Childcare Providers 101

Fortunately, there are options that fit many different preferences or phases of life. Many families use a combination (daycare + family care + occasional babysitters). Whatever works for you, works for you — as long as it is safe.

Here’s a rundown of the most common types of childcare:

  • Daycare — This term refers to care provided during the day. It can be in-home or center-based. Hours can vary from early morning to evening, full-time or part-time.
  • Pre-school — Spelled both “pre-schools” or “preschools”, these options are generally distinct from daycares in that these providers proudly design an education-based setting for young children (18+ mos). Many preschools limit hours to half-day or 3/4 day programs (9-12 or 9-2).
  • PreK — This refers to a school-like setting for young children in the year immediately prior to kindergarten.
  • After-school programs — These programs can be on-site of a school or off-site and are generally provided for school-aged children ages 5-14.
  • Camps — These programs are typically offered for children during breaks (Spring Break, Winter Break, summer). They can be half-day, full-day, and even sleep-away camps.

Additional details on the following options include:

In-Home Care arrangements

While there are no absolutes, the following options are generally provided in a family’s home or in the home of the childcare provider.

  • Formal or informal family care — For many reasons, the best choice for some families is childcare within the family.  
  • Babysitters — Generally one-off arrangements, babysitters can range from a young neighbor to a seasoned professional.
  • Mother’s Helpers — Commonly pre-teen to teenagers who help out while parents and children are also at home, mother’s helpers are generally tasked with light household work (laundry, light cleaning) and/or playing with children so parents’ hands are free for other duties.
  • Night nurses & post-partum doulas — Benefits of these professionals can include overnight or daytime care for infants, babies and new mothers.
  • Nannies — Typically, a family employs a nanny either part-time or full-time to care solely for their children.  
  • Nanny-Share — Some families band together to share a nanny (and the cost). These arrangements vary for formal or informal arrangements and can be at multiple families’ homes or just one.
  • Au pair — Typically, these international care providers are vetted and matched with prospective families by agencies. It’s common that au pairs live on-site with a family for at least one year.
  • In-Home care — A registered or licensed daycare or preschool that is run out of the home of the childcare provider.

Center-Based Care arrangements

  • Center-based care — A licensed daycare or preschool that is not in someone’s home, but in a stand-alone location.
  • Mothers Day Out (MDO) — “MDOs” tend to be faith-based, though not always. Typically, these programs are utilized by stay-at-home parents just a few hours a week to provide young children with socialization and parents a part-time childcare option.
  • Drop-in Daycare — These options are offered typically during the day to evening hours. Parents may need to call ahead to make an appointment, but many have the option to drop in and drop off children for care as needed. Unlike most daycare, parents typically aren’t committed to months at a time.
  • Back-Up Care — Some agencies or employers offer “back-up care”. It is generally an individual provider who is vetted and available on short-notice to cover unexpected childcare needs.
  • Get Well Care — Sometimes parents can not stay home with a sick child, mainly due to work obligations. Get well facilities offer parents a licensed option for their ill children.

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