Preschool and kindergarten in New Zealand

Preschool education in New Zealand is paid and not compulsory. Despite this, preschool institutions for babies are very popular. 94% of children under the age of 4 attend Early Childhood Education centres (ECE). These are the children who are preparing to go to school in the coming year, which they start here at the age of 5.

Below, we describe the different types of childcare facilities, and also talk in detail about one day of the child in a New Zealand kindergarten.


Preschool institutions are divided according to the following parameters:

  • The age group of children;
  • duration of work;
  • the amount of time allotted for free play (for children from 3 years old).

In accordance with the services provided by institutions, the pricing policy also differs. There are kindergartens where the child will be accepted literally from the day of their birth. Qualified personnel, if necessary, will take care of them throughout the day, providing the baby with everything they need. Others are open to children who have already reached 2-3 years old and imply a 6-hour stay for children. In other centres, a child’s stay is possible only with the accompaniment of an adult.

Free Early Childhood Education (ECE)

The state provides financial support to New Zealand families by providing a subsidy to attend ECE. Thanks to this, children from 3 years old can attend ECE 20 hours a week free of charge. At the same time, all families can take advantage of the subsidy, regardless of their status of residence in New Zealand. Some centres offer free 30 hours or other promotions for attracting customers.


Daycare Centres

New Zealand has a wide variety of daycare centres such as Childcare, Kindercare and Preschool. They have their own characteristics and author’s programs for the development of children. All these types of centres are aimed at staying children for a long time and are open from 7 am to 6 pm. Children can attend the centre for a full day or for sessions of several hours.

The cost of a full day at the centre for children under 3 years old is about NZ$ 340 per week. From 3 years old, due to government subsidies, the cost is about NZ$ 240 per week. The services of the centre, as a rule, include food for the child.

Depending on the age group and the policy of the centre, the quality of the child’s time differs. For example, Kindercare and Preschool are targeted at children ages 2-3 who are often involved in various child development and school prep programs. Childcare is often marketed as a centre for younger children to play freely and explore the world.

Both qualified and support staff take care of the children at the centre. The information about the total number of New Zealand qualified educators at ECE is available to everyone both in the offices of the centre and on their official website.


Kindergartens are popular due to the relatively low cost of attendance and the high quality of education. Most kindergartens belong to state associations and are part of a government subsidy program – 20 hours a week.

For example, the Kindergartens in Auckland belong to the Auckland Kindergarten Association (AKA). Usually, this program applies to children from three years old, but in some associations, this threshold has been reduced to 2 years, but be prepared that in this case you may be asked for a nominal fee of $ 1-2 nzd for each hour of the child’s stay in the kindergarten. Most of the teaching staff are New Zealand-qualified ECE professionals.

Kindergartens accept children from 2 to 5 years old and can offer different sessions: morning, afternoon and full-day, depending on the capabilities of the centre and the age of the child. A full day is usually from 8:45 am to 3 pm.

Please note that these kindergartens have holidays that coincide with school ones – 2 weeks between quarters and 6-7 weeks of summer holidays.

Home-Based Childcare

Home kindergartens are widespread among New Zealand families. Most often, such gardens are located in the house where the teacher lives, and a certain zone or room is allocated for the territory of the kindergarten.

Home centres in New Zealand are established and run strictly under the supervision of the Ministry of Education a qualified New Zealand specialist at ECE. A home kindergarten can accommodate no more than four children at a time. Thus, children receive comfortable conditions and the teacher has the opportunity to pay attention to each child.

Today in Auckland there are two large networks of Russian-language kindergartens – Childtime Learning and Multilingual kids. In addition to the home environment and the usual routine, in Russian home centres children can count on learning Russian and English, homemade three meals a day and the opportunity to have a proper day’s sleep.

The cost of a home kindergarten is compensated by the state on general terms – 20 hours per week free for children over 3 years old.


These are preschool education centres that children attend with their parents. The basic concept of such centres is that children learn best when they are free to follow their own interests, that is, they are given complete freedom to choose games. Parents are the best educators for their children, they should take part in the child’s play.

For parents, meetings are also held at which the strengths and interests of children are discussed, seminars and courses on raising a child are held.

Child’s day in a kindergarten


Children in kindergartens are, more or less, on their own. The motto of most centres is freedom of choice and the opportunity to learn while playing. The child can really choose different options for classes: drawing, books, building blocks, constructors, toys, the opportunity to be creative and do crafts on their own, but under the unobtrusive supervision of staff, using scissors, a glue gun, and more.

Each centre has a spacious fenced and landscaped outdoor area. With the exception of heavy rain, the doors to the street are always open and children are busy in a noisy crowd inside and outside. By the way, outside, as well as inside, there is always something to do: in addition to the constant sandboxes and children’s facilities, the teachers take out containers for soap bubbles, arrange rides on scooters, show simple experiments with water, plant flowers with children and then take care of them together etc. Every day new entertainment awaits children in the garden.

Educators teach children to observe nature and treat it with care. Gardens often have pets such as rabbits. Together with the teachers, the children enjoy looking at the animals that enter the garden, whether it is earthworms, caterpillars or butterflies. Children are taught to sort the garbage from a very young age. In addition to the usual plastic tank, a collection of crumbs leftover after lunch for birds and leftover food for earthworms can be organised.

From time to time, guests come to the children: firefighters, policemen, magicians, or sometimes children go for a walk outside the kindergarten.

Several times a year, a disco, a family picnic or a themed costume party can be arranged for children where the children have fun, and the parents have the opportunity to get to know and communicate with each other. By the way, the parents themselves often participate in the preparation of such events, for example, they sell goodies and souvenirs, the proceeds from which go to the kindergarten.


If the centre does not provide meals, then children bring food with them in special containers – lunch boxes.

Approximately 10 o’clock is time for lunch. Children will have a snack with what they have brought, or (if there is food in the garden), they will be offered fresh fruits, vegetables, cookies + juice or water, which is freely available in every centre. Before lunch, which usually starts at 12:30, the teacher reads an interesting book with large and colourful pictures for all children. After that, the children go to eat. For lunch, some gardens may offer hot meals but most often it will be sandwiches, vegetables and fruits, or food that the child brought from home. At about 4 o’clock children will have another meal break. The administration convincingly asks not to bring sweets to the kindergarten but to give children water for drinking.


In New Zealand kindergartens, there is no tradition of compulsory naps. They try to put very young children to sleep, and those who are older (children about 3 years old) enjoy the opportunity to independently choose between rest and play. One way or another, in most children’s centres in the afternoon, calm conditions for children’s recreation are created. Teachers read books, and even older children who just came to listen to a new story often fall asleep.


In a New Zealand kindergarten, children have almost complete freedom of action and constant access to the street. And since almost no one watches how the child is dressed or shod, snotty children are common here, especially in the off-season. At the same time, they do not undertake anything special in this regard and do not exclude children from attending a centre. The kindergarten policy is such that if a child is cheerful and active, there is nothing serious, which means there is no reason to exclude the child from attending the kindergarten. The likelihood that healthy children will become infected from a slightly ill child in conditions of a constant presence in the fresh air and in ventilated areas is negligible. This approach is considered a natural way of developing immunity in children.

How to choose a kindergarten for a child

You should start looking for a kindergarten in advance. Some kindergartens will be able to accept a child immediately, others have a waiting list.

When choosing a centre, it is important to be sure that it is a safe and suitable place. It is worth talking to friends or neighbours to find out their opinion and experience regarding a particular place. Having chosen several options, it is worth visiting the centres during working hours, asking for the opportunity to walk around the kindergarten and observe the atmosphere, behaviour of children and teachers, get to know the teachers and find out all the details of interest.

You can read reports on any ECE on the Education Review Office website.

You can find preschool institutions using the search service.

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