How Much Your Family Should Expect to Pay for Daycare

Teacher and toddlers in daycare
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Daycare centers are a practical choice for many working families. Reasons vary, but this type of care is apt to be reasonably priced compared with other options, is reliable (care can be provided even if a particular caregiver is ill), and many facilities offer longer hours and even extended or non-traditional schedules. Another plus is that daycare centers often offer after-school care or part-time rates. The downside voiced by certain critics includes high staff turnover, an "institutionalized feel" to certain care facilities, and higher staff-to-child ratios than many parents would prefer.

What Will Daycare Cost for My Child?

The short answer is "it depends." Daycare costs will vary greatly according to where you live (cost of living based on which part of the country you are at as well as whether you reside in a large city or small town), whether you need traditional hours and services or require a more unique arrangement, and on the age of your child. If you require a Monday-Friday, 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. arrangement (or approximate), and your child only needs typical services for a normal-development child in a general classroom setting, your rate may be lower than if you need care that extends to later in the evening, whether you sign up for optional enrichment-style activities, and if your child is under the age of 1 year old.

Average Annual Daycare Costs

Childcare for babies and toddlers is more expensive than childcare for older kids because younger kids need more hands-on care, and there must be more childcare providers in each room. The average cost of center-based daycare in the United States is $11,896 per year ($991 a month) for infants and $10,158 ($847 a month) for toddlers, according to advocacy organization Child Care Aware. Costs for daycare for preschool-age children are generally lower, averaging $9,254 a year ($771 a month) for four-year-olds.

Additional expenses can include supply fees (which may be assessed monthly, quarterly or bi-annually), laundry or diaper assessments, and even staff development/training charges. Some centers provide internet viewing for parents (where parents can log in to a protected website and observe their child's activities at daycare), often for an additional charge. At daycare centers, working parents may find that they still must pay their regular tuition and fees even when the center is closed for certain holidays, which means back-up care must be obtained.

To find out more about daycare options and costs in your area, contact your local Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) agency.

Factors That Contribute to the Cost of a Daycare

Some daycare centers provide all snacks and meals, while others require parents to pack their child's lunch every day. Some daycare centers build in extracurricular activities or "interest stations" that are age-appropriate within the day as part of the service offered to families, while others allow parents to elect to put their kid in gymnastics, karate, art or even second language instruction for an extra fee.

Some daycare facilities take great pride in their formalized academic preschool curriculum, while others adopt the adage that all skills learned by toddlers and youngsters is a form of learning and that a child's most important tasks each day are learning to get along and to grow through play. Some programs offer field trips while others don't transport preschool-aged youngsters anywhere for safety and liability reasons.

Ask About Discounts

A key advantage with daycare centers is that many businesses, especially large corporations, are able to negotiate discounts for their employees or even help to supplement the cost of care as an incentive for workers. Some companies even make arrangements to entice daycare facilities, usually associated with national chains, to locate nearby corporate locations and cater to their employees. Special arrangements, usually paid for by the corporation, can include long hours of operation or weekend care options as well as special "parent night outs" or other "quality of life" features.

Another way to save money on childcare costs is for families to work where tax-free flexible spending account benefits are offered. Also, discounts are usually offered by daycare centers to families who have more than one child needing care—something that is not always available with in-home care providers or other childcare options. This discount can range from 10% to more than 25%, so be sure to ask if price discounts apply.

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  1. Child Care Aware of America. The US and the high price of child care: 2019 report.