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. It is reliable (care can be provided even if a particular caregiver is ill), may offer longer hours or flexible schedules and may offer after-school care or part-time rates. Downsides can include high staff turnover, an "institutionalized feel," or higher staff-to-child ratios. But daycare is usually reasonably priced compared to other options.

Average Daycare Costs

Daycare costs will vary greatly based on where you live. Factors such as the cost of living in your area and whether or not you live in an urban or rural area make a difference. The age of the child and your schedule needs also play a role in the total cost of daycare

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.

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. Some facilities provide formalized academic preschool curriculum, while others take a less formal approach. Some programs offer field trips while others don't transport preschool-aged youngsters anywhere for safety and liability reasons.

For example, 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.

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

Additional Costs and Fees

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.

Additional expenses can also 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.

Lastly, at some 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. These parent will need to find back-up day care on those occasions.

How to Reduce Costs

A key advantage with daycare centers is that many businesses, especially large corporations, are able to negotiate discounts for their employees. They may also help to supplement the cost of care as an incentive for workers.

Some companies 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 may be offered 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. Le VN, Schaack D, Setodji CM. Examining the associations between daily caregiving discontinuity and children's social-emotional outcomes. Dev Psychol. 2015;51(5):635-48. doi:10.1037/a0039093

  2. Child Care Aware of America. The US and the High Price of Child Care: An Examination of a Broken System 2019 Report.