Before listing the 15 best childcare franchises of 2017/2018, it’s important to understand how this industry has evolved over the last several decades. Back in the 1970s as more and more families began to have both parents working full-time outside the home, there was a growing need for daycare facilities for young children. In those days, most of the facilities that started springing up everywhere were largely providing little more than group babysitting, with little thought put into meeting a child’s educational needs.
That changed abruptly in the early 1980s when many providers realized they could meet this growing need with specialized curricula that would not only provide the needed care and play opportunities, but also pay close attention to a child’s educational needs. These pioneering providers tended to start with a single location and eventually decided their concept and approaches were good enough to franchise.
As families began focusing more on preparing their young children for academic success, many of these companies entered a period of growth and expansion that has continued right up to the present. Today, the childcare industry continues to grow with no signs of stopping. Here are the top 15 childcare franchises for 2017/2018:
1. Primrose Schools
Primrose Schools was founded in 1982 by Paul and Marcy Erwin in Marietta, Georgia with a focus on education utilizing its proprietary Balanced Learning curriculum. It provides year-round programming for children from six weeks to six years old that includes after-school enrichment and summer programs. A primary focus for each school is social responsibility and community involvement. Each school is accredited by AdvancED as well as either the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council or the North Central Association along with its own internal Service Excellence Assurance (SEA) quality assurance program that reviews each school three times a year.
During the last 10 years the chain has more than doubled its number of locations from 171 in 2007 to its current 353 locations.
2. The Goddard School
The Goddard School was started by Lois Goddard Haines in 1983 to serve the educational needs of children who require daycare. Preschool programming is available to children six weeks to six years old. Its proprietary F.L.EX. (Fun Learning Experience) Learning Program builds children’s emotional, academic, social, creative, and physical skills through play-based learning that goes beyond the basics to include sign language, yoga, music, foreign languages, and more. Parents receive daily activity reports and attend regular conferences during the year to discuss progress.
The number of locations has grown steadily from 255 in 2007 to its current 464 locations in 37 states.
3. The Learning Experience
The Learning Experience got its start in 1980 when the Weissman family opened the first location in Boca Raton, Florida. Its childcare combined with early education programs focus on the key educational and care principles covering a child’s cognitive, physical, and social development or, as the chain puts it, “learn, play, and grow.” Its proprietary L.E.A.P. (Learning Experience Academic Program) Curriculum covers all the basics but also includes sign language, phonics, foreign languages, manners and etiquette, physical fitness, and a philanthropy program.
This chain has experienced rapid growth from 32 locations in 2007 to its current 179 locations, most of which are on the East Coast.
4. Kiddie Academy
Kiddie Academy was founded by George and Pauline Miller back in 1981 to provide education-based childcare. Its Life Essentials curriculum allows children to learn at their own pace by stimulating their curiosity and instinct to learn through age-appropriate activities designed to make every experience a learning opportunity. It is a standards-based learning curriculum but also includes a strong character education component as well as a focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education.
Over the last decade the chain has more than doubled its number of locations from 88 in 2007 to its current 188 locations in 29 states.
5. Children’s Lighthouse Learning Centers
Children’s Lighthouse Learning Centers dates back to 1997 when Pat Brown and his brother G. Michael Brown had a vision for providing educational childcare to families in Fort Worth, Texas. It provides both academic programming accredited by AdvancED and a character values curriculum for children from infancy through 12 years of age. Focal character values include cooperation, kindness, honesty, diversity, and gratitude.
Franchising began in 1999 and there are now 44 locations in seven states (Texas, Kansas, North Carolina, Florida, Illinois, California, and Alabama).
6. Genius Kids
Genius Kids was founded in 2001 by Rennu Dhillon, a pharmacist with a doctoral degree in the Natural Sciences who was shocked at how many otherwise smart adults showed a lack of confidence and interpersonal communication skills. Knowing this was something best addressed when people are kids, she developed her own accelerated learning programs that include speech and public speaking into every aspect of learning. The goal is to nurture children to develop confident thinking and creative expression without fear.
She opened the first location in Fremont, California, and added five more locations before beginning to franchise in 2011. There are now 34 locations, all of which are in California.
7. Lightbridge Academy
Lightbridge Academy got its start back in 1997 as the Rainbow Academy opened by Guy and Julia Falzarano with a vision that went beyond mere daycare to include creating a “circle of care” that provides educational programming and parental support. The chain has kept up with technology by offering ParentView Internet monitoring and an eCommunication app to provide parents with an ongoing connection to their children throughout the day.
Franchising began in 2011 when there were nine company-owned locations. The chain has since grown to a total of 28 locations, all of which are in New Jersey except for the four in Pennsylvania, two in New York, and one in Virginia.
8. KLA Schools
KLA Schools was founded in 2007 by Candy and Roberto Ortega along with a group of investors in Miami, Florida. KLA Schools are inspired by the Reggio Emilia Approach to education developed by psychologist Loris Malaguzzi and parents in the villages around the Italian city of Reggio Emilia. It can be described as student-centered and constructivist, making use of self-directed experiential learning in relationship-rich environments.
Franchising began in 2009 and there are now 17 locations (four of which are company-owned), most of which are located in Florida along with one location in each of the following states: Connecticut, Texas, Tennessee, Illinois, Washington, Oregon, and California.
9. Rainbow Station
Rainbow Station got its start back in 1989 by Gail W. Johnson, a nurse who was interested in supporting parents to return to work when their children are mildly or chronically ill. Now a full-service educational childcare company, full-time, on-site nursing care remains a distinguishing feature of this chain. It is also very focused on development beyond academics and calls itself a “leadership preschool” that instills 21st century skills like compassion, responsibility, and teamwork that help children “learn early, live well, and lead.”
Franchising began in 1999 and there are now 13 locations, with seven in Virginia, two in North Carolina, three in Texas, and one in Indiana.
10. Discovery Point
Discovery Point was started by Cliff and Diane Clark in 1988 when they opened the first location in Duluth, Georgia. Their aim was to foster a love of learning through child-centered activities promoting self-discovery, problem solving, and creative thinking. The company partners with Teaching Strategies to implement its nationally-recognized Creative Curriculum system focused on helping children grow intellectually, physically, emotionally, and socially through a “whole-child” approach where the children feel loved and nurtured.
Franchising began in 1990 and there are now 47 locations, most of which are in Georgia, with one in North Carolina, one in Tennessee, and 12 in Florida.
KidsPark began in 1988 when Debbie Milner opened the first location in San Jose, California. The chain offers childcare by the hour and back-up full-day care when a family’s primary provider is closed or parents have an all-day commitment. The focus is on play through imagination, movement, art, and socialization for both preschoolers and school-agers. Organized activities include arts and crafts, games, cooking, sensory exploration, music, stories, and hands-on science. Each location’s “no walls” floor plan lets children follow their interests while also allowing for continuous teacher and parent observation.
Franchising began in 2003 and there are now 17 locations with eight in California, three in Florida, two in Arizona, and one each in Nebraska, Texas, Kansas, and Pennsylvania.
12. Montessori Kids Universe
Montessori Kids Universe was started by Tom and Nancy Boehm in Ashburn, Virginia in 2012. The Boehms have been in the childcare arena for over 30 years and have personally started and successfully operated 18 schools. They currently have seven locations open with an additional 12 under contract in seven states. Most recently, they have signed a Licensing Agreement to expand the MKU brand to countries in the Middle East.
As of the date of this post, MKU is the only childcare franchise organization offering a Montessori-inspired curriculum. Additionally, they have added a proprietary written afternoon curriculum inspired by Reggio Emilia which incorporates art and science. Offerings also include baby sign language, yoga, music, art, foreign languages, gardening, cooking, and a STEAM program (science, technology, engineering, art, and math).
13. Adventure Kids Playcare
Adventure Kids Playcare has a greater emphasis on fun and adventure than many of the academically-oriented childcare companies, and the staff or “play crew” at each location are all CPR/First Aid-certified. It provides drop-in childcare and entertainment for kids ages 6 weeks to 12 years old. They let kids play, explore, and learn in a safe and secure environment. Much of it is free-play, but there are also organized games and craft activities. Each location includes a huge “playscape,” video game systems, computers, Legos, play kitchens, costumes, and more. Weekend play opportunities are also offered.
Franchising began in 2006 and there are now 13 locations with 11 in Texas and two in Washington.
14. College Nannies, Sitters, and Tutors
College Nannies, Sitters, and Tutors is different from other education-based childcare companies because it focuses on providing nanny, sitting, and tutor services in the home rather than standalone centers. It is also a more recent addition to the industry, having been founded in 2001 by Joseph Keeley in Minnesota to help match families who want in-home care and education for their children with college students, graduates, and teachers. The approach is founded on one-on-one role model-focused programs, whether a family just needs babysitting, more extensive nanny services, or tutoring that will help their children achieve academic success.
In the last ten years the chain has grown rapidly from just 20 locations in 2007 to its current 147 locations in 29 states.
15. Seeking Sitters
Seeking Sitters was founded in 2004 when Adrienne and David Kallweit grew frustrated with trying to find reliable babysitters for their son. Adrienne brought her private investigator skills to the table for conducting thorough background screenings of all potential sitters. The chain offers sitting ranging from the occasional need to full-time care. Customers pay a one-time membership activation fee that gives them access to all locations. Additional services include pet sitting, house sitting, and study support for students.
Franchising began in 2006 and there are now 104 locations, 70 of which are company-owned, in 27 states and the District of Columbia.
Up-and-Coming Franchise: London Day School
London Day School was established in 2008 by Danielle Lindner and her husband Steven in Florham Park, New Jersey because they saw a need for enriching, challenging, and socially-engaging programs for young children that would develop not only essential academic skills but also children’s social and emotional intelligences. Its philosophy of enrichment and project-based learning facilitates children’s natural inclinations toward discovery while fostering independence, self-discipline, and motivation.
The company announced its franchising program in 2015, but so far there is still only one location.
An Important Note About Our Methodology
The franchises on this list were ranked according to growth momentum and brand equity. If you are a prospective franchisee searching for franchise opportunities that meet or exceed certain performance benchmarks for sales, profits, and return on investment, please check out this list of America’s Most Lucrative Franchises.