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Last update on March 12, 2019

Expat parents in the Netherlands can register pre-school age children with an international daycare centre where they can benefit from early learning in a multicultural environment.

With many parents in the Netherlands working full- or part-time, childcare is a necessity. International daycare centres give expats the chance to place their children in a setting where they can mix with children from both their own country and other cultures.

Ileen Purperhart, director of Hestia Kinderopvang (who run three early learning centres in Amsterdam and Amstelveen), explains what you can expect from international daycares in the Netherlands, and how to apply.

Hestia Kinderopvang

Hestia Kinderopvang provides high quality day and after-school care in Amsterdam and Amstelveen, where children learn to speak both English and Dutch. Their highly experienced teachers come from many different backgrounds and countries, which enhances the international learning experience for children.

International daycare centres in the Netherlands

Pre-school childcare is popular in the Netherlands, with the Dutch topping EU tables in terms of percentage of children accessing childcare. Daycare centres (kinderdagverblijf) are one of the most common forms of childcare, offering working parents professional care and learning for children aged 0-4 years.

Daycare in the Netherlands is available at the centres for up to 10 hours per day (usually 0800-1800 hours), five days per week. Children get to play and learn in a safe environment and will usually be provided with a (hot) meal, drinks and snacks.

For expat residents, there is the option of international daycare in the Netherlands. These centres have English-speaking and multilingual staff, run multicultural activities, and offer places to children of residents from all nationalities.

Hestia Kinderopvang opened the first bilingual daycare centre in the Netherlands. “We are an international centre offering both pre-school and after-school care to children up to the age of twelve” says Ileen. “We take children from all over the world. Our Amsterdam location alone has children from 25 different nationalities.”

What does daycare in the Netherlands consist of?

“Daycare in the Netherlands is a healthy mix of fun, learning and interaction”, says Ileen. “The emphasis is on helping the child develop in a way that doesn’t disrupt their development at home.” Programmes offered by international daycare centres in the Netherlands will vary between institutions, but will usually consist of:

  • Creative activities where children engage in art, music, dancing, etc.
  • Indoor and outdoor play
  • Language development through reading and communication
  • Social development through interaction in a diverse, multicultural environment
  • Provision of healthy meals and snacks for nutritional development

Baby playing with mum

Says Ileen: “At Hestia, art, culture and nature are very important. We view culture in its broadest sense – how we live together, celebrate diversity and accept difference. Children get involved with everything from painting to cooking, and every child gets to see Rembrandt’s Night Watch at the Rijksmuseum before their fourth birthday.”

Development of language skills at international daycare centres

Although some international daycare centres in the Netherlands provide only English-speaking services, others offer bilingual classes in Dutch and English. There are a few schools, including Hestia, that offer a fully bilingual program.

Learning in both languages means that children of English-speaking residents that speak little or no Dutch can develop the language skills of their host country alongside those of their native language.

Hestia Kinderopvang offers its activities in both Dutch and English. Dutch teachers speak only Dutch and English teachers speak only English. Children also learn songs in the native languages of international pupils.

“Our approach is that children have a natural capacity to learn multiple languages from birth, so we try to harness that” explains Ileen. “It’s all about getting the children to interact with one another. For children whose native language is neither Dutch nor English, we ask parents for specific words in their own language. We also use songs and sign language to enhance communication.”

How children are prepared for school years

International childcare in the Netherlands doesn’t provide a formal education for pre-school age children, but there is still a strong emphasis on preparation for primary school at the age of four. Children’s social and creative development takes place alongside monitoring to make sure that they are ready for transition to the “big school”.

baby playing

“It’s a common question asked by parents – ‘will my child be affected due to the number of languages spoken?’” says Ileen. “We check that the language capabilities of all children are good enough for Dutch schools. Our children are assessed and there are milestones they have to reach at each year of their development.”

How to apply for a place at a daycare centre

Due to the popularity of childcare in the Netherlands, there can be long waiting lists at international daycare centres and it’s recommended to apply for a place as early as possible. Most centres will offer tours for parents so they can visit the site before making a decision, but many also accept online applications, which is very practical if you haven’t arrived in the country yet.

You will need to provide personal details about yourself and your child, including languages spoken, along with details of which days you wish your child to attend. If there are no spots available at the time, children are placed on a waiting list until a suitable place opens up.

Costs of international daycare in the Netherlands

Daycare fees in the Netherlands vary and can be charged at hourly or daily rates. “The good news is that a large proportion of costs can usually be subsidised through childcare allowance”, says Ileen – including for expats if they have residency in the Netherlands.

The exact amount of childcare allowance you can claim will depend on factors such as income, number of hours worked, number of children receiving childcare, hours in childcare and the daycare’s fees. Parents can claim a maximum of 230 hours per month per child. Between 33-94% of a set hourly rate of €7.45 can be claimed. More information can be found on the Dutch Tax Administration website. You can calculate your entitlement using a benefits calculator (in Dutch).

Ileen Purperhart

Ileen Purperhart

After high school, Ileen Purperhart, who was born in Suriname, trained as an Early Years Educator. A few years ago she graduated in Business Administration at the VU in Amsterdam. After years of working as a teacher and head teacher, she transitioned to child care in 1993, managing day cares, play schools and after school care facilities. In 2003 she accidentally started her own company, Hestia Early Learning Centre, where she enjoys the constant challenge of innovating and improving child care – a real trendsetter!

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