Nearly 60 percent of families with young children use some form of child care while parents are at work. Knowing about the different types of child care, and their advantages and disadvantages can help make the process of finding quality daycare easier.
The most popular child care options include child care centers, family daycare providers and in-home providers.
Read more to learn about the different types of child care to determine which type of care is best for your child. No matter which option you choose, you should talk to your child about the arrangement.
Your final decision should be nurturing to your child, supportive of his or her development and compatible with your lifestyle and checkbook. Trial and error may be necessary, but ultimately you can find an arrangement that meets the needs of you and your child.
Child Care Centers
This type of care includes:
- Daycare centers
- Nursery schools
- Drop-in centers
- Head Start Programs
Centers care for groups of children, often more than 100, outside of the home.
Many child care centers are structured like school programs, grouping children by age and some centers offer infant care. In general, few centers are open during evenings and weekends.
- Your child will be able to make friends and develop social skills by interacting with other children
- Centers are regulated and inspected
- Centers are usually open during normal business hours, although some offer early and late drop-off
- If your child’s teacher is ill, the center will find a substitute
- Centers stress education and creative expression by providing structured learning environments that include fun activities, crafts and a variety of books and toys
- A center environment is similar to a school environment and can offer the social stimulation that will help an easier transition to kindergarten
- Your child may receive less individual attention in a large group
- Centers conform to set schedules and are not always flexible to your needs or hours
- Centers may have high employee turnover, making it tougher for your child to bond with a caregiver
- Your child may have several different caretakers
Family Child Care Providers
With a family child care provider, your child is cared for in the provider’s home.
One or more adults provide care for a small number of children, from infants and toddlers up to school-aged kids. Many parents prefer the friendly, comfortable home-like atmosphere of family daycare, especially for infants.
- Your child will spend the day in a relaxed, homey environment
- The group sizes are smaller so your child receives more individual attention
- Can be less expensive than private care options
- Usually licensed or regulated by the state
- Caregivers may be more flexible and able to accommodate you and your child’s needs
- May be hard to find a replacement if the caregiver is absent
- Can be a less educational and stimulating setting
- Quality of care varies widely from home to home
Some parents choose caregivers who come to the child’s home. These caregivers include:
- Nannies or in-home caregivers: Some live in your home in exchange for a salary plus room and board. For others, your home is their daily workplace.
- Au pairs: These are usually young (age 18 to 24) women who come from overseas. An au pair agency makes the arrangements. Au pairs receive room and board and are paid stipends in exchange for child care. Because these young people are recruited with the promise of an American cultural experience, it is important that your expectations and their responsibilities are clear from the start. You also have the obligation to reasonably limit their hours so they have some time to experience American life.
- Babysitters: Neighborhood teens often are willing to provide child care on a regular basis. Because the interests and social lives of teens change frequently, it is important to consider backup care.
Sometimes one or two families on the block can share an in-home provider. Because you are technically hiring this person, you may be responsible for paying employment taxes and medical benefits. In-home caregivers are not licensed.
- One-on-one supervision of your child’s activities
- No worrying about transporting your child or his or her adjustment to a new setting
- Caregivers can accommodate your requests and be flexible with your schedule
- Less interaction with other kids
- No structured academic or physical program
- May be hard to find a replacement if the caregiver is absent
- Typically more expensive
Other Types of Child Care
In addition to the types of child care listed above, many parents choose to use the following child care arrangements:
- Group daycare. In between family and center daycare, group daycare involves bringing your child to a private home. Two or more adults provide care for up to 12 children instead of six or less. Because the group can be large, group daycare often maintains a structured environment with scheduled activities and routines.
- After-school care. Usually located in public schools, churches, homes and daycare centers, this type of before- or after-school daycare arrangement is ideal for elementary school-aged children, who are more independent and responsible than younger kids. Often, these programs offer full-day services during the holidays and summer.
- Babysitting cooperatives. This short-term, occasional-care option is provided by a group of parents and adults who trade-off giving and receiving care for their children. Like a carpool, parents rotate babysitting duties. Babysitting cooperatives are usually free.
- Montessori school. These schools feature a structured, individualized approach to learning for toddlers through high school. Students work at their own pace with their own chosen materials, encouraging creativity and expression. A center must employ a Montessori-certified teacher for at least three to four hours each day. Some Montessori programs are exempt from licensing regulations, allowing them to operate with a lower ratio of adults to children.
Rights and Responsibilities
Take an active role in the child-care program by arriving early and asking questions. Be aware of your rights and obligations as a parent.
You have a right to question or discuss:
- Unsafe practices or poor hygiene that might affect your child
- Discipline, care and educational issues
- Anything that upsets your child
- Your child’s daily activities and progress
You have a right to expect:
- Adherence to state rules and regulations regarding child care
- Safe, nurturing, high-quality care in a clean environment
You have a responsibility to encourage:
- Open communication
- Positive age-appropriate activities
You have a responsibility to respect the provider’s:
- Time. Be punctual in picking up your child
- Policies. Know when child-care payments are due
- Opinions. They have usually had plenty of experience watching and raising children
You have a responsibility to watch for the following warning signs:
- Complaints or anxiety from your child
- A center that does not permit or encourage parents to drop in unexpectedly
- Children are without the immediate and direct supervision of an adult
- A caregiver who has been observed screaming, yelling, swearing, threatening, criticizing or making fun of any of the children
- A caregiver who is physically rough with the children
- The home or center is dirty or unsafe
- Your child or another child shows signs of repeated bruising or injuries that are unexplainable
You have a responsibility to your child to:
- Talk with them about the daycare setting and caregivers
- Ask very specific questions about your child’s day and the events of that day
- Listen carefully to what your child is saying
- Visit your child’s daycare provider or center at unexpected times of the day
- American Red Cross: www.redcross.org
- National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies: www.ccrcca.org
- usa.gov: https://www.usa.gov/child-care
©2020 ComPsych ® Corporation. All rights reserved. This information is for educational purposes only. It is always important to consult with the appropriate professional on financial, medical, legal, behavioral or other issues. As you read this information, it is your responsibility to make sure that the facts and ideas apply to your situation.