Childcare centres in Singapore – A comprehensive guide

So you’ve recently welcomed a baby to your family, and are adjusting to life as a new parent. You’ve gotten used to the lack of sleep and can now change diapers blindfolded. Now here you are at yet another crossroad in child-rearing: selecting a childcare centre in Singapore.

We get it – it’s a daunting task. After all, every parent wants to ensure their child is receiving the best possible care. Well, here’s everything you need to know about childcare in Singapore – including the costs, how to choose the right one, and what to expect.

Is childcare compulsory in Singapore? 

Given that Singapore is known to be rather academically-driven, you might be surprised to know that childcare and preschool is not compulsory in Singapore. Only primary and secondary education is compulsory for children aged 7-16.

However, many parents choose to send their kids for childcare for a myriad of reasons. This could be anything from having no alternative care options, to preparing them for Primary 1 and allowing them to develop essential skills like writing, counting, and socialisation.

How do childcare centres work in Singapore?

Childcare classroom in Singapore

Childcare centres don’t just function as daycare facilities where your little one’s basic needs such as meals and naps are taken care of. You can expect your child to be doing an array of learning and enrichment activities throughout the day like arts and crafts, sing-alongs, and Mandarin classes. Some centres also organise outdoor activities and class trips for the kids.

In Singapore, childcare centres take in children aged from 18 months to 6 years old. Some centres may also have infant care facilities for babies aged 2-17 months old. The starting age may differ between different childcare centres, so check with your preferred centre beforehand.

Here are the different types of programmes you can commonly find at childcare centres in Singapore:

  • Full-day: Most centres run from 7am-7pm.
  • Half-day: Many centres offer programmes that run from 7am-1pm.
  • Flexi: Some centres offer flexi programmes that run from 7am-3pm.

Some centres also open on Saturdays from 7am-2pm, and others may have their own stipulated opening times as well.

What’s the difference between infant care, childcare & kindergarten?

Infant crawling through a play tunnel

Here’s where it might get confusing for first-time parents. You may notice that some childcare centres also include infant care and kindergarten, while others may just be standalone infant care, childcare, and kindergartens respectively. We’ll break down the differences for you:

Infant care:
Age: 2-17 months old
What they do: Your baby will not only be cared for, but may be exposed to activities, such as music and reading sessions, that help their development.

Age: 18 months – 6 years old
What they do: A mix of essential care including meals and naptimes, learning, and development. Kids aged 3-6 may also have preschool curriculums that take place during the day.

Age: 3-6 years old
What they do: Unlike childcare centres, kindergartens focus solely on learning. Thus, the hours are usually shorter, about half a day.

How much will childcare centre fees cost? 

Now comes the all-important question: how much is this going to cost? Well, here’s a brief overview of how much you can expect to fork out monthly – excluding Government subsidies.

  • Infant care: ~$900-$2,900
  • Childcare: ~$500-$2,700

The fees will vary depending on your child’s age and the type of programme they’re enrolled in. Other factors such as the location and facilities can also affect the fees. The good thing is, in most centres, as your child progresses to the next stage, the fees will usually get lower.

Here are the 2024 fees for some commonly found childcare centres in Singapore:

Centre infant care Childcare
E-Bridge by Eton house Full-day: $1,346 Full-day: $741
Greentree Montessori Half-day: $1,700

Full-day: $2,100

Half-day: $1,420

Full-day: $1,780

KiddiWinkie Schoolhouse Half-day: From $1,900

Full-day: From $2,100

Half-day: From $1,600

Full-day: From $1,800

Little Footprints Preschool Half-day: From $920

Full-day: From $1,290

Half-day: From $540

Full-day: From $720

Little Seeds Preschool Half-day: $1,401.10

Full-day: $1.689.50

Little Skool-House $1,230-$1,630
MindChamps Half-day: $2,705

Full-day: $2,905

Half-day: From $2,115

Full-day: From $2,315

My First Skool Full-day: $1,346 Full-day: $741.20
PCF Sparkletots Full-day: $1,346.15 Full-day: $741.20
Raffles Kidz International Full-day: $2,100 Full-day: From $1,600
Skool4Kidz Full-day: $1,345.80 Full-day: $740.80
Star Learners Half-day: $920

Full-day: $1,290

Half-day: $540

Full-day: $720

All fees are for Singapore Citizens, excluding ECDA subsidies. Fees for Singapore Permanent Residents and Foreigners may differ. Some fees may include GST while others may bill it separately.

How to choose a childcare centre in Singapore?

1. Proximity to your home

During a day and age where all we wish to have is work-life balance, convenience is key for many parents. That said, a childcare centre that’s located close to your home will eliminate lengthy commute times and in turn allow you to spend more time with your bub.

But of course, you know what’s best for you. Consider asking yourself the following questions:

  • Do I have to take public transport? And am I okay with doing this every day?
  • Is the route sheltered from the rain and sun?
  • Is there appropriate stroller access?
  • Is there parking or an accessible drop-off point?
  • Can I get there with ease if there is an emergency?

Some parents may also opt for a childcare centre that’s close to work or the home of another caretaker such as a grandparent or relative.

2. Childcare centre fees

Another main factor is, of course, your budget. And while many of us might immediately want to go for the lowest cost, here’s a heads up that centres with lower fees may experience longer waitlist times.

At this point, we should also note that centres with higher fees may not necessarily mean that the childcare centre is better. You also have to consider other factors such as facilities, programmes, curriculum, location, and such. Centres located in more premium neighbourhoods and malls, for example, may cost more, whilst neighbourhood centres may cost a little less.

3. Curriculum 

Teacher with three students doing puzzles

It’s safe to say that every parent has their own parenting style. Likewise, every child learns and develops differently. Hence, it’s no surprise that there are many types of preschool curriculums to choose from that target childrens’ development in different ways.

Some common ones you’ll hear of include Montessori, Reggio Emilia, Waldorf Steiner, Play-Based, and even The National Curriculum which prepares your child for life in MOE schools. In any case, the childcare centres you’re eyeing should have plenty of information on their curriculum style, so you can choose the one that you prefer.

4. Staff-child ratio 

The staff-child ratio is also a consideration for many parents. Some centres may have a lower ratio, but this often comes with higher fees. The ratio also gets larger as your child progresses.

Here’s the stipulated minimum teacher-child ratio by ECDA:

  • Infant: 1:5
  • Playgroup: 1:8
  • Pre-Nursery (or Nursery 1): 1:12
  • Nursery (or Nursery 2): 1:15
  • Kindergarten 1: 1:20
  • Kindergarten 2: 1:25

5. Other important questions to ask:

Of course, there are plenty of other factors that will inform your decision. Here are some other things to consider:

  • Does the centre track their schedule – feed times, feed amounts, nap times, etc?
  • Does the programme include bath time?
  • Do the children get outdoor time?
  • Are the children in an air-conditioned environment throughout the day?
  • Do the children get screen time?
  • How many meals does the school provide per day?
  • Can I pack breastmilk for my child?
  • Can parents sit in for the first few days?
  • Is the centre SPARK certified?

In any case, most centres allow physical or virtual tours, so you can check your options out before making a choice.

What to expect when sending your child for childcare in Singapore

Teacher with preschool kids sitting at desks

We know you have an unending list of questions and concerns about entrusting a childcare centre with the care of your little one. So here’s the TL;DR of what you can expect:

1. How long will it take for my child to adjust?

Every parent knows the dreaded two words: separation anxiety. That said, you may be hit with the most gut-wrenching cries from your bub on the first couple of days as they adjust to their new routine of attending childcare. And here’s the kicker: the cries may last as short as a day to as long as 4 weeks.

Nevertheless, hang in there and give your child 2 weeks to adjust to their new environment. Also be prepared to go through similar adjustment periods when your kid gets promoted to the next stage, or if you shift them to a new childcare centre.

2. Will my child fall sick a lot? 

This one is probably every parent’s worst nightmare: having a child that falls sick frequently when they attend childcare. Unfortunately, we can’t tell you otherwise. Falling sick is very common, and is difficult to avoid. Thus, it’s advisable not to send your child to childcare when they’re displaying symptoms of illnesses such as a runny nose, cough, and fever.

The good-ish news is that in due time, their immune system may toughen up and the frequency of sicknesses may decrease.

Tip: Give them daily supplements such as Vitamin C and Zinc. Some popular brands recommended by parents include Sambucol and Immunped. Although this doesn’t necessarily prevent sicknesses, it can help to build up their immune system.

3. What happens if my child falls sick midway? 

Child being fed milk from a small cup

Most childcare centres will conduct basic health checks upon drop-off. If your child is showing any symptoms of illnesses, they may get rejected and you’ll have to bring them home.

If they’re fine at drop-off but later display symptoms, the school may call you to fetch them home immediately. This is to reduce the risk of exposing other healthy children at the centre to illnesses.

Teachers may also verify cuts and bruises before admitting your child, to check if they got them at home prior to attending school.

4. What happens if I pick my child up late?

We’ve all been there – the bus pulling away just as we reach the bus stop; being held up at a last-minute work meeting; slow traffic due to the rain; the list of tardy excuses goes on. The good news is that no childcare provider is going to leave your child alone if you’re late.

The bad news is that most childcare centres have late pick-up charges. The charges may differ between centres, but on average it’s about $10 for the first 5 minutes, then $5 for every subsequent 5 minutes.

5. Do I have to provide my child’s food? 

Most childcare programmes include daily meals that comprise breakfast, lunch, and afternoon tea. You may wish to provide your own food if your child has special dietary requirements such as allergies – but it’s advisable to discuss this with the centre first.

You’ll also have to check with the centre if they provide milk, and then determine if the milk is suitable for your child. Else, parents are often asked to provide their own milk – especially for infants – as their kids may be on different types of milk, from formula to breastmilk, and fresh milk.

Some centres may also request for parents to provide snacks for their kids, but there may be certain restrictions on allergens such as nuts.

6. Will the staff scold my child if they misbehave?

Child looking upset with parent

Kids – especially the young ones – aren’t the best as fully controlling their emotions and impulses. That said, corrections in childcare centres are common. If any incidences such as biting, fighting, and accidents happen at the centre, the staff should update the parents.

Of course, the staff shouldn’t be screaming, hitting, or handling any kid aggressively. If you notice something unusual, flag it immediately to the centre’s principal.

7. How will I know how my child is doing throughout the day? 

Teacher teaching children the ukele

It’s good to check with the centre on how frequently they update parents on their kids, as this also differs from centre to centre.

Typically, you can expect infant care centres to provide more regular updates, or at least an update on their feeds and diaper changes at the end of the day. You may not get as many updates when your child is in a more advanced stage, however, the centre may send occasional highlights and recaps on your child’s progress.

Many childcare centres now use mobile apps as their main mode of communication. However, the centre may phone you directly for more urgent matters.

In any case, you may ask the teachers how your child is doing when you send or pick your child up from school.

8. How do I ensure my child’s items don’t get lost? 

As you prepare to send your child to childcare, your childcare centre will most likely ask you to label your child’s name on all their items, including their clothes, snacks, diapers, bottles – everything.

Waterproof labels are ideal so that you can wash bottles and the like without damaging the label.

9. What do I need to pack for my child? 

Parent packing items for their child

Before your child starts their first day of childcare, you should be informed of a packing list from the centre. It may differ depending on the programme you’ve chosen and the centre’s requirements, but a typical packing list comprises:

  • Diapers
  • Wet wipes
  • Milk & water bottles
  • Milk powder, expressed breast milk, or packet milk
  • Bedsheet & pillow
  • Extra change of clothes
  • Small towel

10. When should I enrol my child into childcare? 

The good thing about childcare centres is that admission isn’t competitive like Primary 1 registration. The bad thing is that it depends on the centre’s availability, especially for more popular centres and centres with lower fees.

Some parents may prefer to wait till their child is a little older – around 18 months onwards – to send them to childcare. But families with parents who’re working full-time may prefer to enrol their kids when they’re still infants.

To ensure you secure a spot, you may want to look as far as 6 months to a year in advance, especially if you don’t have alternative care options available. Some parents even register their interest before the baby is born!

11. How does childcare enrolment work in Singapore? 

Each childcare centre may have their own registration process, but typically you can start by registering your interest. This step is usually free of charge and many centres allow parents to do it online. For more high-demand centres, your child may be put on a waitlist.

You will only have to pay a registration fee when a spot in the centre is confirmed for your child. Registration fees also vary depending on the centre. They can be as low as $50 to as high as ~$600, and it’s usually a one-time fee.

Other upfront fees could include uniform sets (~$20-$30/set), annual fees (~$4-$5), and mattress usage (~$15). You may also be asked to pay a 1-month deposit, which will be returned to you if you withdraw your child from the centre within the agreed-upon notice period (usually 1 month).

Upon confirmation of your child’s enrolment, you should also get a form for ECDA subsidies, if it’s applicable to you.

12. How do ECDA childcare subsidies work?

Preschool teacher holding a class

Look, we get it – childcare comes with a price tag. That’s why we’re thankful there are Early Childhood and Development Agency (ECDA) subsidies available for parents with children who are Singapore Citizens.

Additional subsidies are also available for working parents with a gross monthly income of $12,000 and below, or if both parents are earning $3,000/month and below.

Subsidies for working parents: 

  • infant care: $600 – up to $710 additional subsidies available
  • Childcare: $300 – up to $467 additional subsidies available

Subsidies for non-working parents: 

  • infant care: $150 – no additional subsidies available
  • Childcare: $150 – no additional subsidies available

The subsidy amount will be deducted directly from the childcare fees, so you won’t have to do anything other than pay a net fee each month.

Things to consider when choosing childcare centres in Singapore

Choosing the right childcare centre and factoring a barrage of considerations can be a lot – but at the end of the day, all we want is the best for the kiddos. Now that you know what to look out for, you can make a decision that works best for you.

Check out our other guides on things to do with kids in Singapore. There are also plenty of indoor playgrounds and kid-friendly cafes to spend some quality time as a fam. If you’re on a budget, take them to free playgrounds and free water playgrounds.

A portion of this content may contain referral links to products. However, all opinions are ours.

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