When deciding childcare for your children, you are faced with two basic choices: home-based childcare and centre-based child care.
There are advantages and disadvantages to each one, and the ultimate decision comes down to which one is best for you and your child because each family is unique.
Home-based child care centres are operated out of a private home. The owner serves typically multiple roles such as director, teacher, food preparation and cleanup crew.
Some home-based programs employ other adult workers as well. The home may have a separate section for the childcare area or include the whole house.
The centre may provide primary care, or it may use a childcare curriculum for educational purposes.
Centre-based child care centres are commercial businesses that may be independent or part of a chain of centres.
They may be for-profit or non-profit. They might be publicly or federally funded. There are many varieties in centre-based as in home-based.
They tend to be located in a larger structure and have more employees than home-based centres.
The caregivers may be very specialised in the roles they provide. However, most adopt a standardised form of curriculum.
Whether you should go with the home-like environment of a family child care provider or with the school-like environment of a centre depends on the caregivers' quality, the program offered, and the specific needs of your family and your child.
In this post, we will outline some of the similarities and differences the two options offer to decide for yourself which one would suit your family better.
Home Daycare Vs. Daycare Center
Finding the perfect child care for your child isn't a decision that can be made overnight.
There are so many factors that go into choosing who will take care of your child and where your child will stay while you are at work.
Many parents have several options to choose from, such as depending on grandparents and other family members, swapping out shifts, and on-site daycare at their jobs.
To get the whole picture, find out if you have to pay for days your child may not have to attend, such as holidays, sick days, etc.
Age of Child
Where you place your child can have a direct bearing on that child's age. For infants, you'll want plenty of one-on-one care, but for toddlers, you may want more of an educational setting.
Number of Children
If you have more than one child in need of daycare, you may want to keep them at the same facility. Find out if discounts are available for more than one child's tuition.
Availability of Services
What kind of care/activities will be offered? For example, will your child be served breakfast and lunch, including snacks? Is this strictly a babysitting service, or will some educational activities be given as well?
You are away from your child all day, so you want to get to them as quickly as possible. How convenient is the daycare facility to your work?
What features does the daycare situation offer? Field Trips? Playground? Music lessons?
What is the focus of the daycare? Is it a nurturing environment? Our academic units planned out in advance?
Family child care providers typically have:
- 1 to 4 caregivers/teachers
- smaller facilities with a home-like environment
- fewer children (typically 3 to 12 children)
- mixed-age groups with children of different ages
Child care centres typically have:
- more extensive staff (lots of caregivers/teachers, as high as 30+)
- more extensive facilities with a more institutionalised feel
- many more children (anywhere from around 20 to 150 or more)
- separate age groups, i.e. all babies are together in 1 group, and all preschoolers are together in another, etc.
When addressing the issue of home daycare vs. daycare centre, there is no doubt that a home daycare environment can provide peace of mind...if everything is on the up and up. The advantages are easy to see.
Advantages of a home daycare can include the following:
This is especially important for that first year of your baby's life. HomeOne or two teachers typically run a home daycare, and they can offer individualised care and nurture.
Unless some unforeseen circumstances arise, you can typically depend upon your daycare provider to be there.
Even if you don't know your home daycare provider personally, you will soon. As a result, she will be more likely to give you a play-by-play version of your child's day.
Limited Number of Kids
Home daycares typically only have a small number of children to care for, limiting your child's exposure to illnesses and providing more attention to each child.
Some more advantages to home-based childcare are:
- Smaller class size
- More one-on-one attention
- Family-like environment
- Mixed-age groups offer socialisation between siblings
- May provide more flexibility
Many home daycares can boast more minor children and more individual attention, something most centres can't guarantee.
Child-to-staff ratios are necessary because too many children and not enough adult supervision means your child will likely get less of the one-on-one interaction he needs and deserves.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the child-to-staff ratio for children younger than 12 months should be 3 to 1 no matter what kind of childcare you have.
The National Association for Family Child Care offers accreditation to ensure that your provider follows all of your state's regulations, including child-to-staff ratios.
The opportunity to play with and learn from other children is something both home daycares and centres offer that nanny care can't.
But unlike centres, which tend to group kids by age, home daycares usually have mixed-age groups, which more closely mirror many families and may help your child feel comfortable around older kids.
We like the fact that there are other children my son can play with and learn from. Since he's an only child, he enjoys this social interaction.
Though daycare centres, no matter how child-friendly and welcoming, can sometimes seem institutional, home daycare can be the next best thing to your own house.
If you're lucky enough to find a good provider in your neighbourhood, so much the better – your child will feel even more at home.
And home daycare is often the least expensive childcare option next to relative care. While some home daycare providers charge as much as centres, that's not usually the case.
From a practical viewpoint, a home daycare may be more flexible about pickup and dropoff times and less likely than a centre to charge you for every minute you're late.
Home daycares also tend to close for fewer holidays than most centres, so you may not have to scramble for backup care as often.
Finally, most home daycare providers are moms themselves, so you know you're leaving your child with someone who is comfortable caring for babies and children and who probably has a strong mothering instinct.
Of course, you and your provider may differ on some child-rearing issues, but as long as you find someone who shares your basic caregiving philosophy, the "mom" factor can be a definite advantage.
Just as with virtually any situation, there can be disadvantages to a home daycare situation, including the following:
Who will take care of your child if your daycare provider is sick? This is something to think about, and you'll need a backup plan.
Home daycares aren't typically regulated like daycare centres, so who will make sure the home daycare you choose follows the rules?
If you want educational instruction for your child, you might not receive it at a home daycare, and your daycare provider may not have any formal academic training.
A home daycare situation may be more expensive than a daycare centre.
Some more disadvantages to home-based childcare are:
- Caregivers may not have additional education/certification as required by larger centres.
- May not have substitute caregivers – if the owner is sick, the centre is closed.
- Fewer resources
- May watch more T.V.
- Possibly less educated teachers and less educationally enriched curriculum
- perhaps more exposure to television
- sole caregiver with little supervision, so trust is essential
If you're looking for a caregiver with formal training in early education, home daycare probably isn't for you.
Unlike employees in a childcare centre, Mrs Johnson down the street probably hasn't taken many child development classes lately.
Some states require home daycare providers to complete a certain number of hours of care and safety courses, but that's no substitute for college courses or a certificate in early childhood education.
Licensing requirements for home daycares are usually less than stringent. Some states and counties do require licensing, but most don't.
If you live in an area without licensing requirements, you'll have to rely on your judgment – and eye for safety and sanitation hazards – to make sure the environment is acceptable for your baby.
Another drawback is that a backup caregiver may not be available if your provider gets sick or takes a vacation (unless she finds a substitute).
If you don't have an understanding boss or backup childcare, you may end up using all your vacation and sick days to stay home with your child. That may make the extra costs of a centre – with its guaranteed care – worth it for you.
Licensing and Background Checks
Most states regulate home-based daycare centres, but not all require licensing. Furthermore, background check requirements for home-based daycare providers vary by state.
Most states require child care providers to undergo a background investigation, but some do not mandate a sex offender registry check.
Approximately one-fifth of children whose parents receive child care subsidies are cared for by unlicensed providers.
As you look for a home-based daycare provider, contact your state's child care licensing agency to obtain a list of licensed providers in your area.
When interviewing providers, ask to see their operating licenses, which should be kept on-site.
If you are considering using the services of an unlicensed home-based daycare provider, ask parents who use the service for feedback or conduct your investigation online.
Health and Safety Hazards
Unfortunately, some home-based daycare providers may neglect the children in their care.
As you evaluate family child care homes, look for safety hazards, such as uncovered electrical outlets, trampolines, uneven flooring, unprotected swimming pools, drapery cords and open stairways.
Children who are allergic to specific animals should not be placed in family child care homes where those pets are present.
Always ask to see your provider's CPR and first aid certifications.
High Turnover Rate
Child care providers work long hours and receive low pay. Furthermore, the responsibility of caring for young children can create a sense of isolation.
In a paper published in "The Future of Children" journal, Suzanne W. Helburn, PhD and Carollee Howes, PhD write that family child care providers are relatively inexperienced; half of the providers have worked in the field for three years or less, indicating a high rate of turnover.
Never assume that home-based daycare arrangements will last long term. Be prepared to look for a new daycare provider if yours loses staff or closes down her business suddenly.
If your home-based daycare provider's children become sick, she may not be available to take care of your children for a short or extended period.
A similar situation arises if the provider herself gets sick, becomes injured or has a personal emergency.
You should always make alternate arrangements or be prepared to stay home with your child in such cases.
Once you have chosen a family child care provider, talk with your child about the day's events daily.
Your provider should have an open-door policy that permits parents to visit at any time during daycare hours.
The best way to find out what is happening at daycare is to visit during the workday, preferably unannounced.
Daycare centres also have their advantages and disadvantages, and you'll need to take both into account before you choose a childcare situation for your child.
Many daycare centres provide educational instruction to the children who attend.
Many child care centre employees have formal training and even degrees in early childhood education.
Daycare centres must abide by strict regulations and pass unannounced inspections throughout the year.
Most daycare centres separate their children by age, and many only accommodate small groups of children in each class.
Some more advantages of centre-based child care are:
- More resources and supplies
- Teachers may have more education and be certified in specific age groups.
- More socialisation
- A school like an environment to ready them for formal schooling.
- May have more educational enrichment activities such as field trips and guest speakers.
Again, your child's age and specific needs will dictate whether a daycare centre is right for them. Some of the disadvantages may include:
Limited Individualised Care
Your child may not experience as much individualised care as you'd like.
Increased Likelihood of Illness
Germs are easily spread at child care centres, so you may find yourself having to take off work more to take care of your sick child.
High Employee Turnover
In some cases, the turnover rate for employment is high, and this can be hard on a child who gets attached to one teacher only to lose her in the middle of the year.
Some more disadvantages of centre-based child care are:
- Less one-on-one time with caregivers
- May be exposed to more illnesses/sick more often
- Some are more expensive than home-based centres
- Less flexibility with hours of operation
As you can see, there are many factors to consider before you place your child in a daycare situation.
Remember, however, that if you place your child in a situation that isn't working, try something else. Above all, have patience. The first few weeks will be an adjustment period for everyone involved.
The most important thing is that you choose a quality child care alternative.
With either option, it's best to choose a licensed care facility with low teacher to student ratios that provide a positive/educational environment. The choice is yours.
What's Best for Your Child?
Selecting quality child care is crucial to your child's future. Studies have shown that the positive and negative effects of child care have proven to be long lasting.
Infants and toddlers in poor-quality care are more likely to become less compliant and self-regulated preschoolers. In contrast, high-quality child care programs help children do better in kindergarten and beyond.
Family child care providers and child care centres can offer poor and high-quality child care, and each type of care has its advantages and disadvantages.
Since every family is different, you must decide which type of care is best for your child.
Regardless of whether you go with a home daycare or a child care centre, look for a high-quality program that is licensed, has low teacher-to-child ratios, offers a developmentally appropriate curriculum, and has trained and experienced caregivers who will be invested in your child.
- Attending a childcare facility often results in illness. ...
- There's less individual attention.
- Waiting lists are common.
- Childcare programs can be costly.
- Childcare facilities often face high staff turnover, which can make it difficult for children to form healthy attachments.
- Kids Receive Care in a Home Setting. ...
- Child-Provider Ratios Are Small. ...
- Family Providers Are Often Close and Convenient. ...
- Infant Care Feels Right at Home. ...
- Training and Experience Are Typically Good. ...
- Child Turnover Is Low.
A home daycare can be a great business opportunity for aspiring entrepreneurs who love children. When operating out of your home, the startup costs and risks are low when compared to other businesses, while the opportunity for monetary and emotional rewards are high.