Which child care is best?

Published on Monday, 13 August 2018
Last updated on Thursday, 16 December 2021

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Once you understand the different types of child care available, you need to decide which option is the best for you and your family.

It is important to compare the pros and cons of the different types of child care, and consider:

  • When you need child care, e.g. full-time or two days a week
  • Where you need child care, e.g. at home or near work
  • Your budget
  • Your child's temperament, interests and needs
  • Your values and parenting philosophies, e.g. discipline

Child care comparison table

The table below summarises the main advantages and disadvantages of different types of child care.

Type of care Advantages Disadvantages
  • Individual attention for your child, which is especially important for children under one.
  • Consistent care from one person.
  • Generally a professional child carer, with relevant qualifications.
  • Hours are flexible, depending on your contract agreement.
  • Child stays in own home and familiar environment and routines do not have to change. 
  • No need to travel and less exposure to illness.
  • You can have more say in child care as nanny is your direct employee.
  • Some nannies do light housework.
  • Can be expensive compared with other child care, especially if you have only one child.
  • Child may miss out on daily social interactions if there are no regular play dates and outings.
  • You will need to arrange back-up care if the nanny is ill, takes holidays or leaves.
  • If you employ a nanny directly, rather than use an agency, you will be responsible for wages, tax and so on.
  • You may feel you lose some privacy and space with a live-in nanny sharing your home.
Nanny sharing
  • You have the benefits of a nanny but with lower costs.
  • You only pay for the time you need the nanny.
  • If the nanny is caring for children from two families simultaneously, they may form strong friendships.
  • Administration and paperwork can be shared with the other family.
  • It can take time and effort to find a compatible family to share a nanny.
  • You will need to co-ordinate holidays and any changes in schedule with the other family.
  • Disagreements between the nanny and one family may affect the other family.
Au pair
  • Exposes your family to another culture and language.
  • A cheaper option than a full-time nanny.
  • Individual attention for your child.
  • Child stays in own home and familiar environment and routines do not have to change. 
  • No need to travel and less exposure to illness.
  • Au pair is living with the family, so can be flexible to fit in routines and special needs (like holidays).
  • Consistency of care can be an issue given length of Visas. 
  • Au pairs tend to be young and living away from home, so will need some personal guidance and advice.
  • May not be interested in child care as a career option, and may have little experience.
  • You may feel you lose some privacy and space with another person sharing your home.
  • If you employ an au pair directly, rather than use an agency, you will be responsible for wages, tax and so on.
Child care centre
  • For a single child, it is usually cheaper than hiring a nanny.
  • Care is always available during opening hours and the centre will manage replacement staff if any carer is ill or unavailable.
  • Provides a structured program with routine and activities.
  • Centres are licensed facilities and all staff will have relevant experience and qualifications.
  • Child meets a range of other children and educators.
  • Less individual attention than nanny or au pair.
  • Child is exposed to more people and more illnesses.
  • Child may find it hard to settle in to unfamiliar environment.
  • Many centres have long waiting lists and fees can be expensive.
  • May not be flexible enough to suit your child's individual temperament and needs.
  • You will have to arrange travel to and from the centre.
Home based care
  • A more affordable child care option.
  • A safe, home environment with consistent care.
  • Educators are qualified and may have had children of their own.
  • Interaction with a small group of children of varying ages.
  • Can be arranged to fit in to your schedule.
  • You will need to arrange back-up care if the educator is ill or unavailable.
  • There may not be the same range of toys, equipment and activities as at a child care centre.
  • You will have to arrange travel to and from the educator’s home.
  • Food and nappies may not be included. 
Te Kohanga Reo
  • Whanau led Maori language immersion.
  • Whanau are involved in decision making and program delivery.
  • May not be teacher-led.
  • A great option for older children before starting big school.
  • Work closely with parent groups and may offer bi-lingual programs.
  • Licensed and run by community groups and children are taught by teachers.
  • A cost effective option.
  • Hours may be more restricted than child care centres and home based care. 
  • More parental time and commitment required.
  • May not be available during school holidays.
  • ‘Village’ feel. Run by parents and member families so care is personalised and families form lasting friendships.
  • Learning opportunities for adults as well as children.
  • Mixed ages so children can socialise with a range of age groups. 
  • Programs can be tailored to suit needs of families and communities. 
  • Specialised sessions for infants.
  • Cost-effective and child care subsidies may apply.
  • Care-giver involvement needed so may be tricky for working parents to attend.
  • Restricted session times.
  • Parent-led not teacher-led.
  • Waiting lists at some playcentres.
  • Flexible. Parent and whānau-led so programs can be changed to suit interests of children.
  • May offer language immersion opportunities.
  • Cost-effective and a Childcare Subsidy may apply.
  • Fast to set up if needed.
  • Limited to four hours per day.
  • Often located in community halls so equipment may be limited.
  • May be difficult for working parents to attend.
  • Certificated not licensed, so less regulatory requirements.
Te Kura / Correspondance School
  • Early learning programs for 3-5 year old children who aren't able to access mainstream programs.
  • Teacher led.
  • Regional support available to assist parents.
  • Children miss out on social opportunities available in group based care.
  • Parents required to supervise their child’s learning.
  • Flexible child care, especially for short periods over evenings and weekends.
  • Child stays in home environment.
  • Gives parents a chance to take a break without a long-term child care commitment.
  • Child care experience varies, and babysitters are not always qualified.
  • May not be available for regular long-term care or longer hours.

After you decide on the type of child care you want, you will need to choose a carer or child care centre. Use our online child care search to find child care in your area.

We have also developed a series of checklists and guides to help you choose a carer or centre:

Whatever type of child care you choose, don't forget that your child and your circumstances will change. What suits you now may not suit you in the future, so be aware of all the options available.

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