All working parents want the best childcare possible for their little ones. Not only does childcare keep them safe and well cared for, but it can also prepare them for success in the future.
“The evidence is clear — children who participate in high-quality programs during their early years demonstrate lasting effects on IQ, boosted academic and economic achievement, and lower incidences of childhood obesity and chronic illness,” according to childcareaware.org.
However, with childcare options ranging from daycares to nannies and wide ranges in flexibility and cost, it can be difficult to know which option will work best for your family. Each form of daycare presents its own advantages and disadvantages. Here’s an overview of what you can expect from the different options.
One of the most commonly used forms of childcare is a daycare center, either operated out of a person’s home or in a dedicated facility. Daycares have set hours, usually Monday through Friday during work hours, and are known for having stability, being open year-round and operating under state guidelines that ensure the daycare providers follow health and safety protocols.
To be licensed, daycare centers must also follow guidelines for staff-to-child ratios. The National Association for the Education of Young Children recommends a ratio of 1:3 or 4 (depending on class size) for staff to infants and toddlers, about 1:5 for 2-year-olds, and no more than 1:10 for older classes. Children may receive less one-on-one time in large centers than they would in small daycares or with an in-home caregiver. Children in daycare also tend to get sick more often.
The cost of daycare centers varies, but plan on at least $8 per hour per child.
For families that don’t need full-day care, there are part-day programs that offer childcare services. For example, some schools have before- and after-school childcare programs that cater to parents who need only a few hours of childcare per day. Certain daycare centers will allow parents to choose a part-time program for half-days or certain days of the week.
During vacations and school holidays, gymnastics centers, children’s museums and sports programs may offer special activity-based childcare. Cost varies depending on the location and the number of hours of childcare per week.
Family member or neighbor
When good friends or family members live close to each other, parents may be able to work out a plan to have inexpensive or free childcare. Children benefit from having a childcare provider who knows them and their families personally, and they may be watched in their own home or somewhere nearby. There is also flexibility in the hours of childcare, and it may include overnight care.
Stability is sometimes an issue, however, when caregivers get sick, have appointments or need to go out of town. There may also be less structure and fewer educational opportunities than in traditional childcare.
Au pairs are international exchange students who act as in-home caregivers to families around the globe. Through this cultural exchange program, parents gain access to reliable, live-in childcare with flexible hours and the chance to experience elements of a new culture.
Au pairs at Go Au Pair, for example, are young adults 18 to 26 who must complete a 32-hour childcare training course and pass a criminal background check, a psychometric test and a physician’s evaluation to participate in the program. You can pair with someone from one of 16 countries worldwide or someone from within the United States. Each au pair is chosen to specifically meet the needs of your family.
You have the flexibility to choose the hours an au pair works, up to 45 hours per week and 10 hours per day. On average, the cost of an au pair comes out to $7.98 per hour per family, not per child, making au pairs an affordable choice for working families and less expensive than traditional nannying services.
For more information, visit goaupair.com, where you can register online for free to view au pair profiles.