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Varhaiskasvatus
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Early childhood education

Early childhood education is intended for children under school age. In Finland, municipalities offer municipal early childhood education at day-care centres, for example. There are also private day-care centres.

Early childhood education is education, teaching and care that have been pedagogically planned, with carefully considered goals. Trained early education teachers and child nurses work in early education.

Usually, either of the parents looks after the child at home until at least the end of the parental leave, in other words, until the child is around nine months old. If you also look after your child at home after the period of parental leave, you are entitled to leave from work for childcare purposes until the child’s third birthday. You can find more information about leave on the InfoFinland page Family leave. You can apply for financial support for childcare at home 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.

If both parents work, their child has the right to full-time early education.

If one parent is at home, the child’s right to early education depends on their municipality of residence.

  • In some municipalities, the child may have a right to full-time early education even if one parent is at home.
  • In other municipalities, the child has a right to 20 hours of early education per week if one parent is at home. However, the family can apply for a right to full-time early education if the child needs special support with learning Finnish or because of a difficult family situation.

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.

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 (0)20 692 206
  • for calls in Swedish and English tel. +358 (0)20 692 226

Kela offices also provide services in other languages via interpreters.

linkkiKela:
Private day care allowanceFinnish | Swedish | English

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.

Some localities provide day care centres in which children and teachers speak a language other than Finnish or Swedish.

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.

linkkiFinnish Refugee Council:
Day care glossarySomali | Persian | Arabic | Kurdish

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.

linkkiMinistry of Education and Culture:
Information about early childhood educationFinnish | Swedish | English