This in-depth guide answers questions about which type of childcare you can afford and meets your time needs, as well as if any child allowances are available in the Netherlands.
Kinderopvang is the general description for all forms of childcare in the Netherlands. Many types of childcare exist, from subsidized to private childcare to hiring in your own home. One of the challenges many parents face after having a child is going back to work. Whether full-time or part-time, leaving your child with a daycare, childminder, or a nanny takes some getting used to.
When childcare is needed, going back to work also brings financial obligations with it. This in-depth guide takes a look at the different childcare options and costs in the Netherlands, including information on:
- regulations for applicable childcare, and related tax benefits
- how to find and choose the right type of childcare for you
- guidelines for hiring each type of childcare.
Start looking for a good daycare center or childcare option before you need it because there are long waiting lists. You should start looking when you’re pregnant or when you are on maternity leave. Put your name on as many lists as possible so you can be more likely to secure care. To take a look at the wider education system in the Netherlands; read Expatica’s guide to education in the Netherlands. Our guide to childcare in the Netherlands provides an overview of the childcare system in the Netherlands, while the guide below answers some more in-depth questions to help you choose the best type of childcare in the Netherlands for your young children.
Claiming your Childcare Tax Credit
As a working or studying Dutch resident, you can be eligible for childcare Tax Credit if you use registered childcare. The lower your income, the more tax credits you can get. The average hourly rebate for one child ranges from €6.38 to €6.84 depending on the type of care. As of 2014, income limits no longer apply. If you read Dutch you can calculate the estimated childcare cost on www.toeslagen.nl. When visiting the website select ‘kinderopvangtoeslag‘. You can read more about child benefits in Expatica’s guide to Dutch childcare.
The amount of financial assistance you can receive will depend on:
- your income
- the number of childcare hours per child
- the number of children
- the type of child care you use
- the maximum hours of care.
You can claim a maximum of 230 hours per child per month. You can contact the Belastingdienst service line (BelastingTelefoon) at 0800 0543. The helpdesk officers at the Belastingdienst only speak Dutch, however, most employees will be happy to assist you in English. Make sure you have your citizen service number (burgerservicenummer) on hand.
Daycare and childcare centers (Kinderdagverblijf): zero to three years old
Kinderdagverblijf is full-time daycare for working parents with children from infant to three years of age. The general opening hours of the centers are between 8:00 and 18:00, five days per week. All staff are accredited and experienced in early childhood education.
The benefits of daycare
Daycare centers are licensed with the state which means they follow a list of rules and regulations, including health and safety. Daycare centers have development programs, lesson plans, and schedules. Kids thrive on routine and structure and high-quality Dutch daycare provides a healthy balance of structured time and plenty of unstructured time, too.
Kids also learn how to socialize and share with other children, and acclimatize to being away from you for a small period of the day. The transition from home to school is less difficult for kids who have experienced daycare.
Disadvantages of daycare
> Your child keeps getting sick
Contact with other children can make it easier to catch bugs, such as colds, coughs, and other things. Look to see how your daycare center keeps things clean. It’s also important to keep sick children home to stop things spreading to other children, staff, and parents.
> Daycare drop-off
Working parents face significant challenges during daycare drop-offs. You can take the stress out of things by planning ahead. If your baby goes to daycare, in advance, pack a bag of diapers, pick out an outfit and extra clothes, choose a favorite toy or blanket and take a breastfeeding plan or bottle. Wake your child early and don’t rush in the morning; calculate the time you need then add 30 minutes. Arrive early so you have time to stick around for a few minutes.
> Daycare pick-up
Pick-up time at daycare can be chaotic and rushed for working parents. Demanding jobs with long hours can lead to rushing to get to daycare on time. Due to work commitments, some parents divide responsibilities so one parent does drop-off and the other pick-up. If you work shifts or have an unpredictable schedule, you can easily find on-call babysitters who can watch the kids until you get home.
Peuterspeelzaal: two to four years
Peuterspeelzaal translates as preschool playgroup and is an option for your child if you aren’t wanting full daycare. Most children at the centers are between the age of two and four years. The sessions are generally half days (three to four hours), with a minimum of two days per week. The schools are better suited for parents wanting to give their children an opportunity to socialize with other children.
Read more on how preschool is structured and what to expect in Expatica”s guide to preschool in the Netherlands.
Voorschool: two and a half to six years
Voorschool translates as ‘before school’ and is for children from two and a half to six years old, up until the child starts school formally. It is generally attached to a school, and the students can move into the same school environment after completion.
Childcare for after school hours: four to 12 years
Naschoolse and Buitenschoolse Opvang are organizations that take care of children ages four to 12, after school hours and during holidays.
They are open full days during the school term and are also available during school holidays. Your child’s school can help you locate local ones.
In the Netherlands these carers are called gastouders. Registered childminders look after children in their home or at the parents’ home. Childminders can care for up to six children from infant age to 13 years, including their own children up to the age of 10. Registered childminders must have a Level 2 certificate in an ‘introduction to early years education and care’, a Certificate of Good Conduct, liability insurance and a valid first aid certificate. Childminders must be registered with a childminding agency also known as gastouderbureau.
Rules for choosing a childminder or registering to become one
Childminders and childminder agencies are regulated and inspected so this is some assurance of your child’s safety. Most childminding agencies also set up an interview with one or more candidates before hiring.
Inspectors of the Municipal Health Service (Gemeentelijke Gezondheidsdienst, GGD) interview childminders to check they are suitable to provide childcare and make a range of safety checks. The childminders must show the inspectors that they have their Level 2, first aid and good conduct certificates, and an ID. A copy of the report is sent to the childminder, and an inspector may arrive unannounced from time to time to do an inspection; you can expect to see the childminder paperwork beforehand.
Strict regulations create some restrctions to childminding care:
- Childminders cannot work more than three days per week at the parents’ home; parents seeking a full-time childminder in their home might have to settle for another alternate form of care, such as a nanny or au pair.
- Childminders cannot offer childcare until the Municipal Health Service has registered them in the National Childcare and Playgroup Register (LRKP); the Municipal Health Service needs at least 10 weeks to process the request but with luck registration can be completed starting from four weeks. This type of childcare is not the best fit for parents seeking a childminder on short notice, such as a babysitter or other type of care.
There are some benefits to hiring a registered childminder, including tax rebates:
- Childcare Tax Credit – you could be eligible for help with childcare costs in the form of tax credits. If you hire childcare provided by a registered or approved childcarer, then you are eligible for a tax credit. The actual amount you get depends on your income. The lower your income, the more tax credits you receive.
You could be fined if you provide false information that means you received more childcare allowance than you were entitled to. Thus it is important to inform the childminding agency as soon as your childcare needs change, for example, a change in your work or salary, to ensure you receive the correct amount. Otherwise the tax office may impose a penalty and make you pay back overpaid benefits.
Childminding charges: Registering or hiring?
Any childminder’s address must register in the LRKP, and you can check it as a reference. If the childminder changes their location, they must apply for another registration for their new location. Parents pay the registration fees if the childminder takes care of the children in their own home, such as an au pair, while the childminder pays the registration fees if they offer childcare in their own home. After many complaints, the registration fee decreased from €759 to €463.80. Registration fees do not apply in Aalten, Alkmaar, Apeldoorn, Soest, and Uithoorn.
Childminders looking after children in the parents’ home are protected by Dutch regulation ‘Dienstverlening aan huis‘. Therefore childminders must be paid a minimum wage of €10 per hour and 8% holiday pay. The childminder is entitled to vacation pay and a maximum of six weeks of sick leave.
The childminder registers their work hours via the agency online portal and the childminding agency pays the childminder every month by bank transfer. Some childminders choose self-employment and their hourly rate is significantly higher. Childminding agencies’ monthly charges are generally €56 for one child, €93 for two children, and €123 for three children. Other agencies charge a fixed monthly fee of around €25–30 per family. These fees cover their ongoing support, input, and administration time.
Hiring someone at home: nannies, babysitters and other private caregivers
A babysitter can work either on-spot hire (for specific occasions, for example) or on a regular schedule. A babysitter can be available to pick-up or drop-off your children at school. The sitter can work during the day, evenings, weekdays, or weekends.
Nannies and private carers: in-house or external
A nanny is a professional caregiver who works in the family home, caring for children on a full-time or part-time basis. Nannies can do everything from planning educational activities to providing discipline when necessary. They are actively involved with the children they care for day in and day out.
A nanny’s responsibilities can include caring for a child’s physical needs, organising play activities, meal planning and preparation, behaviour management, assistance in learning new skills, and any housekeeping responsibilities that are primarily child-related. Nannies can also help transport children to classes, preschool, routine medical appointments, haircuts and so on. Positions range from 10–40 hours per week, and nannies typically charge on an hourly basis.
Nannies and babysitters are usually between the age of 15–55 but not all need to hold qualifications to provide childcare. The caregiver can be a sibling, a next-door neighbor, a student, or a childcare worker wanting to make some extra money. Parents sometimes pay these caregivers in ‘cash’ arrangements after taking care of their children for a few hours. An average hourly rate is €8 to €10.
If hiring more full-time care, paying cash in hand could create long-term difficulties for your caregiver, such as for claiming statutory rights, and mortgage and loan applications.
Depending on your care needs you may require a nanny to live-in or live-out, depending on space in your house.
A live-in nanny requires their own accommodation and should get some privacy and time off. A live-in nanny works best when you have a large house, ideally with separate quarters.
A live-out nanny comes into your home and leaves at the end of the day, without living in the household. The nanny can have a set schedule during the week and sometimes on the weekends.
What a nanny can and can’t do
During the interview some parents ask caregivers if they are willing to perform housekeeping duties for the same hourly wage. A common misconception is that light housework duties means cleaning the house. Light housekeeping typically means cooking, grocery shopping, kid laundry, loading and empting the dishwasher, cleaning up after the children and organising the children’s closets. Nannies do not do the parent’s laundry, clean the bathrooms, mop the floors, dust the furniture or polish the silver. You can hire a housekeeper to assist you with general domestic tasks.
Disagreement about wages is a standard reason why people part ways. Nannies want fair payment for their work. Nannies who feel underpaid and unappreciated will usually look for a new job. However, it is worth making an effort to keep your nanny because your child will be happier and more confident with stability.
Advantages of in-house care
Scheduling with your nanny can be more flexible than with a daycare center. If an important meeting pops up at work, for example, you’ll have better luck negotiating with your nanny than you would with a center that closes at the same time every day. With nanny care, your child is in familiar home surroundings, and they can nap and eat on their own schedule. Plus, there’s fewer germs and less sickness as a result.
Finding private childcare
You can begin your search by asking friends and family for recommendations, searching online – nanny websites can charge anything from €10 a month, €70 for three months or €36 for a year – or by registering with a nanny placement agency. Nanny-finding websites have a database of nannies and babysitters. You can post a job and get access to caregivers’ profiles that include a description of experience, a photo, and availability.
If you find a nanny through an agency, the fee will typically be 10 to 20 percent of the nanny’s annual salary. Some agencies offer different childcare packages for fixed annual placement fees. A nanny’s salary is typically between €17,000 and €50,000 per year, depending on whether she lives in your home, on the nanny’s experience, the number of children, the job requirements, and how many hours per week of work.
An agency can cut 20-plus hours of effort out of the hiring process, by covering the process of finding and screening candidates, and they guide parents during the hiring process and offer support after placement. Recruiting a qualified nanny can take up to three months, and only one in 12 applicants successfully complete the recruiting process.
Hiring an au pair in the Netherlands
Au pairs are generally young internationals who come for a year to live with a family and take care of the children, while learning another language and the culture of a foreign country. In the Netherlands, the au pair age requirement ranges from 18 to 30, and a range of other regulations exists for both the hiring family and the au pair.
What au pairs can and can’t do
The au pair’s primary responsibilty is to help you look after your children. You may ask the au pair to help out with household chores as part of their duties (see more detail in ‘nanny’ section), but these should only be light household chores, as their responsibilty is childcare not the house.
In exchange, you must provide free board and lodging throughout their entire stay with your family. The au pair’s schedule must provide sufficient time to attend language school, and the au pair must receive two free days each week and should be offered one full weekend off per month.
Au pairs can be on duty for up to 30 hours per week, which can include three nights of babysitting, as part of the regular working hours. These hours can spread out over five days per week. Au pairs should not work a second job.
The host family should ensure the au pair has two free weekends per month. The free weekend starts on Friday evening and ends on Monday morning. Every au pair gets two weeks’ vacation for each 12 month exchange. Accompanying the host family on their holiday does not count as an au pair holiday.
The host family must consist of a minimum two family members who have financial income to support the au pair.
The host family must register the au pair as a resident at their address.
Household checklist and configurations:
- You must show financial income to support the au pair.
- The au pair must have their own private room with a window that opens.
- The au pair should have their own bathroom or share a bathroom with the children.
- The room should lock, have furnishings, and heating.
- The host family should provide the au pair with a good bed, a chair, and a desk.
- You might consider putting a computer or a laptop with access to internet, TV, and radio.
- The au pair should have free access to food and drink in the home and share meals with the host family.
Costs: some requirements and courtesies
- The host family is responsible for the visa application: a residence permit for the au pair, and the family must also pay the related costs.
- The host family must ensure that the au pair is insured for the full duration of their stay and the family pays for the return journey of the au pair.
- The au pair is responsible for all personal items such as toiletries and hair care items.
- Au pairs receive between €300 and €340 pocket money per month.
- The host family must provide the au pair with a bike and a mobile phone (prepaid). The first phone card (€50) should be paid by the family.
- The host family is responsible for paying the au pair’s Dutch classes, up to a maximum of €300 including VAT.
Benefits of hiring an au pair
An au pair is a flexible individual who can be a pleasant addition to your household. Your family gets exposure to a new culture; your kids can even learn a new language. If you go through a reputable au pair agency, you can ask if they’ve been trained according to any agency program. Families who need more privacy will ultimate need a big house big to accommodate an au pair.
A good au pair agency will be a member of either the International Au Pair Association (IAPA) or the Recruitment the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC); you can check their websites to find registered agencies in your area.