Clear Filters

6 Types of Child Care Programs

Child care, daycare, preschool, preK, in-home, center-based, Montessori, Reggio, play-based, nanny-share, micro-school….how’s a person to decide what type of child care program or child care provider is best?!

Whether you’re a parent looking for care or someone interested in starting your own program, check out our list for an overview of each!


Here are the Main Types of Child Care Programs:

child care providers

Family Child Care Programs

These are also commonly known as in-home programs, family daycare, group daycare, early learning microschools.

In family child care programs, a provider, and sometimes their assistants, care for a small group of children in their home. Family child care programs are smaller and more intimate than child care centers, and there are many known benefits for these types of programs. Each state has its own licensing procedure and requirements for family child carers.


A relatively new and innovative concept, these are sometimes called a micro-school, nanoschool, pandemic pod, trust circle, or simply homeschooling or a homeschool.

A microschool is similar to an in-home child care program, often referred to as “family child care,” and carries many of the same benefits of an FCC program. Micro-schooling is essentially the reinvention of the one-room schoolhouse, where class size is smaller (anywhere from 4-15 students) and there are mixed-age groupings. By nature of their size, micro-schools can offer a lot more variety for families, both in schedule and in curriculum and instruction. Some integrate technology, blended learning, or a flipped classroom, while others engage in project-based learning.

Forest Schools

A case of “what it says on the tin”, these are sometimes known as outdoor schools, nature preschools, or forest kindergartens.

Forest schools are play based, child-led programs that take place exclusively outside. Outside environments could include a park, a beach, or other areas where children can run, climb, play, and explore. They are similar to in-home programs in that the group size is small and the instructor-to-child ratio is low. Typically, a child needs to be a stable walker in order to attend a forest school program without a parent attending with them, meaning they work best for children ages 2 and up.


Child Care Centers

Probably the best known option, these are also called simply daycare centers, preschools, or pre-kindergarten/pre-k.

A child care center is often thought of as the traditional form of early childhood education. The center is usually located in a specialized facility and offers part or full day schedules of activities and education for infants as young as 6 weeks old. Centers are licensed and must meet government safety and staff regulations.



Another term for just one-on-one care or an in-home caregiver.

A nanny is a person who either lives in your home or comes to your home during the day to care for your child. Sometimes, two families will share a nanny in one of their homes, in what is most commonly referred to as a “nanny-share.” This child care option is typically more expensive than child care centers or family child care homes due to the 1:1 care.


Au Pair

Au pairs are similar to nannies, but are usually between the ages of 18 and 26 and usually come from another country to learn or practice a new language. They almost always live in your home, and they can care for children for up to 45 hours a week. They usually stay only one year but can stay for up to two.


Understanding Child Care Providers

Of course, this doesn’t cover every potential form of child care provider, and a lot of arrangements are even more ad hoc or informal (especially in these wild times), but this should help you get your head around all of the available options, whether you’re a provider yourself or looking for a service for your child.

If you want to know more, you can reach out to us at Wonderschool and we can help you get started!

Mia Pritts

Mia is the Head of Early Care & Education at Wonderschool. She started her career as a preschool teacher 20 years ago and has since taken on major leadership positions in the field of Early Care and Education. In addition to deep knowledge and expertise in all operational aspects of childcare programming, she has also helped launch several shared business services initiatives specific to the field of ECE.