Consider Daycare Options Before Picking a Provider

Narrow your search by selecting type of care first

daycare teacher with kids
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Many parents have numerous daycare options in their area. But determining which type of childcare provider meets your family's needs, lifestyle and budget takes research and discussion. Ask yourself the following questions to help determine which type of childcare provider you want.

Identifying Your Needs

Do you need a full-time or part-time childcare provider arrangement? Does your family work traditional hours or is a caregiver expected to work early, late or weekends?

And, if part-time, do the the days when care is needed remain consistent, or does a childcare provider need to be flexible on days worked?

What is your family's budget for childcare? Before determining what type of childcare provider set-up you want, determine what you can afford. An au pair or nanny, for example, will most likely cost much more than placing a child in a local daycare center. Montessori schools also typically charge more per week.

How old is your child and what is your comfort level with placing her in a particular childcare provider setting at this age? While daycare centers often accept newborns, many parents prefer a different type of setting for infants than they do for toddlers and preschoolers.

Needs and Preferences of Your Child

Does your child have any special conditions or needs and is he better suited for a smaller, more intimate childcare provider environment such as in-home care, or does he thrive in larger classes with a great selection of activities?

Parents best know the personality and preferred structure of their children and should choose situations that best allow them to thrive and grow. Consider that some kids flourish in kid care at home with a caregiver, while others find that setup somewhat stifling and even lonely if other kids aren't available for playgroups.

Daycare Options and Childcare 

In-home provider: The level of care and experience can vary greatly, and an in-home provider may not be licensed or accredited. Advantages of these providers include a more nurturing family style environment, having a provider who shares similar views and child-rearing approaches  as you do as well as discipline styles. In-home care providers also offer flexibility, home-cooked meals and family style trips to the park and other outings. Sometimes using these providers cuts costs also.

Caregiver in your home: This is often the most expensive care option. A nanny, au pair or daytime babysitter can be an attractive option, but these individuals typically lack the training and experience the others have.

Family member: Using family members for childcare may allow you to develop a closer bond to family members, additional convenience and save money. But there are downsides as well, such as differing child-rearing philosophies, lack of training and experience (i.e. not being CPR-certified or having up-to-date training on first aid or teaching phonics). Whether this is the right decision can depend on a number of dynamics and considerations, but it is a wonderful option for many families.

Preschool vs. Daycare

Daycare center: Many families use daycare centers because of their affordability, reliability, and convenience. It is also considered the most "institutional" of childcare options, and as a result, offers less personalized care tailored to your child's special interests or needs. Turnover can be a consideration; however, parents like the knowledge of knowing that there will always be a childcare provider at the facility so back-up care won't likely be needed.

Preschool programs: Preschool programs often differ from daycare centers in many ways, but the differences can be very subtle or stark, depending on what you're comparing and where.

Childcare provider programs such as Montessori schools or academically-driven preschool enrichment facilities often tout certified teachers, a regimented curriculum, enrichment options such as language immersion or rudimentary math, science or arts instruction. Costs of preschool programs are often higher than daycare centers.

Wrapping Up

If you only need occasional care, then hiring a babysitter might be all you need. But finding a qualified sitter with whom you trust your little ones and who is actually available at the times you need can sometimes be a challenge, especially during key busy times.

Whether your choose an individual childcare provider or an group care setting, be sure you feel comfortable and confident.

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