17 Bizarre Preschool Rules You Won’t Believe Exist

Did you know that in Connecticut, the preschool database also lets you search for licensed hypnotists and fur breeders?

We recently put together comprehensive three-minute guides to how preschool works in each state. We found a lot of things that we expected: complicated rules about how many staff members have to work at certain preschools, a labyrinth of regulations concerning licensing and oversight, and a lot of emphasis placed on infant CPR.

What we did not expect to find was a treasure trove of weirdness — strange and unexpected rules buried in the thousands of pages of preschool regulations. Here are a few of our favorites:

Stuff that shouldn’t have to be said

1. Don't bring your exotic pets to preschool.

In Nebraska, there is a list of animals prohibited from day care facilities. On this list are poisonous snakes and spiders, skunks, otters, antelopes, alligators, gorillas, and chickens. (Baby chicks in incubators are OK.) In addition, Nebraska also specifies that children must not be allowed to use water from livestock tanks for wading or swimming.

2. Some animal droppings are allowed.

Utah requires that when the outdoor play area is in use, it must be free of animal excrement and harmful plants. The state notes, however, that animal excrement “does not include isolated bird droppings.”

3. Firearms sales are limited to after hours.

Michigan, for its own part, insists that firearms not be “traded or sold on the premises while child care children are present.”

4. Child care providers should not lose children.

New Jersey has the worryingly obvious mandate that all staff members be “trained in the method of keeping track of children." It does not specify the form that such track-keeping training should take. Kansas similarly requires that child care providers “have an understanding of children.”

Fuzzy math

5. Older children count as one each, younger children as two.

Virginia, for instance, requires at least one adult for every eight children, with the exception that infants below the age of 2 years “count” as two children.

6. As children age, they become smaller fractions of a person.

North Dakota’s regulations read like a nightmarish SAT problem: Each adult can care for children totaling 1.34 points, and point levels vary by child age. One-year-olds “count” as 0.25 points, and they steadily lose value after that. Two-year-olds are 0.2 points apiece, 3-year-olds are 0.14 points, 4-year-olds are 0.1 points, and by the time they reach kindergarten, 5-year-olds are a meager 0.08 points. (Your fifth-grader: 0.05 points. Ouch!)

Definitions that defy explanation

7. Learn how to tell if you have diarrhea.

Wyoming helpfully informs providers that “diarrhea” means “three (3) or more loose stools in a 24-hour period.”

8. Everyone should be able to recognize a child.

New Hampshire clarifies that the term “child” means “child.”

Typos

9. Correct spelling is not a requirement in an educational setting.

Montana embarrassingly requires preschool center directors to be “educated or experianced [sic] in early care and education."

10. The Heimlich Maneuver is a chore.

Rhode Island confusingly requires a CHORE-SAVING POSTER (in bolded, underlined capital letters) that illustrates the Heimlich Maneuver. (This should say “choke.”) Rhode Island also has the draft version of its child care regulations document — complete with visible tracked changes — online.

11. Having one adult for four children is great, but four adults for one child is better.

Indiana’s typos venture into fuzzy math. The state inverted all of its mandated staff-to-child ratios, so four adults are purportedly required for every infant, and five for every toddler. For every school-age child, the number of required staff jumps to 15. That would make for a very expensive education!

Disciplinary measures

12. It's OK for a preschool teacher to spank students.

In at least two states — Louisiana and Missouri — corporal punishment of toddlers is permissible. Louisiana requires that a policy outlining the discipline plan (corporal or noncorporal punishment) be made available to each parent or guardian. Similarly, in Missouri, license-exempt facilities may practice corporal punishment so long as a Notice of Parental Responsibility discloses this to parents.

13. But don't put soap or pepper in a child's mouth.

Mississippi and Maryland both expressly forbid putting soap or pepper in a child’s mouth as a form of discipline at day care.

Juxtapositions

14. Be efficient, and find an acupuncturist while you search for preschools.

We already mentioned that Connecticut’s preschool database is also home to directories of all sorts of other providers. Besides fur breeders and hypnotists, there are also acupuncturists, animal importers, apple juice and cider manufacturers, embalmers, live poultry dealers, milk examiners, sub-surface sewage cleaners, and swine garbage feeders, among others.

15. Infectious disease research is a natural part of the preschool search.

North Dakota’s early childhood website also includes a helpful fact sheet about Ebola.

Huh?

16. You might know if you should be a licensed child care provider.

All of the preschool regulations are written in legalese. But some are so loath to make a definitive statement that it’s hard to understand them at all. Take Wyoming, which notes: “If you are caring for more than two children who aren’t related to you, you might have to be licensed.”

17. Screen time can be a good substitute for face time.

Then there are some incomprehensible preschool arrangements. Preschool is meant to provide child care for working parents, education for children, and opportunities for early socialization. Except in Utah, which has a government-funded “online preschool” initiative called UPSTART, which is an “in-home, computer-based kindergarten readiness program.” It is meant to take place five days per week for 15 minutes per day, during which children are expected to develop the skills they need to succeed once they start school.

A Final Thought

There are many more sublime and strange rules that emerged from the thousands of pages of regulations that we pored over. What we learned from the experience — besides the fact that preschool rules are wacky — is that it is incredibly hard to get clear, accurate information about how preschool works in each state. That’s why we put together these preschool articles for every state and the District of Columbia. Each one distills hundreds of regulations into an easy-to-understand three-minute guide.

Start your preschool search right — and while you’re at it, find yourself a nice live poultry dealer in Connecticut. Just don’t bring your chicken to preschool in Nebraska.