Angie's LIST Guide to
Child Care

Finding quality child care is hard. Know your options, whether they be in-home care, day care centers, nannies, or before- and after- school programs.


child care
With many child care options available, parents can select the care that best fits the needs of their family. (Photo by Chris Liphart)

Common child care choices

Day care centers

There are many choices for day care centers, including privately owned for-profit centers, church-supported programs and nonprofit community centers. Each type is unique in its own way. Parents must determine what works best for their family when deciding on care.

In-home care

Many individuals offer in-home day care. Some parents prefer the casual setting and the fact that home care often features fewer children.

child care
Child care prices vary depending on the option chosen. (Photo by Brandon Smith)

Nannies and au pairs

If they can afford it, parents may prefer having caregivers come to their own home. Nannies generally arrive at work daily, while au pairs live with the family. Au pairs usually provide child care and light housekeeping in exchange for room, board and a cultural experience.

Mothers' helpers

Home-based parents may want part-time help with children. Mothers' helpers, who may be neighborhood teens, can give a parent time to focus on a task at home.

Before- and after-school care

Schools may offer child-care programs before and after class time. Such care may also be provided by the local YMCA or other community organizations, as well as local day care centers and in-home child care services.

CHECK OUT: 5 questions to ask while touring a day care center

How to find quality care

All good child care programs should offer reliable supervision by trustworthy adults in a clean, caring and safe environment. Beyond that, however, the definition of "quality" depends on what parents want. Ask yourself what is most important to you: Does your child need personal attention? Is play time paramount? What about naps and learning opportunities?

One of the best ways to determine provider quality is to visit a facility with a list of questions.

What to look for when touring a facility:

  • Watch for obvious signs that an establishment is safe and comfortable for children. Look for potential hazards or signs of poor cleaning habits.
  • Observe children's overall mood and temperament. Do they seem happy and engaged? Are they being watched or ignored?
  • Notice caregivers' appearance and attitude. Do they dress appropriately around children? Are they afraid to crawl on the floor and get their hands dirty?

Some questions to ask:

  • What is the staff to child ratio? Many states have laws governing the maximum number of children per caregiver.
  • Does the caregiver or facility have the required licensing and credentials?
  • What training does the caregiver have?
  • What would happen in case of an emergency?
  • What does the caregiver believe constitutes quality care?

MORE: How to find quality day care for your kids

How to ensure quality child care

child care
Some child care programs provide snacks, while other will require you to pack food. (Photo by Brandon Smith)

Finding a day care provider is one part of the job. It's important to stay aware and informed. Follow these ideas for making sure your child is getting quality care on an ongoing basis:

Make surprise visits: Parents should always have the right to stop in unannounced to check on their children. This is an effective way to see what happens when parents usually aren't around. Hopefully, there won't be anything that raises a concern, but if there is, it's better to know.

Pay attention to your child: Signs that a child may not be thriving in a particular facility or with a certain caregiver may include mood changes, anxiety or withdrawal. For children who can talk, it's a good idea to occasionally ask if he or she likes day care.

Communicate: Communication is key to establishing a good relationship with care providers. If a parent has a concern, he or she should speak up in a mature and professional manner.

Be persistent: Trust your instincts. Be sure to address any issue or concern you have with the caregiver and/or managers. Be ready to remove your child from any situation you deem suspicious or unsafe, and contact appropriate authorities.

Is your child care provider properly licensed or registered? Use the Angie's List Child Care Provider Check to find out.


How much should someone charge for babysitting?

You should charge either for the number of children present or how often you babysit. If it's a one time deal, the charge for how many kids there are. If you're babysitting weekly, then it depends on how often AND how many kids. This also depends on how long you're watching them.

Hi Lacey,

Here's a great article one of our reporters wrote on how much you should pay your babysitter:

Rates average $10/hr across the country, but it depends on a variety of factors explained in the story.

Thanks for commenting!

Stephanie S. at Angie's List

What should i charge a military couple if i am open 24 hours. But they only use me for 8 hours, 9 to 5?

It depends on the needs of you and the family, but here's a guide on pricing one of our reporters wrote:


Stephanie S. at Angie's List

im looking for someone to watch my son who is 20 months old i cant afford daycare i am willing to let them watch him at my house while here they are welcome to whatever they need food ect. or if i need to take him to their house. i will be working m-f 8am to 2:30pm. i have two older boys that will be in school ages 5 and 6 so on the days they are out if its snow days or whatever the case is will need help their otherwise just my younger one. will pay more if other boys need watched thank you so much..jammie

I have a 1 year old boy. And i work Monday through Friday from 8am to 5pm. How much would you charge me if you were to watch my son.. please e-mail me to let me know.. Thanks

Waxahachie, Texas Looking for school transportation for 7th grader and 9th grader every other week. To school from home and from school back to home. Total 1 to 1 1/2 hour daily Monday thru Friday.

Hi Bobbie, You can find more informatin about local transportation services here:

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