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Your Guide to Home-based Early Education and Daycare

What is Family Child Care aka Home Daycare or In-Home Preschool?

You may have heard of family child care before – also sometimes referred to as in-home preschool, in-home child care, or home daycare – but maybe you’re not exactly sure what it is or how to access it.

Family child care is one of many child care options out there. As a parent, you want to find the absolute best fit for your child and that means fully understanding your options and the benefits of each.


In this post, we will demystify family child care once and for all. We’ll take a look at what it is and what the benefits are so you can make the right decision for your family.

How Family Child Care Works

A family child care program is a form of early childhood education in which a caregiver looks after children in their own home, often with the help of an assistant. A family child care program is typically licensed for between 6 and 12 children, although these numbers do vary by state and by type of child care license. Because of these small, intimate environments, you will see many opportunities for 1:1 interactions between the provider and each child, mixed age groups, and the opportunity for continuity of care (where a child stays with the same caregiver over a long period of time).

Licensing requirements for caregiver qualifications vary from state to state. You won’t typically see a particular type of curriculum dictated by a state licensing agency, but you will see family child care programs programs based on different philosophies. You can find family child care built around the philosophies of Montessori, Waldorf, Reggio Emilia, forest school, and others.

Each state has its own definition of when a program needs to attain a child care license versus when a program can operate as license-exempt. A licensed program will have to meet particular requirements and pass an inspection process to be sure their home is safe for children.

At Wonderschool, we expect providers to stay in compliance with their state licensing requirements whether they are a family child care program or center-based program. You can read more about the Wonderschool Quality and Safety Vision here.

Related: Child Care Options for Parents: Comparing Pros and Cons

Why so many names?

Because family child care programs are regulated by each individual state, there are many different legal and colloquial terms for them. For example, there’s…

  • In-home preschool
  • In-home daycare
  • Home daycare
  • Group family daycare
  • Family daycare
  • Home preschool

…and more. At Wonderschool, we refer to home-based child care programs as family child care. “Family child care” includes both infant and toddler programs as well as programs for preschool-aged children, school-aged children, or mixed age programs.

In the end, all of these different terms do refer to the same overarching idea of a caregiver providing early care and education to young children in their home.

The Benefits of Choosing Family Child Care

Caregivers that choose this path are extremely dedicated to providing the best possible care for you and your child. Because care happens in their home, there’s low staff turnover. This creates a more stable environment for your kid and helps build strong relationships between parents and the people you trust with your children.

The nature of family child care sometimes means that children interact with peers in other age groups. A family child care home may care for children from infants all the way up to school-age. Mixed age programs offer developmental benefits to younger and older children alike.

Family child care programs typically have small group sizes and low child-to-provider ratios. At the same time, children in group care reap the social and emotional benefits of engaging with other children.

Family child care is a grassroots movement based in local communities. Family child care is usually neighborhood-based, but you might also find many great family child care options close to your office if that works best for your family. It can be close and convenient, decrease commute times and building tighter knit communities.,

Lastly, the cost of sending your child to a family child care program is often on par with other care options, such as child care centers or preschools.

Is Family Child Care Right for You?

As a parent, you are best equipped to decide which option is right for you. Family child care has a lot of benefits, but not every environment is the perfect fit for every child or family, so it’s worth taking the time to tour several programs and find the place that feels like it will work best.

For most working parents, child care is a necessity. Family child care is an affordable, community-friendly option. Once you’ve done your due diligence, you can rest easy knowing that your child is getting quality care from educators determined to help them succeed.

Assessing Your Child’s Needs: Is Family Child Care a Good Fit?

Consider what your child needs now and what are some non-negotiables. Some children thrive in a smaller, more intimate settings. Observe how your child interacts in different social settings. Do they seem more comfortable in smaller groups?

Some family child care providers may organize group activities or outings, which give your child a chance to explore, build self confidence and curiosity. Is that something your child needs?

Finding the best child care facility is tough. You need to weigh multiple pros and cons, from approach all the way to budget. Most importantly, you need to find somewhere where your child feels fully comfortable and will thrive. Somewhere that treats them with love and respect and helps them prepare for the challenges they’ll face in the real world.

Find and Choose the Best Care for Your Child with Wonderschool

At Wonderschool, we work with the best educators and help them provide excellent child care. Our network of family child care programs, microschools, and forest schools has something for every preference.

Learn more about what we offer by exploring programs today.


Sophia is a freelance copywriter and content marketing strategist. She has spent time volunteering in a Global Classroom Initiative in Europe and has worked as a preschool teaching assistant in Slovakia.