Au pair or early childhood education centre – what is best for you?

Finding the perfect childcare solution for your family can be really difficult. Your family’s requirements are unique and there are a number of different childcare solutions available.

Find out the key differences between hosting an au pair, and using an Early Childhood Centre (ECE).

Expecting the unexpected

If there is one parenting constant, it’s that nothing is constant! Kids’ appointments, work requirements, cold’s and flu’s, medical appointments, school camps, committee meetings… the list just goes on. It’s a rare week that has no additional things to add in to the usual schedule.

Catering for constant change requires flexibility and having an au pair living with you in your home gives you this. You are not tied to a fixed start and finish time for your childcare – the au pair is right there with you in your home, literally holding the baby(s) and helping you balance everything and keep everyone calm.

Catering for cost

The cost of childcare can be a significant part of a household budget. The government funds 20 hours free ECE (for children aged 3, 4 or 5) for licensed ECE services and there is also a means tested 10 hours childcare subsidy available also.

Many host families of au pairs find that it is actually cheaper than using an ECE, especially if you have more than one child. If you host an au pair through agency such as Au Pair Link, they will be able to organise to receive the 20 hours ECE, OSCAR or childcare subsidies that you are eligible for.

Bugs, flu’s and viruses

At times, especially during winter, it can feel as if bugs and viruses are a constant. At any given time one or more of your children can be sick – or contagious and therefore attendance at an ECE is not advisable. The flexibility of having an au pair living with you means sick children can stay at home in bed or having a quiet day. And if you are sick, so can you!

Familiarity and socialisation

Kids love routine and familiarity. Most ECE’s have a regular daily and weekly routine that the children get to know, and there are continual opportunities for social interaction. It is possible there may be regular staff changes and children starting or leaving that ECE Centre. This is unsettling for some children. In comparison, being based at home with an au pair means fewer changes and potentially less stress.

Au Pair Link take all of their au pairs on a three day orientation where they learn child first aid (through St John), theoretical driving lessons, culture shock, along with childhood education and behaviour management strategies. They provide playgroups, exclusive outings, education resources and organise au pair trips away too! Your family will be allocated your own qualified ECE teacher who will meet with you, your children and your au pair on a monthly basis to ensure everything is going well. They will be on-hand 24/7 for guidance and support.

They help with settling your au pair into the New Zealand way of life, provide you with support and mediation. They can help place another au pair with you should your first choice not work out.

author robynWritten by Robyn for Au Pair Link

Robyn creates content on Kidspot NZ. Her hobbies include buying cleaning products and wondering why things don’t then clean themselves, eating cheese scones with her friends, and taking her kids to appointments. 

Favourite motto to live by: “This too will pass.”


  1. candyjanenz 03/08/2019 at 4:21 pm

    An Au Pair sounds great as they can stay at home when your children are sick or tired and also go out and do activities with them too. I may need to look into the costs with our third child as it may not work out to be too expensive in relation to kindy/childcare.

  2. Alezandra 02/08/2019 at 10:49 pm

    I’ve never really considered an Au Pair as I thought it would be expensive. My son goes to Kindy and the thing that I dread the bugs that viruses that will transfer around. I wasn’t sure till we did our kindy visits and the first one we visited, it felt like a perfect fit. We were attending Playcentre prior and was looking for something as close to it.

  3. MuddledUpMolly 30/07/2019 at 9:51 pm

    I do like the idea of an au pair but only feel that it would work for us if I was also working fulltime, which I don’t want to be while we have young children. I am a big fan of ECE being a trained ECE teacher myself, particularly for the social aspect. Our two year old daughter loves her preschool friends and teachers 🙂

  4. SarahBlair 22/07/2019 at 4:57 pm

    I can see the benefits of both but as a stay at home mum kindergarten worked really well for me as it gave me that time at home alone to get things done and to save my sanity! My sister is a single mum of two and was studying full time and had an Au Pair, she worked out fantastically and gave my sister the piece of mind that her kids were at home and safe, she had no stress if she was running late and always had a meal waiting for her after late nights at the library or doing work experience. Also being single she had someone to talk to in the evenings. She became close friends with her Au Pair and they are still in contact after the Au Pair returned home to Germany.

  5. Shorrty4life1 18/07/2019 at 8:15 pm

    Both My children went to preschool centres then at 3 they went to kindergarten. They absolutely loved making wee friends. I reckon au pair is a great idea so busy hard working families. I think it’s great idea for children who get sick too coz they are always there no matter what and I like that the government subsidies 20hrs ece hours which is great.

  6. Micht 17/07/2019 at 1:23 am

    We have found that the standards that the ECE centre we use abide by are very high and they adhere to them quite rigidly… we prefer it in that they are accountable for what they do and how they care… of course there are ECE centres that dont and this can pose a threat to the wellbeing of the child… as for having an au pair i think it can be helpful to have someone available always but also a bit intrusive or uncomfortable for me…. and possibly her too.. each to his own i guess but not for me.

  7. Mands1980 16/07/2019 at 7:47 am

    I would have liked to have an au pair but at the time we worked it out and couldn’t afford to do it I wound have to be working a lot of hours to cover the wages. I think it is a great idea though family members have had them and the kids love all the fun things they do with them as well as a life long friendship. I just put mine into preschool and Playcentre but if you can get an au pair I’d say do it it’s makes things so much easier.

  8. Bevik1971 12/07/2019 at 10:29 am

    I worked full time as a single parent with my son 25 years ago (say what?!) and he was in full time early childhood care from about 3 months of age. I did this as at that time I needed the money, but wouldn’t like to do it again. My now 6 year old daughter had her Dad as stay at home Dad from 6 months when I went back to work which has been great (and cheaper!!). There is the one wage thing, however I still think worth it. I would consider an Au Pair however.

  9. Jen_Wiig 08/07/2019 at 10:17 pm

    I really like the idea of an Au Pair, I like that it’s the one constant person in the environment where the child or children is familiar and availability to suit you as a family rather than trying to juggle things around Lindy’s, schools and jobs.
    I’ve always thought though that you had to be quite well off for an Au Pair, but perhaps that’s a myth or maybe they were one but not so much now.
    One of the mind at my son’s kindy has an Au Pair and she’s young fresh faced funky cool chick….deff not what I had imagined and that made it all the more awesome to me …think I’d imagined a Mrs doubtfire or nanny McPhee type hahaa.
    Certainly something I’d look into if ever needed for my three boys vs after school care or baby sitter.

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