There are many different types of early childhood services. When you are choosing a service for your child you will find:
A key difference, that may affect your decision, is how much involvement services expect of parents and whānau.
The main types of early childhood education services are described below. 
In teacher-led services paid staff have the main responsibility for children’s education and care. Parents are often encouraged to support the educators through involvement in the learning programme.
Kindergartens employ qualified and registered teachers. They have a variety of sessional structures, most have morning and afternoon sessions, but others provide extended sessions or all day education and care. Most kindergartens cater for children aged between two-and-a-half and five years.
Kindergartens are chartered and licensed. The regional kindergarten association employs the teachers, manages funding, property and the allocation of resources. Local (parent/whānau) committees support teachers in each kindergarten, and raise local funds and resources to support the kindergarten. Parents are also asked for financial donations.
Although the paid teachers have responsibility for the programme, parents/whānau are encouraged to participate in programmes, talk with staff, ask questions and offer information about their child. You could also be involved in the local kindergarten committee or regional association, if you wish.
Homebased and family day-care services provide babies and young children with early childhood education either in the child’s own home or in the home of an adult educator. This may be all-day or part-day education and care.
Homebased services provide learning opportunities for children in small groups within homelike surroundings. Some homebased care networks also operate playgroups, so that educators and children can have regular social and educational contact. Some children may attend other early childhood services as well as the homebased care service.
Homebased care services are managed by chartered homebased care network organisations. Parents are usually charged fees for their child’s attendance.
Qualified and registered teachers are employed as coordinators to support the educators within each network. Communication between parents/whānau and educators is an important feature of these services. Educators are offered training opportunities to improve their understanding and knowledge of how children learn. The homebased network coordinator visits each home regularly to check on children’s safety, wellbeing and learning.
All centre-based services other than playcentres, kōhanga reo and kindergartens are known as education and care centres. They include:
The person responsible for operating an education and care service must be a qualified and registered teacher. There should also be enough other educators with a range of qualifications and experience to ensure a safe learning environment for children.
Parents/whānau usually pay fees for their child to attend education and care services. Parents are sometimes involved in the management of the centre. The extent and manner of parent participation in the programme depends on the choice of service. In all types of education and care service parents should be encouraged to talk to educators, ask questions and offer information about their child.
In parent-led services it is the parents of the children who are the main educators or teachers. Sometimes there may also be a paid teacher, supervisor or kaiako to support the parents in understanding children’s learning and development.
Playcentres are parent cooperatives. The families/whānau of children attending are responsible for how the centres are managed and operated. Parents become members of their playcentre and most pay low fees to attend. Generally playcentres are chartered and licensed although some may operate as parent-led playgroups.
The regional playcentre association, which belongs to the New Zealand Playcentre Federation, supports local centres through provision of administration and parent education services.
In general, parents/whānau are responsible for running the sessions, and are expected to participate regularly with their child. Sometimes there is also a trained supervisor.
As well as providing early childhood programmes for children, playcentres provide educational programmes for parents/whānau to learn alongside their children. These programmes increase parents’ understanding of how children learn and develop, and can lead to playcentre and early childhood qualifications.
Kōhanga reo are whānau cooperatives where the families are responsible for the overall management of the centres. The aim of the programme is to foster young children’s and parent’s knowledge of te reo Māori (language) and tïkanga Māori (culture).
Kōhanga reo are chartered through the umbrella organisation, Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust. The Trust is responsible for the quality and revitalisation of the Māori language. Through the Trust, kōhanga reo offer whānau training programmes and teacher training for kaiako (educators).
In kōhanga reo, the parents/whānau are closely involved in the total immersion learning and development programmes. Te reo Māori is the main language used. Parents join in the daily programme and participate in whānau-based learning. Whānau contribute to the kōhanga reo through koha and/or paying fees, depending on their circumstances.
Playgroups are licence-exempt services where parents attend with their children and provide the play programme. Playgroups cannot operate for longer than three hours a day, and at least half the children attending must have a parent or caregiver stay with them throughout that time. The Ministry of Education (the Ministry) funds playgroups to assist with equipment and hall hire. The Ministry also gives information and training so that a suitable range of activities is provided for children. Sometimes these groups evolve into fully licensed and chartered early childhood services.
Parents and whānau run the sessions in these playgroups, which provide learning programmes in both te reo Māori and English. They aim to develop whānau and children’s knowledge of te reo Māori and tikanga. As with other playgroups, the Ministry of Education helps with support and training. Parents may be asked for koha or a donation.
These playgroups are often church or community based, and parents help run the sessions. They aim to develop young children’s knowledge of their own Pasefika language and culture from countries such as Samoa, Tonga, Cook Islands, Niue, Tokelau, Tuvalu and Fiji. The learning programmes may be in both Pasefika and English, or in the Pasefika language only. Parents may be asked for a donation to support these groups