Why is Daycare So Expensive?

So you’re looking for daycare for your child. Great! You start looking up daycares along your commute and looking into their hours, program details, and pricing. You go on Facebook or Instagram to find a home daycare provider since you like more of a close-knit feel for your child. You ask about pricing and you are floored when the home daycare provider replies “My prices start at $140 a week for part time and go up from there.” You think “Seriously?! $140? I could find someone that watches kids for $20 a day or send them to a center for the same price!” And you’re right; you could find someone to watch your child for $20 a day, and I’m sure they would do a good job. Or bring them to a center with a similar price point. But let me walk you through why we home daycare providers charge what we charge. Because I promise we are not trying to take advantage of you.

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Let’s start at the beginning; the setup. The daycare room, decor, wall painting, nap equipment, linens, high chairs, kids table and chairs, marketing materials, childproofing, etc. all cost quite a bit to acquire when you consider that it’s meant to be used for 6-8 children on a regular basis- to the tune of $5000, or more if you include the wooden swingset in our backyard.

The fact that I make from-scratch meals is a great benefit of my program, but it takes time to plan and purchase ingredients and cooking equipment. My weekly business-only groceries are about $80-$180, depending on what I’m making and the number of children in care. It takes me about 2-3 hours to plan and grocery shop each week for just my business menu. Next: the prep. Here’s where it starts to get a little more complicated. Each day, I need to be sure that my home is clean, recently vacuumed and mopped, the dishes done, daycare areas clean and tidy, no choking hazards out (we have a 4 year old with toys with small parts), and that my home is tour-ready at all times. There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes things like record-keeping, receipt filing, and tax stuff that adds about 20 hours a week on top of the work I do with children during business hours.

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Now let’s get to the fun part; activities! This can be simple or elaborate, but even the simplest activities take a lot of time to acquire supplies and setup the activities for the day. As you can imagine, this also takes advanced planning and time. It takes me on average at least 1 hour a day to plan activities and get the setup ready, before the day begins. Having multiples of art supplies, sensory bins and sensory bottles, and the right tools to do these activities can easily cost $30 per type of medium for our group. That’s for just 1 type of activity like play d’oh, watercolors, or fingerpaint.

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To break that down and see how much I am paying myself per hour: it’s $195 for full time care for a child that’s 3 months -18 months old. Ontop of the 50 hours a week I work caring for a typical child, there’s also a weekly food budget of about $35/child. So that’s $195-$35=$160. Add on the typical 20 hours a week I’m doing business-related work outside of operating hours, that’s $160/70 hours = $2.29 per hour. Yep. I make $2.29 per hour doing what I do. Is that shocking to you?


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This estimate is not including any overhead costs either. We daycare providers also invest a good amount of money into our supplies and equipment. Just my kids table, 6 kids chairs, and 3 shortie high chairs cost $220. That’s just mealtime equipment, not even including plates, bowls, cups, or utensils. The wooden swingset, 12″ tall border and ramp, and playground mulch cost $2100. Now, am I charging you for use of my equipment and other supplies when I take care of your child? Of course not, but they are necessities for me to run a child-appropriate and delightful childcare business.

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So if I only make $2.29 an hour, why do I do home daycare? Because I LOVE IT. I love my work! I love making children and families happy with my services! It’s my creative outlet, especially for meals and activities. I also love the fact that I can run my own business, can be home with my own children, and provide customized quality daycare for local families. I don’t tell you this to make you feel bad or feel like you should be paying more; my sole intention is to put our pricing into perspective. Every daycare setup is a labor of love and creativity and I believe that they are worth every dollar you will spend.

Our children are only little for so long and since the most formative years are 0-5, getting the best quality care for your children will have a lasting effect on their health, well-being, types of food they are willing to eat, and their manners and social skills. Give them the best.

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