Raising children in New Zealand

Childcare and early education in New Zealand
Updated 2023-02-12 10:43

New Zealand's relaxed culture, strong healthcare system, and focus on outdoor activities make it an excellent place to raise a family. However, moving to a new country with children isn't always easy. Parents are often juggling multiple requirements when they emigrate, such as settling into a new job, finding accommodation, and dealing with the stress of adapting to a new culture.

None of this is easy, and it's guaranteed to be even more tricky if you have small children in tow. We've broken down the childcare options for you, so there will be one less thing to wrap your head around.

The education system in New Zealand

Schooling in New Zealand is compulsory from ages six to sixteen, with some children able to start at five, depending on when their birthday is. Before five, there are plenty of childcare alternatives available. Early Childhood Education (ECE) is what New Zealand calls preschool and childcare for anyone under the age of five.

There are plenty of different options, so it's worth having a look around before settling on what works best for you. Chatting with other parents and visiting education providers is always recommended. In New Zealand, teacher-led services mean that at least half the adults in the facility are trained teachers. In contrast, parent-led services are just what they sound like – parents and/or caregivers looking after children/providing education. There are also whānau-led services, which can be found in areas with a large Māori community.

Every ECE center has to be licensed and certified by the Ministry of Education so you know wherever you choose to send your child(ren), they are receiving a high-quality level of care. Securing a place in an ECE center can be competitive. Some centers are in particularly high demand, especially in cities or large towns. You may need to register your interest before you arrive to see if there is space for your child or not.

Teacher-led services in New Zealand


Kindergartens are for children aged 2-5 and are only run by qualified teachers. They have either full-day or half-day sessions and are usually located near primary schools.

Education and daycare services

Similar to a daycare or nursery, these services are available from birth to school age. They can be religious, cultural, language, Steiner or Montessori, and are either run by the community, privately owned, are part of a larger company for employee childcare.

Home-based education and care

These settings are limited to up to 4 children and are run by an educator in either their home or the child's home. The educator is also supported by a qualified ECE coordinator.

Te Kira (Correspondence school)

Aimed at children aged 3-5, this is designed for children unable to attend an ECE center. Certified teachers lend out learning materials to make sure that early education needs are met.

Parent-led ECE services in New Zealand


Run by a mix of parents and family members, these centers are managed by the New Zealand Playcentres Federation and are for children from birth to school age.


Ran by parent and caregiver volunteers, these groups receive educational information and support from the Ministry of Education. They are usually only 4 hours a day, and 50% of children will have parents in attendance as well.

Nannies/Au Pairs in New Zealand

Childcare can be expensive in New Zealand, so it may be more worth hiring a nanny or au pair when you first arrive. Nannies charge NZ$20 - NZ$30 an hour, whereas an Au Pair's wages can also include room and board, which makes the hourly cost lower. Both of these options may also include light household duties if discussed in advance. You also have the option to hire a nanny trained with the New Zealand Certificate in Nanny Education if you'd prefer someone with official training.

Childcare costs in New Zealand

The cost of childcare in New Zealand can vary depending on a number of factors, such as the location, type of ECE service, and the age of the child.

According to the Ministry of Education, the median cost of center-based ECE (including early learning centers and kindergartens) for children under 2 years old is $195 per week, while the median cost for children over 2 years old is $180 per week. These figures are based on data from 2019 and do not include any additional fees or charges that may apply.

The cost of home-based ECE can also vary, with caregivers setting their own fees. Home-based caregivers must be registered with the Ministry of Education and must follow certain guidelines when setting their fees.

Subsidized childcare in New Zealand

In New Zealand, all children aged 3 to 4 years old are entitled to free early childhood education (ECE) for up to 6 hours per day, 20 hours per week. This free ECE is provided by licensed early learning centers and kindergartens.

Parents of children under 3 years old may also be eligible for the In-Work Tax Credit (IWTC), which provides financial support to families with children under 3 years old who are in paid employment or self-employment. The IWTC is paid to the main caregiver of the child and can be used to help cover the cost of ECE.

In addition, the government also operates a number of home-based ECE programs, which provide free ECE in the child's own home by a registered caregiver. These programs are available to families who meet certain criteria, such as having a low income or being a sole parent.

Finding childcare in New Zealand

The Internet is always the best place to start. The Ministry of Education website lists all the certified ECE centers in the country, and the New Zealand Home-based Childcare Association website has a great list of all the home care available. Carefinder and KiwiOz Nannies are great places to find nannies. Once you have settled, try to discuss with other parents for their recommendations. The Citizens Advice Bureau is another excellent place to head to.

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.