There are three basic types of child day care facilities: daycare centers, family daycare homes, and preschools. Though each type of child day care setting provides supervision for children when their parents are at work or otherwise unavailable, each setting is different in some way. There are advantages and disadvantages to each type.
A family daycare home is a residential property in which an individual provides child day care for a group of children. Laws regarding family daycare homes vary from place to place. Some places require licensing of such facilities while others do not or only require licensing if a person wants to care for more than three or four children at a time. In many places, licensed family daycare homes are restricted to providing daycare to fewer than six or seven children. Some jurisdictions will license group family daycare homes, however, allowing them to care for 10 to 12 children at a time.
One of the advantages of a family daycare setting is that it’s run in the operator’s home and may feel more cozy and comfortable than a day care center. This can be important for children who aren’t used to being away from their parents regularly. Some people consider family daycare homes more personal and nurturing than child day care centers, while others may consider them less professional.
A daycare center is a child day care setting in which a group of children are cared for in a commercial facility. Most places require daycare centers to secure licensing. A daycare center usually has more space than a family daycare home and may have more furnishings and equipment for the kids. Even if the square footage of a family daycare home is the same as a daycare center, the amount of space dedicated solely to child care is likely to be higher in a daycare center.
Some people consider daycare centers more business-like than family daycare homes and believe children receive less personal attention within them. Others assert that children have more opportunity to learn and participate in planned activities with this type of child-care facility. Some appreciate that daycare centers are often more heavily regulated than family daycare homes. They argue that this regulation translates into a better quality of care and improved safety.
Preschools are similar to daycare centers in that they are usually in commercial facilities and are often held to strict licensing requirements. Preschools usually focus on children who are between the ages of three to five, however, while other child day care facilities often accept children from birth to school age. Preschools typically include organized learning activities in the daily schedule, emphasizing preparation for school and the development of early academics over unstructured play.
In some places, preschools have to hire teachers that have attained a certain level of education. For example, some jurisdictions require preschool teachers to have early childhood education certificates or degrees. Others, however, allow facilities to hire teachers who’ve earned high school diplomas or general equivalency diplomas (GEDs).