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

Looking for the right daycare? You may be considering both home daycares and daycare centers. Each type provides childcare with a different approach — so which is the best fit for your family?

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 kinds of daycares are common throughout the U.S. and provide crucial childcare services to families.

(And for employers contemplating the addition of childcare benefits for employees, programs can be found featuring either daycare centers or home daycare providers.)

Organizations can ask Upwards any questions about employee childcare benefits and what daycare options are available with care benefit programs.

Home daycares vs. daycare centers

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

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. This environment provides a smaller, home-like setting for children. Daycare centers are typically found in larger urban and suburban areas, with high population density. Home daycares are more readily available in urban, suburban, and rural communities, providing expanded coverage throughout the country.
  • 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. Depending on when you need care, the schedule flexibility of home daycares alone may be the biggest deciding factor.
  • Class size: Not surprisingly, daycare centers usually have larger classes, 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 daycare costs vary by state and locality, however, home daycares can be up to 40% more affordable than larger 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 challenging summer months, it is something to be aware of when narrowing down your childcare options.

Finding the right daycare fit

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 help 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. Some home daycares may be open for about 12 hours a day and also provide weekend as well as overnight care for additional childcare versatility.
  • What’s your preference for the environment and daycare setting? Are you looking for generally larger class surroundings? Is your family comfortable with your child around a large number of kids? The daycare center environment works for many families amenable to those traits in a daycare. Would you prefer a smaller, in-home setting? Home daycares are a good choice for those reasons, providing 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, of course. But with smaller class sizes and less children overall compared to larger centers, the exposure and risk is minimized.
  • 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 very well end up being a home daycare with a flexible caregiver willing and able to help with potty training.
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Securing 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.

Upwards 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://upwards.com/daycare-near-me

Upwards also works with employers around the country to offer employee childcare benefits for their teams. Working families get the support they need to secure affordable childcare while businesses benefit from higher employee productivity, lower absenteeism, improved retention, and more competitive hiring.

Interested organizations can reach out to Upwards to learn more about childcare benefits for employees or schedule time on the calendar to start the conversation.

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