Early Childhood Education

Early Childhood Education

You can build on the learning your child is gaining at home by enrolling them in early learning services. When choosing an early childhood education service, think about what's important for you and what will work best for you and your child.


Key points about early childhood education

  • in New Zealand, there are many childhood education services catering for the different needs of families and whānau
  • each service works differently depending on the type of service you choose 
  • tamariki (children) learn lots of new skills by participating in early childhood education, building on the skills they learn at home and from their caregivers and whānau (family)

What are the benefits of early childhood education?

Research shows that tamariki who are involved in quality early childhood education (ECE) benefit in many ways. These benefits also extend to their whānau and the wider community.

Taking part in ECE builds a strong foundation for your child's ongoing education, learning and development. Tamariki learn lots of new skills by participating in ECE, building on the skills they learn at home and from their caregivers and whānau.

Te Whāriki is the curriculum framework for the ECE sector. It covers the education and care of tamariki from birth to school age. New Zealand ECE services use Te Whāriki to guide children's learning opportunities.

You can read more about the benefits of early childhood education on the Ministry of Education website. 

How can I choose an early childhood education service for my child?

In New Zealand, there is a variety of early childhood education (ECE) services for caregivers and whānau to choose from. Each service works differently. 

When choosing a service, think about the location and what services are available in your local area. It's also important to think about operating hours, cost, parent involvement and the style of care or education that works best for you and your child. 

To find an ECE service in your area you could:

Early learning services available in New Zealand include:

  • Kōhanga Reo
  • kindergartens
  • education and care centres
  • in-home care
  • Montessori
  • Rudolf Steiner
  • Playcentre
  • playgroups
  • Ngā Puna Kōhungahunga (Māori-focused playgroups)
  • Pacific Island-focused playgroups
  • Early Childhood Service of The Correspondence School

Once you have decided which ECE service you are interested in, arrange a visit. Then you can ask all the questions you need and get a feel for the service. If you like the service, you may want to arrange more than one visit with your child.

See the Ministry of Education website for more information on choosing an early learning service. 

Can I get the Childcare Subsidy?

The Childcare Subsidy can help families whose income is below a certain level. It contributes to childcare costs. 

Check the Work and Income website for more information on the Childcare Subsidy. Or you can phone Work and Income on 0800 559 009.

20 Hours ECE

The government subsidises all children who attend ECE.  

The 20 hours free scheme is a higher funding subsidy. 3, 4 and 5-year old children can go to an early childhood education (ECE) service or Kōhanga Reo that offers the scheme for up to 6 hours a day, 20 hours a week, with no fees.

Your child's early learning service or Kōhanga Reo may have a minimum number of hours or days of enrolment as part of their policy.

How can I be more involved in my young child's learning?

You play an important part in supporting your young child's learning.

To help you do this, there is information about how tamariki learn. There are also tips on how you can support their learning through interactive, fun, easy, everyday activities that you can do at home, and while out and about - from birth until they start school. 

Playing with your baby, toddler or young child is one of the best things you can do to support their learning.

See the Ministry of Education website for more information on supporting your child’s learning at home.

    This page last reviewed 21 December 2023.

    Call Healthline on 0800 611 116 any time of the day or night for free health advice when you need it