Childcare Options-Canada

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Child Minding

Daycare Centre

  • This is the equivalent of a nursery in the UK.
  • It is a facility, usually run as a business (but occasionally run by a municipality or cooperative) that provides childcare for infants and pre-schoolers.
  • They typically operate from 6 am or 7 am till 6 pm, Monday to Friday.
  • They almost always accept children aged one to four. Often they accept children who are younger and older than that. It's quite common for a daycare centre to accept babies from the age of six weeks.
  • They are run by staff who have some sort of training in the care of children (requirements vary from province to province and municipality to municipality).
  • These facilities often provide breakfast, lunch, and after-school care for elementary school children (kindergarten to grade six, although kids probably only attend until about grade four or so).
    • However, daycare centres that cater to school-aged children are not housed in school buildings.
    • Daycare centres that care for school-aged children may be next door to, or within easy walking distance of, a school.
    • Some daycare centres offer a bus service that shuttles children between the daycare centre and the children's schools.
  • The disadvantage of this kind of facility is that you have to drive your child to and from it.
  • The advantages are:
    • If an individual childcare worker is off work owing to illness or whatever, there is continuity of care.
    • There is supervision, and the opportunities for abuse are fewer.

School Program

  • If they live within walking distance of school, Canadian school children are expected to walk home for lunch.
  • If the designated school is outside of walking distance and the child is bussed to school, the school provides free lunchtime supervision (but the child has to bring a packed lunch from home).
  • Sometimes a private operator rents space in a school and runs a program that supervises children before and after school and during lunchtime.
  • The operator of the program charges parents a fee.
  • In a program like this, the child often is expected to bring a packed lunch from home. (That is, the operator typically provides supervision, but not meals.)

Licensed Day Home

  • This is a private residence in which a parent, usually a mother, cares for a few pre-school children, along with her own children.
  • Usually the municipality imposes some minimum requirements for safety, etc., and conducts spot inspections.
  • Standards, frequency of inspections, etc., vary from one jurisdiction to another.
  • These places typically keep the same hours as daycare centres do, that is, they usually operate on weekdays only.

Nanny (live in or live out)

  • This is a more expensive option.
  • Nannies usually are employed by professional couples who, between them, have a fairly high income.
  • A nanny may be an affordable option, even for an "average" couple, if there are, say, three children in the family.
  • That is, if you have to multiply daycare fees by three, then a nanny may be competitive from a price point of view.
  • The advantage of a nanny is that you don't have to drive your children to her.
  • The disadvantage of a nanny is that your children are alone with her, and there is no supervision.


  • Sometimes people enter into relatively informal arrangements with their neighbours.
  • This is a fairly popular option for people who have kids in elementary school and are looking for someone to feed their kids at lunchtime and look after them in the afternoons, after school.
  • "Informal" means that the caregiver does get paid but, if he/she is looking after only a couple of school aged children, the safety and hygiene regulations usually are less onerous than those for licensed day homes and daycare centres.

Family Members

  • Sometimes people enter into even more informal arrangements with family members (grandparents and the like).
  • Expats, by definition, are less likely to have access to that kind of support.

Babysitting Clubs

  • Stay-at-home parents sometimes join babysitting clubs.
  • In these arrangements, parents take turns minding each others' children.
  • There are at least a couple of benefits:
    • It provides an opportunity for one's toddlers or pre-schoolers to play with other children.
    • It gives mum/mom a break so that she can get a haircut, go to the dentist, or whatever.
  • This kind of club usually has some sort of system for tracking "credits," so that one parent doesn't carry a disproportionate burden of the childminding duties.
  • A club like this usually operates on a barter system, and no money changes hands.

Activities for Children


  • There are a number of parent and tot playgroups.
  • They usually are inexpensive.
  • The modest fee pays for the rent of a suitably large space (a church basement or something along those lines).
  • The fee can be kept low because parents run the operation. Hence there is no staff to pay (or, at most, only one or two staff members).
  • A playgroup typically operates for half a day, once a week.
  • A playgroup organization that has many local chapters across Canada is Parents and Children Together (PACT).
  • There are some playgroups in which the members take turns hosting the get togethers in their own homes.

Pre-schools / Nursery Schools

  • Nursery schools provide an environment that is structured to prepare children for school.
  • Although it's all designed to be fun, children do start to learn that there are specific times for specific activities -- art projects, story reading time, etc.
  • A typical schedule for a three-year-old would be two mornings a week, and a typical schedule for a four-year-old would be three mornings a week.

Activities at Community Facilities

  • Public libraries, the YMCA, munipical swimming pools, etc., offer weekly activities for toddlers and pre-schoolers.
  • These activities take many forms -- swimming lessons, story reading time, etc.
  • Some of these activities, e.g., at the public library, may be free.
  • Sometimes there is a fee, e.g., in the case of swimming lessons.
  • However, municipalities typically charge fairly modest fees.

Summer Camps

  • Canadian kids are on vacation (holiday) for the whole of July and August.
  • There are many organizations that run summer camps during the summer vacation.
  • There are summer camps designed for kids with different interests (gymnastics, music, computers, this, that and the next thing).
  • There are also general-interest summer camps in which kids do a bit of everything (sports and other fun stuff).
  • There are many different kinds of organizations that run these kinds of camps -- YMCA, universities, colleges, churches, etc.
  • Most summer camps are day camps, but some of them are residential. In the case of a residential camp, the children will sleep at the camp for a week or two.

School Hours

  • This section on school hours is being added because it had become apparent on the BE forum that, even after reading the information about childcare options, British parents did not understand the time commitment that would be required of them in Canada.
  • Although school hours vary from one jurisdiction to another, the following times (Monday to Friday) are fairly common:
    • Morning session of school : 8.30 a.m. – 12 noon
    • Lunch break : 12 noon – 1.00 p.m.
    • Afternoon session of school : 1.00 p.m. – 3.00 p.m.
  • Please note that the above mentioned times are relevant to children from grade one to grade twelve (five years of age going on six until seventeen going on eighteen).
  • Children in kindergarten (four years of age going on five) typically attend school for half days only (say 8.30 a.m. to 11.30 a.m.).
  • Canadian schools do not provide lunch at all, much less a hot lunch.
  • Canadian schools do not arrange after-school sports activities. These are organized by local community groups, with volunteer coaches being drawn from the parents of the team members.
  • Schools occasionally are closed for professional days, when teachers attend training sessions.
  • Schools are closed for two months in July and August. They also are closed for a couple of weeks around Christmas - New Year and again for a couple of weeks in the spring.

Tax write-offs

  • You can deduct up to $7,000 in childcare expenses ($10,000 if the child is disabled) per child from your income in the following circumstances:
    • So that you can work as an employee.
    • So that you can run a business
    • So that you can attend school at a post-secondary level.
  • In the first two circumstances you can only deduct the childcare expenses from the income of the lower earning parent.
  • It must be a genuine child care arrangement. E.g. you can't claim an amount you pay to a relative.
  • However, you can claim most summer camps as expenses if you send your children to them so that you can continue to earn taxable income.
  • Keep receipts that must show the name of the provider, the name of the child, the name of the paying parent, and the period covered. If the childcare provider is an individual the receipt must also show their Social Insurance Number.
  • Note that a claims for childcare expenses are frequently reviewed by the Canada Revenue Agency so keep your receipts in good order.
  • There is more information on the Canada Revenue Agency's website Here

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