Choosing a day care or childcare provider for your precious child can be difficult. How do you know which is the right setting for your child?
You want a setting that will nurture your children and bring out the best in them. They should feel happy in their new setting and thrive in the stimulating environment. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as the perfect childcare provider; what your child needs will depend upon your child’s unique personality and needs.
Some children are confident in groups and thrive with stimulation, whereas others prefer to be with fewer children in a slow-paced childcare setting. Many families choose between daycare and childcare settings, but which is right for your child?
What is the difference between daycare or childcare?
In Australia, a daycare setting is a group environment in a specialist setting, where workers care for several children. Daycare providers usually offer long days to suit working parents; many children will attend full-time.
On the other hand, family childcare providers tend to care for a smaller number of children. A family childcare provider can look after up to seven children from birth to 12 years old. A family child care center is based in the educator’s own home and is considered a more home-like alternative to a large child care program.
Advantages of family day care
Family child care programs are popular because they offer a home-like environment and a small setting, which many children love. With family child care providers, your child will be in a small group of children. There might be additional children before and after school, as many family daycare services include school runs and wrap-around care for local families.
The benefits of family day care services include:
Many children enjoy the comfort and coziness provided by a family child care service. They feel more at home because they are in a home. There will usually be a room dedicated to family child care, providing a comfortable space filled with toys and activities.
A small group of up to seven children is preferable for some kids. If your children find large groups overwhelming, they might be happier in a family child care setting. However, many family child care educators spend time at local playgroups, so it’s worth asking how they’ll manage your child’s nervousness when out and about.
With just one adult to care for them, your child might find it easier to bond with the educator. Unlike a daycare setting with a high staff turnover, family day care services tend to be run by individuals who are passionate about early childhood education.
Family child care centers often offer more flexible hours to working parents. They may offer long days with more flexibility around pick-up times. A family day care provider will usually continue to operate during the school holidays and provide occasional weekend cover. It’s an excellent option for those needing flexible high-quality child care.
Caring for siblings
Unlike daycare, family child care centers can look after children aged up to 12 years. This means a family child care center can care for your toddler and collect your older children from school, allowing the siblings to spend time together even when you’re at work.
This is one of the significant benefits of a family child care center; it is usually an affordable option for quality child care.
Arguably one of the best benefits of a family care provider is that your child can stay there until aged 12. Children can start their school career and returning to the family care center’s familiar and safe environment. This creates a special bond between the family care early childhood educators and the children they look after.
Disadvantages of family day care
Family child care homes are not for everyone, however. There are some disadvantages to this style of child care center, including:
Holidays and sick days
If your child’s care is provided by just one early childhood educator, you can run into trouble when the provider gets sick or takes a holiday. While finding alternative childcare for a two-week holiday might be manageable, it’s more difficult when you’re let down at the last minute because your provider is ill.
While the small setting offers many benefits, it can also be difficult for parents who want to change their child’s days regularly. For example, this type of child care might not work for shift workers who need different days each week.
Not as varied
Realistically, a family child care provider will offer fewer activities and toys to play with than a big corporate daycare setting. Whether you see this as a plus or a minus is up to you. When choosing a family daycare setting, you should ask questions about how the children spend their days and what kind of activities and trips they’re taken on throughout the week.
What are the advantages of day care?
Daycare centers are popular because they offer high-quality child care in a specially-designed environment. Here are some of the benefits of daycare:
Your child will have access to plenty of toys and various activities in a large daycare setting. The staff ratios mean staff members are always available to facilitate activities and fun for the kids. The children will spend their days crafting, baking and generally making a mess.
Plenty of opportunities for socialization
Your child will be with many other children in a daycare setting. They will spend time in small groups but also do activities and free play in larger groups. As a result, your child will have lots of new friends to choose from each day.
Long opening hours
Daycare providers are open from early morning to around 6 pm, allowing commuters to drop off and collect their kids. If you work long days, it makes sense that you’ll need a childcare provider able to do the same.
You won’t be affected by staff illness
Thanks to the higher staff numbers, you won’t be affected by staff holidays or sick days. In addition, the daycare will be able to provide cover, using other staff members, so that absence won’t affect you or your child.
Encourages school readiness
The school-like environment offered by daycare helps to prepare children for starting school. They will get used to the routines and behaviors expected of them once they start school.
What are the disadvantages of day care?
Daycare centers tend to care for lots more children at once. As a result, some children will be overstimulated in a noisy group setting. In addition, if your child is unsure in crowded places, they might not like being in a big group at daycare.
Can be expensive
High-quality daycare providers can be expensive. Unfortunately, this cost can be prohibitive to some families, meaning they cannot send their children to the daycare they like the best.
Not as flexible
Daycare centers tend to offer set hours, for example, 8 am-6 pm, Monday to Friday. They do not open on weekends and will charge extra if you’re late to collect your child.
Family day care vs long day care
When choosing childcare for your child, it’s essential to consider various factors. First of all, price is important. You must stick to your budget. As well as this, you must consider the practicalities.
If you know your working pattern means you’d be better suited to a flexible care center, find a more flexible caregiver for your child. Be honest and upfront with the providers so they can tell you whether they’ll be able to provide the flexibility you need.
Next, consider the temperament of your children. Are they happiest in a large group or surrounded by other children? Or do they prefer one on one attention from a special adult?
Do they like spending time with mixed-age groups and multiple children? Would they prefer a family environment or a care center that mimics the school day?
Family day care or childcare center – which is best for my child?
Unfortunately, there is no right answer here. You know your child best in the world, so you can decide on the right care center. To choose the right setting, you must visit various childcare providers to get a feel for what to expect.
This might be more difficult in a family care setting with no dedicated office staff to woo prospective parents. Still, a visit on their quietest day will give you a good idea about the environment and the care they provide.
It’s important to check references and ask other parents for reviews. Also, ask questions about how long children stay in the care setting, as this will tell you a lot about the childcare providers. If children remain as long as possible, you know they are happy and thriving in the setting.
For more advice on choosing a childcare provider, look at 5 Important Things To Consider When Choosing Childcare.
Are you wondering what is the best age to start child care? Check out Start Childcare | What Is The Best Age?