As a parent, you want to ensure your child thrives in their regular daycare. And that involves finding the right type of daycare that best suits their needs. In Australia, two of the most popular types of childcare are family daycare and long daycare.
While these two types of daycare share some similarities, there are a number of key differences that set them apart. Ultimately, they both provide different childcare services and learning environments that may suit your little one better. So if you’re currently trying to decide between family daycare and centre-based daycare we’re here to help you understand the key differences and benefits of these two types of childcare.
What is family daycare?
Family daycare services provide high-quality early childhood education and care for small groups of children in the educator’s home. Family daycare providers offer care for children as young as six weeks old through to 12 years of age. With that said, family daycare operators must abide by strict educator-to-child ratios which means they can care for no more than four children under school age during school hours. Outside of school hours family daycare operators can care for an additional three school age children.
Due to the nature of family daycare, the service providers are often able to offer more flexible childcare, including both part- and full-time options, as well as out of school hours care and in some circumstances, overnight care. The level of service offered varies across family daycare educators, so it’s worth touching base with the individual educator to check their availability.
What is long daycare?
Long daycare, also known as centre-based daycare, provides part- or full-time childcare and early childhood education in a centre-based environment. While long daycare centres also cater to children from six weeks to 12 years, they’re often able to accommodate a much larger number of children at any one time compared to family daycare services. Because of this, the children are often split into groups depending on their age and developmental stage. That way children can get the most out of their time at daycare and have the opportunity to socialise with other children of a similar age.
Most long daycare services offer extended opening hours, operating for 10-12 hours each day, five days a week, 52 weeks a year, excluding public holidays.
Benefits of family daycare vs centre-based childcare
While both family daycare and centre-based childcare offer early childhood education and care for children up to 12 years of age, these two types of childcare provide a number of unique benefits. Depending on the needs of your child and your family’s situation, it’s possible that one of these types of childcare may be better suited for you.
Here’s a breakdown of the main advantages that set family daycare and long daycare apart.
Benefits of family daycare
While the small group environment is often one of the main drawcards for family daycare, it offers a number of other advantages for parents and children.
Small group environment
One of the main benefits offered by family daycare environments is the small group setting. This can often offer a more nurturing, flexible and natural home-style learning environment that might appeal more to some children. Because of this more intimate setting, the children often have more of an opportunity to form closer friendships with children of different ages and a stronger bond with the educator.
Tailored learning programs
Another benefit of the small group environment is that family daycare educators often have more of an opportunity to customise educational programs to suit children’s individual learning needs and developmental stages.
Flexible hours of care
While the hours of care offered at family daycare services often differ depending on the educator, many family daycare operators are able to provide childcare services outside of standard hours. This includes out of school hours care, vacation care, evening and weekend care and even overnight care.
Family daycare educators charge by the hour, so you’ll only need to pay for the time that your child is in care. This can make it a more affordable option for some families. The fees vary depending on the educator, but family daycare fees typically range from $7.50 to $16.80 per hour depending on the location, age of the child and educator’s qualifications.
With that said, many family daycare providers are considered approved services, so they qualify for the Child Care Subsidy (CCS). This means that eligible families can benefit from reduced out-of-pocket childcare fees.
Benefits of centre-based daycare
As one of the most popular types of childcare in Australia, long or centre-based daycare offers several key benefits.
Structured daily routine
Because centre-based daycare centres often provide education and care for a large number of children, they tend to operate off a more structured approach with a regular routine and activities. The education program itself will often follow an appropriate curriculum based on the age of the daycare group.
While some children naturally thrive in a more structured environment, this type of approach is also great for making the transition to primary school much easier as children are already familiar with a regular routine.
At long daycare centres, the children are often split into smaller groups based on their age. This provides children with an opportunity to socialise with a larger number of children their own age, helping them to create friendships with their peers. These types of socialisation opportunities help children to develop social skills at a young age, like teamwork, communication and problem-solving.
There’s no doubt that childcare centres offer a number of benefits in terms of convenience for many families. Firstly, due to the regular, long opening hours offered by long daycare centres, they can often provide a little more flexibility for working families who need to do the daycare run before and after work. Secondly, as centre-based daycare services have greater capacity, there’s often more opportunity to send siblings to the same daycare centre, meaning only one drop-off and pick-up each day. Thirdly, many long daycare centres often provide a few extras throughout the day, like meals and snacks, as well as nappies depending on the age of the children. These little additions can also be extremely convenient for many busy, working parents. Lastly, because long daycare centres often have a number of different staff, they’ll take care of replacing sick or absent staff, so you don’t have to worry about finding alternative care for the day.
Unlike family daycare, long daycare centres tend to charge a daily fee. So regardless of how long your child attends for the day, you’ll be up for the full-day rate, which can work out at anywhere from $70 to $188 per day. However, like family daycare, long daycare is considered an approved service, so eligible families may be able to receive assistance towards their childcare fees through the CCS.
If you’re still unsure whether family daycare or centre-based care would be right for your family and your child, you can use the Care for Kids childcare compass to find the childcare options that best suit your family.
Finding childcare near you
Whether you’re looking for a local family daycare or centre-based daycare, Care for Kids is here to help. Use our childcare search tool to find, compare and connect with childcare providers in your area. All you have to do is enter your postcode or suburb to find a list of options that are close to you.