How to know which childcare option is right for you

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As you will come to find out during your parenthood journey, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for most decisions you’ll make, and finding a childcare option is no different. Finding the right childcare for you and your little one requires a lot of consideration because every family situation and child is different.

To meet the unique needs of your child, you need to assess their daily routine (including naps), temperament, age, playtime preferences, and feeding schedule, which is a lot!

With so many options out there, you’ll also need to assess your schedule and commitments to determine how much childcare you need. Another factor to consider is the types of childcare available.

Some parents prefer a structured service with a curriculum and activities, while others prefer a home-based, relaxed childcare service. You’ll also want to think of safety, location, and the type of childcare practices you’d be comfortable with.

As you can imagine, this makes for a difficult yet well-thought-out decision. To help make your choice easier, we’ve put together this list describing the types of childcare options available. Read on to learn more.

Of course, we know that every family’s financial situation is different and that will be a big factor when making your decision. Since cost is such a unique and varying factor, we will not go into specifics in any of the options.

Preschools and daycares

Daycares and preschools are traditional and reliable childcare options that offer care and early education.

Both services employ trained staff and follow a structured approach to learning that aims at achieving cognitive, emotional, and social development.

Additionally, these traditional childcare services give children from varied backgrounds the opportunity to interact, which helps in enhancing their social skills and exposing them to diverse cultures.

Daycares and preschools are structured to include various educational activities to stimulate your little one’s creativity and curiosity. Furthermore, daycares and preschools are rigid with timings and cannot accommodate parents with irregular schedules.

Depending on where you live and when you need childcare to begin, you will need to find a school that accommodates the age of your child.

Nannies

Another traditional option, nanny services provide a one-on-one, personalized approach to childcare, are home-based (sometimes live-in), and offer flexibility for parents with unconventional schedules. Hiring a nanny will allow you more freedom to customize your childcare hours.

Oftentimes, nannies have child development training. Therefore, a nanny can provide undivided attention to your child or children and tailor activities that contribute to growth and development. Most nannies cook for the family and develop a close bond with the kids they care for.

Their pay rates would be higher than that of a babysitter; they may be paid hourly, weekly, or monthly. The flexibility associated with nanny services can help reduce the stress of drop-off and pick-up and allows for time management.

Mother’s helper

This one is probably a new term for many parents, however, it can be a very useful option for stay-at-home parents. A mother’s helper is someone who watches your child while you’re home. 

For stay-at-home parents, this option can be a great one because it frees up time for you to take some time for yourself, do chores, or work from home, while still being present and keeping an eye on your little one.

The helper can take care of feedings, changes, and nap time while you work. Most mother’s helpers are young adults starting as babysitters who need experience. Because you’re home when the helper is, their rates are usually lower than traditional nannies or babysitters. 

Babysitters

Unlike nannies who are hired long-term, babysitters are paid by the hour and may work during the day or night. They would take care of your child at your home or theirs while you head out for date night or a work event.

Most babysitters work part-time and provide basic care such as preparing meals, feeding your child, and bedtime. Pay rates vary depending on your location, the babysitter’s age, and the number of children you have.

Au pair

French for “equal to”, an au pair is usually a person from another country who provides live-in childcare and is considered a part of the family. Their duties are limited to childcare, and they don’t often engage in cooking or cleaning.

You would be expected to provide your au pair with room and board and a fair wage based on the minimum wage system in exchange for a set number of childcare hours. In the U.S., you can only hire an au pair through an approved agency regulated by the U.S. Department of State.

Family daycare

Cheaper than a traditional daycare center or preschool, a family daycare is when you seek childcare in someone else’s home. Family or home daycare centers are licensed but often look after fewer kids.

While states have different regulations, most require family daycares to provide activities that are age and developmentally appropriate for the children in their care. The carers must undergo training. Family daycare centers aren’t advertised as much, so most centers rely on word of mouth.

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