In-Home Vs Center Daycare

Updated on December 10, 2011
C.K. asks from Madison, WI
23 answers

My husband and I work full-time and have our children in state-licensed in-home daycares. We have a 4 and 1 year old and love the home-setting and varied ages of the kids. In the last year, we've had to move daycares due to too many babies coming in at the same time to our old in-home daycare. Unfortunately, our current daycare has had some family issues that has led to the state suspending her license and shutting her down for the foreseeable future. We don't know all of the details, but the family issues are enough that we have given our notice. Now we are on the hunt for quality care yet again! We've stayed away from Center care partly because my two children will be in different classrooms. Their time together before school starts is so short, I want them to be able to spend the days together and not apart. Does anyone have an opinion on Center vs In-Home daycare - especially if you have two children? We are big on the licensed aspect and understand that Centers would fit the criteria - I'm just worried that the personal attention we have received in the In-Home daycare setting would be lacking in the Center setting. Any feedback would be great!!!

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answers from Duluth on

I've always been a fan of in home day care...but...a friend of mine really likes center based daycare because they ARE bigger--less time missed due to illness of the provider, less likelihood of something like what you described happening--it's not contingent upon ONE person, but operates a little more reliably. That said, *my* preference was for the really awesome in-home daycare that we had, that had operated for like 25 years and hardly ever had a missed day.



answers from Des Moines on

There are pro's and cons with both, I did notice though that my 3 year olds speech improved DRAMATICALLY after I moved him to a center. I think it really helped him to be with same age peers, instead of a mix of babies and big kids that treated him like one of the babies.....

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answers from Detroit on

If it were me, I would want to get my 4 year old into an actual pre-school type setting where he is only around kids his own age and has multiple adults to work with. He will be starting Kindergarten soon and will need to be prepared.

We tried both In Home Day Cares over the years and actual school like settings. Once our kids were each 18 months, we moved them and quickly began to see how much more they were gaining socially and academically in the school setting versus an in home day care. Trust me, there were pluses to having them In -Home day cares as well, but once we made the move and got adjusted, we were very pleased. Today our kids are in pre-school and 1st grade at the same place. Due to our work schedules, they have to be there before the actual school day begins. I like the fact that they are in the Kids Club together for an hour, but I also like that they go their separate ways after. They are unique individuals who are joined at the hip at home. The separation is good for them to make them independent from one another. I want them both to be leaders and not just following one another around in their comfort zones.

I know this is one of the hardest decisions to make….I always wanted a crystal ball to tell us we were making the right choice. You have to follow your gut. Good luck!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

I have 3 children and worked full-time after my oldest was born, until my 2nd came along 2.5 years later. I struggled with the center/home day care/nanny issue until my husband finally spoke up and said the only one he was comfortable with was a licensed center, because he felt there were more checks and balances and less likelihood of our child being neglected/mistreated because the caregivers are being 'watched' by other caregivers and directors. We went with a state-licensed, nationally accredited program that was one of the most expensive in our city but the only one we felt truly comfortable with. Also, even though there is turnover in all daycare centers, there is less likelihood of a total shutdown, especially if you go with a high-quality center. We ended up staying with the same center for part-time preschool for all 3 of our children. Personal attention was never an issue--when my daughter was an infant there were 8 children in her room and 3 caregivers at all times. She loved it. It is important to tour the school and meet with the teachers and director, to make sure their philosophy is a good fit for your family. Best of luck in your search!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Charlotte on


3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

We did in home care with our boys until they were each 2 years old and then we moved them to a center setting for more interaction with kids their own ago. This is just my personal opinion but your oldest will be ready for Kindergarten soon and will need more interaction with children of that age and will learn more age appropriate things.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

We had a simliar dilemma when our 6yo son was first born. We live in a mostly rural area, and the only choices we had that were less than an hour to get to/from were scary fundamental-ish church centers. We went with a nanny in our home for the first 2-5 years, which was pricey but mostly worth it. By the time he was close to three we decided he needed the group socialization and had been researching centers. We went through 2 losers centers, each of which we thought would be right but didn't practice what they preached. Our third one was the charm. Note it was both state licensed and NAEYC certified, which only a small percentage of daycares in Austin are. I guess the moral of my tale is that you need to look at all your options, talk to local moms and/or find local parenting boards. The center we were so happy with was there the whole time but because they are popular they don't advertise much, so it took us some digging to find them. Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Omaha on

I have two in a center called La Petite Academy. It's a preschool environment. They do separate them. My oldest is 6. When she was there during the day (in after school care now) her sister was 1 and she was 4 (started at 20 months). They did separate them. I was ok with that. I wouldn't want my youngest around all of the older kids. There are more there than would be at in home facility. My kids love it and have made great friends. Like a second home for them.

We don't have to worry about the center having family issues or going away on vacation. They have hot breakfast, lunch, and snack. They learn a lot there. I had them at another daycare previous to that one and it was more like a holding cell. The Director was an idiot. Find some place with Director's that have a clue. That's a big thing.

Personal attention: At bed time my little one includes her daycare provider in what she is thankful for : ) They give hugs and are the sweetest people actually. I think you will find that it's not as bad as you think if you find the right one. For me I prefer the national chain daycare because it is super organized and you can pay online. Yet it still has a homey aspect to it. They pick my oldest up from school and she rides with her friends.They have a couch for them to relax on and snack time.

At the end of the day they do actually sometimes bring them all in one room so parent's can get them easier. Not all the time but occasionally. I think you will find pro's and con's of both types of daycares. But if you pick out new pro's in a center type daycare then that could balance it out for you. Good Luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

We have only ever used in-home and love it. We tried a nanny and that was awful, but we had my sister for years and that was great. Have you thought about that?

A benefit to centers is that they are getting what they need for their age and can blossom independently. You really just need to look around and see what's best for you and your family :).

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

I used to work in day care centers, and I picked a center over home-based care for my kids. For one thing, it's pretty transparent what goes on there; people would see if someone is abusing a child, making it less likely to happen, I think.

A great center will offer so much more for your child in terms of interesting things to do, places to go, activities to experience. Also, it's more likely to be academic and prepare your child well for kindergarten.

My boys loved their day care center, and the older one loved visiting the younger one in his classroom, or hugging him when the classes passed in the halls. And if it's a really great center, the personal attention will be there.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Antonio on

We used in- home centers until our son was 2 and our daughter was 18 months. Then we switched to a daycare center. We didn't choose a large center, so it was still a smaller setting, one classroom at each age group, only about 32 total children (there are some daycares here with over 200 children at them). They were together during breakfast time, outdoor play time, and in the ball room, so they did still spend time together. We did appreciate the ability to have them play with other kids their own ages, especially for our oldest. He started pre-K this year, and the transition was much easier for him due in part (I think) his exposure to playing with kids his own age in a structured environment.
Good Luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

There are pros and cons to both, but it really comes down to doing your research and feeling comfortable with the atmosphere and structure of the environment.

I have done both. I did in home until my oldest was 2 and it became clear that she preferred babies to toddlers so we ended up moving her to a center which was really great. There are a lot that move them from room to room based on age, but there are more and more that base it on development. I have been happier with the centers than the in home care.

My second started out in a center for the mere fact that she was a very demanding baby and I had a hard time being with her all day without a break, so I felt more comfortable leaving her where there were several adults so one could take a break if needed.

We have been lucky that we found a center that picks up and drops off my oldest from school and allows the girls to be together before and after school until we pick them up. It requires a lot of research and interviewing but it is well worth it to find the right place.

Also usually with a center you don't have to worry about them calling off sick or something of that nature.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

I personally was in both as a kid. My own kids have been to a Commercial one(kindercare).

Commercial ones are two times more costly. But have a very good structure to them.

In home has the ''HOME'' feeling. Some of my favorite memories from my child hood, are things that happened while in my ladies care.

Commercial daycare's are good for the kiddo that does not have a strong routine at home. IMO. Every thing a commercial daycare does is by some book. They have to have the kids moved from one age group to another. Nothing is truly done on a sliding scale of where they maybe at motor skills wise.

My nephew was cattle prodded practically into Potty training. My best friend did not have an option to start potty training when she did, the school started it for her and she had no choice but to work on it at home. After watching what she went through, I would never do it in that fashion, to save my life. He pooped in more pairs of pants then I have ever seen a kid poop in. And I have seen my fair share of training.

It is really a toss up. I have trouble trusting people with my kids, so I think I would go the commercial just for that factor. They have more of a PUBLIC liability(if that makes sense). Their protocol for injuries and stuff that goes on during the day is by the book. No grey areas.

Good luck on the hunt! I am very thankful my kiddo's only had to go for about 8 months. We just could not afford it anymore.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

My daughter is 18 months and is in a center. We debated and debated which way to go with her, but ultimately decided on a center because I wasn't comfortable putting her into in-home unless that person came personally recommended by someone I knew well. I have never regretted my decision!

My daughter LOVES where she goes and is doing fantastic. Her development has far exceeded our expectations! She also adores her teachers (you will be able to tell whether you child feels connected and safe with their teacher after a while). I also love that she gets to spend time with other kids her age and is developing great social skills. This was important to me since she is an only child.

I know a lot of people worry about lack of personal attention with the centers.....I have found the opposite to be true. Because there is more than one teacher in class, kids can get one-on-one attention from the other teacher when needed. The teachers don't have to worry about making lunch, snacks, housekeeping, etc. while they are caring for the kids. ALL the focus is on them.

We get twice yearly assessment updates on our daughter telling us what skills she has mastered and what skills need to be worked on. They look at each child individually. I have to respectfully disagree with Libby on a point......motor skills and assessments WERE taken into account when my daughter was moved from infant to toddler room. In fact, each step up, not only requires a certain age, but certain motor skills and emotional assessments reached before proceeding. I've never felt like my daughter was treated in a one size fits all approach.

Now, having said all that.....all centers are not the same. You have to be very proactive and do your research. Visit as many as you can, talk to as many people in your community as possible. Spend time visiting the centers and make sure you are comfortable with everyone there. A good director is SO IMPORTANT and makes all the difference in the world.

Good Luck with whatever you's a hard one, I know!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

I am a huge proponent of a center. Most of my neighbors use in-home and all I hear are issues they have. Any emergency/vacation comes up and they have to make alternate arrangements or miss work because of it. One complained that she thought her son was watching too much TV at one point. We have both of our sons in a center and they have more than exceeded our expectations. All the teachers there know our kids and they can go see each other any time they want to. We have conferences twice a year and they let us know, for their respective age, how they are developing. We even had one for my 1 year old where they went over motor skills and what he should be doing for that age level. We don't have to worry about the daycare being clossed because someone is sick. And they have pre-school and pre-K programs so I can keep my 4 year old there until he starts Kindergarden. I won't have to move him around to different places. They both have made best friends and I love watching them play with kids their age and interacting. Sometimes the older kids even go in and help the younger ones with art projects or sing songs for them. I could go on and on... I am sure there are very good in-home daycares out there but this has been my experience and I wouldn't trade it for the world. Centers do tend to be more expensive so I do feel blessed that we have been able to keep both of our boys there. And as far as the attention, there are usually multiple teachers plus back up teachers so there is always someone there to give my son a hug when he needs it :)



answers from Des Moines on

We've had good and bad in both. I've found that it's hard to find really good in-home care, but when you do -- it's the best. I don't love that my kids aren't together at a center, but I see that my youngest is much more easy going socially than his big brother, who's spent most of his time in in-home. The bottom line is a frustrating one -- it really depends on the place.
Good luck. We've spent hours researching daycares at our house, and it's hard work.


answers from Minneapolis on

I am a licensed provider in MN, and will not get into the debate about what is the best solution for your situation. I will just say I am sooo sad to hear you were bumped out and moved around due to providers bumping you for new babies (thats what it soundes like??) and now this latest personal issue they seem to be having at this one.

I have done this almost 15 years in my home (was a nanny prior, and have never in my adult life or teen years for that matter, done any job that didn;t require me to take care of others peoples children)...and I have never made someone leave for those sorts of reasons!

I generally (unless a payment or other discrepancy..and thats been not even a handful of times in almost 15 years), have kids form birth to school age (whether thats preschool at 3.5-4 years old in more recent years as is the push by many parents and society...and in earlier years it was for Kindy or even later if they were actually in my home school area and could bus from here).

I hope you find the solution that works for your family and they can have some childcare stability for a while!

Best wishes!



answers from Houston on

We used a nanny service to find a wonderful woman who comes to our house. I wanted the personal care and didn't want to thrust my baby into a sea of strange children or elements. Although I certainly see the value, I am leery of "in-home care" because I think that people can get far too relaxed in their own homes and can unwittingly compromise the safety of the children. At least in my house she is somewhat on her toes. You never know until you know, though.



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answers from Minneapolis on

We had a nanny so I don't have any first hand experience, but our neighbors have had their kids in a center since day one and I really think it is the way to go ... especially as your kids get older, and are on break from school.

Her kids go on field trips, take all sorts of classes, etc. and another neighbor who's kids are in an in home have none of that.... they can't even go on a trip during the summer b/c there is no transportation for all the kids... they just sit around the ladies house/yard.



answers from Eau Claire on

I think there are pros and cons to both in-home and center daycares. I think whichever you would pick would be one you would research and would combat some of the discussion points brought up so far so my comment is more about the kids. I found that the type of daycare I used had more to do with the child's individual personalities and comfort zones and I used both in-home and center. With my daughter I started her out in a very small chuch based center that had a in-home feel. She was bored and her behavior showed she needed more stimulation and activities. So I switched to a bigger facility that had a more structured program for learning and she thrived. She was (is) very independant and it was an immediate change to harmony. When my son was born he started there and while in the baby rooms did fine but as he moved up to the bigger rooms he started to have separation anxiety symptoms and it seemed that the program was too fast paced for him with the constant change from one activity to another. My daughter was already in elementary school so I chose to move my son to a in-home daycare and instantly he was in his comfort zone. The slower pace with quiet activities was what made him thrive. Luckily my children were far enough apart so that they could each have what seems to have been the right fit for each of them. I hope this helps with your decision. Good Luck!



answers from Minneapolis on

I only have one child. He went to in-home daycare.

My job for a while was visiting several daycare centers. My decision to put my son into an inhome daycare vs a daycare center was based on my observations.
While some centers are great, I always got the feeling that centers give off a "baby warehouse" vibe. Some of the staff didn't feel a sense of ownership and pride as much as did the in-home providers. Centers seem to be immaculately clean (sterile) and play grounds contained a lot of plastic. To me, that's boring.

Home day cares are more like real-life, which I value. Kids need to be exposed to some dirtiness and natural surroundings outdoors. Kids playing together outside leads to a lot of cooperative learning and socialization skills. This was key for me since my kid is an "only."

My provider happened to be awesome. She was a retired kindergarten teacher who grew up on a farm and believed in letting kids explore in nature outside (under guidance of course). My son absolutely blossomed with her. His best friends still remain the kids he played with at this daycare.



answers from Minneapolis on

I am a licensed in-home daycare provider and from what I have seen in my home, most of the time, kids are ready to move to pre-school or center care by about 3 1/2 to 4 yrs old. Some kids do great at in-home until they go tot school but most of the time they end up getting bored. There are plenty of GREAT in-home daycare providers and those providers should make your kids feel like they are at home when they are there. Centers will not have all of the personal touches that home care will have but will have lots of variety for older kids. There are in home daycares and centers that do things wrong (against the daycare rule) so you just have to make sure you stay on top of everything. My daycare licensor told me that she had to report the center her kids went to because they were covering kids heads with blankets to get them to sleep. Good luck in your decision but make sure that whatever you do, it is the best decision for your children.

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