Early childhood education and care for families

A child's participation in an organised early childhood education program assists in the development of their skills and abilities.

Early childhood education and care (ECEC) are programs and services designed to support the learning and development of young children.

Research shows that children who participate in a quality ECEC program for at least 600 hours in the year before school are more likely to arrive at school equipped with the social, cognitive, and emotional skills they need to engage in learning.

ECEC benefits children by:

  • sparking a love for learning that lasts a lifetime
  • building problem solving, language and social skills
  • encouraging creativity
  • fostering fine motor and sensory skills.

Learn more about the benefits of early childhood education and care.

Service types

There are a wide range of early childhood education and outside school hours care options available to suit family needs.


Preschools are usually for children aged 3 to 5 years old, or the 2 years before they start school, and generally operate from 9 am to 3.30 pm during NSW school terms.

Preschools provide a program that supports early learning and transition to school. Most are community based, not-for-profit services however some are public preschools run by the department on school sites.

The NSW Government has committed to building 100 new public preschools by 2027.

Long day care

Long day care services are available for children from birth to school age and generally run from 7-8 am to 6 pm to suit working families. Children can attend all or part of the day. Many long day care services offer preschool programs.

Family day care

Registered educators provide education and care for children from birth to age 12 in homes or approved venues.

These services cater for small groups of up to 7 children, with a maximum of 4 under preschool age.

Outside school hours care (OSHC) also known as Out of School Hours (OOSH)

These services operate before and after school for school aged children.

Some services also provide education and care during school holidays and pupil-free days, sometimes known as vacation care. Find out more about Outside School Hours Care.

Occasional care

Casual care services offer short-term care for children from birth to school age for short periods of time.

These types of services are suitable for families with temporary or last-minute needs.

Mobile services

Mobile services are designed to travel to areas where centre based services are not readily available.

In Home Care Program

The In Home Care Program provides access to Government subsidised child care in the family home and is not regulated under the National Quality Framework.

The program is targeted to assist parents or carers who are unable to access other mainstream child care options such as those who work non-standard hours, are geographically isolated or have families with challenging and complex needs.


Early childhood education and outside school hours care services set their own fees.

Contact your local service for more information.

  • The Australian Government’s Child Care Subsidy assists families with the cost of child care. Parents and carers enrolling a child in long day care and family day care services may be eligible to claim the Child Care Subsidy and Additional Child Care Subsidy.
  • The Start Strong program for community preschools and long day care supports preschool education for all children in NSW. It is designed to make preschool more affordable for families and ensure all children aged three and above have access to 600 hours of quality early childhood education in the year before school.
  • Families who need help with the cost of ECEC or with raising a child should visit Services Australia for more information.

Enrol early

With a high demand for ECEC services, it is important to enrol your child as soon as possible. Consider doing this if your child needs to start by a particular age or time.

Many services will have a wait list if there are no spots available. You can put your child on the wait list for more than one service.

Choosing a quality service

To find a service in your area and get tips on choosing one, visit Choosing a quality service.


  • Early childhood education

Business Unit:

  • Early Childhood Outcomes
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