Before you start interviewing nannies or babysitters, or start looking around for daycare, you need to decide what type of childcare is best for your family. Is a nanny who comes to your home and offers you one-to-one personal care (possibly along with light housekeeping) your best bet? Or would it be better to take your child to a daycare each day where they can socialize and interact with other children? Of course, both have merits, but ultimately one will be a better fit for your family.
“A parent’s choice of who will care for their child while they are away from them is one of the first and most important decisions they will ever make,” said Donna Whittaker, vice president of curriculum and education at Big Blue Marble Academy . “And like many decisions in the parenting world, when it comes to childcare, one size doesn’t fit all. The best choice depends on what works best for your child and family.”
Are you weighing the pros, cons and costs of a nanny versus day care? Here’s everything you need to know about both.
Hiring a nanny: pros, cons and costs
Here you can find out what you should consider when hiring a nanny.
According to Whittaker and Lora Brawley, a 30-year veteran nanny and consultant and trainer at the Nanny Care Hub in Federal Way, Washington, parents can consider the following benefits when hiring a nanny:
- Full attention. A nanny cares for your child individually, rather than dividing attention among a group of children. “A child in the care of a nanny doesn’t have to be vying for an adult’s attention in the middle of a room full of other little ones,” notes Whittaker.
- Flexibility. A nanny’s hours are more flexible than childcare, which may benefit parents with long hours or non-conventional work schedules better.
- Convenience. “With nannies, there are no drop-offs and pickups,” notes Brawley. “Parents don’t have to storm out the door in the morning or storm in at night and struggle to get dinners, baths, and nice hours done.”
- Care outside opening hours. “Nannies offer parents the opportunity to have a date night without having to find another caregiver for their child — a babysitter,” says Whittaker. Some nannies even travel with families on vacation.
- Personalized schedules. “Younger kids can be on their schedule,” says Whittaker. “They eat, sleep and play when it works best for them, not the group.”
- Sick children are still cared for. “Parents don’t have to stop work because of a sick child, since most nannies take care of sick children,” explains Brawley. “Nannies can even take a child to the pediatrician and pick up any necessary prescriptions.”
- More contact with places and events. “With a nanny, you don’t have to wait for a trip,” says Brawley. “Nannies regularly take their charges to places like the park, the zoo, and the science museum.”
- Possible domestic help. Although this must be agreed beforehand in a nanny contract, some nannies are willing to offer household and even pet support. “When nannies agree to help around the house, families can come to a place that’s tidy with folded laundry and a stocked diaper station,” Whittaker says, adding that while nannies aren’t responsible for pet grooming, they let dogs can go in and out during the day.”
- Fewer germs. With fewer children, there are fewer germs, which means fewer diseases.
A few more nanny pros according to Brawley:
- Parents decide the type of daily environment they want for their child.
- Siblings are together and not separated by age.
- Children are in their own houses with all their own things. “It’s a safer and more comfortable environment for most children,” she says.
According to Brawley and Whittaker, the following disadvantages for nannies to consider are:
- No built-in backup caregiver when nanny is sick.
- No built in socialization that provides opportunities to work on skills like sharing.
- Parents are the employers, so there is a built-in responsibility.
- Families lose some privacy when someone works in their home.
- Generally more expensive.
When looking at the cost of a nanny versus day care, nannies are almost always more expensive. Care’s most recent Cost of Care Survey shows that parents can expect to pay $694 per (40-hour) week for a child.
That being said, nanny prices vary depending on a number of factors including where you live. To find out what nanny rates apply in your area, check out our childcare cost calculator. Also, learn about tax breaks and loans for families hiring a nanny.
Finding day care: pros and cons and costs
Day care professionals
Whittaker and Brawley note the following benefits for families considering day care:
- friendships blossom. “Kids who go to daycare develop friendships because they see each other and play together every day, not just once a week at a playdate in the park,” explains Whittaker. These children see each other for several hours a day, five days a week. They build relationships with their peers. For example, they know that Johnny builds the best block towers, Mary helps me when I have trouble putting together a puzzle, and Jacob is allergic to milk.”
- Consistent, reliable support. If a kindergarten teacher is ill, others can always take over, which means that the parents never let their work down.
- Socialization. Being around other children throughout the day helps children learn a range of socialization skills including sharing and flexibility and respect. “Children in child care learn to solve problems while they play,” notes Whittaker. “If there are only two dolls, maybe someone needs to adjust their game plan and pretend they’re a family pet and not mom or dad. Furthermore,” she adds, “childcare allows children to understand that they must always be respectful, even if not everyone feels, looks or believes the same as themselves.”
- Children have more opportunities to move through the stages of play. “In group settings, kids find it easier to move through the six stages of play because they have someone to play with,” says Whittaker. “When playing alone, it is difficult for a child to move into cooperative play where children have an interest in the activity and the other children involved in the play.”
- More germs. While more germs may not seem good to parents, the “hygiene hypothesis” suggests that the more germs children are exposed to, the more resilient they are.
- Access to educational activities and articles. While you might not have an easel, a box of finger paints, and a sandpit ready at home, daycare centers certainly do, along with a trained staff to show you the best way to use everything. (And an added bonus: no mess in your home!)
day care cons
According to Brawley and Whittaker, the following disadvantages for nannies to consider are:
- Bored at home. “Kids in daycare always have access to a playmate, so if they’re at your house on the weekends, they want someone to play with,” notes Whittaker.
- Exposure to inappropriate words and actions. Monkeys see, monkeys do! “Children can be exposed to words and actions in day care that are unacceptable in your home,” says Whittaker. “Parents then need to take the time and patience to teach the life lesson that just because someone does something, it’s not okay.”
- More germs. While more germs can mean a stronger immune system down the line, it now also means more disease — for your entire family.
- group plan. “Unless your child is a toddler, their schedule is based on the class,” notes Whittaker. “It may not take long for a child to adjust to their classroom schedule, but you need to adjust your schedule at home. For example, your toddler usually takes two naps at home but only one nap at daycare, making double naps at weekends a thing of the past.”
day care costs
“Unless you’re looking for expensive multi-child day care, day care is almost always more affordable than nanny care,” explains Brawley. “If you have a full-time nanny, you will be the main source of income.”
“If you can’t afford childcare, consider day care,” she continues. “If it’s on your budget but you can meet your commitments, it’s doable. If you’re wondering how you’re going to pay your nanny each week, that’s impractical.”
Care’s most recent Cost of Care Survey shows that parents can expect to spend $226 per week in daycare for a child. According to the survey, you might pay a little less for a family care center, also known as home day care — which costs an average of $221 per week — but keep in mind that most family care centers don’t have a robust staff or guaranteed replacement care.
Here, too, the day care rates can vary depending on where you live. To find out how high the daycare costs are in your area, take a look at our daycare cost calculator. Also, check out daycare tax credits that can benefit your family.
Nanny vs. Kita cost comparison
|type of child care||National Average Weekly Price|
|day care center||$226|
|family care center||$221|
The final result
According to Brawley, as long as you do your due diligence, you’ll find great childcare.
“Placing your child in a quality family care center or daycare is a much better option than hiring a less-than-quality nanny,” she says. “Once families look at the pros and cons of each product, they will quickly see which is a better fit.”