Daycare Comparison

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How Parents Compare Daycare Options

The first few years of care have an enormous impact on how a child may develop for the rest of their life. Every day serves as a new experience, and exposure to age-appropriate challenges and activities help children grow. Choosing the type of child care and the way that care is provided is an important and significant choice for a new working parent. To learn more about why Bright Horizons is more than just daycare, search by zip to schedule a Zoom meeting at a center near you!

Daycare Health & Safety

Plan to ask all child care providers you consider about health and safety. Bright Horizons has implemented a number of enhanced protocols, including reduced class sizes at our centers.

Frequent cleaning and disinfecting of high-touch surfaces, toys, and laundered items

Strict drop-off and pick-up procedures to minimize contact

Secured entrances to all centers and supervision policies to keep children safe

Teachers trained in all protocols

Daily health screening and temperature check for adults and children


What Questions Should I Ask a Daycare Provider?

How does a parent start a daycare comparison?

Advice from other parents, web searches through search engines, or online web portals from state or local governments can provide lists of daycares to consider. For a parent whose company provides on-site child care, back-up care or summer camp as a benefit, the human resources department will be able to provide information. If your company provides a daycare benefit through Bright Horizons, please log into your account to access your benefits. If your company does not provide this benefit, search by zip to find a Bright Horizons center near you.

Can a parent explore a daycare without an appointment?

No. A parent should schedule an appointment if they want to inspect a daycare facility . No parent would want any adult to be able to enter the facility without warning, and thus daycare facilities should require an appointment. At Bright Horizons, we offer Zoom and in-person visits so we can understand what your family needs for child care, including when you would start your first day of child care, what your schedule would be and how old your child is. We also want to allow ample time for you to ask questions about our early education and preschool programs.

I've compared daycares, but some of my choices have long wait lists. What if I want to enroll at a Bright Horizons center but space is not available?

Depending on where you live, age of your child, and schedule you need for care, you may see daycare waitlists. You can select and register with up to three Bright Horizons child care locations, including the center in which you are most interested. By registering, you are confirming interest in all three centers. Once registered, we will add you to our waitlist and offer you a space as soon as one becomes available. Our goal is to accommodate families as soon as space allows, and so during the entire process, we will keep in touch with you regarding your status. While waiting for a space to become available at the first-choice location, many families enroll at their second or third choices temporarily until space becomes available at their first-choice centers. Enrolling at another location will not only solve your immediate child care needs, but will provide you priority access to your first preference.

How can I compare the safety of daycares or preschools?


Ask each child care provider you're considering to take the time to explain all health and safety policies to you. Consider asking:

1. How will you contact me if my child gets sick at daycare?

2. Can a mildly ill child (stuffy nose, cough) still come to daycare?

3. How do you decide if a child needs emergency medical care?

4. Are daycare staff trained in first aid and CPR?

5. How do you approach wellness, exercise, healthy eating and self-care for children?

Bright Horizons is trusted by parents including many doctors and nurses, to care for their children. We’ve partnered with pediatric infectious disease specialist Dr. Kristin Moffitt of Boston Children’s Hospital to implement enhanced safety protocols for all areas including daily health screening, distancing, cleaning, and disinfecting. Our goal is to ensure that all of our health and safety practices in every center are in line with recommendations provided by the CDC and requirements of state and local municipalities. All Bright Horizons centers have the well-being of children, families, and staff at their core.

What about licensing inspections?

A parent may review the licensing data for any given facility through an online web portal. Any recent violations should be reviewed by the parent, as the violations often include valuable information about the facility.

Are there specific philosophies in daycare?

Different daycare programs have different ideas about how a child should grow. A parent should familiarize themselves with the early childhood learning philosophies a daycare uses before entrusting a child to that facility. Learn more about what makes the Bright Horizons curriculum different in its approach to support early learning and the support Bright Horizons provides to working parents and daycare teachers.

Are lower child to teacher ratios always better?


The ideal child to caregiver ratio changes as children grow. An infant needs a lot of attention to thrive, whereas a preschooler needs more freedom to explore. Child-to-teacher ratios may differ from state-to-state. 

How can I compare daycare costs?


Daycare costs will depend upon on your child’s age when they begin care as well as the center location where you'd like to attend. To get a customized tuition quote for Bright Horizons, we will set up a Zoom or in-person meeting with you to discuss your family’s needs and calculate what tuition would look like for you.

The Bright Horizons® Difference

We offer a unique early education experience built on 30 years of expertise, and on what working families have told us they want and need for their children...and for themselves. Child care and early education isn’t just what we do – it’s who we are. 
preschool teacher at Bright Horizons

Inspired Teachers

     Dedicated early childhood professionals fully engaged in teaching careers, who benefit from our award-winning training and ongoing support. 

Working mom doing daycare pick-up at Bright Horizons preschool

Support for the Whole Family

     Thoughtfully and carefully designed centers, programs, and schedules – all created with the needs of both children and parents in mind. 

Preschool curriculum activity of boy working on STEM project at Bright Horizons

Proven Approach to Early Education

Research-informed care designed by caring, nurturing educators to inspire our youngest learners to become joyful, confident learners for life.


Child Care Checklist

Comparing different care options? Print out our checklist to make it easy to make comparisons and choose the best care for your family.

More About Comparing Daycare Options

The first few years of care have an enormous impact on how a child may develop for the rest of their life. Every day serves as a new experience, and exposure to age-appropriate challenges and activities help children grow.

For a working parent, it can be stressful to delegate those responsibilities to another party. A mother finishing her first maternity leave must decide how her child will be cared for. Choosing the type of child care and the way that care is provided is an important and significant choice for a new working parent.

Kinds of daycare

There are a few ways to classify daycare, depending on where or how the care is provided. When a daycare is operated out of a family home, it may be known as a family daycare or family child care. While the daycare is located in the home of the caregiver, there may be employees present who do not live in the home. Many states require family daycares to meet daycare licensing and regulatory requirements.

Daycare may also be provided at a commercial facility specifically designed and built to function as a daycare. Known as daycare centers, these child care centers may be separate storefronts, or may be an employer on-site child care at a company’s campus or office building. 

In addition to these two most common types of daycare, there are less traditional types of daycare. Some daycares take place entirely outdoors, where children spend the day exploring natural environments. Other daycares are operated as part of religious institutions.

Advantages of different kinds of daycare

One advantage of a family daycare is that the children spend their day in a familiar home environment, meaning the child gets exposed to everyday objects. A family daycare operator’s children may also be part of the group. This type of care can be appealing to parents who want their children to be cared for as if they were part of the caregiver’s family. Family daycares may also be more convenient — a daycare operated from a family’s home might be in a residential area, simplifying drop-off and pick-up.

But dedicated daycare centers have an advantage — they’re created specifically for child care. This means the centers can be designed to reduce injuries or accidents, such as having no stairs or sharp corners. The facility can also be furnished with easily-cleaned floor coverings and surfaces. Child care centers may have more than one location, which is helpful for families who live in areas where daycare waiting lists are common.

What to look for in a daycare

When comparing local daycares, keep in mind that every state has different guidelines for child care. The daycare licensing status may mean something different in each state, and each category of daycare may have different requirements. Many state and local governments have web portals that give parents access to  licensing data for child care facilities. This data may include compliance and violation data, and can provide important insight into the current and past operations of any given child care facility.

Once parents find a center, they should schedule a daycare visit before enrolling their child in a daycare — and they should look at the daycare facility the same way they would look at their own home when child-proofing. Parents should know that their child will be safe before looking any further into a daycare option. Can cupboards, drawers, or doors be opened by a child? Are there sharp edges, unprotected electrical outlets, or other physical dangers? These are obvious red flags during a daycare tour. 

The ratio of children to caregivers is an important number to pay attention to when doing a daycare comparison. Many state and local governments stipulate a maximum number of children being cared for per group, and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) publishes guidelines based on current research. The ratio should change as children grow. In infant care, babies need more care and attention from adults than newly-independent toddlers in toddler daycare. By the time children have reached the age of five, the ratio of children to caregivers should be higher to allow them to spend more time interacting with each other.

How is daycare different from preschool and pre-K schools?

Although many people may use the terms daycare and preschool interchangeably, preschool and pre-K focus on helping families look ahead to school readiness. A daycare center may include a preschool program, but preschool goes beyond simply meeting the physical and social needs of a child.

Preschool and pre-K lay the groundwork for further education by introducing children to the basic concepts of being in a classroom environment. Children that receive preschool and pre-K are better prepared for school, and have better lifetime outcomes than children that only receive basic child care. Daycares that offer preschool and pre-K will give a child more benefits than basic care services.

mother holding child

Get Started Today

Find a center near you to get started with Bright Horizons

Or call us to start the conversation 877-624-4532

Bright Horizons is a United States–based child-care provider and is the largest provider of employer-sponsored child care. Employees looking to become a child care teacher are offered the opportunity to earn an early education degree for free as part of their corporate benefits. Search by zip to find a child care center near you. Bright Horizons Global Headquarters are in Newton, Massachusetts, USA.