In-Home Childcare vs Day Care Centers Pros and Cons

Updated on July 12, 2010
D.B. asks from Frisco, TX
24 answers

Hi Moms!!!!
Please list pros and cons for in-home childcare vs day care centers. I'm torn between the two.
Thank you in advance!

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answers from Johnstown on

Hi D.,
It all depends. I used to work in a daycare. I will never, ever put my girls in a daycare around here. The ones here look great and wonderful until you see what goes on behind the scenes. We had contageous illnesses we were instructed to hide, constant cases of head lice we had to sterilize from, the bullying and other issues. I know there are great facilities out there, but we don't have them.
Best of luck in what you decide!

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answers from Kansas City on

I'm agree that it depends on the place. I would never choose daycare centers because I believe the more children in one place, the more illnesses and problems will go through. I get illnesses in my home daycare. But for instance, I haven't seen headlice in 4 years and it was 6 years before that. A large center and one that services before and after kids will likely have it off and on much more often. I had one child with pin worms 20 years ago. We've never had it since. I've had some illnesses that never went past the first child because I can and am more in control of the cleaning and the preventative measures I can take when I hear someone is ill.

Discipline wise... Every single child will try any negative behavior they see in another child. Put 100 children in a place and imagine the behaviors you will have to work through. In my small home daycare we only have a handful of children and when someone brings in a new bad word or some bad game (like head butting), it's much easier to find the source of the problem (like an adult relative teaching this behavior). In a big daycare, good luck finding the source of negative behaviors. I can also go YEARS without any biting incident. Daycare centers will rarely be able to do this because biting is contagious.

I also hate the idea of high turn over in a center. But I think it's awesome that they have more money to put into equipment. And yet in my home daycare I am able to get the kids out and about every few days. We are happy to go all sorts of places and participate in puppet shows, water fountains, playing in indoor play facilities, library trips, zoo trips, trips to local farms, and the list is endless. For parents that trust me to drive their kids it's great. Some parents HATE the idea of their children being in a car with anyone but them.

I agree with the poster that said in home caregivers really want this job. It's certainly not the money LOL! We can earn an okay living but it will never be great. Daycare centers have far too many people that are just parking themselves someplace temporarily. They may not even have children of their own and I would want my provider to be a loving mother with a lot of years of experience and common sense.

I am also an extension of my parents. For instance.. When one of my parents has a repeated problem at home, I can help them. We discuss with the child that if they continue to (fill in the blank at home), they will be excluded from the next field trip we take. Since we go someplace a couple times per week, every week, this works well. They can stay home with my mother and missing out is just terrible. They stop doing the offending behavior post haste. Daycare centers are not going to stand around 30 minutes every night and talk about the child both here and at home and agree together how to handle various ages, stages, and issues.

When one of my daycare babies has a yeast infection, I give them clear water baths and let them run around naked. I air them out and they get over it quick. Would a daycare do that?

I don't see daycare centers as more reliable either. Many daycare centers close down for snow days and close down for major holidays. I'm open for both. I've never missed an unplanned day in 24 years and I have my family to back me up. You just have to look for a provider with a good supportive family and a good work ethic. When my neighborhood shuts off the water to work on old pipes, the parents all bring me water and I make do and stay open. if that happened in a daycare center neighborhood, they'd close. When 1/2 the area is out of power because of a storm, I don't close either. I have to figure things out for my family. So I figure things out for yours as well.

Hands down I believe in home is better. But I am biased.

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answers from Dallas on

I don't have a lot of experience with this but in my case the center worked better for me. My son has been with me, with only babysitters at my home till he was just about 3 - lots of 1on1 interaction and attention. A friend recommended the in-home care person she'd been using - in her case, since her kids were infants. There were 8-9 kids from infant to 4 in the woman's care. She had lots of childcare experience, but was not "certified" in terms of Child Dev, etc. After 6 visits over 2.5 weeks, she suggested I have my not quite 3 year old checked for autism because he, in her opinion, "probably would have 75% of the symptoms" if I looked up the checklist for autism/aspbergers online. Well, I did, and he didn't. Turns out, she was "watching" him, but not really interacting with him - so he wasn't interested in her. I switched to a daycare center where the kids are all the same age in each class, and the caretakers interacted more with him directly. Same number of kids. No problems.

You have to trust your gut. Each situation is different.

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answers from Chicago on

I have done both. With my older daughter we did an in home (their home) for the first 2 years then put her in a center. The in home was great when she was a baby, but we found the person to not handle the toddler years so well. We found an awesome center and our daughter did great and was very well prepared when she started school.

I had planned to do in home again with my newest one, but she is so fussy and even i get frustrated often so i didn't feel comfortable leaving her with just one person with no break. I am just afraid they may get to their breaking point no matter how patient they are. We decided to go with a center since they will have more than one person and they can switch off if they have too.

Now that being said I went on so many interviews I can't even tell you. I was horrified at some of them and can't believe they were licensed. You have to interview them, get refrences, and drop in unannounced. If they don't let you do these things, run like the wind.

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answers from Dallas on

I used to run an in-home childcare, and before that I had my oldest in regular day care, so here's what I have...
My main issue with running an in-home was that if people didn't have back-up childcare, they were out of work if I had sick kids, a dr. appt, etc.
The kids were always sharing their germs and since there were only 4 kids here, they always got what each other had. My 2 year old hasn't been sick since I stopped watching kids about 6 months ago.
The kids got one on one attention and plenty of hugs and snuggles, their own rooms to nap in and homecooked meals when with me.
What I liked about daycare was that they were always open, so never a need to find a backup sitter. The day was more structured educationally than when I did my own.
The things that I hated about daycare were that it just felt so sterile and unloving. My DD learned alot, but even after being there for months and months, they still called her Julie and her name is Julia!
There are plusses and minuses on both sides. It really just depends on whether you have a backup sitter, and whether you prefer a more loving, or more educational setting.

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answers from Charlotte on


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answers from Los Angeles on

I'm a SAHM, so not the best source for you. However, a friend of mine dropped off her baby (home care) but forgot something and went back. She found her crying infant had been put in a dark room by it self crying with the door closed. The care taker said she needed to deal with the other kids first. So the question is, is that what she always did with the crying baby or just that one time shut it in a room so she didn't have to hear it? Yes, the mom took baby home with her and found new day care. The point being, with home daycare and one care taker, where is the accountability? What if they put your crying baby in a room by it self so they don't have to hear it or deal with it? I'd lean towards a place with more than one care taker for the accountability.

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answers from Dallas on

I haven't had a chance to read the responses, but I am a firm believer in day care centers. They have schedules, routines, inspections, curriculum, laws, etc. etc. If your one & only baby sitter gets sick, you have to take off work, right? In the center, they have a sub. There are many many advantages IMO. Do your homework either way and good luck.



answers from St. Louis on

There seems to be alot of bad thought regarding in home care. I use to work in one of the top Day care centers and let me tell you all things go on that you would be suprised at. I was 20 in the infant room at 6;30 a.m there were two of us in there. However at 9;30 just me the other teacher would be pulled to help in the older classe so it was me and 7 infants. She would come back in at 4 and stay untill 6. So for the past 18 years I've done in home care, open door policy I tell and encourage the parents to stop by at any time of the day. Some moms stop in to breastfeed or during lunch and sometime grandparent just pop in. No problem I love it. Also I care for Familys who work for the DFS they have told me that their more comfortable with me than the Licensed DC centers. All I'm saying is you need to really check out who you leave your little one with. Also I due beleive all children should go to preschool for at least one year before kdg.



answers from Dallas on

Hi D.,

I have had experience with both as well. I personally like in-home for infants. My oldest (now 27 months) was cared for by a lady who only kept two other children (one was her own) from 7 months until she was 22 months. The cons to the in-home was she actually took my daughter out of her home (with my permission to take her to drop her daughter off at MDO twice a week ONLY) and come to find out she was going other places as well. The sitter also decided to take a part time job from home and to stop keeping kids. I am a teacher and thought we had an agreement for the school year and this was dropped on me in December. It turned out to be for the better we started my daughter at a Montessori school and it has been WONDERFUL for her. Another con was that I felt she was watching too much TV...I am not opposed to TV, I just don't want that to be the only thing she is doing. The pros that I have for in-home: they generally keep them on your routine, depending on where you are the ratio is usually lower, the cost is usually less, less illness. My son (3 months) will be going to an in-home day care. This one is different from the sitter that took care of my daughter...they are licensed by the State. These people were recommended to me for my daughter and I wished I would have gone with them for her, then I would not have had the child care issues we had. If you go in-home talk to the people that are already using them.

Also, here's a link to look up licensing here in Texas and to see reports.

I see you are also in Frisco, feel free to PM me if you have any specific questions about care in our area.

Good luck!!



answers from Dallas on

I think in-home care can be a great thing but it is dependant on the care giver. Sometimes the hours of operation can be restrictive but if your work schedule is flexible, this may not be an issue. Also beware of caregivers that take care of their own infant/toddler kids during the same time as they are watching other kids. My former caregiver "caged" the other kids she watched and let her kids run free throughout the house. After witnessing that event, I vowed not to use another homecare person unless their kids were older. Some home caregivers can be more loving than some of the day care workers but it really comes down to the individual caring for your child. I had a very loving caregiver at a daycare center with my second child. I thought she was better than my in-home person that I had with my first child.

If I had to do it again, I would select what I call a "boutique" childcare center such as Carpe Diem, Creme de la Creme or Goddard school since they have lower ratios and sometimes better programing for a developing child. The additional $100-200/ per month is worth the piece of mind. There are some in-home care givers that just love their job and do a great job caring for kids. If you can find one of those, I would go for it.

If you do decide to go the in-home route, you may want to consider moving to a child care center when your child is around 18-24 months so they can take advantage of some of the developmental programs an in-home provider may not be offering.

Good luck.



answers from Dallas on

I like in home for infant care and an accredited preschool once they turn about 2 years old.

a GOOD in home will have schedules, routines, inspections, curriculum, laws just like a preschool would, but if you can find one that has 2+ providers and specializes in babies/toddlers, you have a super low ratio and lots of individualized care. don't do an in home where they are caring for their own child. my son was cared for by a married couple plus a part time helper and it was great. the babies were separated from the toddlers and my son got a ton of attention and love.

an accredited preschool is the way to go once they turn about 2 and there's no need for the boutique center. definitely look for super low turnover. one of my son's preschool teachers has been there 15+ years. About 2/3 of the teachers have been there at least 5-6 years. they work hard for their NAEYC accreditation and it shows. they love those kids a ton and by the time the leave for kindergarten, they will amaze you with what they know and the socialization they have obtained.


answers from Austin on

When our child was an infant (6 weeks), we had a wonderful licensed in home caregiver. She had 4 children in her care. She was AWESOME! One day I got there, she was on her hands and knees scrubbing her front porch!

Her house was meticulous and she was older and had cared for many, many children.. She gave us lots of great advice, worried about our daughter when she was not well.

The only thing we disagreed about was that when our daughter learned to walk at 6 months, she was horrified.. What could we do? She felt that our child would not develop properly and wanted us to discourage the walking.. She learned quickly, our daughter could not be stopped..

At 2 years old we found a Daycare that was close to my husbands work and many, many people had suggested it. We went and I knew it was a great match for our daughter.

I had worked in a daycare center and saw all the signs of a great daycare. Our daughter stayed there until she began public school for kindergarten. Our daughter was totally prepared and has had a remarkable success in school. She is going to be a junior in College in the fall and we are still friends with some of her preschool teachers.



answers from Boston on

I love my center based day care for my 4 year old and baby! They follow your routine, are so clean and loving. A little extra $ has been so worth it. They are educational, have lots of fun (pizza day, hat day, water play, BBQ's etc). Good luck with your choice!



answers from Dallas on

I have done both. The in home childcare were women I was already friends with prior to having my children in their care with the exception for one person. They were all good. The downside if their child gets sick or she is sick you have to find a back-up or take off of work. There also may not be activities planned for the children and more TV time. The downside to a center is the turn-over rate can be high, the cost is more and yes there are more children. All of this varies greatly between centers. My son goes to a pretty small center that is super close to my house. I have dropped by several times before he started. I have visited a length with the directors and I feel very comfortable with him there. One of the directors/owners had in home childcare for many, many years and her daughter bought this small center. They are very on top of the biting issues and illnesses. I worked at a day care center while in college that had all the fancy toys and play equipment and had some wonderful employees but some of the practices I completely disagree with and would not send my children there. You can do a search for registered or licensed in home day care center and day care centers. Go to the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services website. You can do a search by zip code and it will have all the violations from the inspections for the day cares and what they were for. Here is the website:



answers from Portland on

Hi D.,

This is a common question I get from parents I coach, (I'm a parent coach). Centers are nice because they have a set structure designed for kids. They often are corporate, so rules and regulations are often followed a little more closely, like lesson plans, fire drills and staff education. And they do not close for vacation or sick days.

However, centers have a high turn over. You may have a differnet teacher every few months, and the staff are underpaid.

In home centers can be great, because it is a home setting. It is a business that the owner WANTS, instead of the job they could find.

The issue is that you need to work with them more. They will close for vacations, illness and other events. It is their home, so you do not have as much control who comes in & out, and some in home centers follow lesson plans less than centers.

My friend had her son in a in home center, and he never napped (he was 2) and just watched TV all day, because the owner had too many babies to work with the 2 year old too.

Another friend worked in a inhome center as a teen, but they never followed the meal schedule or event schedule they gave to parents. The owner would get Happy Meals when she didn't want to cook.

While these are extreme example, I do suggest the following with what ever you choose:

Check with the state to ensure they are licensed.
Make sure they are insured
Make sure ALL staff has CPR training
Do a visual inspection.
Are electrical sockets covered?
How does the changing are look?
How long do infants stay in cribs during the day?
Do they have an emergency plan?
Are you allowed to make suprise visits?
How do they seperate infants, crawlers, walkers & toddlers?

There are GREAT things about each, and not so great. Just make sure you feel OK. If you get a "bad" feeling, walk away.

R. Magby



answers from New York on

To clarify, you mean someone else's home that is certified. Can't think of many.

The in-home care may need to close for a family vacation or family emergency, where the day care center would be open.

Your more likely to get better one on one attention in a home setting.

More children in a day care center means more germs and possible illness. However, more children means a better chance to make friends.

Good luck with your decission.



answers from Atlanta on

I've done exhuastive research, and it really comes down to the specific place or home you're looking at. The best thing you can do is get references and talk to people whose children have been at the center or the inhome care place. I've seen excellent and not so excellent examples of both! I do think if you mean "in home" as in a nanny that it's still important that your child be taken to play dates or have a couple of half days at a preschool or something. We've done that, but kids need to be around other kids for socialization and fun.



answers from New York on

I own a childcare center and there are pros and cons to both. One bit of advice I can give is to show up unannounced and do it a few times at different times to see what really goes on. I think centers are much better monitored, and there are always extra eyes and ears. Make sure both are licensed and are within their caretaker child ratio. In NJ you have to be licensed when caring for more then 5 children, yet the infant teacher ratio is 4-1. Most home care center have children of different ages grouped together so that is something else to consider. Centers will group by age, so I think that is safer and easier to care for children when they basically have the same needs. Also, you have every right to request parent references. Good luck I know this is a tough decision to make. Hope we haven't confused you more lol!!



answers from Portland on

Hi D.,
This is a toughy. You are going to receive a ton of responses both for and against each environment. PERSONALLY, after experiencing both environments I will only do an infant/toddler care center in the future. My home experience was less than ideal and I blame that on my provider, however, my center experience was fantastic.

A couple things to note that I appreciated about a center:

1. The employees are trained in child care and development (in CA anyway - I don't know about TX). I'm not discounting "experience" just like the formal training of center teachers.
2. I received a written daily report of what, when and how much my son ate every day, when and for how long he napped and a section for notes about how his general temperament was during the day. (they wear gloves and sanitize after each diaper change in centers - by law)
3. Being surrounded by children of the same age is very important to me. They learn a lot from each other.
4. My son was a fussy sleeper and my center had no problem rocking him to sleep. However, my daycare provider informed me she didn't have the time to do this with other kids around so he was going to have to CIO. Not a method I was interested in following at 3 months old (or later for that matter).
5. My center did "parent-teacher conferences". It was nice to have a formal written and formal meeting to hear what my son was up to, where he was excelling and where he needed help.

I could keep going but I'll end it here. :)

Good luck in your hunt!



answers from Indianapolis on

We had the mother of a neighbor come to our house to watch our son until 21 months when our daughter was born. When I went back to maternity leave, we chose to do the traditional day care facility and haven't looked back.

We have friends who also did in-home (someone who ran a day care out of their home). They loved that it was less expensive and in someone's loving home. But, there was NO structure. They've now gone to a traditional facility, too. Our kids are exactly the same ages, 2 and 4.

In-home can be great. But, you usually have kids of all ages making it much more difficult to focus instruction to the appropriate age level.

In a traditional facility, there is usually a standard focus educationally that's adjusted to each age group. Our daughter is only in with "young 2's" and our son is in with 3-4 year olds.

The socialization, discipline and exposure to different personalities and different kinds of education has been great.

I hate that they're there all those hours, but they love it, love their friends and their teachers. We've been fortunate to find a great place very close to home. I can't tell you how to find the best place. We just kind of knew when we went there. I loved that the director knew all the families and which parents went with which kids.

The down sides of a traditional facility are more the rigors of addressing when your child is sick. There are certain things (like head lice) that our facility is very inflexible about. Otherwise, we've been really happy and couldn't recommend our place strongly enough to people locally.



answers from Dallas on

I have never wanted my children in a home based day care center. It has always concerned me that there is just one, maybe two, people there to care for a number of children in a varied age range. What if that person is having a bad day or my kiddo is not a "favorite" who is there to support them as a professional? care for the child care provider and tell them they are doing a good job. . . etc. I have also been concerned in home child care about licensing/registration and their access to focused one on one time to provide developmentally appropriate learning programs and curriculum. I loved my child care centers for being homey, child centered and age appropriate. (Bright Horizons)
Whatever you choose, be sure to check with the state to understand the providers standing and if they are not registered with state for at least one year (center or home facility) I wouldn't touch them with a 10 foot pole (unless it is grandma - LOL)
Best of luck!



answers from Dallas on

I run an in home daycare, so my answer may be biased:) Some things my families really like about me is that I am close by their homes, I only care for 4 children(one is my own), so the ratio is low and the age of the children is similar, so they can all learn together. I find that it can be very hard for one person to adequately care for children in all different sorts of age ranges, so I try to keep them as close in age as possible. I can offer a huge variety of food, plenty of toys and play equipment(I have been collecting them for a few years now, so I have a lot), and quiet beds for a restful nap. I am able to focus on the child's individual needs, which I like, so they can feel as comfortable as possible while staying with me.

The cons are that if I am sick, they need a back up, but if you have a flexible work schedule or a relative who can help you out during those times, it isn't usually too big of a problem. One other thing about sick days to keep in mind, is that an in home provider doesn't make any money if they are sick, so frequent sick days are usually rare and only used when absolutely necessary. It is a big red flag if the provider is constantly calling out sick or needing to cancel daycare too much.

Another con is that if one kid gets sick, the chances are the rest might too, but the good thing is that less children, means less illness being brought in to the home, so illness is less common. It is just that when it does happen, all the kids tend to get sick, because they all share the same toys. I disinfect ALL the time, but there are some things you just can't prevent. A clean home daycare is always a big thing to look for.

One thing I think is important is to judge how your child may react to each setting. A very shy child, who has a little more reservation about being in a large group setting, may not do well in a large daycare and could get lost in the crowd, so a smaller daycare may be better. Other children who are very social and outgoing, may prefer the higher paced activity of a daycart center.

Whatever you do, just get good referrals from friends or family and use your instincts to decide if you feel it is right for your little one. Good luck!!



answers from Dallas on

I've used both so here's my opinion on both. My daughter was in home daycare until she was 4. She was with a woman who was a friend of mine - not one that I "hung out with" but a mom of a student that I coached for 3 years so I knew her for years. I would never have used a home provider if it wasn't someone I already knew or was a close friend of someone I knew. She did serve well-balanced meals, had a great napping set-up etc. For the first couple of years her mother was her back-up (if she had to leave for an emergency). Then her mother became unable to help so there were 3 times in one year when she had to close for multiple days at a time (2 involved deaths in her family) but it was very difficult to find alternate care. Our son was with her for the first 2 years. Then both kids went into daycare. We used Primrose (which is a national chain, but their are franchises). We couldn't be happier! It is clean, bright, cheerful, and so educational. Yes there has been some turnover with the assistant teachers, but the lead teachers have been there the whole time.

If you have a fantastic reference for a home provider and your work provides some flexibility (to work from home or take your kid to work occasionally) I would feel good about using home care until the age of 2. After that I prefer a daycare. You just have to find a good one. I'm so impressed with how much my kids have learned. The lead teachers at our school all have to have early childhood degrees. Most of the assistants are in college getting those degrees also. Yes you may have to pay quite a bit more to get this quality, but you know you're getting your money's worth.

Good luck on your decision. Do lots of research and ask lots of questions of both kinds of providers.

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