The Differences in Cost for Childcare of Different Age Groups

Blog Image for article The Differences in Cost for Childcare of Different Age Groups

For many families, childcare doesn’t come cheap, but investing in your little one’s future is priceless. With that said, the cost of childcare often depends on a number of factors, including the age of your little ones.

If you’ve ever wondered how the different age groups stack up against each other, here’s a breakdown of how your child’s age can impact your childcare cost.

Childcare age groups

At childcare services and centre-based care in particular, children are often separated into different classes or groups based on their age. Not only does this help to keep the developmental levels consistent within the individual groups, but it also helps centres to arrange their childcare workers and educators in line with industry requirements.

The National Quality Framework (NQF) sets out the minimum child ratio requirements for children’s education and care services. These ratios apply to both family day care and centre-based education and care settings.

To be counted in the educator to child ratios, educators must be working directly with children. This means they must be physically present with the children and directly involved in providing education and care to those children. For example, if an educator is away on their lunch break, they don’t count as part of the ratio and there must be another educator to take their place with the children.

Infants: aged 0-2 years

Childcare for infants tends to be the most expensive due to the high level of care and attention required for this age group. When it comes to this age group, providers must align with strict educator to child ratios to ensure safety and meet regulatory requirements, which can drive up costs. Educators must be working directly with children to be counted in the educator to child ratios.

Across all Australian states and territories the educator to child ratio for children in childcare centres aged from birth to 2 years is 1 educator to 4 children. Because of this, infants tend to be the most expensive age group when it comes to childcare costs.

In order to offset the higher costs, the Child Care Subsidy (CCS) typically provides higher subsidy rates for this age group.

Toddlers: aged 2-3 years

Toddlers are generally the next most expensive age group. While toddlers don’t require as much attention as infants, it’s still important to keep a close eye on them. For this reason, when it comes to children aged over 2 and under 3, there must be 1 educator for every 5 children across all Australian states and territories with the exception of Victoria. In Victoria, it’s still a ratio of 1 educator to 4 children.


Preschoolers (3-5 years)

The childcare costs for children aged from 3 to 5 are generally lower compared to infants and toddlers. As children in this age group become more independent and require less intensive care, staffing ratios tend to be higher, which can reduce costs.

It’s at this age that the staffing requirements tend to differ across the states and territories, but they’re currently as follows:

  • 1 educator to 11 children in the ACT, NT, QLD, SA and VIC, or
  • 1 educator to 10 children in NSW, WA and Tasmania (or 2:25 for children attending a preschool program in Tasmania).

If your child attends a dedicated preschool or kindergarten program, you might be able to access cheaper or even fee-free kindy for your little one thanks to the Preschool Reform Agreement courtesy of the Australian government. Under this agreement, the government will provide a per-child contribution to states and territories. In 2023, this will be around $1,378, which equates to 15 hours of preschool a week or 600 hours a year for all children in the year before they start school. To check your eligibility, chat with your child’s preschool or kindy provider. 

School-age children: aged 6-12 years

Childcare costs for school-age children are typically lower than for younger age groups. After-school care and vacation care programs are common for this age group and may be less expensive compared to full-time daycare.

Once again, the staffing requirements for this age group vary slightly across different states and territories. In the NT, QLD, SA, TAS, VIC, NSW there must be at least 1 educator for every 15 children. In the ACT, the ratio is 1 educator for 11 children. In WA, if there are no kindergarten children present the ratio is 1:10 for the first 12 children, then then 1:13. For example, if 11 or 12 children are present, 2 staff members are still required.

Although CCS subsidies may still apply to school-age children, the rates are generally lower. 

Family daycare ratio requirements

While these ratios also apply to family day care providers, the ratios work slightly differently to accommodate the type of care offered by these types of services. In family daycare settings, there must be a minimum of 1 educator for every 7 children. With that said family daycare educators can only accommodate a maximum of 4 children preschool age or under. These ratios also include the educator’s own children if they’re aged under 13 and there’s no other adult to care for them.

At the end of the day, the childcare fees are determined by the individual childcare provider. Some providers charge different rates for children aged under 3 and over 3. Other providers charge a standard daily rate no matter the age of the child. But many centres tend to align their childcare fees with the educator to child ratios, meaning the lower the ratio the higher the childcare fees.

Age and the Child Care Subsidy

Eligible families may be able to receive government assistance, known as the Child Care Subsidy (CCS), to help with the cost of childcare. Your child’s age comes into play when it comes to the hourly rate cap, which impacts the amount of assistance you could receive. The hourly rate cap also depends on the type of approved child care you use. 

When considering age, Centrelink categorises children as either:

  • Below school age: meaning they’re under 6 or not attending primary school, or 
  • Above school age: meaning they attend primary school or are aged 6 and above.

Here’s how the hourly rate cap stacks up depending on the age of your child and the type of care they’re in.

Type of childcare

Hourly rate cap

Below school age

Above school age

Centre Based Day Care - long day care and occasional care$13.73$12.02
Family Day Care$12.72$12.72
Outside School Hours Care - before, after and vacation ca$13.73$12.02
In Home Care$37.34 per family$37.34 per family










Use the Care for Kids childcare cost tool

With so many different factors impacting the cost of childcare, it can be incredibly difficult to figure out just how much you could be out of pocket when it comes to your little one’s early childhood education. At Care for Kids, we’ve developed a childcare cost tool to help you check and compare the prices of local childcare services in your area. With that said, if you’re looking for a service fee breakdown, it’s always best to contact the centre itself.

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