Choosing an early childhood education provider
I owe, I owe, it's off to work I go… but who will look after
baby? We outline your childcare options below so you can choose
what best suits your family.
Most parents use some kind of childcare in the pre-school years,
whether it's one-off baby-sitting by Grandma or going the whole
nine yards by hiring a live-in au pair. And if you are looking at
starting work keep in mind that the type of care that's best for
your child depends on everything from your line of work to the age
and personality of your child. We offer pros and cons about the
most common options available in New Zealand.
Have you got a grandmother, relative or perhaps a friend or
neighbour who you could swap childcare duties with? If so, you're
one of the lucky ones.
- The cost is likely to be low
- You know what you're getting and your child will be less likely
to have settling-in difficulties with someone he knows
- If you work sporadically, perhaps because you're a freelancer
or contractor, then thee flexibility of an informal arrangement is
a huge bonus as most childcare facilities require you to commit to
certain days and times each week.
- Potential conflict over your expectations and their style of
childcare could be harder to resolve because of the informal nature
- Your "carers" are less likely to have formal childcare
If you'd like your baby to have one-on one-care with a dedicated
caregiver then a nanny is a good option.
- Nannies will have all the required qualifications and tend to
offer high-quality care because of one-on-one nature of it.
- The nanny will usually have a driver's licence and be able to
take the child or children on outings, or to kindergarten etc.
- Depending on the arrangements you could expect a small amount
of housework as well, perhaps she could make the children's dinner
for instance, and take care of their laundry needs.
- Having a nanny who comes to your home will also save you time
on a busy working morning.
- You will need a back-up for childcare when the nanny is sick or
unavailable. It's expensive, costing around $18-23 an hour,
although you could look at a nanny-share situation with another
- Nannies may not stay long (particularly if they're young). So
you'll have to be prepared to find a replacement, and for the
subsequent settling-in period.
An au pair lives in your house, and earns a nominal weekly sum,
(from $180 for 40 hours of childcare per week, source: Au Pair Link). They are often from
overseas, spending time in New Zealand on a "gap year" before
- It's one of the cheaper childcare options, and with the right
au pair, your children can develop a very close relationship with
- If you have someone from overseas they will be exposed to
another culture and language.
- Au pairs live in, so will be available and if you give them
access to your family car then they can drive the children to their
various playgroups, kindergartens or other activities.
- An au pair would certainly work well if both parents work
- Space. You will need a spare room, or perhaps your children
will have to share a room while you have an au pair living in.
- There could be difficulties in settling in, especially if your
au pair feels homesick or isolated.
- Some au pairs will be with your family for less than a year -
eventually they will go home, and you'll have to again start the
process of finding one and settling him into your family.
- Au pairs are not a good option if you're reluctant to share
your personal space with strangers.
In-home cares, or educators, are similar to nannies expect that
your child will go to her home rather than yours, and she looks
after up to four children at a time. Agencies such as Porse, Home Grown Kids or Barnados, run these services and they can be
a great alternative to a childcare centre, particularly for younger
- The cost is much lower than the cost of a nanny and in some
cases it's lower than private daycare.
- In-home care offers a home environment with small groups of
children rather than big rooms full of children and noise.
- Depending on the arrangement, your carer may be happy to feed
your child, so you won't have to supply food.
- The staff are likely to be trained or qualified carers' and if
you use an agency like then they'll also take care of payroll.
- Most agencies will also offer visits by a programme manager who
will offer guidance and quality control, and playgroups.
Particularly good for the early years when babies and toddlers will
appreciate more one-on-one time.
- If your carer is sick, you'll have to take your child somewhere
else. Some agencies offer you an alternative but your child may not
settle with a different carer so easily.
- You'll have to drop the kids off and pick them up so the
round-trip from home to work will be longer.
- In-home care usually offers less stimulation and educational
opportunities than daycare.
The traditional daycare centre is a private centre run with
qualified staff, offering a range of half or full-day options.
- It's often the cheapest option.
- Because there are so many of centres around now you're likely
to get one close to your home or work.
- It's an opportunity for lots of socialising and activities and
if you get a good one you can be confident that the staff will be
qualified and happy in their work.
- A lot will offer cooked and nutritious meals, so you can be
sure your child is getting at least one healthy meal a day, and
that can save you money.
- They don't close during the school holidays - a major advantage
over kindergarten for working parents.
- The good ones can be so good that you'll need to put your baby
on a wait-list very early to secure their place.
- Your favourite staff may leave. Check staff turnover rates,
because that can give you a clue to an unhappy workplace.
- Strict opening and closing hours apply - some centres will
charge you a fee if you are late to pick up your child - so you may
not have much flexibility over working late.
- Daycare centres tend to be busy noisy places which many not
suit all children.
Playcentre is not strictly childcare, it's
a community-based model where children, alongside their parents,
learn through play. Depending on where you live, playcentre may
allow you to drop and leave occasionally, or you may be required to
be there with your child for every session. Parents are strongly
encouraged to come along to playcentres and in fact are required to
undertake a Playcentre-specific qualifications.
- The centre is managed by a co-operative of parents so you will
have the opportunity to have a say in the running of the centre.
It's cheap, from nothing up to $50 a term.
- You will gain skills in child education.
- Playcentres aren't really an option for working parents
(although your nanny may be able to take your child), so don't view
it as a childcare option, rather as a more formal playgroup.
Most kindergartens are public,
not-for-profit centres with qualified staff. Kindergartens offer
pre-school education for three to four year olds with a focus on
learning through play.
- It's a great way for children to learn to socialise, especially
if they attend a kindergarten close to where they will be going to
school at the age of five. You can claim the 20 hours of ECE
subsidy, with the kindergarten asking for a nominal donation per
session, so it's one of the cheapest options.
- Some people consider kindergartens the best for preparing your
child for school.
- Although some kindergartens have in the last few years opted to
offer full-day sessions, most still work on a sessional basis, so
it really isn't an option for working parents, unless you have the
flexibility of working from home. If your kindergarten still
operates on half-day sessions, then your three year old will likely
begin with a two or three hour afternoon session three days a week,
and when they turn four they will attend five mornings a week.
- They will close during school holidays, so what will you do
Other factors to consider…
- Where will your child go to school? Will they be able to make
friends before they go.
- 20 hours Early Childhood Education subsidy is available for
three to four year olds for all of the above, except the informal
care. But you are best to check with your carer or educator
- You may qualify for a WINZ subsidy.
- The Education Review Office (ERO) conducts regular reviews of
childcare centres. You can access these reports from their website,
- Think about your child's personality - is he very social, or
does he like to be away from loud noises and crowds of other
- Talk to other mums in your neighbourhood, friends and
colleagues to get ideas on what childcare options worked (or
perhaps more importantly didn't work) for them.