Choosing Child Care

Parents have a choice between informal (unlicensed) and formal (licensed) child care.

Formal (Licensed) Child Care


In Ontario, anyone who cares for more than five unrelated children under the age of 10 years has to be licensed by the Ministry of Education. Licensed child care providers have to meet certain provincial health, safety and caregiver training standards.

If you are thinking about licensed child care, there are several kinds to choose from. The kind you choose will depend on the needs of your child and your family.

What are my licensed child care choices?

Home-based child care

Home-based child care

Home child care is provided in a caregiver's home. You can find home child care for infants, toddlers pre-school and school-aged children.

Centre-based child care

Centre-based child care

Licensed child care centres care for infants, toddlers, pre-school and school-age children. They include nursery schools, full day care, extended day care and before and after school programs.

School-based child care

School-aged child care

School-age programs are designed for children 6 to 12 years of age. These children spend most of their day at an elementary school.

Informal (Unlicensed) Child Care


In Ontario, caregivers who look after five or fewer unrelated children under the age of 10 do not have to be licensed.

Unlicensed child care are private arrangements made between the parents and the caregiver. Another name for unlicensed child care is informal child care.

Here are some examples:

  • a babysitter or relative who comes to the child's home at the required times
  • a nanny who lives with the family
  • a friend or relative who cares for the child in their own home

Some advantages:

  • family atmosphere in a home-like setting
  • caregiver may know you and your child
  • schedules may be more flexible
  • can be more affordable than licensed child care

Some disadvantages:

  • caregiver may not have any formal training
  • isolation of caregiver
  • other children may not be the same age or the same stage of development
  • reliability may be a problem

Who supervises unlicensed caregivers?

The Ministry of Education does not regulate these caregivers. That means the person caring for your child does not have to meet provincial health, safety and caregiver training standards.

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