Is Day Care or a Nanny Better for My Child during COVID-19?

Nanny indoors with children doing artwork

Child care services are a confusing minefield to navigate during 2020 and for the foreseeable future. While toddlers and young children are likely less at risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus, parents may still be nervous to send their kids back to a crowded daycare center.

A Nanny may sound like an old-fashioned Marry Poppins-era child care option, but more families are considering nanny care instead of daycares for a variety of reasons. Let’s go over some pros and cons of both child care options so you can make a decision that’s best suited to your family’s needs.

Daycare Centers

Sending your child to a daycare facility is a common child care option for most low and middle-income families. Parents are able to drop their children off in the mornings and know they are being cared for by a staff of trained child care workers. There are two types of daycare facilities you’ll most likely find: traditional daycares, and in-home daycares. In-home daycares are when someone runs a daycare from their own house instead of renting a traditional facility or becoming part of a daycare franchise. Whatever option you lean towards, make sure to find a trustworthy daycare who meets local and state-regulated licensing requirements.


Parents who need some extra help around the house and an extra pair of eyes on your children can benefit greatly from having a part-time or full-time nanny around. Aside from being like an extra parent to your child, they can sometimes also help cook, clean, and teach your kid as part of their contract.


Generally, daycare centers are more affordable than hiring a nanny. Since daycares take care of multiple children at once, they can spread their expenses across all of their clients. Still, any form of quality child care will likely not be cheap.

When you hire a nanny, their focus is on your child and your child alone—that attention comes at a price. Nanny services are typically more expensive and often difficult to pay for lower and middle-income households. But families who bite that financial bullet know they’re getting better and more personalized child care than they would get at a daycare. There are also some different nanny configurations, which would make child care more affordable – such as a Nanny share, as well as some tax and insurance benefits.

Read Next | What You Should Look for in a Daycare

State Regulations

Daycare centers are much more regulated than the nanny community. To get a daycare license, both in-home and off-site facilities need to prove they meet standards around child safety, academic expectations, and child-to-employee ratios. This helps parents know that they are sending their children to a safe and high-quality place.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, there aren’t any federal or state requirements for becoming a nanny. This can make finding a qualified nanny a time-intensive search often including interviews, background checks, and letters of recommendation from previous families.


COVID-19 has made daycare cleanliness a big factor in whether parents decide to send their child to a daycare facility or to go the safer route and hire a nanny. Since daycares are in a public space, your child will be more exposed to germs from workers and other children. Most daycares that have reopened have thorough cleaning schedules and have made cleanliness a priority, but that extra exposure risk should be a consideration for parents.

Since your child isn’t being exposed to a classroom full of toddlers when you have a nanny, the risk of exposure to COVID-19 or other diseases is lower. If you end up hiring a nanny, make sure to let them know of any health concerns you have.

Social Interaction

Forming friendships and spending time with other children their own age is a large part of your child’s emotional development. Sending your child to daycare is an easy way to let your kid play with others and develop those social skills that are important as they grow up.

If you hire a nanny, those social interactions aren’t built into their daily schedule. A lot of nannies have a circle of other nannies they schedule playdates with to make sure their kids have time with other children, but it does take more effort for you and your nanny to make sure your child has social time with other kids during the day.

At the end of the day, there isn’t a “best” option for choosing between a daycare center or a nanny. There are obviously a lot of factors in this decision, especially considering the state of the world in 2020. But you need to make sure that whatever child care option you end up choosing is what’s best for your child.

Natasha is an avid writer, storyteller, and dog-lover. Her work has carried her from the bustle of New York at Inc. Magazine to the Santa Fe deserts at Outside Magazine. She enjoys writing about family-focused and community-centered stories.

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