What is a Childcare Worker?

Childcare workers care for children when parents and other family members are unavailable. They care for children’s basic needs, such as bathing and feeding. They care for children in childcare centers, their own home, or the homes of the children in their care. Many work full time, but part-time work and irregular hours are common.

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What does a Childcare Worker do?

Childcare workers care for the basic needs of infants and toddlers, changing their diapers and preparing their meals. They also maintain the children’s schedules, such as play, nap, and meal times. Others things they do include:

  • Supervise and monitor the safety of children in their care
  • Prepare meals and organize mealtimes and snacks for children
  • Help children keep good hygiene
  • Organize activities so that children can learn about the world and explore interests
  • Develop schedules and routines to ensure that children have enough physical activity, rest, and playtime
  • Watch for signs of emotional or developmental problems in children and bring the problems to the attention of parents
  • Keep records of children’s progress, routines, and interest.

Childcare workers introduce babies and toddlers to basic concepts by reading to them and playing with them. For example, they teach young children how to share and take turns by playing games with other children. They often help preschool-aged children prepare for kindergarten. They use children’s play to improve the children’s language—for example, through storytelling and acting games—and their social skills—for example, through having them build something together in the sandbox. They may involve the children in creative activities, such as art, dance, and music.

Childcare workers often watch school-aged children before and after school. They help these children with homework and ensure that they attend afterschool activities, such as athletic practices and club meetings. During the summer, when children are out of school, childcare workers may watch older children as well as younger ones for the entire day while the parents are at work.

The following are examples of types of childcare workers: Childcare center workers work in teams in formal childcare centers, including Head Start and Early Head Start programs. They often work with preschool teachers and teacher assistants to teach children through a structured curriculum. They prepare daily and long-term schedules of activities to stimulate and educate the children in their care. They also monitor and keep records of children’s progress.

Family childcare providers care for children in the provider's own home during traditional working hours. They need to ensure that their homes and all staff they employ meet the regulations for family childcare centers. After the children go home, the providers often have more responsibilities, such as shopping for food or supplies, doing accounting, keeping records, and cleaning. In addition, family childcare providers frequently must spend some of their time marketing their services to prospective families.

Nannies work in the homes of the children they care for and the parents that employ them. Most often, they work full time for one family. They may be responsible for driving children to school, appointments, or afterschool activities. Some live in the homes of the families of that employ them.

Babysitters, like nannies, work in the homes of the children in their care. However, they work for many families instead of just one. In addition, they generally do not work full time, but rather take care of the children on occasional nights and weekends when parents have other obligations.

What does it take to be a Childcare Worker?

Childcare workers are employed in childcare centers, preschools, public schools, and private homes. They spend much of their day moving around the room to work with the children in their care. Carrying children, bending to lift children, and kneeling to be at eye level with children can be physically exhausting.

Family childcare providers work in their own homes. They may convert a portion of their living space into a dedicated space for the children. About 30% of childcare workers were self-employed in 2010. Nannies and babysitters usually work in their employers’ homes. Some live in the home of their employer and generally are provided with their own room and bath.

What is the workplace of a Childcare Worker like?

Education and training requirements vary with settings, government regulations, and employer preferences. They range from less than a high school diploma to early childhood education certification. However, employers often prefer to hire workers with at least a high school diploma and, in some cases, some postsecondary education in early childhood education.

Some employers may require certifications in CPR and first aid. Childcare workers must be able to talk with parents and colleagues about the progress of the children in their care. They need both good writing and speaking skills to provide this information effectively. They need to be able to explain things in terms young children can understand. Working with children can be frustrating, so childcare workers need to be able to respond to overwhelming and difficult situations calmly. They need to work well with people to develop good relationships with parents, children, and colleagues. Working with children can be physically taxing, so childcare workers should have a lot of energy.

How much does a Childcare Worker earn?

The median hourly wage of childcare workers was $9.28 in May 2010. (The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less.) The lowest 10% earned less than $7.65, and the top 10% earned more than $14.08. Pay varies with the worker’s education and work setting. Those in formal childcare settings and those with more education usually earn higher wages. Pay for self-employed workers is based on the number of hours they work and the numbers and ages of the children in their care.

Learn more about being a Childcare Worker