Daycare in France

Life in France: A guide to daycare

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There are many preschool and daycare centers in France but it can be difficult to find an open spot, especially in Paris. Here's a guide to finding daycare in France for your child.

France has a generous supply of pre-school and daycare centers but it can still be challenging to find an open spot, especially in childcare centres in Paris. How can you find a daycare centre and successfully put your child into the childcare system in France?

Parents can send their babies to both publicly and privately run nurseries, called crèches, as soon as the child is three months old (the end of the average maternity leave).

French public nurseries and daycare centres are funded by local and regional authorities and by means-tested parental fees. Most are open 11 hours a day and close only for one month over the summer period, as well as on public holidays.

All public and private nursery staff must meet strict standards of training, and are required to hold a childcare diploma. For information on the crèches or haltes garderies in your area, consult your local town hall, mairie.

All French cities and towns offer this service but small, rural localities may have a limited number of places and in big cities, demand often outstrips availability. No matter where you live, you are strongly advised to put your name down in advance. This is sometimes the first thing a French family does as soon as they find out they are expecting a child.

Alternative daycare options for babies and toddlers

For babies or for after-school care for older children, there is also a system of qualified nannies, assistantes maternelles, who are paid to either look after children either on their own premises or at your home; they are allowed to take a maximum of five children at one time.

An assistante maternelle holds a state childcare diploma and is subject to regular inspections. You can find a list of qualified nannies from your mairie.

There is also a system of crèches parentales, which are nurseries run by parent associations. These nurseries, which employ qualified assistantes maternelles, are licensed by the mairie; check there for details of the one nearest you.

The crèches parentales  are non-profit; parents pay an equal share of the costs, often provide food and equipment, and take an active role in nursery management.

The common French word for nanny is nourrice; a person advertising services as a nourrice is always not the same thing as a state-qualified assistante maternelle.

Because of the stiff competition for qualified daycare, many parents end up hiring a private nanny. There are many agencies in Paris and other large cities to you help you locate one; some even specialise in finding bilingual childcare givers.

Hiring a nanny privately is also perfectly legal as long as the person is a legal resident and the employer pays all associated social-security charges; any paid work over five hours per week is subject to these charges.

To make this easier, the government has created the chèque emploi service, which both simplifies the process and returns nearly all of these charges in the form of tax deductions.

To sign up, obtain the forms from your bank, the post office, or from the local treasury office, comptable du trésor. Once the account is established that will be used to debit the social-security charges, you can contact your local URSFF office (see Social security system) to identify yourself as an employer. This can also be done online.

Nurseries in France (ecole maternelle)

Children in France can begin public nursery school, or école maternelle, as early as two years old presuming the child is completely potty-trained.

Here again, school is not mandatory until age six and while the maternelles are state-funded, they do not guarantee placement. Register your child early to guarantee their place.

The school-day here includes three hours in the morning and three in the evening; parents are allowed to pick up their children for the lunch break, which is often two hours long.

It is common for schools to offer both a lunch service and a childcare service, service de puériculture, on the premises both before and after school and during school breaks; while the schooling itself is free, you pay for these additional services. Fees are usually means-based and quite reasonable.

The maternelle is not merely daycare; they teach a state-mandated curriculum and children who miss these years of preparation may be at a disadvantage when they start primary school at age six.

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3 Comments To This Article

  • Wendy posted:

    on 16th September 2015, 22:27:00 - Reply

    It's indeed difficult to find a daycare spot in Paris. However, a classic French way is to employ a nanny at home, most of the time sharing the nanny with another family ("garde partage"). The nanny can work up to 50 hours a week, and it's cheaper than daycare (depending on your revenue of course).

    However, that means you have to be the employer, and that's where the nightmare begins... You can find some sort of agencies that directly employ the nannies, but from my own experience they send under-qualified and ill-fitting ones. I bet they don't use their service for their own kids :)

    In the end, I chose to be the employer so I can have a healthier relationship with my nanny, but I'm outsourcing all the paperwork, the monthly ones and the "special" ones, sick days, etc, to an agency (amalthea nounou).

  • AnnSo posted:

    on 10th September 2014, 14:23:27 - Reply

    Finding a spot in French daycare is difficult. Revenues play a large part, and knowing somebody (politicians etc...) as well. Some friends used to call them every day to get a spot.
    Many daycare centres would close at 6:30pm or 7pm. If you arrive late, your baby will be waiting for you at the police station (yep, truly, it happened to some friends of mine)
    You don't call a nanny a nourrice, my god! This is so outdated. Nounou is the right word. and the paperwork involved is incredible. You need to register at some organisms because you will become an employer and do not even think of not declaring this to the tax office otherwise you will have problems.
    his may help:
    Note that you can also have a nanny at home and share with other parents:

  • Baptiste Placé posted:

    on 29th November 2012, 19:07:18 - Reply

    Finding a nearby crèche is quite easy with this site :

    Getting a slot is the hard part, every crèche in France is always full. General advice is to contact a crèche six months before birth and register for a slot. It's wise to get in touch with several crèches before registering with one.

    Few steps will be required then, before getting the slot, including a meeting with the manager of the crèche. Good luck !