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What are the advantages of home daycare?
Many home daycares can boast smaller groups of children and more individual attention, something most centers can't guarantee. Child-to-staff ratios are important because too many children and not enough adult supervision means your child is likely to get less of the one-on-one interaction that he needs and deserves.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the child-to-staff ratio for children younger than 12 months should be 3 to 1 no matter what kind of childcare you have.
The National Association for Family Child Care offers an accreditation to ensure that your provider follows all of your state's regulations, including child-to-staff ratios.
The opportunity to play with and learn from other children is something both home daycares and centers offer that nanny care can't. But unlike centers, which tend to group kids by age, home daycares usually have mixed-age groups, which more closely mirror many families and may help your child feel comfortable around older kids.
"I like the fact that there are other children my son can play with and learn from," says Cindy Goral, a our site mom from Palo Alto, California. "Since he's an only child, he really enjoys this social interaction."
Though daycare centers, no matter how child-friendly and welcoming, can sometimes seem institutional, home daycare can be the next best thing to your own house. If you're lucky enough to find a good provider in your neighborhood, so much the better – your child will feel even more at home.
"My favorite thing about home childcare is that it's a homey environment, and my children get lots of attention and hugs," says Phyllis Hodson-Hutsell, a our site mom from Rossville, Indiana. "Plus, our caregiver is located in the same small town where we live, so she's close by, and my daughters will get to know neighborhood kids whom she'll likely know all her life."
And home daycare is often the least expensive childcare option next to relative care. While some home daycare providers charge as much as centers, that's not usually the case.
From a practical viewpoint, a home daycare may be more flexible about pickup and dropoff times and less likely than a center to charge you for every minute you're late. Home daycares also tend to close for fewer holidays than most centers, so you may not have to scramble for backup care as often.
Finally, most home daycare providers are moms themselves, so you know you're leaving your child with someone who is comfortable caring for babies and children and who probably has a strong mothering instinct. Of course, you and your provider may differ on some childrearing issues, but as long as you find someone who shares your basic caregiving philosophy, the "mom" factor can be a definite advantage.
Grandma? Daycare? Real parents discuss finding childcare that works.
What are the disadvantages?
If you're looking for a caregiver with formal training in early education, home daycare probably isn't for you. Unlike employees in a childcare center, Mrs. Johnson down the street probably hasn't taken any child development classes lately. Some states do require home daycare providers to complete a certain number of hours of care and safety courses, but that's no substitute for college courses or a certificate in early childhood education.
Licensing requirements for home daycares are usually less than stringent. Some states and counties do require licensing, but most don't. If you live in an area without licensing requirements, you'll have to rely on your own judgment – and eye for safety and sanitation hazards – to make sure the environment is acceptable for your baby.
Another drawback is that there may not be a backup caregiver available if your provider gets sick or takes a vacation (unless she finds a substitute). If you don't have an understanding boss or backup childcare, you may end up using all your own vacation and sick days staying home with your child. That may make the extra costs of a center – with its guaranteed care – worth it for you.
See our tips and suggestions on finding backup childcare.