What types of child care are there?

Published on Monday, 05 December 2016
Last updated on Thursday, 16 December 2021

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The number of different types of child care available to parents can be confusing particularly for first time parents. Education and care services are typically divided into teacher-led, whānau-led and parent/carer-led categories, but there are also other types of care such as that provided by nannies.

The list below will give you an overview of the main types of education and care services.

Teacher-led services:

Education and care centres – purpose built education and care services, which focus on play-based learning for children aged zero-five. They include church, work place and community-based services and may be owned by the community or private operators. Education and care centres offer extended hours to cater to the needs of working families, but parents can also choose part day services. Education and care centres are licensed by the Ministry of Education and although they vary in size, the ratios of carers to children is set by government.

Home-based – home-based services provide education and care for children under five in a private residence, either that of the child or an experienced carer. Home-based care providers offer age appropriate play-based learning experiences for groups of up to four children, often with mixed ages. They are funded and regulated by the Ministry of Education and educators must belong to a home-based service, which provides support via a coordinator who is a qualified and certified early childhood education teacher.

Kindergarten – early childhood education services for children aged two-five, although some kindergartens do enrol children younger than two. Start and finish times vary as do the programmes on offer, for example some offer school holiday care, some are bilingual and some work closely with parent groups. Kindergartens are often co-located within or close to primary schools. Kindergartens are run by associations and licensed by the Ministry of Education.

Casual education and care casual education and care centres, such as those found in gyms or shopping centres, where children can be left for supervised recreation and care for a few hours at a time. 

Te Kura/correspondence school   early learning correspondence schools for children aged 3-5 years old who are unable to attend mainstream early childhood services due to location, illness or another reason.  Teachers offer early education programmes, resources and regional events to support parents and families. 

Whānau-led services:

Te Kōhanga Reo – whānau-led Māori immersion early childhood settings which provide services for children from birth to five years. Te Kōhanga Reo settings involve whānau in decision making and management and a supportive and caring environment for mokopuna. 

Parent-led services:

Playcentres – community-based early education and care services which are run cooperatively by parents and member families, with the support of the national body, Playcentre Aotearoa. Programmes focus on parent-led learning through play for children aged zero-six, and there are educational opportunities for adults, too. Sessions last for two-and-a-half to four hours and the ratio of adults to children ranges from 1:5 to 1:3. Licensed playcentres are funded by the Ministry of Education and child care subsidies may apply.

Playgroups – community groups which are run by parents and whānau volunteers. Limited hours of up to four hours per day. Playgroups are often located in community/church halls and are not licensed. Certificated playgroups receive funding and support from the Ministry of Education. Playgroups may offer language and cultural immersion, or follow educational philosophies likes Montessori or Steiner. 

Other services: 

Nanny - employed by the family on either a live-in or live-out basis to undertake all tasks related to the care of children. Duties are generally restricted to child care and the domestic tasks related to child care. A nanny may not have had formal training though they often have experience. A nanny's working week ranges from 40 to 60 per week.

Nanny Sharing – employed by two families in the same capacity as a nanny undertaking tasks related to the care of children. If you are interested in having a nanny care for your children but are reluctant due to the expense, nanny sharing with another family maybe the solution.

Au Pair – foreign national in New Zealand for up to a year for cultural exchange purposes and to experience life in New Zealand. Lives as part of the host family and receives a small allowance / salary in exchange for child care and household duties. May or may not have previous child care experience.

Babysitter – provides supervisory, custodial care of children on an irregular, full time or part-time basis.

Before and After School and Vacation Care although these services are not typically classified as early childhood, they are still very important for working families. In New Zealand children can’t be left alone without reasonable care and supervision until they are 14, which means most working parents will need to book before and after school care. Many of these services are privately operated and attract fees. Providers involved with the government’s OSCAR (Out of School Care and Recreation) program may attract a subsidy which reduces the cost. 

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