Choosing a type of childcare service can be a difficult, yet extremely important decision for every family to make. Each family’s situation is unique. Today’s families have many different options when searching for great care. Before you begin the process of finding help with childcare, it is important to understand the options. Each type of childcare service serves different needs for their families and has its own unique set of advantages and disadvantages. Through researching and interviewing candidates, you will be able to find the right fit!
A nanny is a professional full-time childcare provider within the home. A nanny usually has a regular and set schedule and aids in the child’s development. The role of a nanny is to provide a safe and caring environment when the parent is not at home. The nanny is given set instructions by the parents regarding diet, nap times, discipline, potty training, and many other day-to-day duties. The nanny may also do light household tasks that are associated with the children. Nannies can be live-in or arrive daily. It is common for nannies to stay with families for a long period of time and through new additions to the family as they form strong connections with the family and children.
Individual Care—A nanny is generally responsible for one family. That is usually either a single child or two to three children. This ability to provide direct attention creates a more customized environment for each child.
Convenience—Nannies usually work in their family’s home limiting the need for busy parents to pack daily supplies, travel time to another location, and organize drop-off/pick-up schedules. They are also able to stay later or change their hours if a parent is running late or traveling.
Illness—Generally if your child is sick, a nanny can still watch them in the home, whereas many daycares will not allow a child with a fever and the parent usually has to return home with the child.
Relationships—Due to the individual care, children usually form close relationships with their nannies and are able to create bonds with them
Consistency—Unlike at a daycare where there are multiple teachers or childcare aids, there is only one person in charge as a nanny; schedules can remain the same with a nanny (i.e. naptime, feeding); consistency in who is in control or giving tasks will always be the same nanny. The in-home environment can also be controlled and remain constant.
Special Needs—Nannies are able to fulfill special needs and requirements children have such as physical or developmental needs, dietary restrictions, and many more.
Term—Nannies can stay with their families for one-year or many years, depending on needs.
Logistics or Extracurricular—Nannies are usually able to drive children to lessons, activities, doctors’ appointments, and other needed activities depending on the needs of the family and child(ren).
Cost—Nannies are among the most expensive forms of help with childcare, costing on average between $20k-$40k per year depending on experience and skills.
Sickness or Days Off—If a nanny is too ill to come to work, there are usually limited alternatives to take care of your children and parents may have to stay home.
Lack of Formal Training—Although many nannies are experienced in childcare and can help with childcare, there is no standard training or oversight as there is with daycare facilities.
2. Family Member
Family member childcare would involve a member of your family caring for your children while you are at work. The role of a family member in childcare would be extremely similar to a regular nanny and can occur in or out of the child’s home. Like a nanny, the family member would be responsible for the child’s well-being and development.
Cost—You should assume you will be paying your family member for taking care of your children, however, family member childcare is normally cheaper and sometimes only includes reimbursement of expenses such as food and diapers; if the family member does not require payment, be sure to show appreciation
Familiarity—There is already a bond between the child and the relative, therefore transitioning into having childcare instead of parents being home is an easier and more fluid task
Relationships—Due to the childcare being family and the assumption that this person will always be in your family, the bonds created between the child and the relative will be strong and reinforced whenever together outside of the normal babysitting times
Parenting Style—Conflicts could arise between what the family member believes is the right way to raise a child and what the parents wants; instructions could be disregarded by the close relative. A conflict resolution process should be discussed early on.
Its Personal—Maintaining a professional relationship could be difficult; its tough to fire family. Sometimes more allowance and understanding is needed when working with a family member than would be in a normal employee/employer relationship. Conflict can be taken more personally.
For more information, be sure to read: Should You Hire a Family Member for Child Care?, Pros and Cons of Using Family as Babysitters, and 5 Things to Consider When a Family Member is Your Nanny
3. Au Pair
An Au Pair is a live-in nanny who is a young adult from another country that is contracted to work as childcare for a family in exchange for living in a new country. Au Pairs are usually contracted for a 1 or 2-year term, after which they return home. An Au Pair’s job is to care for the children when parents are away or even when they are at home. Some common duties may include, cooking for the children, taking them to school, teaching them a different language and arranging play dates.
Flexibility—Since an Au Pair lives within the home, they are readily available and tasked with working an agreed upon schedule and are often more readily available to babysit and watch the kids after hours.
Cultural Education—Au Pairs can teach children different languages or about the country in which they are from.
Cost—Au Pairs are normally cheaper than nannies, from $15-$25k per year, however some additional fees may occur through using a placement service.
Living Arrangements—If you’re uncomfortable with someone living in your home, or do not have the living space. Au Pairs will also usually need a car or method of transportation in order to leave home with the children for errands or doctor’s appointments.
Cultural Differences—Having an Au Pair is a learning experience for both parties; cultural differences around childcare can be challenging if not discussed openly or if both parties are not open to learning about one another.
Short term – Au Pairs are only contracted for 1 to 2-year terms creating, requiring frequent transitions in childcare providers and shorter term bonds for the children.
4. Daycare Centers
Daycare is a group childcare system in which many children are cared for by a childcare professional or staff. Daycare facilities must adhere to local and state mandates around child:caretaker ratios, cleanliness, and other factors. Daycares usually have set activities throughout the day that include educational or developmental tasks for the children to participate in. Daycare can be used to help integrate children into a classroom or group setting while also being a resource for working parents.
Diversity in Kids and Ages—Daycares provide care for many families and children, which creates an environment where social skills can be obtained more easily. Daycare can also help with pre-integration into a school setting and how to interact with other kids, which can expose them to concepts like sharing and independence.
Accredited/Regulated—In order to work at a daycare, employees have to go through thorough training and become accredited by the state; daycares are regulated for safety and for cleanliness and have to pass multiple tests.
Educational—Most daycares have educational activities throughout the day; they work to prepare the child for pre-school or kindergarten.
Schedules—Daycares follow a strict regime each and every day; parents can continue to follow the regime at home.
Set hours—Daycares have set hours. There is extra costs incurred if parents are late to pick up and limited flexibility in hours.
Large Classrooms—Attention is less focused on specific children; child development could be slower as they are not getting individualized one-on-one attention.
Sickness and Accidents—Due to the vast number of children, sickness is more evident; if your child is sick they are not allowed to go into the childcare center. Also, due to the larger ratio of child:careprovider, accidents can occur more often.
Changing care providers – Daycare center staff usually cover children in shifts and may differ from day to day or week to week.
Environmental consistency – Daycare centers must control their classrooms and care based on current needs and the environment your child is in may change with growing and shrinking numbers of kids, different activities, and different relationships.
Co-parenting or also called joint parenting, is a partnership between two parents who do not live together to raise their child together. This could be among multiple sets of parents who work at different times and can share child-rearing responsibilities or it could result from a divorce. Co-parenting gives the child the ability to develop relationships across multiple parents.
Kids are sole focus of relationship—Co-parenting creates an atmosphere that is centered around the child. When a child is in the presence of each parent, the parent strives to make the time memorable and influential.
More time with each parent – co-parenting is usually a joint arrangement where childcare is shared among parents, creating dedicated time with parental relationships. In co-parenting, time away from parents is typically less than the standard 9-5 workday.
Parent relationship with each other—Co-parenting is extremely challenging. Decisions regarding the children have to be made in a calm and inclusive manner among all parties.
Ambiguity in rules—Being that the parenting is done separately, rules often change between the different households.
6. Nursery School
A nursery school is a type of childcare normally for children ages 3-5 years old that is focused on childhood education before children start kindergarten. The emphasis on learning allows children to become more curious and gain educational and developmental skills.
Educational—There is a large emphasis on education and teaching children at a young age.
Qualified Teachers—Most nursery schools have certified teachers and are regulated by local and state authorities on safety, cleanliness, and student:teacher ratios
Cost—Nursery schools tend to be more expensive as they are considered more along the line of private schools when compared to a pre-school or daycare center.
Hours—some nursery schools only operate in the mornings. Most are over by 3pm, requiring parents and families to seek supplemental childcare in addition to school.