Early childhood education options

There are lots of options to choose from when it comes to Early Childhood Education (ECE) throughout New Zealand, from teacher-lead to parent-lead centres, to home-based care and more. Read up on what options are available and decide what’s best for your little one.
There are lots of options to choose from when it comes to Early Childhood Education (ECE) throughout New Zealand, from teacher-lead to parent-lead centres, to home-based care and more.

Read up on what options are available and decide what’s best for your little one.

Benefits of early childhood education

Research shows that children who are involved in quality early childhood education benefit in many ways, and that these benefits also extend to their family and the wider community. 

Taking part in ECE builds a strong foundation for your child’s ongoing education, learning and development. Children learn lots of new skills and build on the skills they learn at home.
In New Zealand there is a wide range of ECE services catering for your child’s needs and the requirements of each family. Each service works differently depending on the type of service you choose.

Types of ECE Services

There are two main types of early childhood education services to choose from:
  • Teach-led services - where teachers provide the education and care for your children.
  • Parent-led services - where parents and/or caregivers provide the education and care.

The way in which these services operate may vary too from centre to centre, including:
  • The age of the children who attend. Some accept children from 3 months to school age, whilst others have a specific age range.
  • The way in which the service is run. Some services are run by community groups, others by private providers.
  • The times that the centres are open. Some are open from early morning to early evening, whilst others just run on specific days or part days throughout the week.
  • Where the service is operated from. Some ECE services operate from specifically designed childcare centres whilst others are run from a home-setting.
  • Daycares are licensed and/or charted early childhood centres which offer either all day or part day teacher-led services. They can be run either by private or community owners.
Home-based care
  • Home-based care or in-home childcare is a care and education service provided in your own home or the home of another adult caregiver.
  • A kindergarten is an education care centre governed by the Kindergarten Association. Kindergartens in NZ are funded by the Government depending on the number of qualified teachers who are on their staff.


  • Playcentre is a parent-led ECE service which is unique to New Zealand. It is a service that promotes and encourages parents to be the first educators of their children and to provide a positive early childhood education experience.
Kohanga Reo
  • Kohanga Reo is an ECE centre where all education and instruction is delivered in Te Reo Maori. Kids are totally immersed in the Maori language and culture from birth to age six.
  • The aim of Montessori education is to place all children in the world at the centre of society and to assist them in becoming caring, self-motivated and fulfilled individuals, able to create a sustainable and peaceful future for humanity.
  • Some pre-school kids need to be educated via correspondence for geographic, health or disability reasons. The Correspondence School offers remote or long distance learning programmes for more than 20,000 students every year across the country.


Rudolf Steiner/Waldorf
  • The Rudolf Steiner/Waldorf movement recognises that schools should be truly comprehensive: open to all children, with a broad curriculum for all pupils and a healthy balance of artistic, practical and academic activities.
  • PAFT (Parents As First Teachers) is a New Zealand home-based early childhood education programme that is aimed at supporting parents and families with young children. PAFT provides free, practical support and guidelines to encourage and support parents as their child’s teacher.

Choosing an ECE Service

When considering an early childhood education service for your child, it’s important to think about what will work best for you both, including:

1. What will suit yours and your child’s needs.
2. The type of service you want for your child ie teacher-led or parent-led; home-based or run by a private provider.

3. How many days/hours a week your child will attend.

4. The cost and affordability of using an ECE service, with or without the 20 hours free ECE subsidy.
5. The location of the service in terms of where you live or work, and ease of drop off and pick up each day.
6. Whether you would like to attend the service with your child, or not.
7. Whether the opening hours of the ECE service will work in with your other commitments.
8. The type of structure, discipline and playtime available.
9. Whether mealtimes, snacks, nappies etc are included in the daily/weekly fees.

Find out more

It’s an important decision to make, but every licensed ECE service is reviewed regularly by the Education Review board, giving you an independent view of the quality of each centre, along with its strengths and weaknesses.

A free online report is available at
The Ministry of Education website is also a wealth of information on early learning, how ECE works, the benefits of ECE, choosing an ECE service, assistance for parents and more.

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