable that rooms occupied by children be made soundproof.
|Bathrooms should be near the playroom. One stationary washbowl and one toilet are needed for every 8 to 10 children.
|1. It is desirable for toilets and wash basins to be in separate rooms.
|There should be at least two toilets for each group.
|2. All toilets and washrooms should be inside the building and placed so that the sunlight can enter. Cross ventilation is most desirable.
|Bowls and toilets especially made for small children are preferable; if adult sizes are used, steps or platforms must be provided, with toilet seat insets available for children who need them.
|3. Toilets and washrooms should be readily accessible to indoor and outdoor play space, but should not open directly into any kitchen, pantry, or dining room.
|4. Washrooms should be equipped with hooks placed low enough and far enough apart so that each child may learn to take care of his individual toilet articles. Each child should be provided with an individual wash cloth, towel, and comb.
|5. There should be at least one flush toilet and one stationary wash basin for each 15 children. (1 to 10 ratio is more desirable.)
|6. Junior toilets used by children three to six years of age should be low enough to expedite self help, or provided with platforms or steps, so that the children may use such equipment without assistance.
|7. Toilet facilities for staff should be separate from those for children.
|8. Toilets and wash basins must be thoroughly cleaned each day.
|9. An adequate supply of hot and cold running water should be provided.
|Each playroom should have ample storage space for clothing, cots, blankets, and supplies.
|A well-lighted and well-ventilated coat room with equipment for hanging outer garments within reach of the children should be provided.
|Cots should be folded and stored in a dry place (when rest room is used for play).
|There should be storage space for sleeping garments.
|Rooms should be arranged so children may enter and leave easily.
|Tables and chairs should be in one section.
|Blocks and other materials for floor play should be handy to an open area way from the door.
|Space may be divided into working areas with low screens or moveable shelves.
|Room arrangement has a great deal to do with a satisfactory program.
|Types of Rooms (in addition to play rooms)
[These need not necessarily be separate rooms used solely for the purposes indicated. More often they are multiple-purpose rooms. However, whenever used for different purposes, they should conform to the standards set forth for each purpose indicated.]
|There should be sufficient office space for an administrative center and a pleasant reception room for use by parents and visitors.
|Space for private interviews will be needed by the caseworker, teachers, and the director. Privacy will be more important than the size of their offices.
One of these might double at specified times as a medical examining room if it is large enough for an examining table. Toilet and washing facilities should be accessible.
|Space for the isolation of a child who is ill or suspected of coming down with a communicable disease should be provided near enough to the office or playroom so that the child will be within sight of a staff member and will not feel he is being left alone.
(b) Dishwashing machines.
(c) Garbage disposal equipment.
|A staff room is also essential with space to rest quietly, read, or work on records or plans. Teachers' needs should always have priority for the use of this room but it may also be used for staff conferences, staff or committee meetings, etc., on a planned basis.
|Health and Isolation Room
The laundry room should have cross ventilation.
There should be suitable storage space for extra clothing needed to take care of emergencies and accidents. All such clothing should be thoroughly washed after being used.
|Equipment and Furnishings
|Equipment and material should be within easy reach of the children so they can make use of it readily.
|1. Equipment and. furnishings to be used by the children should be washable, durable, and suitable for children of various ages. Educational and recreational equipment should be safe and kept clean. Articles which can be used without supervision should be accessible to the children at all times. Such articles should be free from sharp, loose, and pointed parts; and all paint used thereon should be lead-free. No very small objects that can be swallowed should be accessible to the children.
|There should be a cubbyhole for each child's clothing and individual possessions.
|2. All equipment should have suitable and convenient storage space, and be kept in good repair.
|There should be low shelves for books and magazines in a quiet spot; floor easels, or wall easels where space is limited; an area for use of clay, paint, paste, crayons, scissors, etc.; provision for water play; open cases or shelves for blocks; a corner for house play; an area for woodwork with bench, tool rack and containers for wood.
|3. Low, open shelves and cupboard storage space easily accessible to children should be provided for toys which can be used without special supervision.
|If there is a place to keep things conveniently located for their use, the room can have a relaxed and uncluttered appearance even with a variety of materials in almost constant use.
|Outdoor Play Areas
|All outdoor play areas should be easily accessible to the indoor facilities.
|1. There should be an outdoor play space located close to the nursery with a minimum of 75 square feet per child. (One hundred square feet are preferable.)*
|It is undoubtedly an economy of money and effort to provide a waterproof storage shed for each outdoor area. This can serve a double purpose in being used both for storage and as an outdoor playhouse.
|2. Requirements for playgrounds:
a. Fences which provide protection from traffic hazards.
b. A sunshine exposure with enough shade to protect children from the sun's glare.
c. Connected to the nursery and visible to at least one supervisory person.
d. A drinking fountain easily accessible to the children.
e. A cemented area suitable for roller skating and for moveable toy equipment.
f. Surfacing which fulfills the following requirements:
(1) Durable and sufficiently elastic to prevent shock to the children.
(2) Adequate drainage both on the surface and below to make possible its use during the entire year.
(3) Neat, attractive, clean, and free from excessive dust and glare.
(4) Non-abrasive material to prevent injury to the bodies or clothing of the children.
(5) Free from irregularities, and firm enough to provide a sure footing whether wet or dry.
(6) Suggested materials are:
Sand, fine gravel, or crushed stone
|In rainy climates a covered area makes regular outdoor play possible.
|Every play area needs both a cemented or asphalt area (for bikes, wagons and push and pull toys), grass and shade, and earth for digging and planting.
|In large cities, where roof space must sometimes be used for outdoor play, it is important to provide for shady areas in hot weather.
|A large outdoor sandbox with a large waterproof cover is essential.
|An outdoor sink provides endless good fun, weather permitting, as do outdoor showers.
|Zinc washtubs are good for sailing boats, washing clothes, splashing and pouring.
|Safety and protection are of course important outdoors as well as in. Play space should be well fenced, all equipment free of rough splintery edges and rusty protruding nails. Climbing equipment should be set on earth and rounded gravel rather than on a hard surface.
*Guides for Establishing Nursery Schools and Child Care and Development Centers issued jointly by the New York State War Council and the New York State Education Department (1942) recommends 200 square feet per child of outdoor space. They comment that with careful spacing of equipment 100 square feet per child might be satisfactory, particularly if only small groups of children are on the playground at one time. See section on Zoning Regulation, following for further discussion of yard requirements.
Certain requirements, indicated only in a general way in the Child Welfare League Manual, have been made more explicit in the Kansas City manual. These concern fire regulations, interior decoration, and plumbing.
Special Fire Regulations (From the Kansas City, Missouri, Fire Department)
- All electric wiring and electrical appliances must be installed in accordance with the National Electrical Code; be kept in good repair and meet the approval of the Fire Department.
- The heating plant must be properly installed with sufficient clearance from combustible material, or have proper insulation and have it enclosed with at least one-hour fire resistant material; and the openings to these furnace rooms shall be protected by a fire-resistant door equal to the walls. Sufficient ventilation must be provided in the furnace room to insure proper combustion. Use of portable heaters of any kind is prohibited. The heating plant and the furnace room must be approved by the Fire Department.
- Not less than two exits shall be provided from each floor. These exits shall be remote from each other and accessible to every room in each story. Enclosed stairs or fire escapes may be used. Fire escapes must be of the type approved by the Fire Department and the Commissioner of Buildings.
- There shall be one fire extinguisher, suitable for Class A fires, for each 5, 000 square feet of floor area. There shall be a minimum of one fire extinguisher installed on each floor and in the basement. These extinguishers shall be properly maintained and recharged at least once a year.
- Fire drill must be practiced at least once a month.
- Exit doors shall not be fastened against exit by any device other than a self-releasing latch, panic bolt, or similar device which can be opened readily from the inside at any time without the use of keys.
- Trash must not be allowed to accumulate. Correct metal containers with covers must be used and emptied daily. The use of attics and basements for the storage of unnecessary combustible material shall be prohibited.
- The use of gas for lighting and cooking in rooms in which the children play is prohibited. Gas water heaters installed in bathrooms, bedrooms, or any occupied room normally kept closed, shall be properly vented.
- No storage of volatile inflammable liquids shall be allowed in the building. The use, handling, and the storage of gasoline fuel oil, and other inflammable liquids shall not be permitted, unless such use, handling, and storage comply with recognized safe practice. The recommendations of the National Board of Fire Underwriters shall be considered as a guide to safe practice.
- All fire hazards shall be removed from the premises.
- All trash that is burned must be burned in an app roved type trash burner or incinerator properly located.
- In non-fireproof buildings, the housing of children above the first floor is not recommended.
- Attractive, colorful interiors are important.
- Curtains and wall hangings should be durable, artistic, and washable.
- Rugs are undesirable in rooms used for play purposes.
- Stairways should be covered with rubber stair treads.
- Upholstered furniture, carpets, and other articles that collect and hold dust should be avoided.
- The plumbing must meet the requirements of the local sanitary code. It should be kept in good repair and be regularly inspected.
- Kitchen plumbing should include a triple vat sink with compartments deep enough for the dishes to be immersed and sterilized in very hot (170 degrees) water.
- The basement plumbing should be constructed so that water drains away easily and the floor is kept dry. There should be a trap in the drain to keep water from backing up in the basement.
- Drinking water should be easily accessible to the children. Fountains should be of sanitary type with guarded angular stream in drinking fountain head. If fountains are not possible, sanitary paper cups should be provided. For nurseries occupying more than one floor, drinking water should be available on each floor. There should be a source of water for each 30 children.
Number of Children and Size of Staff
In order to provide adequate supervision and to offer the kind of educational guidance expected in a day-care center, it is necessary to maintain groups of a certain maximum size supervised by a minimum number of teachers. The Child Welfare League suggests that the following ages be grouped together:
3 through 5 years
6 through 7 years
8 through 12 years
"Within these divisions," according to the League, "There may be several groups, each with its own room and staff according to age and maturity. The maximum number of each group (provided there is 35 square feet of floor space per child) should be:
|3 to 4 years:
|12 to 15 children
|4 to 5 years:
|15 to 20 children
|5 to 6 years:
|20 to 25 children
|6 to 8 years:
|20 to 25 children
|8 to 10 years:
|20 to 25 children
|10 to 12 years:
|20 to 25 children
Each group should have at least one full-time teacher and one full-time assistant. The number of additional assistants needed will depend on the hours the center is open, the attendance during different hours of the day, and the teachers' schedules."
The standard developed by the Kansas City Council of Social Agencies for preschool children are slightly more stringent and call for one teacher or assistant teacher to 10 children, with a minimum of 2 teachers for any group, however small. Both agencies believe it is important that each teacher carry continuing responsibility for the same group throughout the day. In addition, both manuals specify professional training, experience, and desirable personality traits and attitudes for teachers and other persons working with children. Recommendations are also made for caseworkers, nurses and doctors, psychologists and psychiatrists, and other specialized personnel.
Zoning Regulation of Nurseries and Day Care Centers
The main points of nursery regulation found in zoning ordinances deal with:
(1) Zone location
(2) Density of the nursery population
(3) Buffer devices (distance, fences, hedges) between nursery buildings and adjacent residential uses.
Except for the last (buffer devices) these points are summarized in Table 4, which also indicates the type of nursery facility and the districts in which they are permitted.
Many current ordinances do not mention any kind of day care agency, and for this reason, the analysis of zoning practice with respect to nurseries was limited to those which do. Most of these ordinances do not list the nursery facility in the ordinance section on definitions. Most, however, in the provision relating to child care agencies, make the list sufficiently inclusive or extensive so that the meaning is clear.
In the zoning ordinance of Tacoma, Washington (May, 1953), is found one of the few instances where nursery·institutions are defined:
Nursery, Day – An agency or institution which provides supplemental parental care during the day for a group of children with or without compensation.
Nursery - Hourly – An agency or institution providing care for children on an hourly basis.
Nursery School – A private agency or institution essentially and primarily engaged in educational work with pre-school children. Children enrolled not being in need of supplemental parental care.
These definitions repeat in part the distinctions between various types of childcare agencies made in the statute of the state of Washington governing such institutions.
With the growing recognition of the fact that group care institutions for children are no longer merely an expedient to satisfy a temporary need in time of economic emergency, many more communities will be inclined to make provision for them in zoning ordinances. In Berkeley, California, for example, one amendment to the zoning ordinance was made during the past year by the city council upon recommendation of the planning commission. The effect of this amendment was to permit the establishment of nursery schools in all residential zones of the city subject to securing a use permit. The commission recommended this change to the council after investigation revealed "a serious community need" for more day care establishments for pre-school children in that city.6
Zoning Regulation of Nurseries and Day-Care Centers
|Jurisdiction and Date of Ordinance
|Type of Facility
|Minimum Nursery Lot Area
|No. of Children
|Anchorage, Alaska (1952)
|Public or private nurseries
|R-3 multiple family
|Chicago Heights, Ill. (1953)
|Public nursery schools, and private and parochial nursery schools with equivalent programs
|R-1 single-family (and subsequent districts)
|Colorado City, Texas (1950)
|Kindergarten, play- school or day nursery
|B two-family (and subsequent dwelling) districts
|Not more than 10
|Colorado Springs, Colorado (1951)
|R-4 eight-family and R-5 multifamily
|Des Moines, Iowa (1953)
|Nursery schools and child-care centers
|R-2 single-family (and subsequent districts)
|Greensboro, North Carolina (proposed 1953)
|Day nurseries and kindergartens
|Any residential zone
|Lexington and Fayette County, Kentucky (proposed 1952)
|Nursery schools, day nurseries, private kindergartens, or child welfare centers
|R-1 one-family* R-2 two-family* R-J Low-density and R-4 Higher- density apartment
|5 or more
|Los Angeles, California (1952)
|Nursery schools, day care homes or day nurseries for children
|Any agricultural or residential zone*
|Child care in the home
|RA Suburban, R2 two-family (and subsequent R zones)
|Not to exceed 3 (in addition to the related family)
|Day care homes or day nurseries
|R4 Multiple dwelling
R5 Multiple dwelling
|In a one-family dwelling
|Not exceeding 10
|Maryland-Washington Regional District in Prince George's County, Maryland (1949)
|Private nursery school
|Any residential zone*
|Montgomery County, Ohio (1952)
|Nursery schools and day-care centers
|R-2 single-family (and subsequent districts)
|Muskegon, Michigan (1952)
|Nursery schools, day nurseries or child welfare centers
|R-2 two-family (and subsequent districts)*
|For 5 or more
|Park Forest, Ill. (1951)
|Nursery schools, day nurseries, and childcare centers
|Any residential zone*
|100 square feet of outdoor play area per child
|St. Clair Shores, Michigan (1951)
|Kindergarten, day nursery school, or similar institution for children of preschool age
|Residence A single-family (and subsequent districts)
|Washington, D. C. (1953)
|Kindergarten or pre-school group
|Any residential zone*
|100 square feet of play area per child
*As a special exception or conditional use.
Zone Location of Nurseries and Day-Care Centers
There seems to be no question that children's nurseries belong in residential zones. Nursery schools and day care centers are members of that group of institutions (along with schools, churches, and hospitals) which have an intimate connection with home life. They all need open space and sunlight and air. They all need quiet localities and freedom from heavy motor traffic. And they all need to be reasonably close to dwellings.
The need for a residential environment for schools, churches, and hospitals has been demonstrated many times, has long been reflected in most zoning ordinances, and has been supported by numerous court decisions. With nurseries — a newcomer to this group of home-associated institutions — the need for a sympathetic environment is obviously even greater.
Few cases dealing with day care institutions have reached the appellate courts. Whether or not litigation will increase with the probable increase in number of nursery schools within the next ten or fifteen years remains to be seen. The probable course of any future decisions, however, is already marked out.
In Bryan v. Darlington, 207 S.W. 2d 681 Tex. App., San Antonio, October 8, 1947; Rehearing Denied December 10, 1947, January 14, 1948, the court held that where the Village of Arcadia excluded stores, shops or permanent offices or any business from a certain district (presumably residential), the operation of a children's nursery and day school in a private home in such district would not be enjoined as an unlawful use.
In Livingston et al., v. Davis et al., Supreme Court of Iowa, December 13, 1951, 50 N. W. 2d 592 (4 ZD 68) the court interpreted the ordinance enumeration of schools as including nursery schools. This suit was brought to enjoin defendants from operating a nursery school in a Class A residence district in Iowa City. It was contended that the school violated the zoning ordinance and also that it was a nuisance. In a Class A residence district, the following uses are permitted: "(e) Public schools, colleges, university buildings and uses, and private elementary schools, taking only children up to and not exceeding the age of 14." Were defendants operating such a private elementary school as the ordinance permits? In a fairly lengthy opinion, there is a description of the nature of the school operated. There were a maximum of 50 children; there was a full-time registered nurse; there were four teachers. The trial court held, and the supreme court agreed that defendants are operating such a private elementary school as the zoning ordinance permits in a Class A residential district. Plaintiffs contended that because defendants make a charge for children attending their school, it is a business, and therefore not permitted in a Class A residence district. The court said: "If the use defendants make of their property is permitted by subsection (e) of the ordinance it is not material whether they are engaged in a business." The court pointed out further that quite a number of business uses are permitted in a residence A district, such as municipally-owned utilities, concessions incident to publicly-owned country clubs, farming, truck-gardening and nurseries, accessory uses, etc. The court said: "It does not seem reasonable that this zoning ordinance was intended to restrict such a use as defendants make of their property to an industrial district." That would have been the necessary result if plaintiffs' argument should be accepted.
Most zoning ordinances in effect throughout the country do not specifically mention nursery schools or day-care centers. As the data in Table 4 indicate, more and more ordinances comprehensively revised or adopted in recent years reflect the prevalence of child-care centers and specifically provide for them. In communities where nursery schools are not thus particularly named, it is assumed that child-care centers for pre-school children would be classified as schools.
The meaning or scope of the term "schools," however, has often been subject to litigation. More often than not, the courts have refused to restrict the term and have declared invalid an ordinance which prohibits private or parochial schools while permitting public schools. In general, judicial opinion has held that such discrimination was not related to the public health, safety, morals, comfort, and public welfare. (See, for example, City of Miami Beach v. State ex rel Lear et al., Supreme Court of Florida, June 1937, 175 S. 536; Catholic Bishop of Chicago v. Kingery, Supreme Court of Illinois, April, 1939, 20 N.E. 2d 583; Fox Hollow School v. Town of Lenox, Commonwealth of Massachusetts Land Court, September, 1943, unreported; and Yanow et al., v. Seven Oaks Park, Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, March 14, 1952, 87 A. 2d 454/ 4 ZD 117/.)
A further example of judicial liberality toward the comprehensiveness of "school" was shown in Langbein et al., v. Board of Zoning Appeals of Town of Milford et al., Supreme Court of Errors of Connecticut, June 14, 1949, 67 A. 2d 5 (1 ZD 101). In May 1947, a man named Borman applied for a certificate of occupancy for the use of a parcel of property which he intended to use as a summer day school under the name of Bertcroft. The application was granted by the building inspector. The adjoining property owners appealed to the board of zoning appeals of Milford, which dismissed the appeal in June of that year. An appeal was taken to the Court of Common Pleas, which also dismissed the appeal. The property is in a residential zone. The zoning ordinance provides that in a residence zone, property may be used for dwellings, schools, public libraries, public museums, churches, church buildings, parks and playgrounds. The owner of the property in his prospectus stated that it would be a school for boys and girls between the ages of 5 and 14 years, and that the activities would be devoted to the teaching of swimming, arts and crafts, boating, hiking, basketball, softball, tetherball, volley-ball, badminton, horseshoes, story telling, photography, croquet, fishing and free play. At an earlier date, this had been described as a summer camp. The question was whether the operation was a school, or within the intent of the zoning ordinance. In finding that it was a school, the court said: "The name by which the institution is designated or called is not of controlling importance. The question is to be determined by the activities or character of business or service, and not by the name, since the facts afford a difference of opinion as to which category it belongs." A residence zone is intended for residential purposes hut many buildings and uses have been held suitable for such a zone which are not strictly residential. Thus, in the ordinance under consideration, the first permitted use is for dwellings but this is followed by schools, public libraries, public museums, churches and church buildings, clubs, philanthropic institutions, parks, playgrounds, farms, private garages, boathouses, and uses accessory thereto. This partial list indicates that uses of the types named are not ordinarily considered detrimental to the character of a zone primarily intended for residence. Specifically, the fact that the ordinance permits playgrounds in a residence zone indicates that it would not be hostile to the spirit of the ordinance to construe the word "school" as used therein to include an institution which instructs its pupils largely by the method of organized play. Bertcroft's activities are not entirely confined to physical education but they do emphasize that feature. Health instruction and physical education are required subjects in Connecticut Public schools.
Whereas there seems to be no question that nurseries belong in residential zones, there is some question on which residential zone they should be located in. Of the fourteen ordinances examined, the sub-district designations are nearly evenly distributed among any R zone or R-1 (first permitted); any R zone as a special exception; R-2 zone (first permitted); and multi-family zone (first permitted). This distribution has no statistical meaning, of course, but it does show that there is no general agreement on sub-district location of nursery schools.
Two main points of difference show up here. One relates to the policy division between the school of planning thought which holds that all or most uses should be permitted or prohibited outright, with objective requirements specified; and the school which believes in a liberal allowance of special uses, with determination by the planning commission or the zoning board that the use is in harmony with the general plan and is not detrimental to surrounding uses. The second point of difference reflects a basic belief either that nursery schools belong in any residential district (including single-family) or that they should be restricted to two or even multi-family districts.
The first point of difference — explicit requirements v. special uses — is so firmly enmeshed in the structure of any particular ordinance that it cannot be removed from context for evaluation insofar as nurseries are concerned. However, some persons who affirm the value of the device of the special exception for other kinds of activities still might hold that the nursery school should be allowed as a principal use.
An interesting compromise between the nursery school as a special exception, permitted in accordance with rather unprecise but comprehensive principles, and the nursery school as an outright, permitted use, regulated by standards set forth in the ordinance, is seen in the zoning regulations of the District of Columbia (1953). Here nursery schools are permitted in any residential district as a special exception and are subject to certain objective standards as well. The board of zoning adjustment may permit in a residential district, a college, a university or a private school, and in the "A," "B," "C" and "D" area districts a kindergarten or pre-school group, if:
(a) its operation would be impaired by location on a business street,
(b) it has no articles of commerce for sale, and
(c) it is not likely to become objectionable in a residential district because of noise, traffic, and number of students.
The board may permit a kindergarten or a pre-school group in the "A" Restricted, "A" Semi-restricted, and "B" Restricted Area Districts,7 subject to the conditions above. and provided further; that there shall be provided on the same lot with such use not less than 100 square feet of play area for each child; that the activities to be conducted in the proposed establishment shall be so located with respect to adjoining and nearby property as not to create undue noise or otherwise objectionable conditions; and the board shall find the use to be reasonably necessary or convenient to the neighborhood in which located.
The second point of difference — whether nurseries should be permitted in all residential zones or only in zones of greater density — also is likely to reflect basic community attitudes on the distinguishing characteristics of residential districts. Communities which permit nurseries in any residential district, along with schools, libraries, churches, and other institutions vested with a community or public nature presumably feel that there is no essential difference between them insofar as their effect on dwellings is concerned. Or, they may adopt special provisions for different non-residential uses so that any intrinsic features capable of causing discomfort to nearby residents may be mitigated.
Other localities permit schools, libraries, churches, etc., as principal uses in a single-family district, but allow nurseries in two-family and subsequent districts only as a special exception. Although it is hard to see the rationale for this distinction, it may be explained by the fact that the nursery institution is relatively new, takes several different forms, is not always regulated by standards and licenses, and is not yet understood by the public as a whole.
A few localities have attempted to establish objective standards for nursery location within its permitted zone. These deal with the number of children per lot area and certain "buffer" devices. It is believed by PLANNING ADVISORY SERVICE that wider and perhaps more extensive requirements of this sort will lessen the annoyance features of group care institutions, and at the same time encourage the location of these institutions in districts most suited to their purpose and needs.
Density of the Nursery Population
The density of nursery children is a function of the number of children, the minimum lot size required in the particular residential district, and minimum area of nursery lot. Few communities mention in their zoning ordinances the maximum number of children to be cared for. There probably is a causal relationship between number of children and the amount of disturbance. On the other hand, the existence of a standard of maximum enrollment may so limit the operation of a nursery school as to make it financially unfeasible. The Child Welfare League, as indicated previously, suggests that from 12 to 15 children can be handled in one group (provided there is 35 square feet of floor space per child). If maximums are felt to be necessary, a conformance to professional standards or to standards set forth in the governing statute may serve the need to better advantage.
The smaller the size of residential lot, the closer nursery buildings and outdoor facilities will be to nearby dwellings, unless there is a further requirement on the minimum area of the nursery lot. Here again, few special provisions relating to area appear. One exception is in Los Angeles, California, where day-care homes or day nurseries are listed as principal uses in two multiple dwelling zones if they are conducted in a one-family dwelling. Park Forest, Illinois, and Washington, D. C., both specify 100 square feet of outdoor play area per child. This type of standard is particularly worthwhile for two reasons: (1) it conforms to the professional recommendation that there should be sufficient outdoor space for each child; and (2) it determines the number of children per area unit regardless of their total number or the size of the lot. (Notice that the requirement specifies outdoor play area and not merely outdoor area.)
Buffer Devices and Noise
A few communities have attempted to modify the possible undesirable effects of large groups of children by requiring fences or hedges around playlots and by establishing a minimum distance between nursery buildings and residential lot lines. Thus, Lexington and Fayette County, Kentucky, and Muskegon, Michigan, both require that playlots be "suitably fenced and screened." Montgomery County, Ohio, and Des Moines, Iowa, say a "completely fenced and screened play lot." And in Park Forest, Illinois, it is required that outdoor play areas be "fenced and screened from view from any adjoining lot in any R district."
There is no consistent pattern regarding distance of nursery buildings from lot lines. In Prince George's County, Maryland, where nursery structures must be on a lot having an area of at least three acres, no part of any building shall be less than 100 feet from any bounding lot or street line. In Montgomery County, Ohio, and Des Moines, Iowa, buildings must be at least 20 feet from any other lot in any residential district. And in Anchorage, Alaska, where nurseries are first permitted in the multiple-family district, only 15 feet need separate any portion of the structure and any adjacent residential lot.
Soundproofing of structures is recommended in both of the recently published manuals on day-care centers, but this recommendation has not been encountered in any of the ordinances examined so far. Although the purpose of soundproofing from the standpoint of nursery administrators probably is to create a less noisy and exciting interior environment, it is suggested that soundproofing may also be used to minimize the disturbance to neighbors.
According to Hale J. Sabine in a paper presented at the Third Annual Noise Abatement Symposium, October 10, 1952, entitled "The Use of Acoustical Materials in the Control of Industrial Noise," noise striking the ear of any person in a room is the sum of two components. The first component consists of all the noise that travels in a direct line from each source to the ear. The second component consists of all the noise that reaches the ear from each source only after being reflected one or more times from the surfaces of the room. Noise that is transmitted directly cannot be affected by the character of the room surfaces, but the reflected component will increase with the reflection coefficient of the room surfaces. The total noise received by the ear, then, is never less than the directly transmitted component, and will always be greater.
There is a wide selection of acoustical materials on the market, many of which can be installed with little difficulty. The usual method of utilizing these materials is as a covering or replacement for highly sound-reflective interior surfaces such as plaster, concrete, glass, weed, and masonry. All of these types of surfaces reflect ever 95 percent of the energy of incident sound waves. A highly efficient acoustical material may at certain frequencies reflect less than 5 percent of incident sound energy and absorb 95 percent.
This being the case, reflected noise created inside a nursery building but passing through walls or windows can be greatly reduced through the use of acoustical materials.
Although outdoor noise caused by large groups of children is not amplified by reflective surfaces to the same extent, it too can be a source of annoyance to nearby dwellers. Presumably, this is one of the reasons for the zoning ordinance provisions requiring fencing or screening of playlots. Trees and shrubberies have been found to be very effective in reducing the noise of traffic along parkways and in screening out the din, and the Highway Research Board currently is engaged in a study to determine just what varieties of trees and plants are most successful sound traps. It is suggested, therefore, that a zoning ordinance, instead of merely requiring fencing and screening might, in addition, specify plantings of an approximate height and denseness.
Another device for minimizing noise emanating from outdoor playlots is that of distance. Since noise decreases approximately as the square of the distance, it is suggested that clauses requiring that any part of a building be located not less than a certain number of feet from adjacent lot lines could be expanded to include playlots as well.
The requirement of screening, distance, soundproofing, and plantings where nursery schools are concerned will make them more acceptable in residential districts. It should be pointed out. However, that there is some inconsistency in requiring of nursery schools what is not required of the usually larger elementary or secondary school. However, these devices do exist and can be incorporated as standards in the ordinance where it is believed that disturbance to neighbors would be reduced thereby, or where adequate standards for licensing are not in effect.
1. Women now or previously married, having own children under 18.
2. Current Population Report, Series P-50, No. 44 observes that both the number and the proportion of married women who were working in April 1952 exceeded the World War II peak by a considerable margin.
3. Source: U. S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Series P-60, No. 9, March 25, 1952.
4. There are numerous sources of information on the history and functions of group care, one excellent one being The Creative Nursery Center – A Unified Service to Children and Parents by Winifred Y. Allen and Doris Campbell. Family Service Association of America, 122 East 22nd Street, New York 10, N. Y. 1948. 171pp. $ 2.75. (Information drawn chiefly from this source.)
5. Children in Wartime No.3, Bureau Publication 284. United States Government Printing Office, Washington, D. C. 1942.
6. City Planning Commission, Berkeley, California. Planning Progress 1952–1953.
7. The "restricted" area districts (residential) contain the same minimum dimensions of yards and courts and the same maximum percentage of lot occupancy as the regular area districts (residential). Uses, however, are generally restricted to dwelling purposes, except that schools of different sorts are permitted, as provided in the section quoted.
Copyright, American Society of Planning Officials, 1953.