What is the difference between daycare and family daycare?

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    It's finally that time to make a decision - to send or not to send your child to childcare. This decision can be quite confusing and overwhelming, as choosing a learning facility that will be most beneficial for your child is a big deal! Every child has different requirements, and it is essential to observe your child's needs and select a learning centre that will help them learn, develop and grow to their full potential.

    But one question remains - what is the difference between childcare, family daycare, and long daycare?

    Childcare is easiest to define. It is the umbrella term used to describe early childhood education and care. 

    Both early learning long daycare and family daycare centres provide childcare, the foundation for children to develop educationally and socially in a safe and nurturing environment. 

    In saying that, both these methods offer different programs and learning styles. So how do you know which one to choose? 

    We can't sit here and tell you that one is better than the other because it is subjective to the needs of yourself, your family and your child. Knowing the difference between long daycare, family care, and childcare can often confuse parents on the lookout for the perfect early learning centre. Knowing the appropriate terms related to your child's learning experience is essential to understand this best.

    Knowing the difference between family daycare and long daycare There are a variety of terms relative to long daycare, including:

    • Childcare
    • Early learning
    • Daycare
    • Preschool
    • These all have identical meanings and can be defined as centre-based childcare services provided by professional staff.

    These particular early learning environments provide licensed care for children aged from 6 weeks to 6 years and can be open from 6:30 am to as late as 6:30 pm. Families are also given the option of full-time care from Monday to Friday or part-time care where they can choose specific days throughout the week.

    Most long day care centres offer children a variety of resources, materials and support. These include snacks, meals, nappies and sunscreen. These government-approved centres also sometimes offer kindergarten and preschool programs usually run by qualified early childhood educators, helping pave the way for your child's schooling life. Why do parents choose long daycare centres? This is a popular option for parents as they are confident their child will receive an enhanced learning experience. Daycare centres mimic classrooms' ideas and help better transition children to the next phase of their lives. Long day care centres consist of qualified educators who care for children grouped by different ages. They allow for more children in comparison to family daycare, providing children with a highly social environment.

    What do children learn at long daycare? Many long daycare services offer children high-quality stimulating environments where they can learn, develop and grow. These centres provide age-appropriate activities, equipment and toys, tailoring each child's needs and development phase. If you consider long daycare for your child, it may be beneficial to hop on a waiting list so you are not disappointed when it comes time for your child to attend.

    Family daycare


    Family daycare is when your child is looked after by an approved educator in the educator's home. Family daycare has some advantages and benefits. 

    Flexibility and cheaper costs

    Family daycare tends to be more flexible and cheaper than centre-based care.

    A more relaxed environment

    Because family daycare centres operate from a home environment, care is usually more relaxed. As a result, there is more freedom when it comes to schedules and programs.

    More personalised care

    The approach is more individualistic. We try to communicate with the parents their goals for their child and what they want us to achieve. Like, for instance, the child does not know how to read yet or does not know ABC, we could focus on that.

    Siblings can stay in the same room.

    Unlike in childcare centres, siblings are not separated by age group. As a result, they can be with each other throughout the day.

    Less exposure to illnesses

    Because there are fewer children enrolled in a family daycare centre than a childcare centre, they are less exposed to illnesses.

    Other benefits are:

    • is a home-based environment
    • offers a learning and development program and opportunities for children to play and socialise with other children
    • might be a quieter environment, which some children prefer
    • can be flexible – for example, if you need care for part of the day.

    Family daycare vs long daycare, how are they similar?

    • Family daycare provides early childhood education and care services for children across Australia.
    • These centres operate under the same National Quality Framework as other forms of childcare, following the National Regulation, National Quality Standards and other educational frameworks.
    • Parents are also entitled to the Child Care Subsidy.

    Why should I choose a family daycare?

    • At family daycare, children's education is tailored, and an individual educator provides care.
    • Small groups and one on one attention
    • Educators work with an approved service.
    • Family daycare vs long daycare: the difference
    • "Caring and supportive environments that promote optimal early childhood development greatly increase children's chances of a successful transition to school." Australian Early Development Census

    Family daycare

    • Nurturing, caring, and flexible home learning environment.
    • Allows children to form genuine, long-lasting bonds with educators
    • An individualised and tailor-made learning approach
    • It can be more affordable in comparison to other options.
    • Freedom in learning with a more relaxed curriculum

    Long daycare

    • Multiple childcare providers. Parents are not left without a solution if educators are sick. Long day care runs regardless.
    • Sometimes educators within long daycare centres have a stronger education and more experience.
    • Age-appropriate curriculums as children are placed in age-based classrooms, learning activities, play and other activities.
    • Provides children with a regular schedule and a full agenda of activities
    • Long daycare centres are fully insured and licenced and must meet standards for cleanliness and safety and comply with building codes.

    Benefits to enrolling your child in a Long daycare, such as:

    • More socialisation and independence
      • Long daycare provides children more opportunities to socialise and assert independence simply because they have more peers around.
    • More structure
      • Childcare centres provide a more structured environment, wherein indoor play, outdoor play, naps, nappy changes, eating and feeding are in place, scheduled and recorded. Rather than being adapted to the personal preferences of each child, menus are based on nutrition and allergies.
      • Also, it should be noted that while some family daycare centres do not provide food and nappies, these are included in childcare centre fees.
    • Detailed record-keeping
      • Childcare centres are supposed to keep detailed records of children. Reports on accidents and illnesses should always be noted and kept until a child is 25 years of age, as these will still be referred to when a child becomes an adult.
    • Access to kinder programs
      • Family daycare centres do not provide kindergarten and preschool programs. On the other hand, some childcare centres employ educators who are qualified to teach these.
    • More outdoor play
      • Childcare centres will typically have more outdoor space than family daycare centres. The bigger the outdoor space, the more outdoor play children can engage in.
      • Outdoor play is emphasised and embedded in the program of childcare centres – no matter the weather.
    • Better preparedness for school
      • Ms Panteria believes that a child can become more school-ready when they are enrolled in a childcare centre.

    The difference between Home-based and Center-based Daycare

    Home-Based Daycare

    By definition, home-based daycare is a small childcare business operated inside someone's home.


    • Lower Costs: Surprisingly, home-based daycare centres are normally cheaper than centre-based facilities. Based on a National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (NACCRRA) study, Americans spend more on centre-based daycare than on home-based childcare in most states.1
    • Smaller Class Sizes: At-home daycares typically have one to three caregivers for three to twelve kids. This allows kids to get more bonding time with their caregivers and grow in a nurturing environment with more personalised attention.
    • Home-Like Atmosphere: Smaller class sizes and the facility in someone's home could make home-based daycares feel more familiar to your kids. If you have shy children, this can help them come out of their shells faster.
    • Flexibility: Home-based daycares aren't necessarily nine-to-five businesses. Since they're smaller, home-based daycare owners may be able to accommodate a trickier schedule for parents who work late shifts or long hours.
    • Fewer Germs: Fewer kids means fewer germs. When kids are little, they pick up everything—and end up getting sick constantly. While this process is important in building a strong immune system, it makes for unhappy kids and parents. Limit your child's or baby's exposure to a mecca of germs by sending them to a home-based daycare.


    • Mixed Ages: Smaller daycare facilities will most likely not have enough separate spaces to separate newborns and toddlers. On the upside, it will teach children to be aware of each other.
    • No Back-Up Plan: If your home-based daycare owner gets sick or goes on vacation, you might lose childcare for that day or week. This can be catastrophic for working parents who can't stay home with kids.

    Centre-Based Daycare


    Centre-based daycare facilities are in commercial buildings. These businesses are usually much larger than home-based daycare centres and can therefore take in more kids.


    • Greater Peer Interaction: The larger class sizes of centre-based daycare facilities can be a good thing. Your child will be able to play with lots of kids their age. This will help with sharing, conscientiousness, learning from others, and making friends.
    • Lots of Staff: You know when you're about to head out the door, and the babysitter cancels? Well, you won't need to worry about being flaked on with a bigger childcare facility. These businesses have lots of caretakers, so there's always someone there during business hours. This consistency is something working parents count on.
    • Regulation: More kids means more organisation. Centre-based daycares are open and close at strict hours. They also normally regulate children's schedules with mealtime, naptime, playtime, and more. These kinds of schedules can help your children learn organisation.
    • is reliable
    • has qualified early childhood teachers
    • offers a learning and development program with structure and routine
    • It gives children a lot of opportunities to play and socialise with many other children.


    • Strict Hours: While regimens can be good in some ways, they're not in others. If you're running late at the office or stuck in traffic, you may have to pay a fee for picking kids up late. Centre-based daycares don't revolve around you—you revolve around them.
    • Higher Costs: Center-based daycares are typically much more expensive per month than home-based daycare facilities. The overhead on these businesses is more costly since the owners need to rent space, pay salaries, and buy insurance for many employees and children—and you end up paying more as a result.

    Which type of child care is right for you?

    When you're trying to decide what type of child care is right for your family, you might want to consider the following questions:

    • How many hours of child care do you need each week?
    • What are the child care options in your area, and how much do they cost?
    • Do you want your child cared for in a home or at a child care centre?
    • Are you looking for child care that matches your family's interests or values – for example, food choices, musical interests and so on?
    • Do you want your child to experience different styles of care and mix with children from a wide range of social and family backgrounds?
    • Are you looking for child care that's similar to care at home?
    • What are the quality ratings of the options you're interested in? You can check the quality ratings of child care services at Starting Blocks.

    Which Should I Choose?

    You want the absolute best for your child, so when it comes to daycare, which model of care is the best match? This article will compare the two most common types of daycare in Australia: centre-based care and family daycare.

    We'll look at:

    • The shared features of family daycare and daycare centres
    • The major distinction between the two types of care
    • Some of the key points of differences between family daycare and centre-based care

    What do Centre-based Care and Family Day Care have in Common?

    Most providers of both types of care are government-approved, meaning; if you are entitled to the early child care subsidy, you should be able to access it using either service. This approval also means providers of both service types are committed to the same National Quality Framework standards administered by the federal government.

    What is the Distinction between Centre Care and Family Day Care?

    The stand out distinction is that centre-based care (also known as long daycare) operates from a centre, has numerous staff, and generally caters to many families. On the other hand, family daycare works out of private homes, with sometimes just one or a couple of staff members, and generally caters to a much smaller number of families.

    What are some of the Key Points of Difference?

    Every service provider is unique, so it's important to note that the differences we've explored below are general and do not necessarily apply to every service provider.

    • Centre-based care tends to provide more structure.
      • Daycare centres offer your child a positive and familiar daily routine. Specific programs and activities like naps, outdoor playtime and lunchtime are scheduled at set intervals throughout the day, so your child knows what to expect and when. The structured environment offered at daycare centres can make it easier for your child to transition to preschool and school.
    • Family daycare, in contrast, tends to be less structured and formal, with children undertaking more personalised activity schedules based on their parents' and educator's goals for them.
    • Each type of daycare has access advantages.
      • In a family daycare, providers often offer flexible hours, including evenings, weekends and overnight care. Daycare centres tend to provide more fixed hours, but the big advantage of daycare centres is that even if one educator is sick, the centre can find another staff member to fill in. This is often not the case with family daycare: if the educator/carer is unwell that day, families can be left scrambling for a last-minute provider.
    • Daycare centres can offer more programs.
      • Because daycare centres care for significantly larger children, they have appreciably larger budgets to work with. As a result, they tend to offer more programs and more extensive facilities like large outdoor play areas. At daycare centres, for instance, we provide a range of additional programs to complement normal daily activities, including a Japanese language program, a musical program, swimming lessons and yoga.

    Family daycare providers combine children of all ages – the big advantage of this is that siblings can spend time together throughout the day if they wish. This can often be beneficial for the younger sibling, reducing separation anxiety when they first start daycare. Daycare centres, in contrast, tend to group children based on age, which allows for age-appropriate activities and play to take place.

    • Daycare centres often also run kindergarten
      • Family daycare providers do not. Kindergarten at the same facility can benefit your child as they won't have to go through a difficult adjustment period, settling into a new environment when they switch from daycare to kindergarten.


    Whether you choose a family daycare provider or a daycare centre for your child, the important thing is that you and your child feel comfortable with the educators and the quality of the learning environment. It's worth exploring both options until you find the best daycare provider for you. Ultimately, deciding on the type of care you want for your child will depend on your needs and preferences.

    To make the best decision, always have a look-through of the centres you are considering, and ask educators questions regarding your child's care, the programs they offer, and the policies they have in place. And whichever type of daycare you choose, make sure you know what sort of baby proofing equipment they use. Check out our guides to baby gates and baby-proofing locks to get a feel for what types of devices your childcare centre—or your home—should have.

    While centre-based care is typically provided only to children from a few weeks to five years old, family day care provides care for children up to 12 years old. Ultimately, deciding on the type of care you want for your child will depend on your needs and your preferences.

    Family day care is where a child is educated in a small group in a family style atmosphere at an educator's home, seeing the same educator or educators each day. ... The educator's children must be counted in those seven children if they are under 13 years and not being cared for by another adult at the premises.

    Overall, the average child care cost for one child in 2020 was $612/week for a nanny (up from $565/week in 2019), $340/week for a child care or day care center (up from $182/week) and $300/week for a family care center (up from $177/week).

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