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Choosing Child Care Service

Whether you are looking for a day care center or at-home care, choosing child care service requires doing your homework.

Talking Money, Talking Quality

Costs of child care service can vary widely by region. "You should seek the best care you can buy with your dollar," says Workman.

Using a nanny or au pair is an increasingly popular trend, even though it is generally more expensive to have someone come into the home to care for a child one-on-one. "If you can afford it, this can be a good choice for the first couple years of life," says Schiller. "Once the child is 3 and 4 years old, then social interaction becomes critical, and you want children to have the experiences that occur in groups."

Ask whether the center or private home is licensed or registered with the appropriate state or local government agencies, which means that the program is visited regularly for inspections, says Workman.

Keep in mind that no matter where your baby is cared for, this is a time of rapid development of her brain as well as her body. "It's important that children are read to, talked to, and sung to during the first year because so much of the wiring of the brain is taking place," says Schiller. "If children are in a child-care setting where no one ever speaks to them, then a very important window of opportunity is missed for that child's cognitive development."

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