Early Education & Child Care: Birth - Age Five

Types of Child Care

Center Based Early Child Care Programs

Center based nursery schools and pre-schools provide care in a facility mainly used for this purpose.  Centers differ in educational philosophies, structure, goals and activities, as well as the number of children enrolled.  Children are usually grouped by age.  Centers vary in the age range they serve.  For example, some programs begin as early as six weeks and end with toddlers aged three and are called infant/toddler programs, while others offer nursery/pre-school programs that begin at six weeks and continue through Kindergarten.  Many centers have year round and extended day programs at additional cost.   Columbia University has ten affiliated nursery schools where Columbia University families receive priority for admissions. 

Among center based care options are Parent Cooperative Nursery Schools. Parents cooperatively set rules and policies with the directors of these programs and actively participate in the program, committing to a set number of hours. Parent cooperatives' fees are lower due to the contribution of parent time in operating the program.

School and Child Care Search Service Materials for Center Based Care

In Home Care

The child remains in his/her own home or that of a relative or friend. A nanny, au pair or babysitter is hired who may live in or out of your home. When you choose an in-home care arrangement, you become the employer. You determine the hours and the responsibilities. The best reference is always from a colleague or personal friend who has used a nanny agency successfully or can give a personal reference for a nanny, au pair or babysitter. Some families share nannies.  The New York Magazine Family Guide contains information and resources on locating a nanny in the New York area. Barnard College students are available through the Barnard Babysitting Agency for occasional or part time babysitting services. Specially trained babysitters for children with special needs are available through the JCC Manhattan

School and Child Care Search Service Materials for In-Home Care

Family and Group Family Child Care

Family child care provides care for up to six children ages six weeks to 12 years of age (but no more than two children under two years of age) in a provider’s home. Group family child care provides care for  up to 12 children between the ages of 6 weeks and 12 years (but no more than four children under the age of two) assisted by one or more aides.  Often less expensive than in-home care or child care centers, these programs are organized in small sized play groups (sometimes multi-age) with varying activities in a family environment.  In New York City, the New York State Office of Children and Family Service (OCFS) licenses providers through the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. 

PreK for All:  NYC DOE Tuition-Free Pre-Kindergarten Programs

Free Pre-Kindergarten programs exist in some public schools, early childhood centers, and community-based agencies for children living in New York City who turn four by December 31 of the enrollment year.  

Backup Care Program

Columbia University has a Backup Care Program through the Office of Work/Life. This service can provide up to 100 hours of backup care per fiscal year for those who are eligible. In order to use this program you must sign up on the website or call 800-557-0847. You can register in advance or when care is needed. We strongly suggest you register in advance to avoid delay in the process when care is needed.