What Are the Different Types of Child Care?

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    Several child care settings are available to you. You'll be better prepared to observe and select the child care provider and learning environment that best meet the needs of your child and family if you are familiar with the care settings available.

    According to their provincial legislation and regulations, every province and territory is responsible for monitoring and licensing regulated child care services. Regulated child care services include centre-based full-day child care, regulated family child care, school-aged child care, and nursery schools and preschools in most provinces. However, with regulated spaces for only 24.9% of children aged 0-12 years old in Australia, it is assumed that the majority of child care is provided through unregulated arrangements, either in the caregiver's home (unregulated family child care) or in the child's home (usually a nanny or a babysitter).

    In addition, kindergarten, provided through the public school system in every province and territory, may also serve as one part of working parents' child care arrangements.

    In most provinces/territories, child care services in some form, either regulated or unregulated, are available for children whose parents work non-standard hours. Non-standard hours child care services vary significantly across Australia and may refer to but are not limited to extended hour child care, late-night/ overnight care, weekend child care, or on-call child care. In two of the territories (Nunavut and the Northwest Territories), there are no non-standard hours for child care.

    Different Types Of Child Care

    Here's a look at 8 of the most common types of child care. 

    Traditional daycare centre

    Most daycare centres provide child care during standard work hours.

    Many provide half-day or full daycare for children and sometimes provide meals and field trips. Daycare centres often charge families monthly instead of hourly, and they provide a structured routine with large groups of kids. Daycare centres are businesses typically located in stand-alone buildings but sometimes in religious institutions, schools, or community centres.

    In-home daycare

    Licensed in-home daycare centres often provide child care in a home setting with fewer children than in traditional daycare centres. As a result, costs may be less for in-home daycares, as well. In addition, licensed in-home daycare centres are typically required to provide age-appropriate activities, meet safety standards, and provide caretakers with child care training. 


    Nannies provide individual in-home care for families. They often commit to full-time hours and are employees of the family they work with. Typically, nannies charge per hour, with an agreed-upon schedule of hours determined in advance. Nannies allow for flexible and individualized care but sometimes cost more than other child care options. 

    Shared nanny

    A shared nanny is similar to a traditional nanny, but instead of providing child care services to one family, a shared nanny will provide child care services to two families at one time. To alleviate costs, families can choose to hire one nanny to care for all of their children simultaneously.

    This is often done in one of the families' homes and provides children with social interaction and lower costs than a dedicated nanny.

    Au pair

    Au pairs are foreign caregivers who live with the families for whom they provide child care. Parents provide au pairs with room and board and a stipend, and, in return, au pairs provide families with child care. Thus, au pairs allow families to have the flexibility of live-in child care and provide children with consistent caretakers who often become like members of the families they serve.


    A babysitter provides hourly care for children. In addition, they often are part-time caregivers and provide care on an as-needed basis.

    Relative care

    Relatives or friends sometimes take on the child care responsibilities while parents work. Children can benefit from regular care from known and trusted people, and relatives and friends typically can provide flexible care. Payment varies depending on situations and relationships.


    Children who are 2-5 years old may attend preschool. Preschools are similar to daycare centres and provide age-appropriate learning environments for children. They typically charge monthly, allowing kids to spend time with other preschoolers and learn in semi-structured environments. Many preschools offer full-day care on weekdays.

    Parents have many choices when it comes to types of child care. However, cost, location, and flexibility tend to be the biggest factors for parents deciding which child care options are best for their families.

    How to Choose the Best Day Care


    If the thought of leaving your baby with someone else all day, every workday, makes you want to never leave your baby at all, you're not alone. It's a big decision, especially if this is your first baby.

    But if you're planning to go back to your 9-to-5, you're in good company: According to some estimates, more than 70 per cent of all primary caregivers work outside the home. And that also means there are plenty of excellent child care options, from nannies to babysitters and more.

    One of your best options is a daycare, either through a group centre or home daycare. Many centres offer exceptional care with licensed, trained caregivers in an environment where your little one will get valuable socialization with other kids her age.

    Here's what you need to know about daycare, from the benefits and downsides to questions to ask potential providers and what to look for when you visit a daycare facility.

    • Do your research. Get recommendations from other parents (at work and among friends) and your pediatrician. If you don't know other parents, consider asking those you meet in your OB-GYN or pediatrician's waiting room, the playground or a mommy-and-me class. You can also check online resources for childcare referral services or with the state regulatory agency.
    • Interview centres. Screen centres and in-home daycare providers over the phone (see questions below). If the centre's hours are inconvenient or the staff isn't forthcoming, scratch it off the list of places to visit.
    • Check the centre out in person. Once you've narrowed down your choices, visit in person and see if it checks off all the basics (again, see below). Then trust your gut: If something doesn't seem right to you, it probably isn't right for your baby, either.
    • Check references. Take the time to call former and current clients to find out how happy they and their kids are with their experience. As tempting as relying on the glowing letters of recommendation that providers may supply, don't. Letters are easily edited (or even forged).
    • Drop by unannounced. Before you make your final choice, consider stopping by unexpectedly on another day to get a truer picture of what the group daycare centre is like when the staff hasn't been prepped. If the centre doesn't allow unscheduled visits of any kind, you may want to cross it off your list.
    • Ask about their accreditation. For group daycare centres, those accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) meet even higher standards, including a good ratio of adults to babies; low turnover in caregivers; and a philosophy that promotes the health, safety and development of kids in its care. If it's accredited by the National Association for Family Child Care, the provider has met higher standards for in-home daycare.

    Types of daycare facilities

    Daycare is a facility where parents drop children off, usually for a full day, with other kids of varying ages. You have a couple of options:

    • Group daycare: These facilities are state-licensed and are usually run similarly to a school, with kids of varying ages cared for in groups. Some of these are run by employers themselves.
    • In-home daycare: This child care is run out of the provider's home, often as she cares for her children at the same time. Not all states require in-home daycare providers to be licensed, so make sure you know about the regulatory requirements before sending your child (or while researching your options).

    Benefits Of Day Care

    A good daycare program can offer some significant advantages:

    • Continuous care: Most child care centres offer care from the early months of infancy through toddlerhood and sometimes even beyond.
    • Education: A well-organized program is geared to your tot's development and growth.
    • Socialization: Your baby will get lots of face time with other little ones.
    • Cost: If you're planning to go back to work and need someone to watch after your child while you're away, daycare tends to be less expensive than hiring a nanny (although a nanny may be more cost-effective if you have multiple children).
    • Reliability: Most centres stay open for about 12 hours to support a variety of parent schedules.
    • Specific to group daycare: Staff is trained and licensed. And because there's more than one caregiver, there's always a sub.
    • Specific to home daycare: There are fewer children than you'd find at a group daycare centre — which may mean more personal attention and less exposure to illness.

    Downsides To Day Care

    There are some drawbacks to putting your baby in daycare, including:

    • Cost: While daycare centres are less expensive than private child care, it's still pricey unless subsidized by the government or your company.
    • Exposure to illnesses: Because they're exposed to more kids, babies may get sick more often than those in another child care setting — though that is just a precursor of what's to come in preschool. Early germ exposure may toughen up a baby's immune system (which may mean fewer colds and infections later in childhood).
    • Specific to group daycare: There may be less flexibility in scheduling than in a more informal setting. The centre may be closed on holidays when you're working if it follows a public school calendar.
    • Specific to home daycare: Some providers (like those run by religious organizations) are unlicensed and don't need to have childcare training — which means they aren't regularly inspected for quality and may not have to abide by group size child-to-caregiver ratios, activities and materials. And if the infant-caregiver (or one of her kids) is sick, there's usually no backup caregiver at the ready, so you'll need an on-call sitter (or a very understanding boss).

    8 Tips for Choosing Child Care


    Whether you choose a formal childcare centre, family daycare, or in-home care, there are some basic things you should know and insist upon. To help you make this all-important decision, we've talked to mothers and other experts who have been in the childcare trenches.

    Here are eight ways to size up a childcare option.

    Look down

    When you're visiting a potential site, pay attention to how the staff interacts with the children. Ideally, a caregiver should be on the floor playing with the kids or holding one on her lap. However, babies need close, loving, interactive relationships with adults in their early years to thrive.

    That's why it's especially important that babies' first caregivers be warm and responsive and that even in group care, infants and older babies get a healthy dose of one-on-one time. (Though individual states set their staffing ratios for childcare facilities, the American Academy of Pediatrics specifically recommends a ratio of one adult for every three babies up to 12 months of age.)

    Ask for a commitment

    Babies need consistent, predictable care. It helps them to form a secure attachment to their caregivers, according to Debra K. Shutoff, a family therapist in private practice in St. Louis. If you're looking at an in-home caregiver, request that the person you're considering make a one-year commitment to the job.

    If you're considering a centre, find out how long the current caregivers have been working there and how much turnover the centre usually experiences.

    Do a policy check

    Find out whether you share parenting philosophies on topics such as discipline (Do the caregivers use time-outs, scoldings?); television (Is the TV on all day or used sparingly, if at all?); feeding (What snacks or drinks are provided for older babies?); sleeping (When are naps offered? How are fussy babies put to sleep?); and so forth. Inquire about the sick-child policy (What symptoms prevent a child from attending?).

    Also, ask whether there's a backup plan should the family daycare provider or in-home caregiver get sick and be unable to work. The more questions you ask early on, the less likely you are to be unpleasantly surprised later.

    Drop by and spy

    While word-of-mouth referrals from other parents or trusted resources are important, you need to look at a place for yourself to assess whether it meets your needs. Of course, any childcare environment should be kept clean, childproofed, and well stocked with sturdy books and age-appropriate toys. Other details to consider: When older children share the space, toys with small parts (choking hazards) should be kept away from younger babies.

    Ideally, infants and babies should have their area where older toddlers won't get "loved" too much. A room or separate area dedicated solely to swings and bouncers may look appealing at first glance, but keep in mind that growing babies need plenty of floor time to develop and strengthen their muscles.

    If possible, try to visit the same centres at different times to get a sense of how the staff interacts with the children and what the routine is. In addition, you may want to consider popping in unannounced a few times after you've enrolled your child, just to see how things are going.

    Sometimes your visits will confirm that the place is right for you, but sometimes they'll be a real eye-opener.

    Keep talking

    Until your baby can talk, you will be relying on what the caregiver tells you about your child's day. Make sure you can communicate comfortably with each other. For example, when you first hand off your child in the morning, you should tell the caregiver how your little one slept the night before, if he is teething, and whether he ate breakfast. You'll want to know similar information, such as the number of diapers he went through when he napped and if he seemed happy overall.

    It's always preferable to speak to the caregiver in person. If that's not possible, ask if there's a convenient time to phone, perhaps at nap time.

    Problem-solve pronto

    You'll inevitably experience conflicts with your caregiver, both large and small. Address problems right away rather than ignoring them until they grow out of proportion. Some issues can be resolved quickly; others may require more discussion. Whatever the conflict, respectfully treat the caregiver, but don't be afraid to speak up, says Deborah Borchers, MD, a pediatrician in private practice in Cincinnati.

    When broaching a difficult subject, ask the caregiver's opinion, and hear her out. As the parent, you have the final word with an in-home caregiver, but you're more likely to elicit cooperation if the caregiver knows she has been heard.

    For example, instead of demanding an earlier nap time to make bedtime easier, ask the caregiver if she has ideas about how to adjust your baby's schedule so he won't grow so overtired in the evening.

    Trust your gut

    Every parent knows when something doesn't feel quite right. You may be turned off by a centre everyone in town raves about or clash with a highly recommended sitter. If that happens, keep searching. Babies deserve and thrive under good, nurturing care. On the other hand, investigate other options if something just doesn't feel right about your situation.

    Be open to change

    You're not married to a particular person or situation, and if things don't work out, you can always make a switch. So yes, you want consistency for your baby, but that doesn't mean you can't alter arrangements. Babies are resilient; as long as they're having a positive experience with their new caregiver, they'll be just fine, points out Dr Shatoff.

    No matter what your work hours, you are still your child's essential caregiver—the most consistent source of love and support in her life. Under your care and guidance, along with the help of your well-chosen caregivers, your baby will flourish and grow into a happy, healthy child.

    Types of Child Care
    • Family Child Care Homes. In family child care homes, providers care for small groups of children in a residential building. ...
    • Child Care Centers. ...
    • Preschool Programs. ...
    • School-Age Programs. ...
    • Family, Friend, and Neighbor Care.

    6 Types of Child Care Programs. Child care, daycare, preschool, preK, in-home, center-based, Montessori, Reggio, play-based, nanny-share, micro-school…. how's a person to decide what type of child care program or child care provider is best?!

    Family care
    Family care remains the most common type of child-care arrangement across all marital and employment statuses. Three-quarters of full-time employed mothers (75.2 percent) utilize some form of family care at least part of the time, compared to 86.3 percent of part-time employed mothers.
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