Finding Childcare

Striving for a Healthy Balance: The Northwestern University Office of Work/Life & Family Resources provides programs, services and consultation to enable staff, faculty, and students to effectively balance the competing demands of work and home.

Choosing Childcare

As a parent, choosing childcare can be one of the most important and challenging tasks that you may face. It is important to understand your child’s developmental needs, what childcare options are available, and what is important to you in selecting a caregiver. In many ways, your caregiver will be your partner in your child’s early education. Each family is unique, so there is no “one size fits all” approach to selecting the right childcare for your child(ren).

Childcare Checklists

Illinois Action for Children offers checklists to assist families in the process of evaluating and choosing child care.

Infant & Toddler Childcare Checklist

Preschool Checklist

School Age Checklist

Non-Traditional Childcare Checklist

Special Needs Childcare Checklist

Summer Day Camp Checklist

There are a variety of childcare options available:

  1. In-Home Care: This may be a nanny (live in or out) or an au pair. Hiring an in-home caregiver can be a convenient option. Your child(ren) will develop a relationship with one caregiver, and your family can determine the hours. This is typically the most expensive type of care. Northwestern offers a paid membership to and the Nannyshare Network for help finding in-home care.
  2. Family Day Care Home:  Your child is cared for in a provider’s home. Care is provided to a smaller number of children. This option appeals to families who prefer a “homey” setting. This is a moderately priced option. Check to see if the family day care home is licensed by the state.
  3. Center-based Care: Care is provided in a structured environment, incorporating a pre-school curriculum. The state regulates teacher to child ratios, health and safety measures, age appropriate activities and equipment. Some centers receive accreditations, such as National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), whose requirements are often more stringent standards than those of the state.
  4. Pre-School Programs: This is usually offered in a classroom setting with other children ages 3-5. Programs typically last for about two and a half hours. Some programs are play based, others are more academically oriented. 

There are a variety of approaches to early education programs. Here are a few widely recognized ones:


Reggio Emilia


Academic skills, learning behaviors, social skills and a love of learning are indicators of a solid foundation for success in kindergarten and later elementary school. Professionals seem to agree that:

  • Earlier is not necessarily better when it comes to developmental milestones.
  • Comprehensive programs are preferable to narrowly focused ones.
  • Hands-on opportunities to explore and discover, with the guidance of teachers who create a learning environment rich with opportunity can help foster learning.