Choosing early childhood education for your child

Selecting the right fit for your child’s early childhood education is really important, not only for your child and their long-term development (both social and intellectual), but also for your family.

Do you want a more alternative approach? Do you want to play a big part in their preschool education? Or do you want to work full-time and have your child looked after in-home or in a centre? It often comes down to personal preference and circumstances.

Here are some of the main options available:


Public kindergartens are a low-cost option for many families, combining high quality teaching (with qualified and registered teachers) with the convenience of having many local kindergartens throughout NZ to choose from. Many families see kindergartens, particularly for the older preschoolers, as a good transition from preschool to school, using the bigger, classroom-like setting and the longer session times as a good taster of what’s to come. Some kindergartens offer the traditional sessional type service where by children start in the afternoon session, attending three sessions per week and transition through to five morning sessions per week, in age appropriate order. The sessions are generally three hours, however the number of sessions and hours varies between each centre. Other kindergartens offer full day sessions (up to 6½ hours) and in some centres, a shorter session (3-4 hours) is also offered. Parents have the flexibility to choose the hours and days their child attends.

Auckland Kindergarten Association

What is the Auckland Kindergarten Association’s philosophy?

Our learning programme is based on the early childhood curriculum, Te Whãriki. The AKA philosophy is based on learning through play. We view children as capable, competent, life-long learners. Children are encouraged to make their own learning choices, problem solve, observe and explore at their own pace, with support from teachers, families/whanau and their peers. We value the importance of child-initiated, play-based experiences.

Public kindergartens are a low-cost option for many families, combining high quality teaching (with qualified and registered teachers) with the convenience of having many local kindergartens throughout NZ to choose from.

Do you have a flexible or structured daily schedule?

Kindergartens plan their programme to meet the needs of the children attending. This makes each centre very unique and flexible. The programmes are constantly evolving in line with our philosophy. Our kindergartens offer a variety of options, from sessional to whole days, so there is something to suit all parents. Our qualified and registered teachers provide a programme of the highest quality that is complemented by the low cost, making kindergarten a feasible option for our communities.


As Maria Montessori never trademarked her name, not all Montessori Schools have the same practises. Some have very limited materials, but call themselves a Montessori School. However, the same philosophy should be practised in all schools. Philosophy at Maru Montessori Preschool follows the principles and practices of the Montessori philosophy, as well as those outlined in Te Whãriki, the early childhood curriculum. The Montessori philosophy advocates the holistic development of each child through a specially prepared environment, and it recognises in the child a natural desire to learn. The teacher acts as a facilitator, and through careful observation, the teacher is able to provide appropriate challenges at the optimum time for each child, supporting them towards reaching their full potential.

Do you have a flexible or structured daily schedule?

The daily schedule is quite structured, but flexible within the programme. The daily routines allow freedom of choice in the prepared environment to work both indoors and outdoors; these include opportunities for exploring the Montessori materials of practical life, sensorial equipment, number work, language and the cultural subjects, which include science, geography, history, art and music. If they are tired, they can rest when they want.

Home-based care

This is a good option for those families who either have extraordinary hours that they need catered for or don’t need the every day care that other early childhood centres offer. It’s also considered to be a cheaper option than a nanny, but you get the benefits of a nanny because you get the home-based care, and there’s a much smaller ratio of educator to child than at a centre.


What is the Porse Philosophy?

The Porse philosophy is based on supporting early brain development and life long learning. We believe in secure attachment relationships – an adult who can provide consistent emotional experiences in a settled home environment, with natural play and learning. We support families to personally select a person who understands or is keen to learn the importance of secure attachment relationships and willing to partner families in their parenting role.

How does a Porse In-Home Educator structure the day’s activities?

Children learn through play, and each In-Home Educator is supported to plan a Porse programme that records, supports and extends each child’s developing mind and play experiences guided by the early childhood curriculum, Te Whãriki. A rich play and learning environment is important and educators take pride in creating home learning environments that cover all areas of play. One Educator cares for up to four preschool children not attending school, with no more than two children under 2-years at any one time.

Early childhood centres

These are generally drop-off centres which cater to a wide variety of parents’ needs. Some cater for working parents who need their babies and children in full-time care. Others have more casual hours where your child doesn’t need to commit to going daily. Every childcare centre in the country is reviewed by the Education Review Office approximately every three years. Check past reviews online at This will give you a good idea of a centre’s strengths and weaknesses. Remember, most centres do have waiting lists so it pays to begin looking well in advance.

Barnados early learning centres

What is the Barnardos philosophy?

In our early learning centres, children enjoy learning and growing in a safe, caring and educational environment. Our centres have high ratios of trained teachers to children, and learning programmes developed in line with Te Whãriki, the early childhood curriculum. We focus on extending each child’s interests and abilities, and our daily programmes are tailored to each child’s needs. During the day, children are involved in group activities, free play and restful times, and each centre has indoor and outdoor areas to encourage play and exploration.

How do staff guide children’s behaviour and manage conflict between children?

Our early learning centres have a policy of positive guidance for children. Our staff know and understand child development, and promote positive behaviour appropriate to the child’s age, skills and understanding. We guide their behaviour through praise and encouragement, using the six SKIP principles: love and warmth; talking and listening; guidance and understanding; limits and boundaries; consistency and consequences; a structured and secure world. Throughout each day, our teachers support children to learn to socialise and help them recognise which behaviours enable them to be accepted by their peer group.

Lollipops educare centres

How would you describe the Lollipops philosophy?

Lollipops Educare Centres have their own uniquely developed philosophies. The philosophies are developed by the educators in consultation with the families and community of the centre. In some centres, individual rooms also develop a philosophy with the support of the families and the children. This is an empowering process for everybody involved.

How do staff guide children’s behaviour and manage conflict between children?

At Lollipops, we use a strengths-based approach to learning and developing children’s social competencies. Educators take time to establish safe environments and talk to children about ways to build and establish relationships, modelling kindness and friendship alongside children.


Playcentres are licensed early childhood education centres that are run by parents and implements Te Whãriki, the early childhood curriculum. To support this, Playcentre runs a free NZQA-approved parent education and training programme that covers aspects many of early childhood education, practical play workshops, and management.

What is the Playcentre philosophy?

The philosophy is that parents are a child’s first and best educators. Parents learn skills for parenting and employment through the opportunity to share in running every aspect of the organisation, as well as having the support and company of other families, many of whom become friends for life. Children learn alongside caring adults whom they know well. Playcentre gets great results through trained and involved parents/whanau, great ratios of adults to children (minimum 1:5), strong links between home and centre, and a rich and stimulating play environment.

Do you have a flexible or structured daily schedule?

Playcentre believes play is vitally important to children, and especially child-led play, where children choose what to do and for how long, so that their passions are encouraged, and many connections in their brains are made and stimulated. At Playcentre, children can complete their work to their own satisfaction, instead of having to follow a strict timetable, as is often the case at home and in society generally.

20 hours ECE

For those of you who’d heard about changes to the 20 Hours ECE policy last year but weren’t sure what they meant for you, we can confirm that the Government has retained and expanded the policy so that all Playcentres and kõhanga reo have become eligible to offer 20 Hours ECE. And for those of you with 5-year-olds who still attend preschool, they are also now eligible for the free hours.

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