Home Daycares vs. Daycare Centers — What’s the Difference and Which is Right for You?

Looking for the right daycare? Chances are you’ve considered both home daycares and daycare centers. Let’s figure out which one is the best fit for you.

A licensed home daycare is a childcare facility based out of a provider’s home, while a daycare center is a more traditional, brick-and-mortar childcare business. Both types of daycares are common throughout the U.S. and provide crucial childcare services to families.

Home daycares vs. daycare centers

There are many differences between the two types of daycares, some obvious and some a little more under the radar. These contrasts range from class size to affordability and should be weighed carefully when doing research to determine the best fit for your family.

Here are a few of the notable distinctions:

  • Location: Daycare centers are located in brick-and-mortar buildings that may share real estate with other businesses or stand alone by themselves. Home daycares, on the other hand, are in the caregiver’s house or apartment, which provides a smaller, home-like setting for children. Daycare centers are typically found in larger urban and suburban areas, with high population density, compared to home daycares which are more readily available in urban, suburban, and rural communities.
  • Hours: Home daycares are run by childcare providers who can set their own schedules, which are often more flexible than other options. Most daycare centers adhere to fairly standard hours, Monday through Friday, catering to the 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. set of parents and guardians. Many home daycare providers offer earlier drop-off and later pick-up times for busy families, as well as evening, weekend, and even overnight care.
  • Class size: Not surprisingly, daycare centers usually have larger class sizes, often with multiple classes at the same center. Home daycares, by contrast, enjoy smaller class sizes with fewer children enrolled and in attendance on any given day.
  • Child-to-teacher ratio: At home daycares, the child-to-teacher ratio is generally lower, with one trained adult per 6 - 8 children, depending on their ages. Due to their size, daycare centers may retain more trained adults on staff yet still have higher child-to-teacher ratios than home daycares.
  • Kids grouped by age: With daycare centers, children are generally grouped by age and placed in separate classes. Home daycares usually have mixed-age groups all in the same class.
  • Cost: Home daycare providers are running a small business out of their home, with lower overhead compared to larger daycare centers. Average costs vary by state and locality, however, home daycares can be up to 40% more affordable than daycare centers.
  • Potty training: The potty training question can be tricky for parents of toddlers and preschoolers, as policies differ across daycares, preschools, and states. Some centers may require children to be potty trained before they can enroll in daycare. Home daycare providers are less likely to have a strict potty training policy in place and are accustomed to caring for kids of all ages.
  • Summer schedules: Some daycare centers and preschools follow local school schedules, including weeks off during the summer. While home daycares and most daycare centers will offer their normal availability during the summer months, it is something to be aware of when narrowing down your childcare options.

Which type of daycare is right for you and your children?

With a better understanding of the differences between these two daycare models, we can help you make a considered decision to find the best fit that works for your family.

So which one are you leaning towards? Home daycares or daycare centers?

Answering some practical questions can solidify your choice:

  • What distance from home or work can you travel for daycare? Depending on where you live, there may be multiple childcare options near your home or work, including daycare centers and home daycares. In rural areas, you’re more likely to find a home daycare than a large center. For cities and regions with higher population density, it’s possible you could locate a home daycare within a few blocks of where you live, making it a very convenient choice to solve your childcare needs.
  • What’s your budget? Childcare costs vary significantly by state and region, but we can look at a national average to get a rough idea for your budgeting purposes. Is your family able to manage around $1,031 per month for childcare? That’s the ballpark range for daycare centers. Can you make about $809 per month work instead? That’s around the average for care at home daycares. Crunching these numbers will help you decide what type of care you can afford.
  • Do you need childcare at non-traditional hours? Are you only in need of childcare during regular business hours? Does drop off at 8:30 a.m. and pick up at 4:30 p.m. fit your work schedule? If so, daycare centers may fit the bill. If not, and you need some more wiggle room and flexibility, home daycares typically offer more extended hours and may be open for about 12 hours of the day. Some home daycares also provide weekend and overnight care for additional childcare versatility.
  • What’s your preference for the environment and daycare setting? Are you looking for a larger class and comfortable with your child around a big number of kids? The daycare center environment works for many families looking for those traits in a daycare. Would you prefer a smaller, in-home setting? Home daycares are a good choice for those reasons and provide a balance of socialization with more individualized attention from the caregivers.
  • Are you concerned about exposure to germs/illness? Many parents have had concerns about exposure to illness and germs even long before the pandemic. Are you worried about your child catching a cold or bringing home germs from another kid at daycare? While that can happen anywhere, daycare centers have bigger classes with more kids to potentially share germs with your child. Home daycares are not immune to the common cold, but with smaller class sizes and less children overall the exposure and risk is minimized, compared to larger centers.
  • Is potty training a dealbreaker? As mentioned above, some daycare centers may have a potty training policy in place. If your child is not potty trained yet, make sure you find a daycare where that won’t be an issue. That daycare may end up being a home daycare.

How to find the daycare your family needs

After learning about these two types of daycare options and how they differ, you should be better prepared to make a decision on what childcare setting is going to best fit your family’s needs. Whether you opt for a daycare center or a home daycare, it’s important to feel comfortable with your childcare provider and the environment they have created for the kids in their care.

WeeCare is the nation’s largest childcare network and can help you find a great match. Our mission is to provide access to high-quality, affordable childcare for all families so that children have the best chance to succeed.

Get started to find your perfect childcare provider: https://weecare.co/daycare-near-me.

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