Early childhood education is education, teaching and care that have been pedagogically planned, with carefully considered goals. Trained early education teachers, social pedagogues and child carers work in early childhood education.
In Finland, the child’s right to early childhood education begins from the beginning of the month when the child reaches the age of nine months. However, some parents take care of their children at home for longer. On average, a child starts early childhood education at the age of 1½–2 years.
One of the parents usually looks after the child at home at least for the duration of the parental leave. The parental leave lasts for 320 working days, i.e. approximately 14 months. If you also look after your child at home after this period, you are entitled to child care leave from your work. The child care leave ends when the child turns three.
You can find more information about family leave on the InfoFinland page Family leave. You can apply for financial support for the family leave period from Kela. Read more on the InfoFinland page Benefits for looking after a child at home.
Municipal early childhood education
If you have a municipality of residence in Finland, you can apply for a place in municipal early childhood education for your child after the period of parental leave. At that point, the child will be approximately nine months old. If you do not have an official municipality of residence in Finland, you are considered a resident of the municipality in which you reside.
You can apply for a place in
- a day care centre (päiväkoti)
- group family day care (ryhmäperhepäivähoito)
- family day care (perhepäivähoito)
At day-care centres, children are in larger groups than in group family day care.
Family day care involves a care provider looking after the children in his or her own home. Some family day care providers look after children in the children's home.
Apply for a municipal early childhood education place from your municipality at least four months before your child is due to start day care. A place can be granted within two weeks if the parents get a job or a student position.
The early education fee (varhaiskasvatusmaksu) depends on
- the family’s income,
- family size, and
- how many hours a week your child will attend early childhood education.
A discount is granted for the day care fees of any siblings. If the family has a very low income, early childhood education may be free of charge. For further information, contact the advisory services of your own municipality.
Private early childhood education
The different forms of private early childhood education include:
- private day care centres or private group family day care centres
- family day care providers or
- day care given by a child carer hired by the family to work at their home
You can apply for early childhood education directly from a private day-care centre or a private group family day-care centre.
You can also seek a private family day care provider who will look after children in his or her own home, or hire a child carer to work in your home. If you hire a child carer to work in your home, you become an employer and must attend to an employer’s obligations. Read more on the InfoFinland page Employer’s rights and obligations. You can also hire a child carer together with another family.
The municipality supervises private early childhood education.
The costs of private early childhood education vary. However, you can receive support for it from Kela. In such a case, private early childhood education does not necessarily cost much more than municipal early childhood education. Some municipalities may also offer service vouchers that you can use to cover some of the cost of private care to make it affordable for you. For more information, please ask your municipality.
Private day care allowance
If your child has a municipality of residence in Finland, you can apply for private day care allowance from Kela. The child care provider must be approved by the municipality.
You can apply for private day care allowance (yksityisen hoidon tuki) if
- your child is under school age and is placed in a private day care centre, or
- your child is looked after by another type of private day care provider.
You cannot apply for private day care allowance if the care provider is a family member of the child or if the child and the carer live in the same household. Neither can you receive private day care allowance if your child is placed in municipal early childhood education.
The amount of allowance depends on the income of the child's family and on the municipality in which the family resides, among other things.
Kela pays the allowance directly to the hired child carer or other child care provider. Private day care allowance is taxable income. This allowance is not paid abroad.
Further information on private day care allowance is available on Kela’s website.
Kela offers a telephone service for families with children.
- in Finnish, Tel. +358 20 692 206
- in Swedish, Tel. +358 20 692 226
- in English, tel. +358 20 634 2550
Kela offices also provide services in other languages via interpreters.
What takes place in early childhood education?
Early childhood education includes a range of activities, for example games, sports, music, crafts and excursions. Children can also take a nap or rest during the day. The goal of these activities is to further the development of and learning among children. Children also learn social skills. The child is supported in learning Finnish or Swedish if he or she has another mother tongue. The child may also receive special needs education, if necessary.
However, the day care centre is not a school. Children do not study subjects or attend classes.
During the day, the children eat three meals: breakfast, lunch and a snack. If your child has a special diet, please inform the early childhood education teachers.
Your family’s religious convictions or life philosophies will be taken into consideration in early childhood education.
Days in early childhood education normally begin in the morning and end in the afternoon. However, some day-care centres and family day care providers are open around the clock due to the parents' studies or working hours.
English-language day-care centres
There are many English-language day-care centres in Finland, especially in larger cities. In many cases, English-language day-care centres are private. In municipal English-language day-care centres, there are also children of Finnish-language families who learn English at the day-care centre.
There are also day-care centres in larger cities where the language is some other language, such as German, French or Spanish.
Children's clubs and playgroups
Parishes, municipalities and organisations hold playgroups for children. Playgroups usually last a couple of hours.
Playgroups provide organised play, singing, crafts and other activities.