There are two basic types of childcare providers: in-home/family childcare and center-based care. In family childcare homes, an individual provider takes care of children in her own home. Smith recommends this type of care from infancy to the preschool years. "In reality, if family childcare is done well, it's probably the better setting because it's smaller, more home-like, and there's more individual attention," Smith says. "So family childcare, regulated and done well, I think is a really good option for infant care.
"Family care is generally popular for younger children under the age of 3," Smith says. "Then they tend to migrate into center-based care between 3 and 4 years of age. By that time, parents are looking for a social experience for their child and more of a learning experience. Developmentally, children begin to interact with each other around 3 years of age."
Other forms of in-home care aren't necessarily regulated by the state and include in-home nanny sharing, which is more popular in urban communities, and au pair care. An au pair is a foreign domestic assistant who comes to live with a host family and shares the responsibilities of childcare and housework for a small monetary allowance. Not only are au pairs affordable, but you're able to have convenient, live-in care and expose your children to different cultures.
What to ask prospective childcare providers