au pair vs nanny

You’re at the doorstep of parenthood or contemplating a change in your family’s childcare dynamics. It’s a pivotal moment, and the big question looms: au pair vs nanny vs daycare – which is the right fit for your family? We’re here to guide you through this essential comparison.

Let’s Compare: Au Pair vs. Nanny vs. Daycare


Au Pair: Au pairs can often provide more flexibility in their schedules, making it easier to adapt to your family’s changing needs.

Nanny: Nannies, too, can offer flexibility and may be able to adjust their hours as needed, accommodating variations in your schedule.

Daycare: Daycares typically have fixed operating hours and may charge additional fees for late pick-ups. If your job requires you to work odd hours or long shifts, daycare may not be the most suitable option.


Au Pair: Au pairs tend to be a cost-effective option, often more budget-friendly than full-time nannies.

Nanny: Nannies are usually more expensive than daycare. However, hiring a nanny could prove more cost-effective if you have multiple children or require part-time care. Nanny sharing is another way to split costs with another family.

Daycare: Daycare fees can vary widely, with many being less expensive than hiring a full-time nanny. Still, some daycare rates can be high, especially if you must pay for a full day regardless of the hours used or if you have multiple children attending.

Social Interaction

Au Pair: Your child’s social interaction level with an au pair can vary depending on the caregiver’s activities. Parents can enhance social opportunities by organizing playgroups and group activities.

Nanny: Similarly, your child’s social interaction level with a nanny depends on the caregiver’s actions. Parents can foster social development through organized activities and outings.

Daycare: Daycare offers substantial social interaction opportunities for children. Daily peer interactions can help prepare young children for a school environment and promote social development.

Personalized Attention

Au Pair: An au pair can offer your child personalized one-on-one attention, fostering a strong daily bond. The care can be tailored to your child’s needs, from feeding schedules to nap times.

Nanny: Much like au pairs, nannies provide your child with individualized care. They can focus solely on your child’s well-being, adjusting routines and schedules as needed.

Daycare: In a daycare setting, one caregiver is often responsible for several children, adhering to legal ratios. While caregivers do their best to meet each child’s requirements, their attention is necessarily divided, and they adhere to a structured schedule for the group’s benefit.

Physical Health

Au Pair: The home environment of an au pair may be cleaner, and your child may be exposed to fewer germs. Some parents prefer controlled exposure to germs to help build their child’s immunity.

Nanny: As with au pairs, a nanny can provide a cleaner home environment, potentially reducing germ exposure.

Daycare: Daycare facilities must adhere to strict cleanliness standards, but the risk of illness still exists. The presence of a sick child in a daycare setting can lead to the spread of germs to other children in the class.

Educational Benefit

Au Pair: While au pairs offer one-on-one care, they may not always possess formal training in early childhood development. However, you can seek au pairs with the relevant qualifications if early education is your priority.

Nanny: Just like au pairs, nannies may or may not have formal education in early childhood development, making it essential to find one whose qualifications align with your preferences.

Daycare: Daycare centers often employ caregivers who have received training in early childhood education. This means your child can benefit from structured learning, including activities promoting motor skills, reading, and more.

Cultural Exposure

Au Pair: Inviting a foreign student to live with your family is a wonderful way to introduce your children to different languages, customs, and traditions.

Nanny: A nanny may or may not bring cultural diversity, depending on their background and experiences. However, you can still introduce cultural elements into your child’s life.

Daycare: Daycare, especially in a diverse facility, can offer some exposure to various cultures. Group settings often encourage children to appreciate differences and similarities.

Pros and Cons

CriteriaAu PairNannyDaycare
Cultural Exposure✓ Learn about different cultures and languagesLimited cultural exposureLimited cultural exposure
Personalized Care✓ Tailored to your child✓ Tailored to your childLimited personalization
SocializationLimited social interactionLimited social interaction✓ Opportunities to socialize
Flexible Hours✓ Flexible schedule✓ Flexible scheduleLimited flexibility
ExperienceLimited childcare experience✓ Extensive childcare experience✓ Structured routines
Cost✓ Cost-effectiveHigher costModerate cost
Long-Term CommitmentTemporaryLong-term commitmentLimited flexibility
RegulationsVisa regulationsEmployer responsibilitiesStrict safety regulations
Individual AttentionLimited individual attentionIndividual attentionLimited individual attention
Exposure to IllnessesLimited potential for illness exposureLimited potential for illness exposureGreater potential for illness exposure

Au Pair vs. Nanny vs. Daycare – Your Choice

When it comes to the au pair vs nanny vs daycare debate, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. The best choice for your family depends on your unique circumstances, priorities, and budget. 

If you go with an au pair, you can connect with them through agencies by the U.S. Department of State. If daycare is the better fit, ask your family and friends for recommendations and visit centers to see if they have what you need. If a nanny suits your family, get suggestions from people you know, look at job boards, or use online services like UrbanSitter to find local nannies who match your needs. Ultimately, the choice is up to you.

Looking for a part-time or full-time nanny? Join UrbanSitter to browse profiles and meet candidates.