Child Care Center

Day care center vs. home child care

Though the decision to use a child care center can be a tough one for parents, the social experience can be a fun and rewarding one for children. This is why it is important to choose an atmosphere that works best for your child's personality and your family's needs. Before deciding where you would feel most comfortable having your child cared for while you work, you have to consider whether you would prefer for your child to attend a child care center in someone's home, or a formal day-care center.

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There are differences between a day care and in-home child care, but as a general rule, both options are safe, fun places where your child will get a lot of stimulation. Here's a basic rundown of each option.

Home Child Care Center

A caregiver who runs a child care center out of their home may or may not be properly licensed to do so, and may or may not be have an educational background in child care. However, his or her experience may speak volumes – for example, you might feel perfectly comfortable with an in-home caregiver who is not formally educated in child care but who is a trained nurse and mother of two. Additionally, an in-home center:

  • Offers your child a comfortable, familiar kind of place to learn and grow
  • May have a small number of other children for your child to play with
  • Usually has one caregiver for a number of children, but a smaller number of children can mean more one-on-one time with the caregiver
  • Can be less scheduled and more informal than an institutionalized child-care learning center, although some in-home child care closely follows a day-care model

Licensed Day Care Center

Day-care employees should have formal child-care-related educations. Often, this means your child will receive high-quality care, but unfortunately, this is not guaranteed just because a center is licensed and has bonded, educated child-care workers. As noted below, you must still do some legwork to be sure. However, some things you can expect from a day-care center are that it:

  • May be part of a larger organization or standardized child care franchise
  • May have a large number of children being cared for in addition to your child
  • Normally has three or more caregivers in one room
  • Offers a structured day, including outings, and requires your child to stick to a group schedule

Try to weigh your options well in advance: because of the long waiting lists for some places, many parents-to-be start researching child care centers long before their baby due date. Ensure that you visit each center or in-home day care to see the child care program in action, and check references carefully. Ask other parents what caregivers they have used and how they and their child liked the center or babysitter. Ask the child-care provider some specific questions. How do they deal with children who have serious allergies? Difficulties with potty training? Attention disorders? If your child has any special needs, you need to find out how the caregiver will accommodate them.

Even if you ask a lot of questions of your new child-care provider, you still might not be sure exactly what to expect – especially if this is the first time you've worked with one. Set a trial period; if your child doesn't seem happy after a few weeks, then the care option may not be right for him or her. Luckily, there are many different caregivers available. Find the right one for your family, and put your mind at ease.