Choosing an ECE provider 

What childcare and early childhood education options are there for my child?

There is a range of different early childcare and education (ECE) services. You can choose between:

  • at your home, based at someone else’s home or at a professional venue.
  • teacher-led or parent-led (a teacher-led service is one where the children’s activities and education is organised by a teacher with an early childhood education qualification, instead of a group of parents.)
  • a provider which has a distinct philosophy about how and what children should learn (e.g. Montessori) , vs one which doesn't

You can read about the various types of child care elsewhere on this page.

If you simply need someone to mind your child then baby-sitters are an option. This can often be an expensive option and will not necessarily provide for your child’s education.

Your local Citizens Advice Bureau can help you find providers of childcare and early childhood education services in your region, or you can check the Ministry of Education's online directory.

What does home-based care mean?

Home-based care means your child is looked after either in your own home or at the home of your child’s carer. Home based care can be an informal arrangement, for instance the care is provided by a family member for free, or it can be where a trained childcare professional looks after your child for a fee.

Professional home-based care (i.e. not the informal arrangement) tends to fall into two types:

  • Nannies - A nanny will care for your child in your home while following your normal household routine, and may also cook meals and do some housework. It can be the most flexible option, but also tends to be the most expensive. If you choose to use a nanny service, make sure you are clear on exactly which services are being provided.
  • In-home carers - The carer looks after your child in the carer’s own home, along with up to three other children at a time (which may include the carer’s own children).

Most organisations which provide home-based care have their nannies’ and carers’ police records checked before they will take them on, and they usually require them to have specific training, qualifications and skills. They also tend to provide their carers with on-going support, training and resources.

Some home-based care options have an emphasis on learning, for example those that work under the framework of Te Whāriki (see below).

What is Te Whāriki?

Te Whāriki is the Ministry of Education’s early childhood education (ECE) curriculum. Te Whāariki provides a programme that is broadly based and focuses on a child’s interests in learning. It provides resources and links for mathematics, science, the arts, health, physical education and language. For more information on Te Whāriki visit the Ministry of Education’s website.

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What’s the difference between a kindergarten and other teacher-led early childhood programmes?

Strictly speaking, kindergartens are teacher-led education and care centres which belong to a kindergarten association. Kindergartens aim to prepare your child for school, and are usually for children between the ages of 3 and 5 years old (though some accept children as young as 2).

Kindergartens and most early childhood education providers work within the Te Whāriki framework.

Other teacher-led early childhood programmes have their own philosophy about how children learn best. These are normally privately run, and may be part of a school. Although they may use the Te Whariki curriculum, it is integrated with their own particular educational approach. These include Montessori, Rudolf Steiner and faith-based early childhood education programmes.

What is a playcentre?

Playcentres are parent co-operatives and a form of parent-led early childhood education. Playcentres are members of the New Zealand Playcentre Federation. The parents are involved in helping organise and supervise the sessions, and can choose to work towards a related NZQA qualification at the same time.

Playcentres take children from birth until the age of five and use the Te Whariki curriculum. You can view the Playcentre website or contact them to find out more about Playcentre and to locate your nearest playcentre.

What is a language nest?

Language nests provide early childhood education and care based on a culture or language. Examples include Pacific Island language groups and Kohanga Reo. Language nests are located around the country. To find one near you, contact your local CAB or search our website by using the term ‘language nest’ and the particular language you would like, for example ‘Tongan language nest’.

What is pre-school?

In New Zealand, the term pre-school is used very generally to talk about any early childhood education programmes for children under primary school age (i.e. 5 years old).

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Where can I find information to help me choose the right Early Childhood Education provider for my child?

The Education Review Office (ERO)

The Education Review Office (ERO) is a government department that reviews and reports on the education and care of students in schools, early childhood services and other education providers.

ERO publishes education reviews which contain information you can use to help you pick the early childhood service you want for your child. Early childhood education providers are reviewed, on average, three times a year. The reviews evaluate

  • the safety of children
  • learning programmes
  • the performance of management

You can get these reports by contacting the ERO – either by looking under E in the Blue Pages in your phone book, or by visiting their website.

The Ministry of Education website

The Ministry of Education website has information and advice for choosing an ECE provider, including questions to ask a provider and what to look for when you visit in person.

Contact early childhood education (ECE) providers directly

The contact details of early childhood education providers are in the telephone directory, or you can find them by searching online. Your local CAB can also help you find providers in your area. Most early childhood education providers have their own website, or have information on the website of their parent organisation (the larger organisation or network they are a part of).

Generally, you can ask for an information pack about a provider once you get in touch with them. If you want to speak to someone about any queries or uncertainties you have about the early childhood education provider, you may have to make an appointment with them. You could ask about

  • behaviour policies
  • what extra support is available
  • what facilities there are for children with special needs
  • whether the early childhood education provider has a specific focus (e.g. on multi-cultural learning) or philosophy
  • the strengths of the teachers and what qualifications they have

You could also have a look around the premises to get a feel for it, talk to other parents whose children attend and ask to bring your child when you visit.

Other ways to get information

The Education Review Office (ERO), Kiwi Families and Ministry of Education all have guides to finding the right early childhood education service for your child.

I use cloth nappies on my child and want the day-care centre to do the same, but they insist that we should supply them with disposables instead. What are my rights?

You could try to arrange a meeting so you can go and talk the issue through properly. There may be a solution or compromise that meets your needs and those of the centre. For example, if they agree to change your baby’s cloth nappies, you will provide a suitable bag for them to put the dirty nappies in, which you would then wash at home. If this issue is important to you then make sure you discuss it with the centre before you enrol your child.