How to Pick the Perfect Childcare for Your Little One

Reader Contribution by Jennifer Landis

Having a child costs quite the pretty penny, and the hospital bills soon pale in new parent’s minds compared to the daunting cost of providing daycare for their tyke. Child care easily eats up nearly a full third of the monthly expense budget for many Americans.

Child care concerns extend beyond the hefty price tag. Parents must consider factors such as caretaker qualifications, facility location and proximity to the workplace, facility amenities and of course the caretaker’s or facility’s safety record. Selecting the correct childcare option helps make your baby’s formative years a dream, not a nightmare.

Hire a Nanny — Or Share One

While hiring a nanny costs the most of any childcare option, for parents with multiple children or for parents of children with special needs, hiring a nanny solves many difficult childcare issues. As with any of the options, whether or not to hire a nanny depends on several factors and has benefits and pitfalls alike.

Parents of children with special needs, particularly parents of children with compromised immune systems, may select a nanny’s care in order to minimize the possibility of the child contracting an infection. In addition, parents of children with behavioral issues may find hiring a nanny with education and training in dealing with emotionally delicate children preferable to risking meltdowns at the daycare center.

In addition, parents with variable work schedules appreciate the flexibility hiring a nanny has for their busy calendar. While commercial daycare and in-home daycare centers often have strict pick up times, requiring parents to interrupt a long work day to pick up their child, a simple phone call to the nanny allows parents to work late without worry.

The expense of hiring a nanny remains the biggest drawback for many parents, as quality nannies cost families up to $4,000 per month, more than many families’ housing payment. If new parents have a neighborhood friend who likewise requires childcare, they may consider a nanny-share arrangement where the children spend time at each other’s homes under the same nanny’s care, splitting the cost in half. Sharing a nanny helps alleviate the lack of social interaction children experience when not normally exposed to a group setting such as that found in daycare centers.

Finally, parents take full responsibility for selecting which nanny to hire. Parents with safety concerns do well to listen to their intuition when selecting a care provider. If something feels off about a potential nanny, trust your gut and move on. It’s far safer than taking a risk and discovering abuse on your nanny cam later.

Consider an Au Pair

Another option parents of children desirous of more one-on-one style care involves hiring an au pair. Most au pairs historically consist of young, unmarried women seeking to further their education and master a new language while residing with a host family for whom she exchanges child care services for food, lodging and a small weekly stipend for personal expenses.

Advantages of hiring an au pair extend far beyond the one-on-one care she provides to your child or children. Because au pairs reside with their host families, parents can leverage a spare bedroom sitting unused to access childcare on the cheap. As au pairs share the residence with the host families, many provide house-cleaning assistance in addition to child care.

Furthermore, hosting an au pair exposes parents and children alike to a new culture and new ideas. Most au pairs come from European countries, and as the host family is expected to help their au pair master language skills, engaging conversations build awareness of the diversity of our world.

Drawbacks to hiring an au pair include limited socialization with other children their age, which good au pairs can correct by involving children in social activities and play dates. Parents should always take care to evaluate the quality of the au pair service they select to ensure their child’s safety.

Commercial Daycare

Commercial daycare centers must comply with all federal and state regulations and often offer staff specially trained in early childhood education. As such, many commercial daycare centers offer more than simply keeping kiddos safe. They also offer a wealth of educational activities that put your child on the fast track when it comes to preparing for kindergarten and grade school.

Most commercial centers do cost more than in-home or employer-based childcare services due to the fact that trained staff members demand higher salaries and maintaining licensing means conforming to all state regulations. In addition, because your child will interact with numerous other kids throughout the day, they’re more likely to catch the latest bug going around. Finally, while some commercial daycares do offer extended evening hours, parents with alternative work schedules may find it tough to meet the pick-up deadline, often resulting in additional charges.

Keep It Homey

As opposed to commercial facilities, in-home daycare services take place in an individual provider’s home. Some in-home daycare centers do hire trained professionals, whereas others employ family members to ensure that someone always remains available to watch the children should illness or unforeseen circumstances strike.

The biggest advantages of in-home daycare include price and familiarity. Most in-home daycare centers cost significantly less than commercial centers. In addition, many parents select in-home daycare services from neighbors they know well personally or who have helped other families they know. While this alone doesn’t guarantee child safety, many parents find it eases their worries quite a bit.

Disadvantages of in-home daycare include the hours available at the facility. As in-home providers live where they work, pick-up hours tend to be stricter so that the provider can spend time with their own families. In addition, many in-home providers have strict illness policies, meaning parents must still miss work when their child gets sick.

It Takes a Village

Finally, new parents with family members nearby may find the best care begins with grandma and grandpa. The advantages of hiring a family member include minimal child safety concerns and low to no cost care. The only disadvantages include lack of socialization opportunities, which caretakers can address by forming play dates, and the need for parents to stay home should their family member fall ill.

Your child forms many of their impressions of the world in their earliest years, and as such, selecting the correct care provider helps your child build positive relationships later in life. Selecting the right daycare provider helps set a foundation for your child’s future success. Choose wisely.

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