Are daycares required to take children outside in -20°C?

A new mom recently commented that her child’s daycare was required to take her 10 month old child outside unless the weather dipped below -20 degrees Celcius. She protested a little, but the daycare insisted this was mandated by law.

After some research it was revealed that the daycare may have misstated the law.

The legislation that applies to daycares in Ontario states that:

  • The indoor temperature of daycares and private-home day care must be at least 20 degrees Celsius
  • It must be arranged that each child under 30 months of age that is in attendance for 6+ hours in a day is outdoors for a period of up to 2 hours each day, weather permitting, unless a physician or parent of the child advises otherwise in writing

The phrase “weather permitting” does not appear to have been considered by a court and therefore is in the reasonable discretion of the facility. Therefore, it appears daycares are not required to take children outside in -20 degrees Celcius after all.

There is an abundance of law that applies to daycares. It is not surprising that daycare staff do not have all of it memorized.

In addition, there is an inherent conflict that daycares cannot always cater to each child. For example, if parents advise in writing that their child is not to go outside when the weather is below zero, what are the staff to do? Keeping one staff member indoors with the child could mean the staff-to-child ratio is not satisfied for the children playing outside. Keeping all the children indoors is not necessary the best solution either as many parents want their children to have access to fresh air. A daycare might be able to place the child with another group, should the facility be a larger organization, but then the parents might feel as though their child is being excluded from socialization and playtime with peers. There is not always an easy solution and flexibility is often required on everyone’s part.

Daycares are reminded to seek legal advice where concerns arise to ensure they are abiding by the applicable legislation. Likewise, parents who have concerns are entitled to seek legal advice to ensure their children are treated properly and their rights protected.

Lisa Feldstein Law Office is pleased to advise parents and daycare operators in the area of daycare law.


Photo credit: scostello22 / Foter / CC BY

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