The general term for childcare in the Netherlands is kinderopvang and includes:
- Childcare facilities: day care centres, host parents (or child minders), preschool and after school care .
- Childcare services: playgroup, babysitting, nannies and au pairs.
Childcare facilities in the Netherlands
Demand for childcare facilities in the Netherlands is high and waiting lists may be up to six months long. Some Dutch (and international) employers have their own childcare facilities, especially universities. Your local municipal government (city hall) might have an overview of the different options available to you.
For (expat) parents working full time, there are three main types of organised childcare facilities In the Netherlands:
Day care (kinderdagverblijf)
Children up to four years old can be looked after in a day care (kinderdagverblijf) centre, where they can stay for up to 10 hours a day. Day care centres in the Netherlands are professionally run and employ fully qualified childcare staff. All childcare centres must comply with a strict standard of quality according to Dutch law.
Dutch day care centres are usually open from 7.30 or 8am to 6pm on weekdays and offer care for babies as young as three months to children up to four years. Some centres have special groups for babies and toddlers, while others combine the two. There is usually one teacher for between four to eight children, depending on age groups.
Food is usually provided by the day care centre, while parents are responsible for supplying any other necessities.
There are often long waiting lists for spots in a day care centres so it is best to register your child as early as possible (which may be before it is even born). You should also consider registering with more than one centre until you get a spot.
Host parents or Child minders (gastouder)
Child minders, called host parent care (gastouderopvang) in the Netherlands, is available for babies, toddlers and primary school children. Child minders look after up to six children either in their home or in a care centre for a fixed number of hours per week. They are also available on evenings or the weekend.
Child minder services can be found through a gastouder agency, which checks that the locations where children will be looked after are safe and hygienic. Child minders must also be registered in the Landelijk Register Kinderopvang (National Childcare Register).
Under the Childcare Act, grandparents who babysit on a regular basis can also be considered formal childcare providers, meaning parents can also receive an allowance for this.
Advertisements for gastouders can be found in your local newspaper under oppas, or on the notice board at the consultatiebureau. They can also be viewed in the online Yellow Pages by looking under gastouderbureau.
After school care (buitenschoolse / naschoolse opvang)
After school care (buitenschoolse opvang) and outside-school care (naschoolse opvang) organisations provide care and activities for children aged four to 12 years from 7.30am until 6.30pm on school days and school holidays. They usually work with one or several primary schools - so both local and international schools should be able to help parents locate one that suits them in the area - and children are often collected from their school by a carer.
Food and drink is usually provided, and children are able to play outside, do crafts, read or get help with their homework. Some centres are aligned with a sports club, community centre or music school, so there are many options for activities.
Preschools (peuterspeelzalen in Dutch) are for children aged two to four years. They are often part of a primary school and help prepare children for primary school, and they must be registered in the Landelijk Register Kinderopvang (National Childcare Register).
Children in the Netherlands go two to three times a week either in the morning or afternoon to spend a few hours playing with other children and doing activities under trained professional preschool teachers.
Childcare services in the Netherlands
For those parents who do not need full-time care during a working week, there are other options for childcare:
Playgroup (peutergroep in Dutch) is a more informal setting for parents to take their children (zero to three years old) to play with others of a similar age. Parents usually stay for the whole of the first few sessions, reducing their time as the child becomes comfortable. Playgroups in the Netherlands usually charge a small fee to cover room hire, food and drink, and toys.
The Dutch word for babysitters, oppas, covers a range of options from teenagers to qualified child minders, who usually work for a few hours in the afternoons or evenings.
Note that you can also register with an oppascentrales, a babysitting service. They ask for a membership fee for six months or a year, but this entitles you to call whenever you need a babysitter (you pay the babysitter separately). With a service, you can nearly always get a sitter and the costs are reasonable. On the other hand, it may be a different person each time and their level of experience may vary.
You should also book ahead, especially during holiday periods. It is recommended that you ask for and check references, and have a telephone interview with all prospective babysitters first.
Nannies & Au Pairs
Nannies are experienced and often qualified child-minders who live in your home and receive a monthly salary.
An au pair is typically a young (from 18 to 31 years old) woman or man from another country who is hired to help look after the children of a host family in the Netherlands. Au pairs are given room and board, paid a small monthly salary and typically are in search of a cultural experience in the Netherlands, while also serving as a child-minder and usually providing some light housework.
You may be eligible for the childcare benefit for having a nanny or an au pair if you use a childcare service to officially qualify and certify the childcare services.
Looking for expat-friendly day care options in the Netherlands for your children? Here is a list of selected childcare and daycare facilities.