Comparing the Cost of Daycare v. Nanny v. Au Pair

Comparing the Cost of Daycare v. Nanny v. Au Pair
By: Paige Goodwin, Contributor

While your child’s well-being and growth is the most important factor in choosing whether to use a daycare, nanny, or au pair a secondary factor that we all must consider is cost. We took a hard look at the cost for care in major metro areas to help you make the best financial decision for your family and provide a benchmark when comparing options.

Daycare Costs

The following prices are calculated averages based on both national chains and local centers in each city.  While some daycare centers offer discounts for the second child, many offer no more than 10%, or none at all.

City Weekly Price for Infant Care Weekly Price for Toddler (~2.5 years old) Care Combined Weekly Price for Two
Washington DC Area (including Bethesda, MD/Alexandria, VA) $425 – $575/wk $300 – $425/wk $725 – $1000/wk
New York City $425 – $700/wk $325 – $450/wk $750 – $1150/wk
Boston $400 – $625/wk $300 – $425/wk $700 – $1050/wk
Palm Beach, FL $225 – $300/wk $175 – $215/wk $400 – $515/wk
Houston, TX $290 – $305/wk $200 – $280/wk $490 – $585/wk
Chicago, IL $350 – $525/wk $225 – $350/wk $575 – $875/wk

Au Pair Costs

 Au pairs require not only food and room/board, but also car insurance and access to a car )or one of their own). Without factoring in those funds as they can vary greatly depending on the family, au pairs through programs require a $425 match fee, an annual program fee of about $8675 and a minimum stipend of generally $9996 per year, worked out in equal weekly payments.  For the average au pair, the costs are about $390 plus room, board and insurance.

Nanny Costs

When it comes to paying a nanny, there is not a set cost like there is for Au Pairs or local daycare centers. Many nannies accept a certain pay range, which largely depends on not only the standard cost of living in your area, but also your family’s needs as well as the experience of the caregiver.

First and foremost, nannies who hold education degrees or have extensive training courses are going to charge more than young nannies who may still be in school.

If you have a child with special needs or want your nanny to cook meals from scratch for your kids every day, expect to pay more than the baseline price as well.  Duties such as laundry for the children or watching pets will also cause your rates to go up.

Not included in these rates are compensation for gas/mileage if you have your nanny take your child places, which is considered standard.

 City  25 hours per week  35 hours per week 40 hours per week
Washington DC Area (including Bethesda, MD/Alexandria, VA) $312.50 – $400/wk for one child

$350 – $450/wk for 2 children

$437.50 – $560/wk for one child

$490 – $630/wk for 2 children

$500 – $640/wk for one child

$560 – $720/wk for 2 children

New York City 


$325 – $425/wk for one child

$362.50 – $462.50 for 2 children

$455 – $595/wk for one child

$507.50 – $647.50 for 2 children

$520 – $680/wk for one child

$580 – $740/wk for 2 children



$325 – $425/wk for one child

$362.50 – $475 for 2 children

$455 – $595/wk for one child

$507.50 – $665 for 2 children

$520 – $680/wk for one child

$580 – $760/wk for 2 children

Palm Beach, FL


$300 – $387.50/wk for one child

$325 – $412.50 for 2 children

$420 – $542.50/wk for one child

$455 – $577.50 for 2 children

$480 – $620/wk for one child

$520 – $660 for 2 children

Houston, TX


$287 – $375/wk for one child

$312.50 – $412.50 for 2 children

$402.50 – $525/wk for one child

$437.50 – $577.50 for 2 children

$460 – $600/wk for one child

$500 – $660 for 2 children

Chicago, IL


$287 – $375/wk for one child

$312.50 – $412.50 for 2 children

$402.50 – $525/wk for one child

$437.50 – $577.50 for 2 children

$460 – $600/wk for one child

$500 – $660 for 2 children

Daycare v. Nanny v. Au Pair, what’s the right choice for your family- Part 1

Daycare v. Nanny v. Au Pair, what’s the right choice for your family?- Part 1
By: Paige Goodwin, Contributor

You’ve decided to expand your family or, or to return to the working world after some time on parental leave or as a stay-at-home parent. Exciting! But now it is time to figure out child care. Not so exciting.

With differing care options and large price discrepancies, it can be a challenge to find the right child care fit for not only your budget, but your family. Should you hire an au pair, a nanny, or enroll in a local daycare/preschool center?

Let’s cover the basics between each of the three options as well as their draws:

Local Daycare/Preschool Centers

Local daycare centers, or preschools, hire
trained professionals to watch your children. There are trained teachers, assistants on staff, and some centers also provide health or nursing staff for your young children. Kids get to interact with other children in their age group, so if you have an only child, early exposure to peers can help them foster friendships. Many preschools and care centers include daily curriculum, themed activities, and some even have field trips. From speaking with other parents, this socialization and educational element to day cares is the single greatest reasons to attend.

While parents must provide transportation to and from the center for their young children, many provide lunch or at least snacks for the kids.

Key Features

  • Exercise: Outdoor time is every kid’s favorite time of the day and is built into most daycare schedules (weather permitting). In addition to jungle gym time, many daycares offer classes ranging from baby yoga, to dance, and tumbling classes that make sure your kids gets up and moves throughout the day instead of sitting and watching a movie or simply partaking in stationary activities.
  • Education: Some daycare’s offer language, mathematics, spelling, art, music, and other coursework that is tailored to young minds. By offering these types of classes, your kids can get a head start on academics and expand their horizons before they head to school.
  • Socialization: As noted above, the top response we got from talking to parents when writing this article was that daycare or preschool lets kids learn how to interact with other kids. From sharing toys, to making friends, to learning how to nap when it’s not silent (no daycare class is ever silent), daycare can help give your children the tools to learn, have fun, and play outside of the home.
  • Safety: With lots of teachers, parents, and administrators around, parents who were interviewed for this article felt that having their kids at a daycare offered a higher sense of safety then leaving small children with a Nanny or Au Pair where nobody is around to watch how they interact with your children

Wait Time
Signing up for daycare often includes long wait-lists and applying to multiple centers. Keep in mind that many folks are on waitlists while still pregnant to ensure their infant enrollment at the three-month mark. Many daycare centers charge you to be on the waitlist.

Schedule Flexibility
Preschools and Centers operate during certain hours each day, making them them a great choice if you or your partner have a regular work schedule and can adhere to the center’s policies on drop-offs and pick-ups. Be aware: many centers charge for late pickup.

Provider Sick/Vacation Days
If one of the teachers is sick or on vacation that day, you won’t have to find a back-up, which is a huge advantage over a Nanny or Au Pair. That being said, many daycare and preschool centers are closed on holidays, weekends, and even for inclement weather.

Child Sick/Vacation Days
Expect to pay the tuition rate even if your child is out sick, or you go on vacation. Some centers do nott require payment if you are gone, but others charge to keep the spot open for your child upon return.

Many daycare centers have strict regulations on sick children being kept home for at least 24 hours after they initially went home to try and keep illnesses from spreading around. During flu season, this will help your little one (and your family) stay healthy, but remember that if your child has symptoms such as a fever or vomiting, they will not be able to attend that day. You are responsible for finding alternate care or taking time off of work.

Au Pair

Au pairs are child care providers who generally come from other countries to live with you and care for your child. If you currently live in a house that has a guest bedroom, an au pair can be a great addition to the family. Au pairs often can assist in teaching your children a new language and can provide cultural exposure. Au pairs are screened by a program and sign contracts to provide you with consistent child care.

Keep in mind that in addition to providing a room for your au pair, you also must provide all of the au pair’s meals, include them in family outings, and provide transportation and car insurance for them. Many au pair programs require that they take classes in America, so your au pair might be unavailable in the evenings, or even have to take a break during the day to go to class. Additionally, many au pair agreements prohibit the au pair from certain household duties, like general cleaning of your home. They are there to care for your child, not be a housekeeper.

Key Features

  • Time: Parents who use and love Au Pairs rave about that having someone in the home to help get the kids dressed, fed, and taken care of in the morning. This makes it easier for parents to get out the door quickly in the morning. This extra time results in getting to work earlier, which means getting to leave earlier too. It allows for more quality time with your kids in the evening.
  • Transportation: Many Au Pair agreements require you to provide a means of transportation to the Au Pair. While this seems like a large request, giving your Au Pair a car to use allows them to transport your kids to and from activities and even pick them and drop them off from school, which can be a large time savings for you.
  • Cultural Exposure: Many Au Pairs are not native to the U.S. so having your kids exposed to a caregiver with a different cultural (and possible language background) can help provide a more global understanding of the world.

Wait Time
In order to obtain an au pair, you must go through a screening and matching process that may take at minimum a couple months to go through. Au pairs cannot legally watch infants under the age of 3 months, so keep that in mind as you apply.

Schedule Flexibility
Au pairs must have at least one full weekend per month off, and can only work up to 45 hours a week. Many au pair contracts also include that au pairs must have at least 1.5 days off per week. However, daily au pair hours can be negotiated, and if you or your spouse work on-call or sometimes work weekends, you can work within your au pair contract to find coverage. Au pairs are a great choice if your work hours are not the typical 9-5, or if they vary per week.

Provider Sick/Vacation Days
Many au pair contracts require a week of paid vacation, in which you would provide your au pair with their full weekly stipend. In that week, you would have to find alternative child care. However, many au pairs and their host families schedule to take vacation at the same time. Because au pairs’ week-to-week stipend is less than the cost of tuition at a daycare center or nanny salary, it is less expensive for their vacations.

Au pairs, when ill, should not be expected to work that day and therefore you will need to find back-up child care. The weekly stipend must still be issued in full, but, if needed, it is possible to negotiate hours on the au pair’s typical off-day that week so you can work an extra shift if needed.

Child Sick/Vacation Days
Au pair contracts include 51 weeks of stipend, so if your au pair isn’t simultaneously taking a vacation, you might either want to take the au pair along, or keep her/him at home so the house isn’t empty. In all three circumstances, you will still need to provide the stipend.

If your child is sick, many au pairs can bring them to doctor’s appointments or provide care for children with colds or bugs. However, if your au pair’s class schedule conflicts with the sick care you need, unless you offer higher pay and they accept it to miss class and care for your child, you must find alternative child care.

Young children who are very ill or have vomiting bugs may also be very upset to have you leave for work while they are sick.

Remember too, that by exposing your care provider to a contagious kid, there is a chance you will have to grant a sick day in the near future… However, by living in the house already creates exposure to the germs.


Nannies come in all varieties in terms of experience and availability. Nanny schedules can often be flexible and they can work varying hours each day so long as you keep the work consistent. Because of the flexibility of nannies, it is always wise to keep a contract with them that outlines pay, expectations, hours, and any sort of on-call care you might need. Additionally, while services like can provide background checks, it is up to you to check driving records as well as legitimacy of certifications.

Nannies can take children to enrichment activities, or nannies with educational training can provide their own learning opportunities for children. They are often responsible for feeding the children all of the meals that will be eaten while the nanny is there. In return, you also provide food for the nanny for those meals.

Since nannies work in your home, there is no need for you to get your child ready in the morning. Additionally, children with weak immune systems may benefit from staying at home with a provider. For infants, many parents have peace of mind knowing that the baby is at home with a trusted provider who can keep to the family routines without interruption.

While nannies can provide differing services, or even weekend babysitting, make sure to outline what is normally expected of her and offer extra compensation for requests that are outside of those duties.

Key Features

  • Time: Much like au pairs, having a nanny helps you get out of the house for work more easily. You do not have to feed and dress your child. Unlike an au pair, a nanny does not live with you so weather and traffic can impact possible time savings.
  • Household Support: Unlike au pairs, many nannies also provide domestic household support in that they will do laundry for your kids and even clean around the house during the day which gives you more precious time to hang out with your kids.
  • Cost: As you will see in Part 2 of this article, nannies are usually the most cost effective option for child care (especially when you have more than one child).

Wait Time
Since it is up to you to provide your own background checks, it may take a while to find a nanny. Depending on how busy your area is, you also may have to wait until the start of summer or the school year to find a nanny, as many families tend to change childcare during those times.

Schedule Flexibility
Nannies can work virtually any time of the day, and so long as you are providing proper compensation, can work overnight or only a few days a week if you are working part-time. Keep in mind that many nannies who accept part-time jobs are also students or have other commitments, so be sure to outline your possible needs for other coverage in your contract.

It is common to take nannies on vacations, or even just to hire one for a summer if you’re transitioning between care providers.

Provider Sick/Vacation Days
Depending on how many hours a week your nanny works for you, you can negotiate whether or not you will pay your nanny for her/his own vacation. Full-time nannies should have fewer breaks in payment than part-time ones do. Like au pairs, many nannies and families coordinate vacations so there are no breaks in child care.

If your nanny is sick, you will have to find back-up child care. It is not realistic to expect a nanny to come in sick, even if it requires you to take leave from your job. Based on what you agree upon in your contract, you might not have to pay sick time.

Child Sick/Vacation Days
If your family takes vacation, anticipate to pay your full-time nanny the normal weekly salary. Do not expect your nanny to house-sit for you, and if she/he does, there should be additional compensation. In the contract, you can decide if your part-time nanny is compensated during your time off, but keep in mind that many families do pay even their part-time nannies, so it might be expected.

If your child is ill and contagious, it might be wise to keep the nanny out of the house until the bug passes over so that you do not have to find care when the nanny is sick. Many nannies do not provide sick care, or provide limited sick care (they will take care of your child if they have a cold or a small bug, but will not provide care if your child has the flue or stomach bugs, etc.).

Teething fevers, reflux that looks like vomiting, and other non-contagious bugs that might keep your child out of daycare will not be a problem for the nanny. However, if she calls and insists that the child is sick with more than that, and sick-care is not in her contract, you’ll have to take leave from work.

If you are sick, you can have your nanny come and take care of the children, but remember that taking care of you is not part of the contract. You will not have to worry about getting the kids ready for daycare, and the nanny can keep them occupied while you recover.

Easy School-Safe Treats and Activities for Your Tots Classroom

Easy School-Safe Treats and Activities for Your Tots Classroom
By Paige Goodwin, Contributor

When I was young, if you had a birthday during the school year, your mom stayed up the night before baking the exact number of cupcakes for your classmates so you could hand them out with sticky fingers at lunch. It was glorious, getting to be the center of attention while handing out haphazardly iced desserts, bragging about how you made them by hand, all by yourself, the night before.

Birthdays are still celebrated in school, but with many schools and preschools cutting down on what foods can be brought in (if at all), it isn’t as easy as baking a few dozen cupcakes anymore, but certainly no more time-consuming.

Food Snacks

If you child eats lunch in a cafeteria, chances are they can only hand out pre-packaged snacks that are nut-free (that also includes being made in a nut-free facility). Some schools do not allow any food sharing in cafeterias to protect students who cannot read food labels, so if the teacher hasn’t give you information on how to distribute treats on birthdays, get in touch ahead of time to see if they can help pass out snacks before the students go to lunch.

Here are some safe treats that don’t require a trip to a specialty grocery store:

• Single Serve packages of Rice Krispie Treats rice-krispie
Pop Chips — these are actually friendly for most
allergy sufferers as they are vegan and gluten-free. You can find single-serve packages at most Wegman’s stores and Safeway, but go on to the Pop Chips website to check for nearby locations to you.
• Plain Hershey’s Kisses — make sure to not get kissesany specialty flavors, as Hershey’s does can’t guarantee nut-free manufacturing for those. Hershey’s Kisses are made with milk, milk chocolate cane sugar, chocolate, cocoa butter, milk fat, lecithin and natural flavors. The Hershey’s website also includes a number you can call regarding the allergen information for each of their products.
Wonka brand candies
Starburst, Skittles, Fruit Roll-Ups, and Sour Patch Kids

There are also brands dedicated to making snacks and desserts that are nut-free:

Treasure Mills has mini cupcakes, brownies and cookietreasure-mill bars. Their website lists the ingredients for each product, and has a store locator to help you find them in your area.
Skeeter Nut Free sells packages of different types of cookies such as shortbread, double chocolate and chocolate chip. Click “Learn More” on each product to get a full ingredients list.

When in doubt, check the labels. Your child’s teacher will too, so check ahead to see if you need to bring in treats earlier for approval.

Class Activities

If your child’s class has a lot of students with diverse food allergies, or you child’s school does not allow food snacks to be shared, there are still quite a few inexpensive and fun things your child can share with the class. Small activities may also be a fun addition to a snack you bring in as well. Don’t be surprised if other parents borrow your ideas for other birthdays in class!

• Even if your child doesn’t bring in food, you canbday-express still make lunch festive by sending in themed plates, napkins, cups, or even brightly colored bendy straws. Try Birthday Express for a huge assortment of themes.
• If your child is in preschool or kindergarten where there
is a daily or weekly story, see if your child’s teacher would be okay with your child’s favorite story being read in honor of their birthday. If possible, volunteer to do it — the teacher will appreciate a short break, and you can embellish the story with funny voices to help make it a new class favorite.
• Older children may enjoy helping make a themed word search or coloring page about
them for the class. Try Really Color to turn a photo into a crayolacoloring page, or Crayola for pre-made coloring pages. Discovery Education has a free word search maker for your older child, which will generate a puzzle after you input the words their classmates must find! Have your child hand them to the teacher at the beginning of the day — there is always down-time in a school day, and the teacher will enjoy having the activities to hand out when there is time to spare.
• While many teachers give out special pencils to birthday children, you can make fun personalized pencils through Oriental Trading. Your child can put their name, or evenmartha-stewart a funny saying on the pencils so the whole class has a fun, matching pencil. The teacher will appreciate not having to find students an extra pencil, too!
• If your child’s class is a little too young for pencils, try giving old crayons new life by making each child a custom crayon using these instructions on Martha Stewart’s website. Your child can hand out rainbow crayons, or whatever color combinations they like best!

Please remember that with class activities, unless you are handing something small out, to talk with the teacher ahead of time to make sure whatever you plan doesn’t interrupt their schedule, and so that everything goes smoothly for your child’s special day.

Selecting a Day Care- What Questions Should I Ask?

Daycare PhotoChoosing a daycare for your child is likely one of the more difficult and concerning choices you make in their young lives. If you are a working parent, your child will likely spend more time at their daycare then at home. From polling our members, the following were some of the best questions we thought to ask when visiting a new daycare.


  • Size/Setup
    1. How many kids do they have?
    2. What is the teacher to child ratio?
    3. How classes are organized (what age ranges are in each class)?
    4. Do classes have assistants?
    5. How long have teachers been there?
  • Foods

    1. What types of food do they provide if any?
    2. Can mom’s breastfeed at the daycare and do they have appropriate facilities for it?
    3. Do bottles have to be pre-made or will teachers mix/clean formula bottles?
    4. Are there certain foods that cannot be brought into the daycare?
    5. If food is provided by the parents, what is the procedure if for some reason you forget to pack a lunch?
  • Nap Time
    1. How do they does the daycare do naps, where and when?
    2. What if a baby/child doesn’t want to sleep, what is their procedure?
  • Activities
    1. What kind of activities are there?
    2. How are toys cleaned?
    3. Can you get a sample curriculum?
    4. How much out door time do kids have on a daily basis?
    5. Does the daycare offer music or language instruction (this is becoming popular for Toddlers)
  • Policies
    1. Is there regular parent/teacher check ins?
    2. What is their sick child policy i.e. how long must a child be home before they can return if they go home sick?
    3. What is their regular and holiday hours?
    4. What is their snow policy?
    5. Are teachers given healthcare and required to be vaccinated?
    6. Does the daycare have set teacher minimum qualifications?
    7. What closure process do they follow (federal government, county government, school board, etc)?
    8. Are there fees associated with late/delayed pickup due to extenuating circumstances?
    9. Do they offer any “free” vacation weeks where you can take your child out of daycare for a week without paying?
    10. Does the daycare have security onsite or cameras?
    11. Are they able to provide you with copies of current licenses? In most states you can check the government website to see if they have any potential violations or citations:
      1. Washington DC:
      2. Maryland:
      3. Virginia:
  • Other
    1. Can you observe one day… this will give you a sense of whether you like the feel of the place, how they treat the kid’s etc.