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Daycare in Helsinki

Daycare children sit in autumn leaves

Daycare in Helsinki is very good and affordable. This is because the city has made early childhood education a priority. Almost every child in Finland attends daycare for a few years.

All children have the right to attend daycare in Helsinki. The employment status or income of their parents or guardians does not affect this. In Finnish society, early childhood education is valued as a necessary step to prepare children for school and everyday life. For an illustration of how early childhood education and care fits into Finland’s education system, see our School journey timeline.

Helsinki has many public and private daycare centre options from which families can choose. Each daycare centre in the city follows the same pedagogical principles and the staff are always qualified professionals. Public daycare centres are located in every neighbourhood of the city, within walking distance of most homes.

Is Finnish daycare like a nursery or preschool?

Yes, it is! Other cultures may call it childcare, a nursery, playschool, preschool or kindergarten. In Helsinki, it is part of a larger educational component called early childhood education.

Early childhood education

Early childhood education in Finland emphasises learning by playing. Developing social skills is equally important. A typical day in a Helsinki daycare centre (päiväkoti) includes plenty of playtime and outdoor activities. Children in Helsinki’s municipal daycare centres receive a daily breakfast, warm lunch and afternoon snack as part of the service. Younger children normally take a short nap in the afternoon.

Children starting in a new public daycare centre usually have an introductory period in which their parents or guardians can accompany them as they get to know the new routine. Parents or guardians can use this opportunity to see for themselves how things work and ask questions.

All early childhood education institutions follow the national core curriculum for early childhood education and care. Helsinki has its own early childhood education curriculum that takes the increasing diversity of the city into account. In addition, daycare staff and the parents or guardians draw up a personalised early education plan for every child. This plan is reviewed regularly.

Several of the city’s daycare centres offer evening or round-the-clock care. This care is ideal for parents and guardians who work in the evenings or do shift work.

Where can I find a daycare centre in Helsinki?

Use the search field of Helsinki’s Service Map to find the daycare centres closest to you. Most families in Finland choose a daycare centre that is a short walk from their home.

What supplies does my child need?

Children should have appropriate clothing for long periods of outdoor play in all kinds of weather. Ask your daycare centre staff for a list of the items they will need.

Services for international families

The city employs several early childhood education multilingual counsellors who offer guidance in multiple languages for international children and their families. These counsellors help children adjust to daycare and foster communication between the centres and families.

Some private daycare centres in Helsinki provide childcare in languages other than Finnish and Swedish. At present, daycare services are available in Helsinki in English, Russian, German, French, Spanish and Arabic. See the city’s list of language-oriented daycare centres for more information.

Debating between a Finnish-language, Swedish-language or English-language daycare?

It is a good idea for your whole family to learn one of the national languages if you plan on staying in Finland. Even if your child does not speak the language, you can enrol your child in a Finnish-language or Swedish-language daycare.

Where can I find more information?

Helsinki’s Guide to early childhood education is available in eight languages. The city website’s early childhood education FAQ and the city’s Education information service, available at +358 9 310 44986, can also answer your questions.

Daycare centre admission and fees

Registered residents of Helsinki can apply for municipal daycare any time after their child is born. However, this must be done at least four months before they plan to use the service. Most children in Helsinki start some kind of daycare or playgroup by the age of three.

If the municipal daycare location closest to you is full, the city will try to find an alternative centre nearby. The city offers temporary daycare, if your situation is urgent.

Public daycare is very affordable in Finland, and low-income families may not have to pay for the service at all. Daycare fees are dependent on the family’s income, size and the number of weekly care hours. Use the city’s daycare fee calculator to get an idea of the cost. Children can attend daycare on a full-time or part-time basis. The city grants a discount to siblings in the same facility.

Other childcare options

Applications to private daycare centres in Helsinki are submitted directly to the daycare centres. Instructions are available on the individual websites.

Private daycare centres tend to ask a higher monthly fee than public centres. Nevertheless, several subsidies are available to cover these costs. The state benefits agency Kela grants a private daycare allowance to families that opt for such services. Also, the city supplements full-time private daycare costs.

There are several other early childhood education and care options in Helsinki, beyond daycare centres. Examples include family daycare, group family daycare, and hiring a nanny. In these care environments, trained care providers look after children in their own home or in the children’s homes.

Playgroups are an alternative to municipal daycare for parents or guardians who are taking care of children aged two to six at home. They offer 2.5-3 hours a day of social interaction with other children several days a week. Most municipal playgroups take place in local daycare centres or playgrounds, with some private groups in churches and other facilities. Playgroup schedules follow the academic year, with breaks for schools holidays and the summer.

In conclusion, playgrounds, family houses and other play areas in the city offer a wide range of fun activities for the whole family.

Are you a stay-at-home parent who wants to learn Finnish?

Kotoklubi Kaneli offers free Finnish lessons at playgrounds for parents of children under 10 months of age, while the Helsinki Vocational College offers KOTIVA groups, where parents of 10 month to 3-year-old children can learn Finnish while their children play.  

Watch this short video on Helsinki playground activities.

Pre-primary education (age 6)

Compulsory pre-primary education (esiopetus or, more familiarly, eskari) is roughly equivalent to US kindergarten or UK reception and starts at age six in Finland. Children attend eskari at a daycare centre or primary school.

A day in eskari consists of four hours of instruction, after which most of the children remain in daycare for the afternoon. Eskari is free of charge. However, if the children stay in the facilities for the afternoon, parents or guardians must pay a fee.

The curriculum of pre-primary education focuses on preparing the children to start their journey in primary school. While specific learning goals for the year exist, there are no formal assessments.

Since 2018, five-year-old children in Helsinki have also been able to attend early childhood education for four hours a day at no cost. Separate to this, a trial is being conducted in some Finnish schools that extends pre-primary education to two years, beginning when children are five. This trial affects over 40 daycares in Helsinki and will continue until 2024.

Do you have questions about pre-primary education in Helsinki?

See the city’s webpages on pre-primary education options in Helsinki or contact the city’s Education information services at +358 9 310 44986 for more information.