When, where and what?

Consider your child as the little person they are; they are complex and multifaceted just like us adults. Within the early years what they see, learn and experience is the foundation upon which all other learning is supported. They look to others to learn how to manage their emotions, how to interact with others; manage conflict, love and respect. This stage is crucial in fostering a life-long curiosity and wonder for the world. When looking for care for your child, keep these important aspects in the forefront of your mind. Child care and education is so much more than swings, slides, letters and numbers. Its about children finding out who they are, where they belong, and discovering they can be free to explore and discover in an environment that promotes safety but challenges their thinking and doing.

Here are some tips if you are just starting out on your quest to find the perfect childcare service for your family:

When to start looking?

When you are pregnant! Some services have waiting lists, so to avoid disappointment do your research and view a variety of services early, to put your name down for a space for bubs in the future. Don’t worry if you are uncertain as to when exactly you will need the care, if you communicate openly with the service, they will be happy to pencil you in.


The most important aspect to consider is whether your family values and parenting philosophies are in line with the service you choose. Don’t be shy to ask questions, and do multiple visits to many different types of services before you make any decisions. If something doesn’t quite feel right after questions have been asked, trust your gut. You are the expert on your child.

What are your options?

There are two main categories when it comes to childcare in New Zealand: (Teacher-led & Parent-led Childcare)


Two main types: (Center-based & Home-based)

1) Center-based

These are education and care facilities that operate from a venue that has been specifically built or re-purposed for childcare. They include; Nurseries (for under two’s), Preschools (for over two’s), Kindergartens (for three to five’s), Early Learning Centers (for babies to school age). Some centers have a special focus for instance; science and technology, performing arts, religious or a cultural focus. Some have a very specific philosophy that they base their practice on, like Montessori or Reggio Emellia.

Some centers are privately run, and some are run by community organisations or charitable trusts. Don’t assume that the private centers are the most resourced, its simply not true. And don’t assume the community centers are in some way of lesser quality. Every center is unique, each has their own philosophy and core values.

All centers have licenses for a specific amount of children. Some have deliberately chosen to cater for only a small number of children, some choose to cater for larger amounts. The license can be anything from as small as 12 to 75 children at one time. The Ministry of Education’s requirement for teacher/child ratios are 1 teacher to 10 children in the over twos areas, and 1 teacher to 5 children in the under twos area. The idea being; the lower the ratio – the more one-on-one time the teacher gets to spend with the children / the higher the ratio – the more the teacher has to spread themselves (and their time) thinly over more children.

* Please note: this is a very basic, generalised description of what most services offer, all services are unique and may offer the hours you are after, or cater for an age group you are looking for. So use our Parent Portal tool to find exactly what you need.

2) Home-based

This is education and care for children that takes place in a home environment with a maximum of four children (you can choose care in an educators home or choose for the educator to come to your home – all negotiated on an individual basis). Teachers are generally qualified, and are limited to two under two children and two over two children in their care.


These are services that provide education and care for children, but have a a very strong parental involvement/ requirement. They are often run and managed solely by parents and include; Playgroups, Playcentres, Kohanga Reo.

* Its also very important to note: There are always exceptions! For instance: some ‘Community Centers’ that are teacher-led have a very strong parental involvement. So much so, that they have a board of parents that are consulted when making important decisions about the center as a whole. So again, remember all services are unique.

So take your time. Explore and discover the right service for your child and your family. There is so much out there waiting for you to discover. We hope our Parent Portal tool simplifies the search process for you. This is the start of an exciting journey for your child! Enjoy.

Useful Links:

This is a great pamphlet to get you thinking about what to look for when you are viewing childcare services:

‘Choosing Quality Childcare’, The Brainwave Trust:


Did you know that the early years have a curriculum just like primary school does? Here is a quick snippet on the principles that guide early childhood education and care:

The NZ Early Childhood Curriculum, ‘The Principles of Te Whaariki’: