Childcare for Pre-school Children

Understand the choices you have for childcare in Canada...

Most children do not start Grade school until they are six years old in Canada, although in some provinces, children start at age five. Pre-school includes government funded places for four and five year olds, in Junior and Senior Kindergarten. These are generally half-day places, but some schools offer full-day learning for Junior Kindergarten and Senior Kindergarten. This is a new initiative and varies across, as well as within provinces. Check with local schools and local government education ministries for the relevant details.

For pre-school children there are a number of childcare options:

  • Licensed childcare centres, which often operate within schools at affordable rates
  • Licensed home-based childcare services
  • Unlicensed/independent homecare (often in a caregiver's home)
  • Nanny/in-home care

Various regulations apply provincially, which stipulate requirements for caregivers, such as the maximum number of children allowed to be looked after by a caregiver at any one time. Provincial ministry of education departments can provide assistance with selecting local childcare and provide information about any subsidised childcare, which may be available to assist low income families with the cost of childcare.

Finding local childcare

For information on childcare provision, regulations and selecting childcare in the different provinces of Canada, see the links below:

For information regarding childcare provision in the Northern Territories, Yukon Territory and Nunavut contact local government offices.


Age requirements for babysitters vary from province to province but it is normal for children of 12 years and over to babysit younger children. However, they should not be responsible for bathing or cooking or be left alone for more than four hours a day. Many children take babysitting certificates to learn basic health and safety procedures. Older babysitters are also readily available.