Choosing childcare can be a daunting experience for a parent. Maybe it’s best to tackle this task as you would a job hunt: be thorough, do your homework, and start your quest early – as in at least six months before you'll need it. Before you dive in though, take a moment to review your household budget and work out what childcare options will work best for you.
Here’s our breakdown of the costs associated with different childcare options.
If you want consistent, one-on-one care for your child, a nanny can be your fairy godmother. She can also be relied upon to do light housework and cooking, and because they’re paid by the hour they’re usually quite flexible should you need extra time.
Cost: $18-$25 per hour. You could consider a nanny-share with a friend or colleague to help bring the cost down.
The au pair
Having a stranger living in your house is not everyone’s cup of tea, but many an au-pair employer will tell you that, once the awkwardness of getting to know each other has passed, it can be an enlightening experience for both you and your children.
Cost: Around $200 for a 40-hour week, plus accommodation and meals.
Want your child to learn in a home environment, but can’t afford a nanny or au pair? An in-home educator could be the answer.
Agencies such as PORSE, Barnados and Home Grown Kids offer carers who look after up to four children at a time in their own home.
Cost: Range from $5-$15 per hour.
A traditional daycare centre is a private facility with both qualified teachers and carers for young babies right through to six-year-olds. Currently, the minimum ratio is one adult per five infants, or one adult to 10 preschoolers. Many centres provide nutritious meals.
Cost: Charges vary, depending on what part of the country you live in. They range between $5-$7 per hour. Generally Childcare Centres will charge either a day, or half day rate. Preschoolers will be eligible for the 20 hours ECE subsidy.
Community crèche and Playcentre
Community crèches are not-for-profit and usually run by a charitable organisation, church or community group in conjunction with qualified teachers, carers and parent helpers. Playcentres, on the other hand, are run by parents, with newborns to school-age children welcome. The adult/child ratio ranges from one to three to one to five. Because of the parent involvement at Playcentre, it’s not a suitable form of childcare for full-time working mothers.
Cost: Playcentre donations can be up to $50 for a term.
The family member
They’re just as mad about your little angel as you are, so you can rest assured your child will be loved and cared for while you’re at work.
Cost: Low cost, or even free.
Kindergartens, Montessori and private early learning centres
Once your child turns three, public kindergartens, Montessori and private early learning centres can be a great environment for them. Language nests, such as kohanga reo, are also an option for parents who wish to immerse their kids in Maori or Pacific Island culture.
Cost: A cost of $4-$10 per hour is common. However, you can claim the government’s 20 hours of free ECE for three, four and five-year-olds (most childcare options previously mentioned, including agency-based nannies and au pairs, are also eligible for this subsidy from age three, excluding the informal care).
A trend gaining traction with mothers who work part-time, a “Mum Swap” is when friends work different days or hours and care for each other’s kids.
Aim for a settling-in period of 4-8 weeks, and remember that once you’ve made your choice, don’t feel guilty about it, but be open to reassess if it really isn’t working out.
Adapted from an article written by Rebecca Williamson