How to Find Child Care in Canada

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The process of finding child care can be extremely daunting. Where do you even start? What are your options, what are the costs, and what are the pros and cons to be weighed? What works for some families may not work for others, and it’s important to find the set-up that suits your unique needs.

To get you started, we’re breaking down the differences between home daycares, nannies, and daycare centres and letting you know what to expect, how to actually find them, how much they cost, what the upside and downsides are, as well as any useful tips you might need to know.

Home Daycare

What to expect
Random trips to the zoo, varied daily activities, and a steady, familiar face for your child. This is a great option if you’re looking for a cozy care environment.

The home daycare provider looks after approximately one to six small children and provides fun activities, learning, and a social environment for your child to interact with other kids. They’re often run by warm, friendly, patient people who love being around kids and will give your child a safe space to grow and play, while you’re at work.

How to find them

  • Local advertising and newspapers
  • Word of mouth
  • Community message boards

The hours are anywhere from 7 am to as late as 11:30 pm and there is a lot of flexibility with options for full-time, part-time, and before and after school. Cost usually ranges from  $700/month – $1,473/month


  • Smaller groups so your child gets more individual attention.
  • More flexibility around drop-off and pick-up times—within reason. You won’t have to worry about backup care if you miss the scheduled time by a few minutes (whereas most daycare centres are strict on timing, charging you extra if you’re late).
  • Often run by parents, so you know it’s someone who’s familiar with the basics of baby and child care.
  • Your child can bond with and rely on a single caregiver; someone they could form a consistent and reliable schedule with.
  • You can sometimes get your child into a home daycare relatively quickly, with little wait time.
  • Smaller groups mean more spontaneous, fun activities like heading to the neighborhood kiddie pool or playing in the park for an extra hour.


  • The level of caregiver training varies greatly. Each of the provinces have different requirements (in Nova Scotia you simply have to be 18 years old, whereas in Quebec you need to complete a 45 hour course and have supervision from a home child care provision office), so it can be difficult to know if someone is qualified to your satisfaction.
  • Family setting concerns—the caregiver is often caring for their own children at the same time. Some might worry that their child won’t get as much attention as the caregiver’s children.
  • The caregiver is often the only adult present, so there may be some concerns about children going unsupervised.
  • Some will be licensed and have regular inspections, however, home caregivers are under no obligation to be licensed and some choose to operate on their own—so you’ll have to be more vigilant about your child’s nutrition, activity, care, and discipline.
  • You may not always be aware of who has access to your children.

Keep in mind

  • It’s more of a ‘family-style’ setting and usually siblings of varied ages can attend the same caregiver home.
  • Be sure to find out ahead of time what your caregiver’s situation is in regards to backup care in the event they have an illness or vacations/holidays.
  • You’ll have to rely on your instincts when it comes to home daycare, whether licensed or unlicensed—it’s up to you to make sure the environment is suitable in caring for your child.
  • You’ll need to provide diapers in most cases, but the caregiver usually covers food.
  • In most provinces, home daycare providers can care for a maximum of two infants. Check out the regulations and guidelines for your province here.


What to expect
A laidback morning schedule, no rushing around getting your little ones’ arms into coats, boots on feet, or a mad hunt for lost toys. A nanny gives you the space to get ready for work at your own pace while your child plays in their pj’s.

Finding someone who fits into your life and helps carry the weight of child care can be life changing, if you can afford the extra expense. While nannies can be expensive, it may be worth it if they’re saving you time and offer ease of mind. Also, in many areas (especially large cities) the cost of one nanny can be less than the costs of putting multiple children in daycare.

How to find them

  • Nanny agency
  • Word of mouth
  • Advertising
  • Mom and parenting Facebook groups

Often the prices are negotiable and the more experienced the nanny is, the more expensive their services will cost. Generally the price of a nanny ranges from minimum wage to $20/hour or higher.

We’ve averaged the costs of a ten-hour workday (these prices do not include employer contributions):

  • For live-out nannies: $2,400/month to $4,000/month


  • You don’t have to worry about rushing yourself and your child to daycare before heading to work—the nanny will come to you.
  • Your child has a consistent caregiver looking after them, allowing them to form a close bond.
  • You have the ability to choose  someone who fits with your family’s philosophies and needs.
  • You’ve got control over the daily activities and menu, which can even include playgroups and classes.
  • Nannies can form a very loving bond with your child and become valued members of the family.
  • Most nannies do some cleaning and meal prep, so you don’t have to think about household duties right when you get back from work.
  • Some provinces require live-in caregiver training and many nanny agencies offer training to the caregivers to give them experience and a stronger sense of reliability.


  • Your child will have less interaction with children their own age.
  • Experienced nannies can be quite expensive.
  • Trust is a must; you’ll have to feel secure in what your nanny tells you about how the day goes with your child.
  • You’ll have to do your own deductions or pay a service to do the payroll deductions, such as

Keep in mind

  • In addition to the salary of your nanny, you’ll also have to pay employer contributions to the Canadian Pension Plan (CPP), Employment Insurance (EI), and Workplace Safety and Insurance Board’s premiums.
  • A portion of your nanny fees are tax deductible.
  • The process of finding a nanny can take several months, so leave yourself lots of time to find one.
  • It’s generally expected that you cover the cost of public transportation for your nanny.

Daycare Centres

What to expect
Backpacks stuffed in cubby spaces and coats hung up on hooks, your child heads off to meet other kids their own age for a day filled with learning and fun.

Centres across Canada are licensed by provincial governments for safety, health, and care standards. They’re run as either for-profit or as a non-profit organization. You can expect structured days, healthy meals and snacks, outdoor time, and age appropriate activities. Drop-off and pick-up time is generally between 7 am and 6 pm.

How to find them

  • Word of mouth
  • Neighborhood advertising

The price varies greatly between provinces.

  • For infants, between $630/month to $1,676/month.
  • For toddlers, $451/month to $1,324/month.
  • For preschoolers, $451/month to $998/month.
  • The exception is Quebec, where the cost of child care is $152/month.


  • Government-regulated and inspected.
  • Children are with other children their age doing activities geared to their age range.
  • Staff members will include professionals with early childhood education training.
  • The centre must meet certain standards of care, including following Canada’s Food Guide.
  • There are clear procedures for dealing with things like potty training or discipline.
  • If there are concerns about a staff member or policy, you’re able to speak with the centre’s director or ask for an investigation through the ministry in charge of child care in your province.
  • The structure gets children ready for the classroom environment and they learn early on about behaviour expectations.


  • There are huge waitlists for many daycare centres, so if you’d like to get your child into one you need to think about it way ahead of time (ideally while you’re pregnant).
  • Prices can get pretty high, especially if the centre is a for-profit.
  • There’s increased exposure to germs with so many children around, so there’s a higher chance your child will get sick.
  • A large group setting may not be ideal for some children if they do better in more individualized environments.
  • Policies can be quite rigid, with firm rules on staying home if your child is sick or charging extra if you’re late picking them up.

Keep in mind

  • In some centres, parents can sit in on the board of directors and have a say in policy planning.
  • Most centres make sure to have a lot of natural lighting.
  • Planned curriculum gives your child a strong foundation for learning.
  • Centres are often very accommodating for different religious and dietary needs.

Whatever type of child care you choose for your family, our best piece of advice is to trust your gut. You know your kids better than anyone and will know if they are best suited for a home, nanny or centre-based setting. And there is nothing to stop you from having your child care grow with your child—you may start out with a nanny and then switch them to a centre as they start to require more peer-based stimiulation.


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