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What Is family child care?

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 just 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 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. Instead of getting dropped off in a large, generic child care center, your child will experience the comfort and familiarity of a home environment.

While caregivers don’t need formal early childhood education to open a family child care, many are extremely dedicated to developing programs based on different philosophies. You can find family child care built around the philosophies of Montessori, Waldorf, Reggio Emilia, forest school, and others.

Reputable family child care programs are licensed by their state to operate. This means they will have to pass an inspection process to be sure their home is safe for children.

Learning in home based preschool

There is no standard for in-home care across the country: the licensing process varies from state to state. The California licensing process, for example, includes a visit from an inspector as well as comprehensive background checks for all adults living in the home.

One major challenge parents often confront in finding the right fit for their family is finding a family child care they can trust. This barrier can be reason enough for some to pursue a different child care path altogether. That’s why at Wonderschool, we oversee the licensing process and carefully vet each and every provider in our network.

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, 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 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.

Heard of family child care but not sure what it is? These are just some of the many benefits for your child

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. Instead of spending time in faceless buildings on the other end of town, family child care is usually neighborhood-based. It’s close and convenient, decreasing 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 me?

As a parent, you are best equipped to decide which option is right for you. Family child care has a lot of benefits but it does come with a few challenges.

Licensing requirements vary across state lines and there are few overarching standards for quality control so you need to make sure to thoroughly vet a caregiver before trusting them with your child. Again, here at Wonderschool, we oversee this vetting process with all of our in-network providers.

Sitting outside with children from home child care

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.

Choosing the best care for your child

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 kid 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.

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

Learn more about what we offer by exploring our network of family child care 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.