Now that your toddler is growing up, you may be getting ready to head back to work, sign up for some volunteer activities or just have a little more time to yourself. If so, then you are probably spending some time looking into the various childcare options that are available for your youngster. There are a number of different alternatives that parents have when it comes to toddler childcare. From enrolling your child in daycare, to hiring a nanny, au pair, or babysitter, the options are almost endless. To help you choose the right option for you and your child, here are some of the basics about the most popular toddler childcare options.
Daycare is quickly becoming one of the most popular childcare options. In fact, more than 30% of children under the age of five attend some type of structured daycare program. Daycare is an excellent option for many parents, as it allows their children to participate in a structured environment and it can be excellent preparation for preschool and kindergarten. Daycare typically runs from seven o'clock in the morning until as late as seven o'clock at night. Some daycares have even started accommodating parents working later shifts and may stay open to as late as 11pm or 12am. Daycare facilities may be offered at your place of employment, local high school or community college, or at a private daycare center.
Advantages of Daycare: Enrolling your child in daycare can offer a number of wonderful advantages. Daycare provides:
- socialization with other children
- meals and snacks
- the opportunity to improve listening, reading, and speaking skills
Disadvantages of Daycare:
Unfortunately, daycare does have its disadvantages. Daycare is:
- expensive (it can cost upwards of $15,000 a year)
- typically unavailable on holidays
- very rigid and structured
Au pairs are young men and women who come from a different country to help you look after your children. They perform various childcare services in exchange for a place to live and the opportunity to become familiar with a new country and language. Au pairs are typically between the ages of 20 and 27, and are paid a small fee and provided with room and board in exchange for babysitting services, including meal preparation, homework supervision, and the coordination of activities for your child. Most au pairs are hired through an au pair agency.
Advantages of an Au Pair
Au pairs can provide wonderful care and attention for your children. Many form close bonds with the families that they come to stay with, and are often seen as an older brother or sister. Additional advantages include:
- flexible working hours (up to 45 hours per week)
- training in babysitting as well as in basic first aid and CPR
- low fees
Disadvantages of an Au Pair
Though they can become a wonderful addition to your family, au pairs do have their disadvantages. If you hire an au pair, you must be willing to provide room and board and the chance for your au pair to socialize with others in your community. Additionally, au pairs can lack:
- specialized training in child development and growth
- language and communications skills (not all au pairs are fluent in English)
Nannies are typically men or women between the ages of 18 and 70 that choose childcare as their professional field. Most nannies work on a part-time or full-time basis and provide full childcare services for a family. If you hire a nanny, you can expect her to participate actively in your child's intellectual, emotional, and physical growth and development. She will organize educational games and activities, monitor homework and school responsibilities, as well as care for your child's basic physical needs (including meal preparation, bathing, and clothing). Nannies often choose to live with the families that they are working for, or you can hire a nanny to work on a day-to-day to basis.
Advantages of Nannies
Nannies can provide a wonderful childcare experience for your child. Many nannies:
- are fully trained in first aid and CPR
- are trained in preparing nutritional meals and organizing educational activities
- have a certificate or degree in Early Childhood Education
- are eager to play an active role in the growth and development of your child
Disadvantages of Nannies
Nannies tend to be the most expensive childcare alternative available. In fact, a full-time, live-in nanny can cost upwards of $50,000 a year, so they are most suited to large families or families who are prepared to bear the cost of this type of childcare. Additionally, your nanny may be unable to work on holidays, during the summertime, or on weekends.
Next to daycare, babysitters are often the most popular childcare alternative for busy moms and dads. Babysitters are typically teenagers or young adults that live in your neighborhood who come to your home to provide short-term care for your child. They often work nights or part-time hours during the week and many are available on short notice (in case an exciting night out on the town pops up)! Babysitters provide entertainment for your children and can also change diapers, serve prepared meals and snacks, and ensure that all the rules of the household are enforced. However, their primary responsibility is to ensure the safety of your child when you are out of the house.
Advantages of Babysitters
Babysitters can provide excellent childcare, especially if you are not away from home that often and do not require someone to look after your children for an entire day. Additionally, babysitters:
- are often experienced in looking after younger children
- relate well to young children
- work at reasonable rates
Disadvantages of Babysitters
If you are looking for a more long-term childcare alternative, a babysitter may not be exactly what you are looking for. Babysitters lack specific knowledge about child development and care, and may not be able to perform regular childcare duties, such as meal preparation or homework help. Additionally, most babysitters tend to be teenagers and you may not feel completely comfortable leaving your children in their care for long periods of time.