Daycare vs. nanny: socialization or one-on-one care?

October 1, 2012

If you’re a working parent, you’ve probably faced the question of what to do about child care, especially if your kids are not yet in school.  There are so many options out there, and all of them have their pros and cons.  One of the main daycare vs. nanny (or au pair) debates is about whether it’s better for kids to be around other kids and learn social skills or to have more individualized care.

A number of studies have looked at the effects of daycare and nanny care on children’s academic achievement and behavioral problems.  Several of those studies showed that children who spent long hours in daycare centers displayed more behavioral problems, and that these behavioral problems persisted even into adolescence (Belsky, 2001; Lamb & Ahnert, 2006; Loeb et al., 2007).  On the other hand, another study showed that a high quality daycare center can have a positive influence on children’s academic achievements (NICHD ECCRN, 2002).

As a new parent, I researched the daycare centers near my office, but found them to be prohibitively expensive (more than my mortgage!) and a little bit too institutional for my taste.  Plus, the hours they offered meant that I would be scrambling to get there in time for pick up after work each day. 

When I started interviewing nannies, I found that to be challenging too.  There was such a wide range of personalities and experience, and it was hard to know who to choose.  Plus, I worried my son would be missing out on learning how to share and how to behave around other kids.

I’d love to be able to follow the advice of a scientific study that tells me exactly what to do to ensure that my child grows up to be the smartest, most well-adjusted kid on the block.  But unfortunately, it’s just not that simple.  Instead, I spoke to as many other parents as possible about their experiences and did my homework until I found a solution that works well for me. 

In the end I decided to go with one-on-one child care for my son.  I like that I can work directly with one person and partner with her on how to raise and take care of my child.  Plus, the added convenience of not having to pack my son up for daycare, drop him off and pick him up each day is a huge bonus in my time-crunched life.

What was your experience in the search for high quality child care?  What factors were the most important in your decision to use a daycare center, a family daycare, a nanny, an au pair or some other creative concoction of child care? 


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