Mom’s Guide to Finding Childcare in Iowa City

As a parent, it’s hard to imagine anyone else loving or taking care of your children as well as you can. Yet, for many families, circumstances or career ambitions require us to be away from our kids for part or most of the day. Choosing the best childcare option for your family is a difficult and deeply personal decision, with no one-size-fits-all solution. (Be sure to check out Katie’s suggestions for things to consider when choosing a childcare provider!)

Fortunately, the Iowa City area is extremely family-friendly and boasts plenty of childcare options to choose from. Whether your family is new in town, you just got a new job, or you’re returning back to work after having the summer off, here are some local childcare possibilities to help guide your decision.

A Mom's Guide to Finding Child Care in IC

daycare - MS stock photoDaycare Centers. Iowa City and the surrounding area offer numerous options for center-based care. The Iowa City Press-Citizen has a great rundown of this list, including information about pricing and hours of operation. (Be sure to verify whether the center of your choice requires someone in your family to be a UI or UIHC employee, as some are affiliated with the University of Iowa.) Most of these follow a standard model, with children separated by age group into classes with a lead teacher and a set curriculum. Popular options include Handicare, La Petite Academy, Little Angels Learning Center and Preschool, Apple Tree Children’s Center, and Bright Horizons Children’s Center, among others.

Alternative Center-Based Care. If you’re looking for something a little different, there are some great options for you, too! The Mary Jo Small Child Care Center at Brookland Woods offers a unique twist on the standard daycare center model. Here, children are not separated by age, allowing younger children to learn from the older ones, and they are free to wander as they please throughout the various themed rooms of the center. A staff member is assigned to each room to supervise and assist children in their own self-directed activities. For the nature lovers, Kinderfarm Early Childhood Learning Center offers a one-of-a-kind program, where children experience a mix of classroom curriculum and hands-on learning on a 20-acre farm!

Montessori Programs. La Montessori Nurtury in North Liberty specializes in infants and toddlers, and provides a more hands-on approach for your littlest ones’ care. For older toddlers and preschoolers, the Montessori Children’s Garden is conveniently located right next door. If you need something more centrally located, check out the Montessori School of Iowa City, in Coralville.

Ibabysitter - MS stock photon-home Providers.  Many people prefer the comfort and convenience of an in-home childcare provider. If that sounds like you, the University of Iowa Hire A Hawk may be very helpful in finding a nanny. Here, students have access to ads for part-time work, and community members can post ads to find candidates to fit their childcare needs. (Be sure to check out Brook’s post full of tips for hiring and working with a nanny.) For the adventurous or hospitable among you, Cultural Care Au Pair is an affordable option to consider. Au pairs come to you via the agency as part of a cultural exchange program. They differ from nannies in that they come from foreign countries and live with your family for a specified amount of time (often a year). The family pays a fee to the agency and a weekly stipend to the au pair, but the total cost is often cheaper than most other childcare options. Our contributing writer Laura has had a great experience with this option. For more information, contact Cultural Care’s Iowa City coordinator, Julie, at [email protected]. If you’d like the comforts of home, but are looking for an alternative with a little more structure and socialization opportunities, Wondergarten Early Enrichment Home may be right up your alley. Finally, in-home daycares are another wonderful option. They offer many of the benefits of home, as well as smaller group sizes, multi-age learning and socialization opportunities, and a familiar teacher and environment as your child grows. There are multiple resources that can help you find an in-home provider, including Corridor Childcare, the Iowa Department of Human Services (which lists DHS-regulated providers), as well as a Facebook group that allows providers and parents to post openings and search for providers called Iowa City Area Childcare Provider and Parent Connection.

Babysitters. Even if you provide your own full-time care of your children, all parents need a breather every once in a while. Whether an unexpected appointment came up, or you just want to enjoy a meal over adult conversation, it’s great to have a babysitter on hand.   University of Iowa Hire A Hawk is great for finding babysitters, too.

Need some help?. Choosing a childcare option can be a daunting task, and the number of choices in this area can be daunting. For those who would appreciate some one-on-one help in finding an option that is best for your family, be sure to contact Iowa Child Care Resource and Referral. They will work with you to help you sort through the many options and find just what you’re looking for, whether that’s a preschool, a daycare center, or an in-home provider.

This is certainly not an exhaustive list, so we want to hear from you! Who are your favorite local childcare providers? Do you have any tips for finding great childcare options? Tell us in the comments!

*Images courtesy of Microsoft Stock Photos.

Kristin Flanary
Kristin met her husband in college at Texas Tech University, and they later moved to New Hampshire, where they earned his-and-hers advanced degrees (complete with matching towels) at Dartmouth. They had their first date on Valentine's Day, got engaged on Valentine's Day three years later, welcomed their first daughter (Charlotte) on Valentine's Day three years after that, and their second daughter (Claire) on Valentine's Day three years after that! Kristin and her family moved to Iowa City in 2014 so her husband could begin his residency at UIHC. She is currently laugh-crying her way through raising a threenager and an infant while simultaneously working full-time at the Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development and juggling the crazy schedule of a resident's wife. Kristin has been a stay-at-home mom, a work-at-home mom, and work-outside-the-home mom, so she can officially judge that each scenario is hard and equally wonderful. In her free time, you can find Kristin either taking pictures and learning about photography, reading about how not to screw up her daughters, on her soapbox about women's rights, enjoying a hard-earned glass of wine, or collapsed from exhaustion. Her life is ridiculous and her heart is full.


  1. Great article! Just a heads up though that the Press Citizen list is a bit outdated as far as pricing goes. All of place listed there charge about $100-150 more per week than what is listed in their description.


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