Home childcare is a useful service that helps the lives of many parents everywhere. However, the biggest challenge is finding quality home childcare that you can truly rely on and trust.
Before I had my business, the only help I had was dropping the kids off at their grandparents.
When my now two teenage kids had just started school I was able to hire an Aupair and when my third youngest came along I hired a housekeeper who also doubled as home childcare help.
This is a process I’ve been through before and I felt called to share some helpful insight in this article in the hope that it can make this process easier for you when you’re looking for someone to help lighten the load!
What is Home Childcare?
If you’re not already familiar with what it is, home childcare, also known as family or home daycare, is an arrangement whereby you pay a childcare provider to take care of your child in your home on a regular ongoing basis.
You may find that some home childcare providers have received training and some are licensed, but many are also not.
Most commonly you’d be able to find home childcare providers through word of mouth, on bulletin boards or flyers in and around your community or neighbourhood, or online.
When considering which options to go with there are many variables to mull over and some safety issues to consider.
These are your children and you want to make sure they get the absolute best possible care available, so this is not a decision that should be rushed.
Types of Childcare Choices
For parents who want ongoing regular childcare help the most common options are a nanny (aka Aupair), in home childcare or daycare, or a daycare centre.
Finding the right type of childcare will differ from family to family.
It’s such a personal thing and what may work for someone else may not be the best choice for you.
Take a look below for a short explanation of the different types of childcare mentioned above:
Nanny/ Au Pair
Nannies or au pairs work in your home and usually only take care of one family’s children unless they only work part-time.
Finding a nanny who will work during the hours you want is fairly easy, even if you happen to work irregular hours.
Some nannies are available to come to your house in the morning and leave in the evening, while others may occasionally stay overnight, or they may even live-in.
Depending on the type of work a nanny or au pair is willing to do, they might be able to take on other duties, such as fetching them from school, taking them to activities or helping them with homework.
When hiring a nanny, make sure to look for someone whose child-rearing value system is similar to your own.
This can be a bit tricky if they are much younger and don’t yet have kids of their own, in which case you’ll have to vet them quite carefully to get a feel for them.
Nannies generally cost more than a daycare.
In-home daycare is usually offered in the childcare provider’s home.
These providers may take care of their own young children at the same time or may also take care of other children, in addition to yours.
Typically, you will find that a home daycare includes a small, mixed-age group of children. You can expect your child to remain with the same caregiver throughout the day.
In-home daycare providers don’t usually help you with errands, taking kids to activities or school, and offer overnight care, however, weekend babysitting or extended hours may be an option depending on the provider.
In-home daycare is usually more affordable than a regular daycare facility.
A daycare centre is generally a licensed facility with many trained teachers, classrooms and nurseries that are separated by age, a registration process, a calendar that includes hours of operation, and an educational curriculum.
Which Home Childcare Is It Right for You?
I’m specifically discussing using a nanny versus in-home daycare here.
You have to think about what’s important for your kids, your budget and what’s ultimately going to be the most beneficial for all.
For in-home daycare, the home setting, rather than a facility setting, can feel a lot more personal and intimate than a daycare classroom, which appeals to some parents.
Nannies are based within your own home which can be greatly beneficial to the child as they don’t need to get used to a new space.
Cost: In-home child care is usually less expensive than formal daycare or hiring a nanny.
Low child-to-care provider ratio: There are fewer children at a home daycare than a traditional daycare centre, which can mean more personal attention and less exposure to illness. With a nanny or au pair your child will have complete personal 1:1 attention and also less exposure to illness as the nanny is based in your home.
Continuous care: You will find that many home childcare providers take care of babies from a very young age and continue to care for them through toddler age, unlike traditional daycare centres that make them change classrooms. Same with a nanny, if you find a good one that stays for a long time they will be able to care for the child continuously, which can be of great benefit to a child—instead of having a new nanny every few months.
Socialisation: With a home childcare provider your baby will be able to get a good amount of facetime and socialisation with other kids in an in-home daycare, instead of the more private setting with a nanny at home.
Reliability: Many in-home childcare providers are typically more flexible than traditional daycare centres and they often offer extended or flexible hours. This can be a great help to parents who may have varying or nontraditional schedules. Nannies and au pairs are also very reliable as they are directly employed by you and will typically only work for one family at a time.
Some parents may prefer a more structured environment for their children and they may also not want to have to manage a nanny.
Other drawbacks may include:
Lack of licensing and training: Home daycares are usually unlicensed and don’t need providers to have child care training. They are not regularly inspected for quality, and may not follow guidelines regarding child-to-caregiver ratios, group size, activities, materials, and safety etc. Same can be said about nannies and au pairs but they usually come with a host of references and experience of working with children.
No backup care provided: An in-home daycare centre usually only has one or two caregivers, so if one or two of them get sick or have to take care of personal issues, there is usually no backup caregiver. This would also be the case for a nanny or an au pair, there’s only one of them.
Questions to Ask
When choosing in-home childcare or a nanny it’s important to ask the right questions on topics such as safety, cost, hours, sick child or sick caregiver policies.
For home childcare or daycare ask all of the following questions:
- Are they CPR and first aid certified?
- Are there plans in place for a lost, sick or injured child?
- Any regularly practised emergency plans? What happens in cases of fires, floods or other natural disasters?
- Who else will be in the house when my child is there? Ask about all adults, teens, and elders in the home. Find out what roles, if any, they will play in your child’s care and what their qualifications and experience with kids are.
- Does your insurance cover my child? Find out if the childcare provider’s homeowner’s insurance covers injuries to your child during childcare hours, even though you hope you will never need to use it.
Interviewing for a nanny or au pair? Ask all of the following questions:
Questions about the position:
- Why do you want this job?
- What are you looking for in your next position?
- Do you have any questions about the job description?
- Do you know your way around my town/city/neighborhood?
Questions about training, education and background:
- Why did you get involved in child care work?
- How long have you been a caregiver?
- Do you have (or are you willing to get) CPR or baby first-aid training?
- What is your education level?
- Have you taken classes in child care? Would you be willing to take classes if presented with the opportunity?
- Are you fluent in any other languages besides English? If so, would you be comfortable speaking in another language to the children?
Questions about their work experience:
- Why did you leave your last job?
- What are the ages of the children you’ve cared for?
- What are your favorite ages to care for and why?
- What is your favorite part about being a nanny? What’s your least favorite part?
- What was the most challenging experience you had with a child you were taking care of?
- Have you ever had to handle an emergency or been witness to a life-threatening situation with a child? If yes, what happened and how did you react?
- Do you have experience with children who have medical needs?
- Are you comfortable administering medicine?
- Do you have experience preparing bottles?
- Do you have experience following dietary restrictions and avoiding food allergies?
- Do you have experience introducing a baby to solid food?
- Do you have experience navigating unusual or difficult family dynamics?
- Tell me about the work style of your past employers. Was it a casual environment, or was there a strict schedule?
- What additional duties did you perform in your previous jobs? Did you do any light cleaning or run household errands?
Questions about lifestyle:
- What do you see yourself doing in the future?
- What do you like to do in your free time?
- Do you have any hobbies or do you pursue any interests outside of work?
- Do you have any dietary restrictions?
What to Expect provides a thorough article for further info on how to interview for a nanny here.
For either a nanny or in-home childcare, make sure to ask them about what their policy is regarding discipline.
Be sure that you and the provider are on the same page when it comes to managing behaviour issues, crying, rules, and anything else that may concern you.
For in-home childcare, it’s also important to understand policies for personal emergencies and time off.
For a nanny or an au pair, you have more of a say here. Ask the childcare provider about time-off for holidays, a backup plan, and whether you are still expected to pay if either of you cancels without enough notice given?
What To Look For When You Visit An In-home Daycare
- Happy children
- Compassionate caregivers
- A stimulating environment
- The interaction between age groups
- A clean and healthy setting
- Adequate space
- Safety measures
- Open communication
- Good reputation
Don’t be scared to ask for references and find other parents who are using or seeking in-home childcare.
Chat to those parents about their experience and ask for suggestions on places or providers they would recommend.
It’s imperative that you do your due diligence in researching the provider and be sure to follow your instincts as you make your decision.
8 Tips for Choosing Child Care
1. Look Down
When visiting a potential in-home childcare provider or if you’re interviewing a nanny or au pair, pay attention to how they interact with the children or child.
Ideally, a caregiver should be on the floor playing with the kids or holding one on their lap. For babies, it’s extremely important in their early years that they receive close, loving and interactive attention with adults in order to blossom.
I know I would want my baby to be around a caregiver who is warm and responsive, and that I know they will get enough one-on-one time and not just be left lying in their crib.
2. Ask For A Commitment
Babies need consistent, predictable care. It helps them to form a secure attachment to their caregivers, according to Debra K. Shatoff, a family therapist in private practice in St. Louis.
If you’re looking at a nanny, request that the person you’re considering make a one-year commitment to the job.
If you’re considering an in-home daycare or traditional daycare centre, find out how long the current caregivers have been working there and how much turnover the centre usually experiences.
3. Do A Policy Check
Find out whether you share parenting philosophies on topics such as discipline; TV; feeding; sleeping and so on.
Also, ask about what the sick-child policy is (what symptoms prevent a child from attending?).
The more questions (refer to questions earlier in the article) you ask early on, the more prepared you can be for any eventuality.
4. Drop By And Spy
The best way to see whether a child care provider (nanny or in-home daycare) is a good fit is to drop by unexpectedly to see how they are interacting with the kids. If you are interviewing a nanny, a good way to do this is to give them a trial run and then pop in on them when they’re with your kids.
5. Communicate Clearly
You want to make sure you are able to communicate clearly with the caregiver. If they are looking after your baby who is unable to speak yet, ask them to fill you in on all the details you missed and you do the same for them. You should both be on the same page at all times.
6. Problem-solve Pronto
It is very likely that you will experience conflicts with your caregiver. At the end of the day, we are all human and this is completely normal.
Make sure to address any problems that come up right away rather than ignoring them until they grow even bigger than necessary.
You’ll be able to resolve some issues fairly quickly, while others may take more time. Always be respectful during any conflict and find ways to problem solve as opposed to pointing fingers.
7. Trust Your Gut Always
Every parent knows when something just doesn’t feel quite right.
LISTEN TO THIS.
That nudge in your gut (or intuition) is coming up for a reason, never ignore it.
8. Be Open To Change
As Jim Rohn says, “If you don’t like how things are, change it! You’re not a tree.”
You are not bound to a situation or person forever, if things don’t feel good, you can always change things.
Yes, consistency for your children is important, but ultimately you want them to have the most positive experience with their caregiver and if that means you must alter arrangements, then so be it — kids are resilient, so do what’s going to be best for them.
It’s Time To Expolre Your Options
The task of looking for quality home childcare can be rather daunting and stressful, but if you do your research and have a clear understanding of what you should be looking for then this will make things much easier.
Make sure you really dive deep into what support you need, what’s going to work for your family and what you can afford so as to not add on unnecessary stress.
I’m no expert but I hope I managed to give you some helpful tips into this process.
I’d love to hear your insight around this topic, please feel free to share with me in the comments below and ask me any questions.
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