Childcare Services: Which Type Is Best for Your Family?

Updated August 16, 2021
Teacher playing with babies

Parents know that deciding on child care is one of the most important decisions they will make for their kids' well-being. The type of childcare services you choose will probably depend on several factors. Know which options are available to you, and which ones will best suit your family's needs.

Considerations in Choosing Child Care

Choosing child care can be an overwhelming process for many parents. When making a decision that affects how your kids will be cared for throughout the week, consider the following factors:

Your Children's Needs

What are your children's needs? Whatever they are, you can be sure of one thing: they will change. As your kids morph into little human beings, your childcare requirements may change. It's okay to go with one type of child care when your kids are babies, and another as they grow and their needs develop. Furthermore, kids who have behavioral, educational, or health concerns can require varying levels of care. Know what type of care is essential for your child, and choose a care service that best accommodates their needs.

Your Personal Finances

Child care costs money... lots of money. Your personal finances will play into which care system you opt for. Families with many kids needing supervision might not spring for fancy child development centers. Parents with less money to spend on child care might find their options are limited. Decide how much money you can free up each month for child care, and tailor care options to your finances. For many families, money is a major factor in deciding upon care for their children. 85% of families claim they are spending 10% or more of their income on child care alone, and in 2020, 57% of families forked over $10,000 on care for children. This is a major expense for many.

Your Value System

If you love a slower-paced, cuddle-centered approach to care for your little one, then maybe Grandma babysitting is perfect for you. If you value activities, education, and plenty of engaging options and social interactions throughout the day, then traditional daycare or a developmental center might be a better choice for your family. Think about what you value for your kids, and be sure only to consider childcare options that coincide with your personal value system.

Traditional Daycare

Traditional daycare centers are excellent options for parents who work typical hours in the day. Most centers will open between 6-6:30 a.m. and close at 6 p.m. These centers are often structured into age-based classrooms and adhere to strict guidelines regarding the number of children each room can contain and the number of supervising adults required per group of children. Meals, naptimes, and potty training schedules are worked into the daily routine, as many kids attend these centers for the duration of the day. Older children might have the ability to engage in various activities or classes throughout the day, to keep them busy and stimulated.

Children and teachers playing

Traditional daycare centers will normally charge parents for a full or half-day of child care, and care prices can vary and depend on several factors. States like Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, and Rhode Island are among the most expensive states regarding traditional childcare centers. Additionally, placing an infant in a traditional daycare will cost more than care for an older child.

Child Development Center

Child development centers are similar to traditional daycare centers in that they both create a safe, supervised space for children to explore, socialize and have their daily needs met. Child development centers commonly place a heavier emphasis on educational advancement and developmental growth. The high-quality curriculum and play-based ideals typically found in child development centers can help young children:

  • Advance their social skills early on
  • Improve their attention spans
  • Create preparation for primary school
  • Encourage a love of learning

While the benefits are ample, many families argue that traditional daycare centers and child development centers are lacking in providing individualized attention and fostering a one-on-one connection between a child and their primary daily caregiver. Kids in group care environments are also exposed to more germs and viruses.

In-Home Daycare

For families who want the hours of traditional daycare and child development centers, but crave a more home-based environment for their offspring, in-home daycares can be a prime choice. These centers are licensed by the state, like larger centers, but contain fewer children and consistent care providers throughout the day. Parents may find that they retain perks of traditional daycare, such as daily schedules, age-appropriate activities, and consistency, but have some autonomy regarding meals and other aspects of their kid's daily life. While still expensive for full-time care, a week of in-home care will typically cost less than a week of traditional daycare or development center-based care.

A Full-Time Babysitter or Nanny

Many families decide that they want their kids to stay in their homes for the duration of the day, and thus they bring full-time care into their residential space, often in the form of a nanny. Hiring a full-time babysitter or nanny is a process. You are trusting a single human being to care for your child or children for most of the day. It is a huge responsibility that should not be taken lightly, and therefore you will want to interview all potential nannies and run appropriate background checks before hiring them.

Baby boy plays with his nanny

The pros of having a nanny are vast. They will often do light housekeeping and errands (for a price), keep your children in their most safe and comfortable environment, help with appointments and pets, and bond with your child in your absence. Young kids who stay home might also become sick less, as they are not exposed to constant germs from other children.

That said, there are some cons to hiring a nanny. Some parents feel threatened by one single person spending large amounts of time with their children. Kids who do not attend daycare centers, development centers, or in-home care facilities might lag in social skills and academic development. If you hire a nanny, you will want to make sure to incorporate plenty of playdates and classes for your kids, so they may develop their social skills. It's also a good idea to create or suggest plenty of learning opportunities for your nanny to do with your young ones. The last con to hiring a nanny is the cost. Employing a full-time nanny is one of the more expensive childcare options available to parents. The average salary for a nanny is just under $20 per hour. Because of this high price tag, some families create "nanny pods" and share a nanny between two families.

Au Pairs

Au pairs are childcare providers who previously resided overseas but agree to live in your home and care for your children. In exchange for full-time childcare, they receive room and board as well as a monetary stipend. This type of care gives families extensive flexibility, as the childcare provider is almost always available to step in and watch the kids. Children see this person as an extension of their family.

Au Pairs must receive at least $195 per week for their work. They are also living in your home, which will affect your privacy. Some parents become concerned that children will choose the au pair over them in the off-duty hours, and the lines of who is providing care can become blurred. Consistent and open communication and boundaries have to be established in the event of hiring an au pair.

Helpful Relatives or Friends

Many families around the country decide that the very best means of caring for kids is to leave their most prized possessions with close relatives or friends. It is not uncommon for a grandparent, aunt, or neighbor to tend to kids while parents work. Children are often already bonded to this chosen caregiver, and they feel safe and comfortable around them. The cost of leaving kids with family and friends is far less expensive than some of the other childcare options available.

Grandmother with her grandson

When leaving your kids in the care of friends and family, you forgo the structure and legalities of licensed settings. Be sure to set expectations up appropriately. If your sister agrees to watch your toddler along with her own children for 40 plus hours a week, she will probably be feeding your child what she feeds her own children, and she will probably allow and provide activities and schedules that are suited to her own kids as well. Therefore, you'll want to make sure you're both on the same page and share an understanding of what your child will be experiencing.

Before and After Care Programs

If your kids are in full-time public school, they sometimes have the ability to attend before and aftercare programs. Parents drop kids off at the school their child attends before school hours begin. They visit with friends, have breakfast provided by the school, and play games or do activities until the school bell rings. Working parents can also send kids to aftercare. This occurs following the end of the school day, and instead of heading home at the final bell, kids go to aftercare until parents can pick them up. The cost for this type of care is often less than hiring a babysitter to watch kids before and after school. This also gives parents the peace of mind knowing that when they are at work, their kids are safe at school and being supervised by professional staff.

Create a Child Care Program That Works for You

You know what they say, different strokes for different folks. What helps one family function regarding childcare won't necessarily work for the next family. Examine the needs of your family, your general value system, and your income and finances, and make the best decision possible for your children.

Childcare Services: Which Type Is Best for Your Family?