Day Care Centers: What to Expect

Back to School Guide

home care versus day care center


Over the next month, the Daily Buzz will talk with moms and teachers about what you can expect in the upcoming school year. For the little ones who aren't there yet, I talked to moms about popular day care options. Today -- day care centers and facilities. Tomorrow, home care and babysitter settings.

What's a day care center? Typically a larger facility licensed and regulated by the state that often uses a particular teaching or learning philosophy. Just remember that just because a center is licensed doesn't mean it's the best place for your child. Researching each provider and getting recommendations from other moms is key!

Here's what moms say are the pros and cons of enrolling their children in a day care facility:



  • The state is watching  Centers are licensed and regulated to make sure they adhere to teacher/child ratios, offer safe facilities, provide some type of appropriate education, and follow other standards. Visit to find a licensed provider in your area. -- peanutsmommy1
  • More eyeballs  More than one person is responsible for your child's well-being (making them accountable to one another).
  • Staff must pass background checks  Of course, mistakes and loopholes exist, but this extra layer helps to weed out criminals, child molesters, and other people you want nowhere near your child.
  • Set hours  No worries about the babysitter calling in sick or going on vacation (except for staff development days and scheduled breaks, like at the end of August). -- Piscean
  • Learning opportunities  Teachers often follow set lesson plans and curriculum to encourage development, including the use of age-appropriate toys, books, craft projects, and activities.

My son learned so much: his colors, numbers, how to write his name, his        alphabet. They did tons of activities with them and gave them one on one attention. -- fcangel9

My daughter goes to a center and my young cousin the same age attends a home care. My daughter knows so much more. I know every kid develops differently and at there own stage, but it's a really big difference. -- BabyJae

  • Special resources  The facility my own children attended had a staff psychologist and nurse to deal with complex emotional issues and to administer antibiotics and other medications free of charge.
  • Enrichment  Field trips, musical performances, nature programs, and festivals are some of the special bonuses available.
  • Facilities  Better and safer outside play equipment and miniature toilets to help with potty training.
  • Social benefits Kids get to play with others their own age and development level. -- Mcaylaluv07
  • Meals are often included  Many centers provide their own meals and snacks for toddler age children -- one less chore for busy working parents to worry about in the morning.


  • Strict sick policies Many centers will make your child stay home if he or she is even the slightest bit sick. This is a good thing as it protects the healthy children and stamps down on outbreaks, but it's an added inconvenience for working parents.
  • Lack of individual attention You sometimes lose the one-on-one engagement with babysitters or smaller home cares.

The staff did nothing to help with my son's potty training. I asked them not to use pull-ups on him and try to use underwear and they refused because it was too much work. -- fcangel9

  • A rigid schedule Some moms consider a schedule a plus -- others prefer their child dictate when he eats, sleeps and free plays. In which case, a center might not be for you. Schedules are the only way a staff of 3 adults can manage 14 kids in one class.
  • High staff turnover Teachers and day care staff are often young and undecided in their careers and some don't stay in one job for long. So there's a risk of your child getting close to one of their teachers, only to lose them months or a year later.
  • Cost Tuition is typically higher at centers to cover liability costs and staff benefits.
  • Germs Home cares have microbes, too, but the more children, the more bugs that can jump off them or get on the hands of the day care workers and into your child. My son was home sick about every two weeks his first six months in day care.

It was horrible. My son had never had an ear infection in his life previously and because of all the crazy germs going around the day care, we were so close to having to get tubes in his ears. -- jmccurdy

Every facility is different -- some are great and others not so great. Do you agree with the above? What were your child's experiences at a day care center?

And visit our Back to School Guide all this month for the what-to-expect scoop from real CafeMoms and teachers.

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