Overview of Dutch child care in the Netherlands, including the quality standards and government financial reimbursement aspects…
Under the Dutch Act on Childcare (‘kinderdagverblijf’), the cost of formal care must be shared between parents, employers and the government, making it affordable to families at all income levels. The amount to be paid by parents depends on income. If both parents work, both their employers are expected to cover a portion. If the employer does not contribute, the government will. For those not employed but involved in study or reintegration courses, there may still be a contribution towards childcare costs.
Expenses for the care of children under 13 years of age can be deducted. The taxpayer must have paid work for which they receive more than a fixed minimum salary. In the event that the taxpayer has a partner, both of them have to meet this condition.
The childcare arrangement has a number of legal requirements: there is a maximum amount deductible per child but the deduction is only possible above a certain income-related threshold.
There is no formal preschool system in the Netherlands, although there are many local authority playgroups and some private crèches available. These come under the responsibility of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment.
There are several forms of childcare in the Netherlands…
It is not common to employ a nanny in the Netherlands. If, however, this is the preferred option, note that the the employing family is liable to pay social security for them, which can prove to be expensive.
Au pairs are more popular than nannies, particularly where there are two or more young children and both parents work. The au pair agency will normally take responsibility for checking references and language proficiency.
Babysitters may be useful for evenings and shorter periods of time on an ad-hoc basis. Most neighbourhood magazines and local supermarket notice boards will have babysitter ads. You can also check with local schools or neighbour organizations for babysitter recommendations. Most Dutch teenagers speak English well so communication should not prove an issue with small children. Hourly rates vary and more is usually paid if the babysitter is required to stay after midnight.
Preschools and playgroups (Peuterspeelzaal/Peutergroep)
Preschools and playgroups are commonly linked to a primary school. The emphasis is on preparing children between 2.5-4 years for elementary school (which they begin at 5 years of age). Preschool children are supervised by professional teachers and it is common for a child to attend multiple sessions per week (which usually last 3-4 hours). Some nurseries/preschools only accept toilet-trained children and most will be Dutch-speaking. However, there are English-language playgroups available particularly in and around larger cities like Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam. Your local gemeente should be able to provide more details.
There is quite a lot of flexibility for children to attend day care centres full-time or part-time, especially if both parents work. These centres accept children from 6 weeks up to 4 years of age. Qualified caregivers take care of the children, supervising play, feeding them and allowing a nap if required.
Two changes were introduced in 2018 to improve the quality of Dutch childcare. The first reduced the maximum number of children per caregiver from 4 to 3 to allow more attention to be paid to each child’s development. Caregivers must also pass a Dutch language proficiency exam to ensure they meet the minimum language requirement.
The second change, effective 1st march 2018, established a national registry of childcare professionals. All daycare, after-school care and host family caregivers must now be registered in the database to help more efficiently identify problem individuals.
Because demand is high and places limited, it is recommended to register a child at multiple daycare centers. Most centers operate Monday to Friday from 08:00-18:00.
Privately-run childcare centers are more expensive but usually have shorter waiting lists.
Host parents (gastouderopvang)
Host parents will take children from 6 weeks of age to 12 years and there can be a good deal of flexibility regarding hours of care provided. An agency will usually mediate between the client and host parent. The agency may also provide toys, a bed or playpen and other equipment for very young children.
More information on the Dutch government childcare allowance