Planning ahead for your child’s education? Here’s everything you need to know about the cost of getting them started on the first step of their education journey: childcare.
The need to juggle income and caregiving is real for many Singaporeans.
The reality is that not many parents have the privilege of staying home to be a full-time caregiver for their child because of the need to bring in income to support the family.
Luckily for parents, there are many childcare centres in Singapore that you can entrust your child with so that you can concentrate on your work.
Here’s a quick primer for working parents on everything you need to know about childcare education in Singapore.
Childcare grade based on age
Within childcare centres, you can find groups for the following grades. The children are grouped into different grades based on their age.
- Playgroup: 1.5+ to two years old
- Pre-Nursery (N1): 2+ to three years old
- Nursery (N2): 3+ to four years old
- Kindergarten 1 (K1): 4+ to five years old
- Kindergarten 2 (K2): 5+ to six years old
In some centres, there are also infant care services provided. Unlike childcare, infant care is meant for younger children, i.e. those who are between two to 18 months.
Full-day or half-day programmes?
Childcare centres provide both full-day and half-day care programmes for children below the age of seven.
For full-day programmes, you can leave your child at the childcare centre, and pick them up between 5pm to 7pm, depending on the centre’s arrangement.
The full-day programme comes with longer nap time, and gives the preschool teachers more time to move the activities around if there’s no time in the morning.
Full-time working parents tend to choose this option because that’s around the time they knock off work as well.
For half-day programmes, you will need to pick up your child around 12 noon as the schedule for half-day classes ends before lunch time.
If you have other caregivers at home (e.g. grandparents) and you just want to let your child learn to socialise in preschool, the half-day programme might be an option for you.
What does your child learn at childcare?
The purpose of sending your child to childcare is to help them build confidence, learn social skills and develop learning dispositions.
In general, every preschool has learning goals that they aim to nurture your child to pick up through their curriculum.
These learning goals fall under the following broad categories as defined by the Nurturing Early Learners (NEL) framework.
Childcare centres cover areas such as music, art or dance to help children express themselves.
Other aspects are achieved through sensory and simple scientific activities to engage their curiosity.
Language, of course, is an essential part of the education process. Childcare centres teach children to speak and communicate in English and their Mother Tongue.
To develop their motor skills, the centres also impart skills such as using chopsticks, and simple activities that include running.
How much do childcare centres cost?
The cost for childcare education varies, depending on the type of childcare centre you send your child to.
Premium private childcare centres come with their own curriculum and teaching philosophy.
Monthly fee: $1,000 to $2,500+ (full-day).
Anchor operators are centres that are funded and supported by the Anchor Operators Scheme.
Monthly fee: Childcare: $720 (half-day); $1,275 (full-day), Infant care: $1,275.
Partner operators are also funded by the government to keep their fees capped at an affordable rate
Monthly fee: childcare: $760 (half-day); $1,330 (full-day), Infant care: $1,400.
While there are more affordable options, it will still set you back at least $720 a month, which can be quite taxing for lower and middle income families.
Subsidies for preschool
To help defray the cost of preschool expenses for Singaporean children, the government provides subsidies for childcare and infant care centres that are licensed under the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA).
The ECDA is the agency that handles the regulatory and developmental aspects of early childhood education in Singapore. In short, it is the “MOE” of early childhood.
Infant care and childcare subsidies
|Infant Care (monthly)||Childcare (monthly)|
|Working mother||Basic subsidy*: $600||Basic subsidy*: $300|
|Additional subsidy^: Up to $710||Additional subsidy^: Up to $467|
|Non-working mother||Basic subsidy#: $150||Basic subsidy#: $150|
- *Qualifying criteria for basic subsidy: Mother is working.
- ^Qualifying criteria for additional subsidy: Mother is working at least 56 hours a month, child is enrolled in ECDA-licensed infant care/childcare centre, and total gross monthly income for the family is ≤ $12,000.
- #Qualifying criteria: Non-working mother.
If you are confused about the amount of subsidies you stand to receive, ECDA has a pretty useful tool that can help you with that.
Kindergarten Fee Assistance Scheme (KiFAS)
For low- and middle-income families who are sending their children to kindergartens instead of childcare centres, you might also be eligible for the Kindergarten Fee Assistance Scheme (KiFAS).
To qualify for this subsidy, the child must be:
- A Singapore citizen
- Enrolled in an anchor operator or MOE kindergarten
Furthermore, the family gross monthly household income should be ≤ $12,000 or per capita income ≤ $3,000.
The subsidy amount is determined based on the household income upon application.
Childcare centre certification
There are two certifications to consider before you send your child to a centre.
The first certification to look at is the Singapore Preschool Accreditation Framework (SPARK). This is awarded to preschools that have a holistic development towards its curriculum.
Childcare centres with SPARK certification tend to be more popular, and thus will be hotly contested. As such, be prepared to be on a waitlist if you are aiming for one.
Another certification to look at is the Healthy Pre-Schools (HPS) accreditation. As the name implies, this focuses on the health aspects within the childcare centre.
This includes a healthy diet for the children enrolled in the centre, with activities that promote a healthier lifestyle.
There are two tiers of HPS: Basic and Platinum.
List of childcare centres in Singapore
The list of childcare centres in Singapore is exhaustive.
Fortunately, ECDA provides a preschool search tool that lets you search for childcare centres by location or by childcare provider name.
It even provides upcoming preschools that are now open for interest registration.
Furthermore, you can filter the search based on distance to your home, availability, and childcare grade.
Childcare centres that are listed on the ECDA preschool search tool are also indicated if they qualify for certifications such as SPARK or HPS.
Tips for parents
Start your preschool registration early
Just like primary school registration, the fight for a spot in popular childcare centres can get competitive.
Thus, to avoid disappointment, make sure you register early for your preferred preschool.
You can start registering your interest on ECDA for the preschool that you are keen on sending your child to.
As mentioned above, you can even register interest for your child at newly minted childcare centres that are about to start operation.
Alternatively, you can reach out directly to the childcare centres operator and register on their website.
Be sure to register early (three to six months) before your child is about to enrol so that you will be in front of the line for a spot.
For popular childcare centres, you might even have to start queuing earlier.
What documents do you need for registration?
To register your child, you will need the following documents:
- Child birth certificate
- NRIC/work permit/passport of both parents
- Health booklet
- Passport-size photo of your child
- CDA letter/statement account
- Bank account details for GIRO application
These are the standard documents that you will need to register your child at the childcare. Other supporting documents might also be requested by the childcare centres on a case-by-case basis.
Fees payable upon registration
When you register your child into the childcare centres, there are costs involved:
- One-time registration fee: $16 onwards, depending on the childcare centres
- One-month deposit of the childcare fees (refundable)
- Uniform: $15 to $60 per set
- Insurance: $3 onwards per year
- Mattress cover: $8 onwards per set, if applicable
Pay for childcare fees with Child Development Account (CDA)
The cost of preschool education can be expensive, especially if you opt for a private childcare centres.
One hack for parents is to make use of the government’s dollar-for-dollar matching on your child’s Child Development Account (CDA).
Then use the CDA to pay for the childcare fees since it is an approved use.
However, do note that not all childcare centres are under the approved list for CDA usage. You can check the list of approved institutions on MSF website.
Pay for miscellaneous expenses with the right credit card
Besides childcare fees, there are other miscellaneous expenses.
For instance, you will need to prepare a plethora of items (see next point) for them at the childcare centres.
For these items, you can’t pay for them with your child’s CDA.
However, you can still be smart about these miscellaneous expenses by paying for it with your credit card and earning some reward points/cashback.
ALSO READ: 10 most expensive preschools in Singapore
Things to pack for your child to the childcare centre
Many things can happen at the childcare centres and you need to ensure that your child’s preschool teacher is prepared for it.
For childcare, here is a recommended list of items to pack:
- Towel (in case your child needs to bathe)
- Extra set of uniform
- A set of home clothes
- Diapers (if your child is still on them)
- Extra mask (due to the ongoing Covid-19 situation)
- Mosquito patch
- Toothbrush, toothpaste, mug
- Mattress cover
- Toys that your child hugs to sleep
- Other toys that your child might want to share with his/her friends
For infant care, parents will need to pack the usual diaper bag items that you usually bring when you bring your infant out with the following items:
- Milk formula (up to three feeds)
- Milk bottle (two pieces)
- Diapers (five pieces)
- Mattress cover
- Light blanket
- Baby wipes
- Baby cream
- Nappy rash cream
- Extra clothes (at least two sets)
Childcare is the start of your child’s education journey. The journey will only get more expensive, so start saving up for your child’s future education expenses.
This article was first published in SingSaver.com.sg.