What types of child care are there?

Published on Friday, 26 May 2017
Last updated on Thursday, 20 January 2022

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There is a wide range of early childhood education and care services available to Australian families, and for first time parents the choice can be confusing. 

To assist you in understanding the types of child care available, we have listed below some of the more commonly used child care options along with a brief description. For detailed information on the differences between these types of care, read our article on which child care is best.

Child Care Centre or Long Day Care 

Care for children under school age, on premises especially built or adapted for early childhood education and care services. Private operators, local councils, community organisations, employers and non-profit organisations may run long day care centres.

Long day care centres provide all-day or part-time care for working families and offer developmental programs within their care programs. Meals are usually provided and some long day care centres provide care for limited numbers of primary school children before and after school, and during school holidays.

To search for long child care centres in your area click here.

Family Day Care 

A network of experienced carers and educators who provide care and developmental activities in their own homes for other people's children.

Family day care is primarily for children who have not yet started school, however they also provide care for school children up to 12 years old. Care is flexible and can be tailored to suit each family's needs including care outside normal working hours and, if needed, overnight care.

To search for family day care services in your area click here.

Pre-school / Kindergarten / Prep 

Pre-school is a planned educational program for children in the years before a child commences school. Children are usually aged between 3 and 5 years of age. Pre-school may take place in a range of settings including a purpose built building, in a community setting, a school, as part of a long day care centre or a mobile or visiting service.

Pre-school generally runs between the hours of 9:00am and 3:00pm similar to school hours although this may vary by state and by service so check with the provider.

The terms kindergarten or prep are also used in some states.

To search for pre-schools in your area click here.

Before / After School Care or Outside School Hours Care 

Supervised care and recreation for school-age children:

  • Before and after school
  • On pupil-free days
  • During school holidays (vacation care)

OSHC is usually associated with schools and caters to primary school children. Most OSHC services are operated by community and private organisations. Typical hours for OSHC services are:

  • Before school 7.00 – 9.00 am
  • After school 3.00 – 6.00 pm
  • Vacation 7.00 am – 6.00 pm each week day

To search for OSHC services in your area click here.

Occasional, Flexible or Casual Care Services

Occasional, Flexible or Casual Care Services provide short periods of care for children under school age. Families can access Occasional, Flexible or Casual Care on either a regular or casual basis a variety of reasons including, shift or part-time work, respite care, crisis and emergency care, shopping or attending appointments.

Occasional, Flexible or Casual Care allows people the flexibility to leave their children in an early childhood learning environment to socialise and interact with other children, while they undertake other tasks. Community organisations, non-profit organisations and local councils may run Occasional, Flexible or Casual Care centres.

To search for Occasional, Flexible or Casual Care services in your area click here.

In Home Care 

A flexible form of child care where quality early childhood education and care is provided in the family home by a qualified In Home Care educator.

This type of government-subsidised child care is for families that can't access other mainstream child care options (centre-based day care, family day care or outside school hours care) because they:

  • Work non-standard or variable hours, or
  • Are geographically isolated, or
  • Have challenging and complex family needs.

Families must demonstrate that other types of approved child care services aren't available or appropriate, and be eligible for the Child Care Subsidy.

In Home Care Support Agencies assess families' eligibility for an In Home Care place and help them find care that meets their needs.

To search for In-Home Care in your area click here.


Employed by the family on either a live-in or live-out basis to undertake all tasks related to the care of children. Duties are generally restricted to child care and the domestic tasks related to child care.  A nanny may or may not have had any formal training though they often have a good deal of experience. A nanny's working week ranges from forty to sixty hours. 

To search for nannies in your area click here.

Nanny Sharing

A nanny employed by two families to undertake tasks related to the care of children. If you are interested in having a nanny care for your child but are reluctant due to the expense, nanny sharing with another family maybe the solution.

To search for nanny share in your area click here.

Au Pair

A foreign national in Australia for up to a year for cultural exchange purposes and to experience Australian life. Lives as part of the host family and receives a small allowance / salary in exchange for child care and household duties. May or may not have previous child care experience.

To search for au pairs in your area click here.

Mother's Help

A mother's help has little or no previous experience of caring for children. They generally have career aspirations in the field of child care and this is one way of gaining experience while they undertake formal study. A mother's help will assist the parent(s) with child care and housekeeping duties. These duties should be carried out under the supervision of the parent.

To search for Mother's Help in your area click here.


Provides supervisory, custodial care of children on an irregular full time or part-time basis.

To search for babysitters in your area click here.

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