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How to Choose a Daycare: An Overview of Different Child Care Options

One of the most important resources for working parents is safe, reliable childcare. There are many different kinds of childcare arrangements, so here is a quick guide to help you figure out the kind of care that suits your family’s needs.

Group Daycare

Group daycare consists of a group of children and caregivers together in a licensed, inspected daycare center. Children in group daycares have the opportunity to interact with more children and caregivers than those who stay at home or are cared for by a single caregiver, and group daycares are subject to strict regulations and regular inspections. Activities are structured and age-appropriate crafts and games are provided for the children. Due to the larger numbers of both staff and children, there may be a higher rate of colds and other communicable illnesses, and there may be a higher rate of staff turnover.

Family Daycare

Family care is usually provided by a stay-at-home parent who is already caring for his or her own preschool children and who takes in one or more children for some extra income. Depending on the number of children the daycare may or may not be required to have a license, and may or may not be inspected depending on the laws of your area. Family daycares are often smaller, with a more homey atmosphere and a lower child to caregiver ratio, although because there is only one caregiver your childcare may be cancelled if the caregiver gets sick. It is important to carefully check the regulations regarding licensing and child to caregiver ratios in your area to ensure your family daycare is safe and legal.

Nannies

A nanny is a caregiver who comes to your home to provide childcare. She may live with your family, or live elsewhere and come to your home when care is required, but she will provide one on one childcare in a unstructured and unsupervised environment. It is very important to carefully check a prospective nanny’s references and be sure they are trustworthy, although there are nanny-cam surveillance systems available for parents who want to keep a closer eye on the care given to their child.

Babysitters, Cooperative Childcare and Informal Care

Many families have childcare arrangements with other family members, such as local grandparents, for full-time, part-time or occasional childcare. Other childcare arrangements, such as a cooperative childcare swap between local parents, teenage babysitters and after-school care programs can fill a few hours each week when it is necessary to have childcare in place.

When deciding what kind of childcare is the best fit for your family, it is important to consider your child’s personality, your budget, the quality of the care and how convenient it will be for you to travel to your daycare provider each day. An outgoing child may be delighted to spend all day in a large group daycare setting, but a more quiet or sensitive child may be overwhelmed and need more one on one care. Whether you choose a family daycare, nanny or group daycare, the most important criteria is that it is a safe, supportive environment for your child.

Originally published on Suite101.com on February 4, 2008.

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