SingaporeMotherhood | Baby & Toddler
Childcare Choices in Singapore and How Much They Cost
Deciding on childcare options in Singapore isn’t always straightforward. There are childcare centres and kindergarten programmes, as well as domestic helpers, nannies, babysitters, or a trusted relative. Each comes with its own pros and cons, considerations, and of course, costs. Understanding these diverse options empowers you to make informed choices that align with your child’s needs and your own lifestyle.
1. Childcare Centres
Childcare centres in Singapore cater to children from 18 months to below 7 years. Regulated by the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA), they offer full-day programmes, starting with Playgroup, then moving on to Pre-Nursery and Nursery, and finally the kindergarten stages.
Childcare services run from 7am to 7pm from Mondays to Fridays, except on public holidays. Some may also provide half-day or flexible options (at least 12 hours a week and 3 hours per session). While some centres currently operate on Saturdays for a half day, this will not be available for new enrolments from 2024 and set to be phased out by 2025.
If your little one is already attending infant care, which caters to babies from 2 to 18 months old, then it’s simply the next step in the programme. Otherwise, consider enrolling your toddler in a childcare centre. It’s a win-win for working parents seeking a balanced start for their little ones.
Beyond fostering early socialisation skills, childcare centres provide a structured environment that stimulates cognitive development. Experienced caregivers ensure a safe and nurturing space, while promoting a smooth transition to formal education.
Monthly cost Capped at $680 (full-day) at an ECDA anchor operator
2. Kindergarten & Preschools
These days, kindergarten and preschool programmes generally overlap with childcare services. However, parents who chose other childcare options for their toddlers may prefer to enrol their children directly into kindergarten. This is a half-day programme that runs from Mondays to Fridays except during public holidays and MOE school holidays. (Except for preschools that follow an international curriculum and academic year.)
Options range from subsidised ECDA anchor and partner operators, to ‘branded’ preschools that offer teaching styles based on the likes of Montessori and Reggio Emilia curriculum. The early years are crucial since they lay the groundwork for your child’s development and education. Pick the one that offers the environment and programme that suits your child as well as your budget.
Whether it’s childcare or kindergarten, ECDA regulations require a minimum 1:8 staff-to-children ratio at the Playgroup stage (for under 3 years). At Pre-Nursery (sometimes referred to as N1) the ratio is 1:12, increasing to 1:15 at Nursery (or N2), 1:20 at K1, and 1:25 at K2 levels.
Monthly cost Capped at $150 at an ECDA anchor operator
3. Domestic Helper
If you’d rather keep your little one at home for longer, you may consider a domestic helper. It’s a practical choice, especially if you have long working hours and could do with household help. Keep in mind that hiring a domestic helper means taking on extra responsibilities since they are technically your employee.
Starting monthly salaries range from $450 to $570, depending on their country of origin and experience. Remember to budget for medical and living expenses such as food, utilities, and transportation. Hiring through an agency involves upfront fees, and there’s a monthly maid levy, but since your helper will be caring for a child under 16 years, you pay a concessionary rate of $60.
Monthly cost From $760 (including levy and $250 estimated living expenses)
If you’re uncomfortable with having live-in help, consider engaging a nanny. Most parents find ‘old school’ nannies through parenting forums and word-of-mouth recommendations. While most are not formally qualified, they boast years of experience looking after babies and young children.
You usually drop your child off at the nanny’s home and pick them up after work. It’s essentially a full-time childcare service, but with more personalised attention, flexible care arrangements, and less exposure to viruses like HFMD.
Monthly Cost From $750
This is a great option if you don’t need a full-time caregiver and your child prefers the familiarity of home. Perhaps you only go to the office twice a week, or you need someone to pick Junior up from kindergarten and watch him till you get back.
You can find babysitters through employment agencies such as Just Us, online marketplaces like nannyz, or NannyStreet, a convenient mobile app. Candidates range from students doing part-time work to trained professionals. Rates generally range from $15 to $40 per hour, depending on each babysitter’s experience and expertise.
Monthly Cost From $300
6. Trusted Relatives
Entrusting your child to relatives can be a comforting choice if available. Grandma, Grandpa, or Auntie often bring a familiar and loving touch to caregiving. It can also be reassuring to know your child is with someone who genuinely cares about their well-being. A flexible schedule that combines care arrangements with half-day childcare is also an option.
Still, communication is key to ensure everyone is on the same page regarding routines, rules, and safety measures. Also, while your relative may not want to charge you for their services, it may be a good idea to at least reimburse them for food and transport costs.
Monthly cost From $0
7. Flexible Work Arrangements
Of course, nothing beats caring for your child yourself. It’ll not only benefit your parent-child bond, but also help save on childcare costs. Flexibility could mean adjusting your office hours, and working from home part-time or even full-time. Since Covid, companies are generally more open to remote work, with many continuing to practise hybrid work arrangements.
Don’t be shy to discuss flexible options with your current employer or explore job opportunities with companies that already offer them. If your budget can handle it, freelancing is another option, giving you the freedom to spend more time with your child.
Monthly cost $0
(See also: THE DAY MY SON CRIED, “I DON’T WANT MUMMY!”)
Prices are estimates unless otherwise mentioned and may be subject to prevailing taxes.
Featured image: Freepik
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