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At least in my state (Washington), the child care licensing is such that most preschools are only able to care for a child for 4 hours per day. I found a couple of places that do preschool and then childcare on site, but those are very rare. Most small, appealing programs are half-day only.

Does this mean that most of these programs are only suitable for stay-at-home parents? What are the other options? A part-time nanny? Maybe there are other approaches?

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In the particular area I live, it actually seems the opposite, here it seems a very common configuration is preschool with "extended day" care options, and full-day daycares that feature a preschool curriculum, whereas preschools that are "just" preschools are harder to find. What kinds of preschools are common probably depends a lot on the demographics of your area, as well as potentially being swayed by the effects of various preschool regulations that vary from state to state.

So your options?

  • Find a daycare you like that has a good preschool curriculum, or a preschool with extended day programs, longer than four hours, and use that for all of your childcare. If you have a spouse and you stagger your work start/end times, you may be able to make this work even if the extended day is less than a full 8-10 hour day program.
  • Hire a nanny part-time who can pick up your child from school. If the preschool is a 2 or 3 day a week program, you could hire the nanny just to come on the preschool days, for the afternoons, and do daycare the other 2-3 days a week. This sort of schedule is actually quite desirable as a part time job for college students who are trying to make some money on the side but still have time to go to school full time.
  • A nanny share is similar to the part-time nanny, except you also share the nanny with another family, so she would supervise both children, giving your child a playmate, and reducing your nanny costs by 30-50% since you split the bill for her time.
  • Some daycares have transportation service to and from schools, where they pick your kids up in their bus after school. This may or may not be available for preschool (some places limit it to elementary schools), depending on the daycare and the location and schedule of your preschool.
  • One or both parents can (presuming this is possible based on your professions) work non-standard work hours such that daycare is not needed after preschool. You would have one spouse care for the child while the other works, and vice versa. This leads to less time the whole family spends together at once, and likely less time spent with one's spouse, but it cuts childcare costs considerably.
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