Parents today have a staggering number of childcare options: nannies (full- or part-time), day care centers, preschools, church schools, family day care, and play groups, not to mention all the different lessons available, from bubble babies to gymnastics to violin and ballet. Some parents use only one option at a time, perhaps putting their children into full time day care or hiring a live-in nanny, but many will use several forms of child care, depending on cost, availability and suitability for their family.
For instance, if you were (or are) a mom-at-home, you might take your children swimming, participate with them in Suzuki violin lessons, home school them (each at his or her own level), and join a play group for socialization (for your own needs as well as theirs). A part-time working parent might also like a combination of options.
Another way to make use of the plenitude of childcare options is to consider a specialty preschool — your local Y may offer day care with a preschool component as well as swimming, gymnastics, sports and games, arts and crafts.
For children needing full time childcare, consider an extended day preschool program. In this option, children stay on at school two or three afternoons a week but have two to three half-days off. How about hiring a part-time nanny to pick them up on the early days, take them home for naps and a snack or drive them to a class at the Y or a swim at the pool?
One of the benefits of a nanny is that she can not only do the driving but also stand in for parents at lessons and play groups. (You may need to make a car available, or if your nanny has her own car, provide for appropriate auto insurance coverage. Another is that, like a parent, she provides continuity between home and outside activities, a plus for children of all ages.
In fact, a good nanny will bring opportunities to your attention and may even be able to help you comparison shop for the situation that will best suit your needs.
A final note: Doing lots of activities is not the issue, it’s the balance that counts. A schedule that overwhelms either children or adults is not a good schedule. In fact, many a nanny will quit a job that keeps her running all day — she chose nannying because she loves being with children, not because she likes driving.
Mark Twain once noted the value of “boredom” (that is, being alone with nothing else to do) as the ultimate stimulus for creativity. If every moment of every day is filled with something or other that is just too important to omit, consider this: two good half-days a week of outside things-to-do (gymnastics on Tuesdays, music on Fridays) may be plenty.