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There are different types of child care resources for different lifestyles and education preferences.

What are Child Care Resources?

Regardless of whether parents choose a preschool, formal daycare, in-home daycare or family and friends, deciding where a young child will be taken care of has some common factors. Every parent wants the best choices available to them, a safe place for their child and somewhere their child can grow and develop skills, as child care resources are a crucial part of how a child grows and develops.

The first step is to look at which child care option is the right choice for the family and the child. What can the family reasonably afford? Is half a day, full day, or additional before and after care a necessity? In what area should the child care be? Knowing what is important to the family's needs can make the hunt for child care a little more manageable.

Start researching by asking other parents and looking on the internet. Ask other parents what they are looking for in their childcare options and if they are satisfied with theirs. Read about the establishment and see what the reviews say. After researching, narrow down the choices to two to three resources and visit them. As with all types of formal child care resources, a physical visit can shed light on whether the school is the right fit.

Preschool and Pre-Kindergarten Resources

Preschool and pre-Kindergarten are often used interchangeably, but there is a major technical difference between the two. Preschool usually starts at age two until the year before enrollment in Kindergarten. Pre-kindergarten (pre-K) is one year prior to Kindergarten. Aside from this, most preschool and pre-K functions are about the same, depending on the children's developmental stage.

Preschool and pre-K programs are more standardized than daycare. There is a greater emphasis on developmental assessment and academics, and the staffing requirements and licensing are different. Depending on the state, the staff of a preschool or pre-K program may need a college degree or certification to work there.

According to the National Institute for Early Education Research, early education programs for children provide both short term and long term gains in learning. However, the research also shows that not all preschool and pre-K programs are the same. High-quality programs produce the best results. It is news like this, which causes parents to feel like choosing the right preschool means making or breaking their child's future. Although choosing the right preschool is the goal, more factors affect a child's educational and social development than placing them in the "right" preschool.

The next step is becoming familiar with the terms preschools tend to use. Phrases like "Montessori method," "faith-based," "child-centered," "pre-Kindergarten" and "preschool" are used to indicate what type of teaching method is implemented and what ages they serve. Once these terms become familiar, the search for different preschool options can begin. One issue parents sometimes fail to consider is potty training. Many preschools, pre-Ks and daycares may require the child to be partially or fully potty trained prior to enrollment.

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Formal Day Care

A formal daycare center is typically licensed with a prescribed staff to child ratio, though that ratio may differ from a preschool. A formal daycare is less academically structured than a preschool or pre-K setting, though they do learn basics like counting, colors and the alphabet. The focus is on engaging children in social activities like games, or arts and crafts. Some daycares are available at the child's parent's worksite. Being onsite makes daycares a convenient option for these parents.

In-Home Daycare

In-home daycares are run by an individual out of their home. Most in-home daycares are licensed. Though most states do not require certification or a specific education level for the in-home daycare staff, many of the individuals who operate them do have the same education levels that preschool staff do.

The staff to child ratio in in-home daycares are usually smaller than that of formal daycare centers. The quality of care can differ significantly, depending on the person running the daycare. The cost for in-home daycares may be much less than preschools or formal daycares, due to the lack of overhead and staffing costs. Also, children may receive more individualized attention in this sort of setting.

Another advantage that an in-home daycare may have is potty training. Because of the lower staff to child ratio, many in-home daycares will take children who are not yet potty-trained and help to train them.

Family and Friends

Finding family and friends who wish to help care for a child can be a good option, especially if the cost is a factor. If grandparents are willing and able, they may be a great candidate for childcare.

One tremendous benefit family and friends have over other daycare options is individualized attention. They can provide one on one care throughout the day and are already familiar with the child’s personality and temperament.

The main concern with family and friends is socialization with other children. Unless family and friends have other children, or they are willing to take the child on excursions with other children, then social interactions will be limited. However, there are different ways to provide children with social experiences outside of daytime childcare.

Choose What is Right for Your Family

In some areas, preschool and daycare slots are very competitive. Parents may need to ask others when the best time is to start researching options. Understanding what is feasible for the family is an excellent way to begin the process.

Education and socialization can also occur outside of a formalized preschool environment. Remember to read to children, encourage learning new things, and provide opportunities for new experiences and social interactions.