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Childcare: What to know and how to find the best for your kids.

Updated: Feb 13, 2019

Childcare. If you’re fortunate like me, you were able to find a great daycare/learning center that created quality programming that focused on the well-being, development and engagement of children to build all their senses, learn creatively and be nurtured. However, that’s not always the story. More and more I’m hearing stories of people who can’t find anything or are on 6, 9 or even 12 month waiting lists. THAT’S INSANE!!! I may not be able to fix the shortage of quality childcare, but I can help you with what to look for, what to ask, what you may expect, and some area resources to assist with the search!

Three of the most common childcare options are nanny, in-home childcare, or a daycare/learning center. All three choices are great options when you need someone to watch your children while you work.


The nanny is an individual who will work with your family directly in your home. In addition to providing care for your child(ren), they might take on other duties like doing laundry, making their beds, meal prep, homework assistance, taking them to activities, etc. This will be up to you and the contract you arrange with one another.

  • Pros of having a nanny: one-on-one care with your child(ren), care in their in-home environment, no kid commute in the morning, less exposure to germs, flexible schedule, YOU have control over the daily schedule, and the nanny is a consistent caregiver.

  • Cons of having a nanny: no built-in social network, no back up provider if the nanny is sick, there is no direct supervision over the nanny (so trust is a BIG thing), and the cost of nanny’s can be higher than an in-home daycare or daycare/learning center.

  • has a great list of questions to ask a potential nanny and I encourage you to check it out.

  • Ask for references!!!

In-Home Childcare

Just as its name states, an in-home childcare typically provides care for babies and children in their home and can be a great option. Sizes of in-home childcare vary and typically are a mixed age group (children of all different ages). In the state of Michigan, many people think that in-home child care doesn’t need to be licensed. However, any individual who provides care for unrelated children in their home need to be licensed or registered by the Department of Licensing & Regulatory Affairs. There are two different types of license; up to 6 kids (family child care home), 7-12 kids (group child care home). Licensing requires that the provider get finger printed, and completes a health screen, TB test, CPR & First aid certification and Universal precautions (blood-borne pathogens).

  • Pros of in-home childcare: typically, lower in cost, more personal attention, less exposure to germs, continuous care (w/the same person from baby to toddler age instead of changing rooms, the provider may be more flexible with hours.

  • Cons of in-home childcare: no backup care provided, usually only one or two providers so it can be problematic if the provider gets sick or if there is an emergency, the providers are not supervised by anyone.

  • Questions to ask: Are they licensed, CPR/First Aid certified, what is the sick child policy, do they have plans for emergencies (fire, tornado, etc.), who else will be in the house when the child is & are they involved in their care, what is the discipline policy, policy for emergencies and time off, will they have a backup, are you expected to pay if either of you cancels w/o enough notice?

  • Ask for references!!!

Daycare/Learning Center:

A daycare is a licensed facility that is governed by strict state policies that are heavily enforced for the health and safety of the children. There are specific ratios (per age) that need to be adhered to, dietary regulations, required trainings and so much more. Many daycares have teachers that are required to meet education standards (i.e. associates degree in childhood development/education), rooms are separated by age so age appropriate curriculum can be created, and there is a registration process for enrollment.

  • Pros of a daycare/learning center: curriculum-based care, built in social network, dependable hours of operation, exposure to germs (not always a bad thing!), access to possible babysitters (I have gotten some great ones!)

  • Cons of a daycare/learning center: inflexible hours of operation, higher cost, strict sick policies, long wait lists.

  • Questions to ask: Do they have a time limit per day, are their penalties for picking up the child late, what fees are associated with registering, are their annual renewal fees, what is the sick policy, are there flex/vacation days, how/when can those be used, what is the ratio of teacher to child, what holidays are they closed for, what is the deposit?

When touring an in-home or daycare setting, keep these questions in the back of your head:

  • Do the children seem happy?

  • Do the staff seem engaged & appropriate with the children?

  • Is the environment clean/safe/engaging?

  • Is there adequate space?

The search for childcare can be stressful and frustrating. But when armed with a basic knowledge of what to expect, what to look for and what to ask it gives you more confidence to in making the best decision for care for your little ones.

Great Michigan Based Resources

Friends & family referrals

State of Michigan Childcare Search (can search any licensed setting for investigations)

Calvin/GVSU/Aquinas – student job boards where you can post a job


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