Center-Based Child Care


If you envision your children spending their days in a more school-like setting with a number of adults available and with kids their own age, then you may want to research child care centers in your area. These state-licensed facilities usually employ more caregivers and accommodate more children than the other options. Children are usually grouped by age. Some early-childhood centers are accredited by the state or by educational associations, and they offer a variety of infant and preschool curricula. The ratio of adults to children varies from center to center, as high as six children to one adult.

What you might like about this choice

  • This is usually highly dependable care since there are multiple caregivers at a center and substitutes can be called in case of an absence.
  • Centers provide more opportunities for building social skills and more stimulation for children who like lots of interaction in a structured environment.
  • These facilities are inspected at least once a year for health and safety requirements.
  • Research has shown improved cognitive and language skills in children placed in high-quality center-based child care.
  • These facilities often have more equipment, toys and supplies and a more spacious play area than family care situations.
  • Usually (but not always) caregivers at these facilities have received training in early childhood development.
  • For some parents, the structured atmosphere and routine of these centers seem safer and more supervised than a more relaxed home environment.



  • What looks like more social stimulation to some looks like more chaos to others.
  • Some parents consider the institutional atmosphere a drawback.
  • The care and the routine tend to be less flexible than in home-type environments.
  • Good care centers with highly qualified staff tend to have long waiting lists - and they're expensive!


Words worth considering

"The climate lately has been towards more skills training as early as possible and so some centers have hyped academics as a way to attract parents. However, young children also need time to play, to explore their world, and to learn social skills. A good program will offer a balance between structured and unstructured activity and recognize children's developmental stage when teaching skills." - Susan Gardner, early childhood educator

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