In Home Daycare versus Child Care Center/Institution
Pros and Cons of child care options and probably some things you'd not
By: Pauline Hackemann
When I started working full time, when my son was 6 months old and my
daughter 3. I had been at home before that juggling my successful art
career, when I got a tenure track Professor position. The nearby daycare
center seemed great. It was clean and they had a room for each age. It cost
about 5.50 per hour for babies and $4 for older kids. Coming form the East
coast these prices seamed very reasonable to my husband and I and after
having doctor’s records faxed to them, we registered our children. They have
a system whereby you sign your child in at the front desk and then out again
when you collect it.
We later on switched to an in home daycare for half the
week and below I have listed the pros and of in home versus institutional
daycare (i.e. a place with many many children, more than 50).
- Great staff, often well trained in child care and psychology. Ours
even had students form the local college stop by to help out.
- Variety of activities, such as singing (they will learn those
nursery rhymes you forgot the words to!), sensory play (tubs with sand,
pasta, rocks to feel and explore), emotional education (toddlers learn
about different feelings and what they mean), ABC’s and counting,
reading and little TV, drawing, painting, finger painting
- Your child will learn more and be better prepared for school – being
in a large room with 15 other kids makes the transition to Kindergarten
MUCH MUCH easier.
- Children get used to a variety of other adults at the daycare
center/pre-school. They are not scared and anxious when you leave them
- Children become more social and make many friends
- They learn good manners and practice good hygiene – hand washing
But even though our center seems very clean, I suppose with such a large
place, certain things cannot be avoided – organizational and cleanliness
are only two areas, but there are more.
- You are only charged for when your child is present, if you go on
vacation or your child is at home sick, you will not be charged for such
- Generally the daycare services are very reliable - nearly always
open and not reliant on the health of any one person to determine
whether they can take kids or not.
- They went outside daily for at least 2 hours in their own private
fenced in playground and then for a walk in the community (holding on to
a long rope), or were walked in strollers – a good emphasis on exercise
and fresh air.
- Possibility of junk/low quality/unfresh food – some daycare centers
hook into the public school system’s food, which in many American towns
is dire – chicken nuggets, canned spaghetti, cookies and chocolate milk
are possible – vegetable are often canned.
- GERMS!! Your child will most likely get one cold after another and
so will you – in our experience this was the tipping point. I never get
more than one cold a year, if that and as soon as they started daycare I
got one cold after the other leading to 4 doctor’s visits for chronic
sinusitis, ear infection, eye infection, it lasted 6 months until we
simply took them out of daycare into an in-home daycare (no sickness
- It takes a longer time to drop off your child before work – by the
time I have parked in the parking lot, walked in, signed the kids in,
walked to each room and taken off al their jackets and boots and am back
in my car, about 10 minutes have gone by.
- There is an excessive amount of paper work at ours – every day we
received abot 3 – 4 pieces of paper – some were cute with kids art –
others consisted of notices and rules, forms of some kind or other – and
when you’re busy your bag and car can quickly become a depository for
these. Not all daycare centers are like this (I hope) but ours seems
reluctant to e-mail and is very rigid. For example they get upset if you
do not label every single piece of clothing belonging to your child, or
if you have your child bring a toy, or if they forget their gloves in
the winter. Other times they have Pajama day or or “green shirt’ day and
we love this – but sometimes we forget and then its embarrassing.
- We had to also sign a release to allow them to put sunscreen on our
children and bring one tube of it in (labeled) for each child.
- Daycare centers may close on school snow days (but your work place
will be open!) or for example on December 23rd.
- Because of their size and to protect other kids, they have (good)
rigid rules about fevers and medicine. If your child has a fever, he
must go home and you MUST leave work to pick him/her up or have a
relative do so,
- Your child can’t go back for 24 ours after the fever has passed.
- They will not give a child Tylenol or any other medicine for
- They may find it hard to accommodate you bringing food for your
child – for example gluten free food or simply fresh veggies to eat or
organic milk or soy milk.
IN HOME DAYCARE
Before we moved to the Midwest, I had no idea in- home daycare existed or
what it was. After paying $1,200 a month for our kids to go to the daycare
center where our children kept getting terrible colds that were even worse
in our bodies, we started wondering. If the median income in our town was so
low, i.e. many people make less than 30,000 here – how on earth could they
have kids in daycare? When my husband’s cousin came to dinner with their 3
kids we asked them where they went – she said – an in-home daycare. This
seemed very bizarre to me and even slightly creepy – a stranger would look
after my child in her house? I liked the idea that my children had many care
givers at the center, and would subsequently not get too attached to one
single person (and usurp me, the real Mum!)
I read up about them and found out that those with more than 6 children
must register (this may vary by state) and that it is quite common and a way
for Mum’s with many kids to make money by simply having other people’s kids
We saw a notice on the street round the corner form our house and called and
made an appointment. I had read up online about what to look for (for
example, cleanliness, many highchairs, toy room that was organized, labeled
bins for each child’s diapers etc., clean bathroom and accessible potty
etc., as well as to ask about discipline, food and potty training and naps).
We liked the house, which had a large playroom and was extremely tidy and
well organized. The women, who was in her mid twenties had 3 of her own
children, 2 there and one in school She used time outs and was into regular
synchronized naps for all ages (great). She also was a sometimes cynic like
me and so this was refreshing in the Midwest. We signed a one page contract
and that was the last piece of paper I saw for a long time and we liked
- Less paperwork than a daycare, although initial immunization report
etc may be required.
- CHEAPER! She charged $2.50/hr + $1 extra for the baby. This meant it
cost $3.50 an hour for both of them as opposed to $9.50 at the daycare
center. Horay – I could keep more of what I made.
- Fast drop off. There’s no parking to look for or contend with – I
stop at the curb, walk a few feet, open the door and leave my darlings
inside dressed and the daycare lady takes their shoes etc off if I am in
- She is flexible with times and is often open on snowdays, as she is
at home! This is a GREAT convenience if you live in a state where there
- The absolute biggest bonus however is that we stopped getting so
sick. The same thing happened to two couple friends of mine – we asked
on couple who had been sick all the time once “so, did you get immune to
those daycare center germs yet, you seem well?” They replied “No, we
took her out of there and now we’re fine!”. The doctor may tell you that
your body will get used to it or that it will pass in time, but after 9
moths of it, we simply gave up, as it impacted our work. The in-home
daycares usually only have about 5-9 kids in them and they simply do not
get so sick all the time, it a simple numbers fact – 98 versus 9.
- I was also able to give her packets of gluten free pasta and soy
milk for my son, or organic milk for my daughter which she kept in the
- I never had to label clothes or sunscreen – she did it for us
- If a child is sick she would give the medicine on schedule
- If a child had a fever she would call to let me know but put him/her
to bed with Tylenol until I finished my work – just as she would with
her own kids – no problem at all
- Less activities and trained educational staff/attention. While our
in home daycare occasionally had them do arts and crafts projects, the
large bins of pasta, sand and rocks, the large library of books and
finger painting? Not a chance. They did play in the garden sometimes or
got out the sprinkler, they did not go outside as often or do special
activities, learn the alphabet or come home singing new songs.
- They did not go outside as often or go for walks, but stayed inside
- The TV was often on in the background, even though my kids ignored
it and played
- Sometimes my kids would come home saying strange things they had
learned form other kids or the daycare lady (we never found out who) –
we really did not like this
- They also suddenly started doing things like climbing on coffee
tables – we did not know why but when I saw one of her kids standing on
it to dance, I realized where they had picked this up!!
- We never had this problem, but I heard that in some places,
strangers would visit the in-home daycare house. Definitely make sure
that no strangers, especially men or teenagers visit the in-home
daycare. I would definitely have felt uncomfortable with that! Also make
sure that no trips are taken without your knowledge.
- Most in home daycare contracts stipulate payment of services
regardless - so if your child is at home sick or you take them on
vacation you must pay for the child care as if the child were present.
- If the child care giver is sick, goes on vacation, or must be away
for some reason the day care is closed. This can come at an inconvenient
time and require you to have alternate options for day care for these
days (relatives, friends, alternate daycare, etc.)
IN the end you MUST build trust with the provider – but she is also
a Mum and has her own children there, so you are in the same boat in
many ways. I am no longer working and have my son in the daycare/pre-school now for
2 days a week, and at home the rest. The language thing really did it, but I
began getting sick again 2 weeks ago and remembered why – that daycare
center and it’s germs…my daughter is in Kindergarten now. My daughter is
still friends with the lady’s daughter and we have play dates now.
In conclusion, just like with any decision, your choices will depend on
your needs and limitations. Finances may restrict you, and so may locations
of the respective care centers. We hit the balance well when we had them in
the daycare center 3 mornings, I had them 2 mornings and all afternoons
(afternoon naps, too, why pay $9.50/hr for them to sleep?) at the in-home
center – but they are close to each other and that may not be an option for
everyone. I will never forget being close to tears in the doctor’s office
saying I simply could not bare to be sick anymore, wondering if maybe I had
some horrible disease, because I got one cold after the other for months on
end – this to me will stand out in my mind as the worst, and so will some of
the language my daughter brought home from the in-home place ! The good news
is, that whatever you do (and staying at home with them may be best), they
all eventually go to school and grow.
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