Choosing early childcare education

Children learn a lot when they play with other children, so playgroups and toy libraries are great for kids.  It’s also good for all children to have early childhood education.  It helps with their happiness, learning, and development so looking for one that will work best for your child is important.

Check out this great flyer from our Star Partner, BestStart, for some more info. 

When to look for a provider

It helps to make your decision early, because many Early Childhood Education (ECE) providers have waiting lists.  There are a number of options:

  • A caregiver such as a nanny or family member, in your home or in the caregiver’s home

  • Barnardos or other home-based care

  • An early childhood centre

  • Te kōhanga reo or a Pacific nations language group

  • An ECE service, such as a kindergarten or playcentre.

Many different services are available, and you’ll be able to find one that suits you. Talk to Plunket, your friends and neighbours to find out what ECE services exist in your community.

Depending on your income and the number of hours your child is in care, you may be able to apply for a childcare subsidy from Work and Income New Zealand.

Make time to settle your child into a new ECE service while you’re still available during the day. Your child may need you with them for the first few visits.

How you can find the best centre for your child

Visit a few different ECE centres to see if they look safe and clean, and talk to other parents who have children there. Notice how the adults working there relate to the children and to the parents.

You can read the latest Education Review Office Report on, and ask the ECE centre for its policies and procedures.

Questions to ask the centres you visit


  • How many children are cared for by each adult?

  • Does each child have an adult who is mainly responsible for them?

  • How many children go to the service, and what age range are they?

  • What qualifications do the staff have?

  • How often does the centre have staff changes, and who covers when staff are sick?

  • How do the staff talk with the children and help them learn?


  • Is the centre licensed?

  • Who can collect your child?

  • How do they keep children safe on a trip–number of adults to children and availability and number of car seats?

  • How do they deal with first aid and health problems?

  • If your child is sick, how long do they need to be at home?

  • Does the ECE centre have an illness policy?

  • How and when will staff contact you?


  • What is the cost?

  • Do you have to pay if your child is sick or away?

  • Does the service offer 20 hours per week free ECE for 3 and 4 year olds?

  • What hours are available for your child?


  • What activities does the centre offer?

  • Are there routines, for example sleep, meals, and nappy changing?

  • Do you need to bring food for your child or is it provided?

If you want more information, you can get Choices in Early Childhood Education from the Ministry of Education.

An interesting link from Plunket
Here's something I read on the Plunket website I thought you might find interesting.
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