Mind the Baby

Do you need childcare but don’t know where to start? Katie Thomas explains the options so you can choose a childcare situation that best suits your family’s needs.

Whether you are returning to work full-time, part-time, or you need childcare for other reasons, choosing the right option for your baby or young child can be an overwhelming prospect. All sorts of factors go into finding the right fit for you, such as cost, location, hours, age of child, and any specific needs you and your children may have. Here are some options to consider.

Family member/friend providing care

This is simply finding a friend or family member to care for a child of any age, in their home or yours. It is similar to having a nanny in the sense that it is generally a one-on-one scenario with flexible hours, and it can be a cheaper alternative. Having a known and trusted person care for your child can be reassuring, but finding a balance between employment and family/friendship can be a challenge.

Shared care with other parents

Mothers will sometimes balance childcare needs between themselves. If parents have gaps after school or after other childcare, they can help each other out within themselves when needed, on a casual or regular basis. This generally means the child will have playmates around and it can be very cheap or often free.

In-home childcare

This is a single carer working in their own home or in one of the families’ homes, with more than one child in their care. They are sometimes mothers themselves with their own children at home or at school. Otherwise they are often trained in some sort of childcare and first aid, and can provide flexible hours. The children can be ages 0-5, will have socialisation from their peers and can be taken on outings. The child-to-adult ratios differ for every situation, depending on the ages of children; the general rule is 1 adult to no more than 4 children, and no more than 2 children under the age of two in each home. Fees differ between carers, depending on qualifications, experience and subsidies. Generally in-home care ranges from $5-$10 per hour per child.


This is a carer coming into the family’s home and caring for a child of any age one-on-one. The majority of nannies are trained in childcare and first-aid and can provide flexible hours. As they are coming into your home, other services are often provided such as light cleaning and cooking. The more experienced and qualified the nanny, the higher the hourly rate, ranging from $15-$25 per hour.

Nanny share

This is two or more families sharing the same nanny in one of the homes and receiving care for children of any age. Each family pays less than they would for a one-on-one nanny, and often rotate whose home they spend the day at. Potential issues need to be discussed at the beginning, such as whose house, what happens if a child is ill, who provides food and snacks, etc. Hours are generally flexible and children will have socialisation from each other.

Au pair

This is a domestic carer who lives in your home and is often foreign, generally a female but not always. They provide childcare to children of any age, in return for accommodation, meals, and a small fee. Each au pair situation is different, but they are mostly trained in some sort of childcare and first aid and can provide flexible hours. Fees differ and can be hourly or weekly, but are around $8 per hour or around $200-$300 per week, as well as added hosting and agency costs. It is a one-on-one care option that is often more affordable, but an au pair may not be as highly trained as a nanny and may be in the country for other reasons too. Understanding the childcare subsidies available is helpful when choosing the right option for your child. There are multiple childcare related subsidies in New Zealand for families that meet the specific requirements; researching online and speaking to the right people will help clarify what you and your family are entitled to. The government provides subsidised funding up to 20 hours a week/6 hours a day of Early Childhood Education for children ages 3 and 4 years old attending approved programmes.


Kindy is an education and care centre governed by a kindergarten association. They have traditionally provided half-day sessions for 3-4 year olds, but increasingly more offer full days (up to 6 hours). They run the same as the school term and school hours. Fees are generally low at around $2-$5 a session and ratios can be as high as 1 adult to 10 children, but this varies between each kindy.


These are also known as early childhood centers or preschools or infant day care centers. These centers can provide care for children aged 6 weeks to 17 months. Generally, daycare ratios differ between centers depending on policies and the number of qualified teachers. Daycares are usually open 7.30am-6pm year-round, so are a popular option for parents working full-time. Fees can vary depending on subsidies and the center itself.

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