Kindergarten – What Kindergartens are Like

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In almost every suburb in NZ there is at least one kindergarten run by a kindergarten association.

What is a kindergarten?

Kindergartens are defined as education and care centres under the Early Childhood Service Regulations.

But this was not always the case and you or your parents may remember the old model of a free kindergarten when it had its own separate identity, set of regulations (the Free Kindergarten Regulations 1959) and was free to all families regardless of ability to pay. Kindergartens provided morning and afternoon sessions of pre-school education to children in the year or two only before they started school. Children went home at lunchtime and kindergartens did not operate during school holidays. Parents were asked to ‘parent-help’ at least once a term, and this usually involved attending one or couple of sessions and being an assistant to the teachers. But today, regional kindergartens associations charge fees, set their own hours, can be licensed to care for infants and toddlers as well over three-year-olds, are not required to provide parents education learning within the programme, and do not ask parents to participate or help out in the programme.


Most kindergartens have some structure to the day for children including eating times and mat time, but otherwise children usually engage in free play supervised and supported by teachers.

Parents can be involved in fundraising and committee work if they wish, but kindergarten finances and operating decisions are generally made higher up at the regional Association level.

A kindergarten may advertise that it has 100% qualified teachers but check that these teachers are all trained for teaching young children and not school aged children. Also check that unqualified teachers aren’t employed to fill in for teachers during their tea and lunch breaks, when taking non-contact time, when sick, when taking courses, and when on holiday and annual leave.

The government funds Kindergarten Associations to provide all its teachers with full pay parity with primary school teachers. So, you will find that compared with other education and care centres, the teachers who work for a Kindergarten Association are likely to hang on to their kindy teaching position and not change to working for another education and care centre. The kindergarten you attended as a child, may have a teacher who was also your teacher when you were a child, which is lovely for your family to have a sense of belonging.

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