About the Healthy Child Care Project: The Public Health Law Center conducted a state law review using legal analytical methods to research and examine the extent to which state licensing laws for early care and education (ECE) and out-of-school time (OST) settings address health factors such as nutrition, physical activity, screen time limits, tobacco exposure, and environmental contaminants. The statutes and regulations included in this chart were compiled using a protocol developed for this project. This research and its updates have been with the support of the Y-USA and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Healthy Eating Research Program.

How we conducted the review: The review focused on state licensing statutes and regulations. Licensing regulations were identified on state government websites and downloaded between May 2016 and July 2016. It should be noted that ECE and OST licensing laws are constantly being reviewed; therefore, some statutes and regulations may have been updated since the Center collected them. Users should confirm whether there have been any revisions to state law since this information was gathered. Also, the statutes and regulations contained in this chart are only those relating specifically to ECE and OST licensing. Other federal, state and local laws may be applicable to the concepts identified.

After downloading the statutes and regulations, a detailed highlighted coding process was used to organize information into different categories. This process was designed to capture several key public health concepts, including nutrition, physical activity, screen time, breastfeeding, and tobacco exposure.


Highlighting Protocol:


Yellow—Definitions of Child Care Arrangements

  • Child care in general
  • Type of care (Center, Family Home-Large, Family Home-Small, Registered)
  • Definitions of day camp, evening care, night care, etc.
  • Definitions of infant, toddler, child, etc.
  • Do NOT include definitions of Provider, Administrator, etc.

Orange—Licensing Agency Authority

  • Definitions of State Authorities
    • Includes: Department, Division, Commission, Secretary, Commissioner, Director, Agency, Administrator of Licensing
  • Purpose and Intent of the Statutory / Regulatory Scheme
  • The “Who”
    • Who Sets Standards for Child Care
  • Enforcement
  • Initial Inspections, including every agency responsible for conducting inspections 
  • Interpretive Guidelines (Any provision that authorizes the state to issue extra guidance to child care settings beyond what is explicitly written in the statutes and regulations)
  • Do NOT include provisional, conditional, or denial of licenses

Red—Exemptions from Licensing

  • Exemptions from licensing in general
  • Only exemptions from child care licensing as a whole
  • Do NOT include exemptions from specific licensing standards or provisions

Purple—Environmental Contaminants

  • Any inspections or requirements for environmental contaminants, including lead, mercury, radon, etc.

Green—Nutrition—Food, Action/Behavior Related to Nutrition, Sanitation & Food Safety

  • Food
    • Infant food, Milk, Juice, Water, Vegetables, Fruit, Bread/Whole Grains, Protein—anything to do with the content, quality, and quantity of food (ex. Prohibition of non-sugary drinks or the amount and type of milk a child can have for each meal)
  • Water
    • Code anything except temperature as green for water (including sink use, drinking water, water use, etc.)
  • Setting Standards for nutrition
  • Food Service
    • How often children are supposed to be fed and when (ex. Children must be fed every four hours)
    • How children are to be fed (ex. Bottle fed children should hold bottle on their own; providers must eat with children)
  • Exceptions for kids with special diets/allergies
  • Sanitation
    • Hand washing
    • Food handling
  • Food Safety
    • Standards
    • Rules for food brought from home
    • Food storage
  • Operations (ex. Record keeping, communication with parents)
  • Written policies/authorization/instructions from parents
  • Admissions (ex. Food Program/Service)
  • Postings (ex. Menus, feeding schedules, allergies)
  • Training and Qualifications
    • Nutrition learning experiences for children and providers
  • Discipline (ex. No food shall be withheld or given as a means of discipline)
  • Voluntary Program Standards

Blue—Physical Activity

  • Indoor Space – Square Footage
  • Outdoor Space – Square Footage
  • Other Space Requirements
  • Equipment Standards and Requirements
    • Include all provisions relating to active play equipment.
  • Weather conditions
  • Only include indoor equipment when it refers to equipment specifically for large muscle activity, gross motor skills, etc.
  • Outdoor Time
  • Physical Activity Standards and Requirements
    • Includes provisions referencing “active play,” “vigorous play,” “gross motor activity,” “large muscle activities,” and activities for “physical development,” “physical well being,” “large muscle development,” and “promoting physical growth.”
  • Physical activity as it relates to infants (ex. time spent in crib, going outdoors)
  • Limitations on infant restraint
  • Activity Plans Related to Physical Activity
  • Training Requirements Related to Physical Activity
  • Written policies/authorization/instructions from parents
  • Discipline Policy Related to Physical Activity (ex. A child cannot be forced to do physical activity as a form of discipline.)
  • Physical Activity: Other
  • Voluntary Program Standards

Gray—Screen Time

  • Screen Time Restrictions
  • Screen Time Age Restrictions
  • Screen Time Content Restrictions
  • Screen Time Exceptions to Restrictions
  • Voluntary Program Standards


  • Accommodating breastfeeding mothers
  • Handling breast milk
  • Other information concerning breastfeeding
  • Voluntary Program Standards

Burgundy—Smoking/Tobacco Use

  • Smoking/Tobacco Use Restrictions

Pale Yellow—Playground Safety

  • Outdoor Injury Prevention on Playgrounds
  • Fences, Slides, Swings, Fall Zones, Fall Zone Material, etc.
  • Playgrounds Inspections
  • Pools, and anything swimming
  • Large bodies of water location specific to child care setting
  • Sun protection
  • Voluntary Program Standards
  • Do NOT include equipment storage
  • Do NOT include field trips

Fuchsia—Overlapping Information

  • Information that can be placed multiple categories

Light Blue – Equity

  • Key-word searches in regulations and statutes for mention of the following terms:
    • ethni’ (ethnic, ethnicity)
    • divers’ (diverse, diversity)
    • cultur’ (culture, cultural)
    • language, foreign language, English (include if there are English language requirements)
    • Indi’ (Indian, indigenous), Native American, trib’ (tribe, tribal)
    • discriminat’ (discrimination, discriminate, discriminatory)
    • equality
    • equal (only include if ‘equal access’ or ‘equal protection’ or ‘equal opportunity/ies’ or ‘treated equally’ or ‘equal accommodations or ‘equally applied’)
    • equit’ (equity, equitable, equitably) – equity related to money and law were excluded
    • disparit’ (disparity, disparities)
    • bias
    • gender
    • disab’ (disability, disabled)
    • religio’ (religion, religious)
    • faith
    • belief
    • tradition (traditional)
    • custom
    • minority
    • rac’ (racial, race, racist)
    • special (needs, issues. disabilities, services)
  • Do include terms involving food and exceptions


Note: this protocol has been refined in the latest update of this research. Differences may exist as a result. For archived child care laws completed 2011-2015, click here.