Skip to Content

Child Care


Steven D. Blatt

, MD, State University of New York, Upstate Medical University

Last full review/revision Nov 2018| Content last modified Nov 2018

About 80% of children receive child care outside the home before they start school. Many children aged 5 to 12 also receive care outside the home before or after the school day.

Sources of care include

  • Relatives
  • Neighbors
  • Licensed and unlicensed private homes
  • Child care centers

Care can also be provided in the home by a relative or nanny.

Child care centers can be licensed, accredited, or both. A licensed center has met that particular state's minimum licensing requirements for child care. Accreditation usually requires that the center meet higher standards than those required for licensing. Information about licensing and accreditation is available to families.

Care outside of the home varies in quality. Some care is excellent, some is poor. Care outside of the home can also have benefits. Children can benefit from the social and academic stimulation of quality child care.

Did You Know...

  • Most preschool children receive care outside the home.
  • Child care outside the home can provide benefits such as social interaction, physical and other activities, and opportunities to develop independence.

Benefits of care outside the home

Early exposure to music, books, art, and language stimulates a child's intellectual and creative development.

Group play stimulates social development. Outdoor play and occasional vigorous play help dissipate pent-up physical energy and stimulate muscle development.

Opportunities to initiate their own activities help children develop independence.

Nutritious meals or snacks should be available every few hours.

Television and videos contribute little to the child's development and are best avoided. If they are used, the content should be age-appropriate and supervised by an adult.

There are many resources available through local and national organizations that can help parents assess the quality and safety of child care settings. The American Academy of Pediatrics supports materials provided at the National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education web site, which include checklists about good child care environments.

More Information about Child Care

  • National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education

Copyright © 2022 Merck & Co., Inc., known as MSD outside of the US, Kenilworth, New Jersey, USA. All rights reserved. Merck Manual Disclaimer