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Finding childcare for your kids is hard – but finding a spot in Toronto can feel downright impossible. This can make moving from your current home (and daycare provider) seem like a hopeless endeavour. But with some careful planning and a determined spirit, you can and will find a daycare you love – sometimes even more than the one you’re leaving.

In part 4 of our Family Series, we’re sharing our ‘how-to’ for finding daycare in Toronto. (If you missed the first, blogs, check out: Transitioning Your Kids to a New School, Connecting with Your New Neighbourhood and 25 Tips for Selling with Kids)

Get On Every List While You Decide

This is really a point of entry tip. Get on all the lists. ALL THE LISTS. If you are trying to decide between neighbourhoods, get on all the lists in all the places. You can make some polite calls to remove yourself after, but you will feel betting knowing you’re on the lists.

Check The Local School

Once you have a pretty good idea of where you’ll be moving to, check the local school for the details on their daycare options and check the community board to see what is posted. You may also want to join the school social media pages and ask questions. The school daycare will probably have a list – but the way the list is fulfilled MAY not be in order. Sometimes the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and it’s time to get squeaky. The community pages might offer up some spots that people are trying to fill while they are travelling for a year, taking a year off with a baby etc.

Visit Community Daycares

There are likely several larger community centres in your new neighbourhood. Ask around (those social pages are helpful here too) to get a feel for the vibe of the centres. Your sporty tyke may not love craft city and vice versa. They will often get a rep of being “great for this one thing.” Look around until you find the one that matches how you want to do business with them and how your child or kids will fit. If they have a wait, get on the list.

Ask Around For In-Home Providers (they don’t always advertise)

Home daycares have a mixed reputation, and this is one case where you really need to get to know the daycare space, the routine and speak to other families. There are significant benefits like proximity to home or school, a real family feeling, the ability to have more say in food, schedule etc. and good potential for babysitting hours. The things you will want to know will have to do with food, routine, the home situation and if it is run in a separate space or shared with the family space, CPR and training, home licencing etc. Not all providers are required to be licenced. You’ll want to look up the rules on that. And it’s up to you to decide if it matters to you – but to do your diligence. You’ll at least want to know these details so you can make an informed decision.

Hire a Nanny

The nanny is a flexible but potentially costly choice. There are a few ways to go about bringing in nanny help. You can sponsor a nanny to come from abroad, take over the sponsorship of someone who is working towards their papers, or hire someone who is Canadian born, or already living in Canada. You can also choose to have a live-in nanny or a live-out nanny. It used to be much less expensive to have a live-in caregiver, but the regulations have changed. These bring the cost of a live-in nanny closer to that of someone who lives outside of your home. There is also the question of whether you will go through an agency, or hire on your own. There are benefits to both options.

If you’re considering a live-in nanny, this will be an essential factor in deciding which house you buy. Should you get a separate apartment? Separate living area? Or will just an extra bedroom suffice?

Share a Nanny

Many families these days share a nanny. These arrangements come in many forms, but at the end of the day, it merely means that more than one family assumes the cost of hiring a nanny and shares the nanny’s time. There are rules around how many kids of different ages a nanny can care for at the same time. Be sure to double check the rules, to ensure you’re not putting your employee or your kids in a dangerous situation.

Check For a Neighbourhood Child-Minding Share

Some industrious moms participate in a neighbourhood share. This is particularly useful when your children are a bit older. In these instances, a parent from one family watches all the kids from the “share” one day – walking everyone to and from school and then minding all the kids until the parents return at the set time. This option can get a little loud but might mean that you walk the group of kids to school and pick up the gang one of every ten school days. For parents who are looking to increase their cash flow and stop daycare fees, this option can be a real gamechanger, particularly when the children in the share are old enough to entertain themselves but not quite old enough to be left alone.

Look To Family

A lot of parents with young kids make a home move to be closer to their family. It’s worth exploring whether this means you can also rely on family for childminding. For grandparents, this can be a win-win, as often their adult children will “pay them” for their time – great when you’re in retirement and on a fixed income. That being said, I have heard about many a grandparent who saved that money and returned it to their grandkids for their education.

Researching your daycare options is an integral part of the home-buying process. Better to know your options before you fall in love with the home of your dreams.

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