New Zealand Child Care and Nursery Schools

There are a number of options available when you are deciding on preschool education and child care for your children in New Zealand.

20 Hours Free Child Care

Kindergartens, home based childcare providers and daycare centres are able to apply for funding on your behalf for up to 6 hours a day/20 hours a week of free ECE (early childhood education) for 3 and 4 year-olds. (5 year-olds who are not yet attending primary school will also be covered from July 2010). Not all centres and services use this funding, which has been available since July 2007. You can combine “free” hours from more than one childcare provider. For more information, see the Ministry of Educations Early Years website.

New Zealand Kindergartens

The closest to the UK nursery school system in New Zealand is kindergarten or kindy, which accepts children from around the age of three. Children are accepted by age, and places are limited, so it is common for children to be nearer three and a half before they start. This varies from kindy to kindy, sometimes quite widely within the same area.

Kindergartens are teacher-led, with a ratio of one teacher to 15 children. They are typically open for three afternoon sessions (afternoon kindy) for younger children, and five morning sessions for older children (morning kindy). The emphasis is on learning through play, and teaching children the social skills they need for school.

Kindergartens qualify for the “20 hours free ECE” funding, but there will typically be fund-raising throughout the year. Parents are also often asked to help volunteer with tasks such as end-of-term cleaning sessions, washing, and snack making. For more information, see


A parent-led pre-school alternative to Kindergarten in New Zealand is Playcentre. Children can attend with their parents from birth, then will be able to attend sessions without their parent when they are older.

Many Playcentres employ a qualified leader, but parents are very involved in all aspects of the centres’ operation. This keeps costs down. It also provides an invaluable social network for parents of pre-schoolers, fantastic if you are new to the area. For more information, see Playcentre will start being eligible for the “20 hours free ECE” funding from July 2010.

Daycare in New Zealand

Daycare centres or nurseries accepting pre-school aged children also have to follow the NZ early childhood curriculum, and are open longer, more flexible hours than kindergartens and Playcentres.

There is typically no parental involvement in the centre, and fees can be quite high – as a rule of thumb, around $200 a week for a full-time place, although this varies by area. Some daycare centres participate in the “20 hours free ECE” scheme and receive government funding for 3 and 4 year olds up to 20 hours a week, then charge a fee for the rest of the week if applicable.

Home Based Child Care

Home based care, similar to childminders in the UK, are organised through several organisations, including Porse, Home Grown Kids and  Banardos. Costs are generally slightly less than daycare centres, and in-home child care is eligible for the “20 hours free ECE” scheme for 3 and 4 year olds.

Play Groups

There are also many pre-school play groups which meet weekly or fortnightly. There is no central register of these groups, but you will often find them listed on library notice boards and in parenting publications. From there, ask fellow attendees if they know of other groups!

Some of our local options are drama classes, arts and crafts classes, dance classes, gym groups, music groups, coffee groups, church playgroups, Plunket playgroups and library story times. Some sports clubs accept enrolments from children from the age of 4 for weekend sports teams. Costs range from free (library story times) to $2 per session (music and coffee groups) to over $100 per term (gym and drama groups).

To find out more, request a free copy of our Financial and Pension guides for New Zealand.