Daycare centers offer a structured learning environment and provide socialization—making them a popular choice for parents. Daycare centers are inspected yearly to maintain licensing. There are often two to three teachers per room, teachers are supervised, and a dedicated director manages the entire daycare center.
Daycare centers are more affordable than a nanny. You will pay anywhere from $500 to $1300 a month for daycare. Daycare centers usually have a waiting list for parents waiting to place their child. If your name hits the top of that list a month early, you may end up paying for that month just to secure your child a placement when you need it. If you don't take it, the daycare center will move on to the person next on the list.
Daycare centers follow a daily schedule regarding play, meals, and naps. Good centers include a mix of activities to stimulate and engage children in learning, such as singing, dancing, and storytelling. Learning is play-oriented. Magnetic letters and numbers, blocks, cut and paste, tactile art, and a variety of other fun activities are used to interest children at each developmental stage.
Teachers should be trained in early childhood education (ECE). They should know what to expect at each developmental stage and how to encourage growth and learning. Your child will not get the same one-on-one care that a stay-at-home parent or nanny can give, but they are cared for by kind, caring, and knowledgeable teachers. If you are interested in a center that doesn't hire ECE teachers, move on.
Daycare centers do offer more stability than nanny care. If a teacher is sick or late to work, the center is still prepared to care for your child regardless. You don't have to worry about alternate arrangements when a teacher is sick or on vacation; the daycare center hires floaters to cover for teachers when they away.
If your child is sick however, most daycare centers require that you keep your child at home. Unlike nanny care, daycare centers do not care for sick children to prevent other children in the center from becoming sick. Daycare centers are a breeding ground for germs and bacteria—be prepared to spend time home with a sick child. Most centers close on major holidays and during bad winter storms, so you will need a back up plan through holiday season and winter.
Most daycare centers open at 6 and close by 6. If you arrive late to pick up your child, for whatever reason, be prepared to pay costly late fees. Some centers charge $1 each minute you are late and a $5 surcharge for each 5 minute interval.
Most centers have a handbook outlining the rules of the center and your role as a parent. Ask to review the handbook at your initial meeting. Always bring a list of questions to ask the director of each center you visit. You want a clear picture of how each daycare center operates before signing up.