The Pros & Cons of Day Care: Characteristics & Outcomes

Parents have many options for child care, including sending the child to day care. Watch this video to find out some of the advantages and disadvantages of sending a child to day care.

Day Care

Steph has a 1-year-old son, Tommy, and she and her husband, Jake, can’t decide whether they should put Tommy into day care or if Steph should stay home with him. On one hand, Jake thinks that Tommy should be in day care; after all, Jake and his sister both went to day care, and they turned out fine.

But Steph isn’t so sure. She’s worried about all the things that could happen to Tommy when she’s not watching him. She’s tired and would like some time to herself and would even like to go back to work part-time, but she just isn’t convinced that day care is the way to go.

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Day care is a licensed childcare facility that includes one or more adults watching children from multiple families during the workday. Many parents send their children to day care out of necessity; the parents have to work, and they have no other options for child care.

But some families, like Steph and Jake, have other options. Maybe one of the parents is able to stay home instead of working. Or perhaps another family member, like a grandparent, can watch the child instead of sending him to day care. Still others can afford to hire one-on-one help, like a nanny.

So, if you don’t have to send your child to day care, should you? Let’s look closer at the advantages and disadvantages of day care.


‘I just don’t know,’ Steph tells her husband Jake. ‘I’m not convinced that Tommy should be in day care.’ Jake disagrees; he’s got several good arguments in favor of day care.

The biggest advantage is that day care centers offer a formal, structured environment for children to grow and learn in. Most states require licensing, which includes inspections to ensure a safe environment for children.

In addition, day care centers make a commitment to take care of the children no matter what. If a teacher is sick, a substitute is brought in. That’s not the case if a nanny, grandparent or even a parent is sick and can’t watch the child.

Many day care centers hire staff who are trained in early childhood development, too, so they know what to look out for and how to nurture children to encourage social, emotional and intellectual development. Though Steph is very good with Tommy, she doesn’t have a background in early childhood development. Some studies have even shown that children who attend day care might have an intellectual edge.

But perhaps the biggest advantage to day care is the social aspect. Tommy will get to meet and play with other children his age and perhaps make more diverse friends than he would just socializing with the kids from his neighborhood.

But the social advantage isn’t just Tommy’s. Day care centers can be a great networking spot for parents. Steph and Jake might meet other couples who are dealing with children Tommy’s age, and they can seek support with the friends they meet.


Jake makes some good points in favor of day care, but Steph still isn’t convinced. First of all, day care can cost a lot. The best day care center in their town charges over $1,000 per month, and that’s not an outlandish figure. Some day care centers charge almost double that!

In addition, children who go to day care get sick more often. They are exposed to the germs of the other children in the day care center and, therefore, are more likely to get sick than children who are not exposed to the germs at the day care center.

Besides, Steph points out, taking care of Tommy on her own is difficult enough. How is a single teacher expected to take care of many infants all at once, all day long? There’s no way that a teacher can give as much attention to Tommy as Steph can when she’s one-on-one with him.

Finally, day care centers aren’t always convenient. Drop-off and pickup often happen only at certain times of day, and the center is likely to be closed for holidays. Not only that, but if Steph goes back to work when they put Tommy in day care, she’ll still have to stay home on days when Tommy gets sick, which can cause problems with her boss.

So the debate continues. Whatever Steph and Jake decide to do, it’s clear that there are both advantages and disadvantages to day care. Parents have to decide what is best for their families.

Lesson Summary

Day care is a childcare facility that involves one or more adults watching children from multiple families during the workday. There are many advantages to day care, including structure, an educated staff and social opportunities for the children and the parents. However, there are many disadvantages, too, including the fact that children in day care get sick more often, it’s expensive and it’s not always convenient.

Learning Outcomes

Once you’ve completed this lesson, you should be able to:

  • Define day care
  • Explain the advantages and disadvantages of day care

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