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If you’re coming to Canada with children, one of the questions at the forefront of your mind is probably, “How will I arrange and afford childcare for my kids?”

This is a concern that many Canadians share. After all, high-quality, flexible, and affordable childcare can be an important component of parents having the freedom to return to work and children becoming intelligent, caring, and responsible members of society.

Finding childcare in Canada may be a particular concern among working parents who do not have a network of family and close friends nearby.

Whether you arrange for a private nanny, enroll your child in a full-day childcare centre, or send your child to have fun with their friends at an after-school childcare program, the best choice is the one that works for your family. However, there are specific regulations you’ll need to know, and in Canada, these rules vary by province and territory.

What does childcare in Canada look like?

Childcare in Canada offers many different possibilities, depending on factors like your income level, child’s age, and location. In Canada, children typically start formal schooling at the and are enrolled in mandatory education until the age of seventeen or eighteen.

In Canada, any regulated program for children before the age of six falls under the umbrella of the . The Government of Canada currently aims to offer all Canadian parents early learning and childcare at no more than $10 per day by 2026. Between 2017 and 2020, , but there’s still a long way to go to ensure universally available and affordable childcare in Canada.

The Government of Canada is working closely with each province and territory to make this happen, as overseeing, regulating, and administering childcare falls under the .

Before digging deeper into Canada’s wide variety of childcare options, let’s get on the same page about a few different terms. The phrase’ childcare’ is a broad umbrella and getting more specific about what’s included in each option will help ensure you’re picking the one that works best for your family.

The main types of childcare available in Canada

Preschool

Before formal schooling begins, some provinces offer options for preschool – a type of educational programming geared towards kids aged three to five. This type of school lays the foundation for kindergarten – the first year of formal education in Canada – and aims to promote early childhood development and social skills. It typically runs Monday to Friday from the morning until the afternoon. Depending on location, preschool may be free or subsidized, or may require full payment.

Preschool may be administered by various public and private organizations, including religious, educational, or community associations. However, regardless of the location, hours, or teaching philosophy, all preschools must be regulated to provincial, Indigenous, or territorial standards that dictate things like the student-to-teacher ratio and health and safety expectations.

While preschool may serve as childcare for some parents, it’s essential to differentiate educational programming like preschool and K-12 schooling (from kindergarten through to 12th grade) from other less formal childcare options like daycare.

Daycare

Daycare is another option for young children intended to support kids from infancy to six years old. Like preschool, it is designed to offer children socialization and care during the daytime hours before they begin their formal education.

In Canada, parents may choose between part-time or full-time daycare. Additionally, there are private and public daycare centres open throughout Canada, as well as home daycares operated in private residences.

Parents can choose the hours that suit them best, and many daycares provide longer and more varied hours than preschools since they’re designed to support working parents. For example, some daycares may be open on holidays, summer breaks, and into the evening, while preschools offer more limited daytime hours.

Nursery school

Nursery school is a broad term used to refer to various types of childcare for young children. It can be used interchangeably with daycare, preschool, or even kindergarten.

Kindergarten

Kindergarten is the first year of formal schooling for Canadian students. It begins at the end of August or the beginning of September, and students are enrolled throughout the academic year until the end of June. Parents have for their child’s kindergarten enrolment, including free public school, paid private school, or homeschooling.

In Canada, provinces and territories each Ministry of Education responsible for overseeing education within that jurisdiction. Kindergartens are administered and governed by these provincial or territorial authorities.

School-age childcare programs

Also known as before and after-school programs, these programs offer school-aged children a place for socialization and enrichment before and after their school day. They are a fantastic resource for working parents who may struggle to organize their jobs around their child’s school hours. Roughly take part in these programs.

Before and after school programs are typically open for a couple of hours before the school day begins and again after the school day ends. This allows parents and caregivers to drop kids off before their work day begins and pick them up afterward.

Family childcare

If you have an individual like a nanny or a family member, such as the child’s grandparent, involved in their care, this option is referred to as family childcare. It is not regulated by any government in Canada, which means it’s up to parents to determine whether the person they are hiring is qualified and trustworthy.

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What do you need to know about childcare in Canada before you arrive?

Now that you have a clearer understanding of the childcare options available to you in Canada, let’s talk about what you need to know before you arrive.

1. Know your options

Since both education and childcare are overseen by the provincial governments, the systems differ from province to province. Before you determine your final destination in Canada, make sure you understand the rules of your chosen province or territory. Knowing the realities on the ground may even affect your decision of which province to move to.

Additionally, location within each province can significantly impact your options. In Canada, each province is typically divided into what are called school districts, which oversee the K-12 education in that area. However, school districts do not affect pre-kindergarten childcare services such as daycare centres. It’s just about convenience, affordability, and how far you’re willing to commute to secure your preferred childcare. For example, larger cities typically offer more childcare options, but these locations may also be more expensive — particularly private options — and may be much more in demand.

2. Apply for the waitlist if you need immediate childcare

Newcomers settling into a metropolitan area like Toronto should be prepared to pay a relatively high price for private childcare or daycare spots and apply well in advance of need. Many parents who need childcare for infants and toddlers get on the waitlist for places in their preferred childcare centre before their child is even born. If you know you’ll need childcare immediately following your arrival in Canada, find your preferred options and get on the waitlist as soon as possible. Some childcare centres charge a small fee to secure a spot on the waitlist.

How much does childcare in Canada cost?

It’s hard to price out individual childcare options in Canada because so many choices exist. Some factors that influence the cost include:

  • Your province or territory
  • Whether you live in a large city, town, or a more rural area
  • Type of care required
  • Age of the child
  • Whether you choose a regulated or unregulated option
  • The ratio of children to care providers

As of 2022, the average Canadian parent :

  • $8,146 annually for childcare for children aged 0 to 3.
  • $6,880 annually for childcare for children aged 4 to 5.

On average, in 2023, this means that parents are $7,790 per year for full-time childcare for a single child. The most expensive option was full-time care by a non-relative (for example, a nanny) in the child’s home, which costs an average of $26,669 per year. The most affordable option was childcare delivered by a relative, for which parents report paying an average of $3,517 per year, and in some cases paying nothing at all.

As for childcare centres such as daycare, fees vary widely depending on the province or territory and whether the particular centre is public, private, or subsidized in some way.

Can childcare expenses be deducted from taxes?

Yes, in many cases childcare expenses deductions can be included on your annual tax return. For families, this can significantly offset the childcare costs outlined above.

Which deductions may be applicable and how much those may add up to, again, depends on various factors such as the province of residence, the type of childcare, and potential income level, among other factors. While it’s possible to figure this out for specific situations, an experienced tax accountant should be able to point tax-filing newcomers in the right direction or even take on the task of compiling and filing a tax return on their client’s behalf.

Childcare in Quebec

Quebec has had the lowest childcare fees in Canada for many years, with many families in Quebec, including immigrant families, enjoying . Quebec’s heavily subsidized childcare system includes their , or CPEs, operate independently but are subsidized. Even home-based locations, which represent , provide government-subsidized childcare places.

This allows Quebec to have one of the world’s highest percentages of female participation in the workforce, which currently sits at 86%, five points ahead of the Canadian average.

Canadian daycare and preschool costs

Throughout the rest of Canada, daycare and preschool costs range by city and by province. Quebec’s prices are the lowest, regardless of the city. From there, parents can upwards of $1,200 per child per month in cities like Toronto and Oakville (Ontario), $935 in Vancouver (BC), $850 in Lethbridge (Alberta), or $690 in Fredericton (New Brunswick).

What do you need to know when you arrive in Canada?

Before you arrive in Canada, you should ensure you understand your local options for childcare. While it’s another big thing to prepare for, you’ll be grateful that you did your research and got on some waitlists (if necessary) before you land.

Once you arrive, the number of tasks on your childcare to-do list probably won’t decrease immediately. Here are some other considerations and decisions to be made.

1. Find out if your province offers subsidies

There are that offer subsidized childcare spaces – Quebec (see above), Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, the Yukon, and Manitoba. The process of applying for these spots varies by province or territory, but securing one of these places is an excellent option if available. Your local centre should be able to help point you in the right direction.

2. Research your options for benefits and grants

In addition to potentially securing a subsidized place in a local childcare facility, many Canadian families are eligible for the Canada Child Benefit (CCB). This is a tax benefit offered to parents of children under eighteen who are either citizens, permanent residents, or temporary residents who have lived in Canada for the past 18 months. Parents receive CCB payments for children under eighteen in their care, up to a monthly amount of .

There are also for children under the age of six, up to an additional $1,200 per year.

You should also note that some provinces like New Brunswick, Alberta, and Nova Scotia offer provincial tax benefits for parents of young children. Check to find more potential benefits depending on your eligibility and province of residence.

3. Determine your budget for childcare

Once you have a sense of which benefits you’re eligible for and when you can expect them to be paid out, you can determine your budget for childcare. To do this, you’ll need:

  1. Estimates of how much you can expect to pay for different childcare options in your area
  2. Details on your anticipated monthly and yearly net income
  3. Information on your regular expenses

Once you’ve got a sense of your income and expenditures, you can determine how much you can reasonably pay for childcare each month. From there, evaluate your options and see which fall within your budget.

4. Decide which option suits your needs and budget

Keep in mind that while cost is a crucial factor, it’s equally important to consider the quality of care, location, and the hours of operation available for each choice. Some families might opt for licensed daycare centers, which offer structured programs and trained staff but come at a higher cost. Others may prefer family daycare or home-based care, which may provide options available in their native language but can have more limited availability.

When making this important decision, finding the right balance between your budget and your child’s well-being is essential.

5. Visit some childcare centres

Before you make a final decision, you should visit some childcare centres and see how they operate for yourself. Pay close attention to the facility’s cleanliness, safety measures, and amenities during your visit. Interact with the caregivers, and ask which ones will be working most closely with your child.

Some questions you should ask include:

1. How is the centre licensed and regulated?
2. What are their hours of operation?
3. What is the staff-to-child ratio for each age group?
4. How many children are on-site at any given time?
5. Are meals and snacks included, or are parents expected to provide food?
6. What is their illness policy?
7. What are the centre’s expectations around toilet training and diapers?
8. What formal qualifications do teachers and staff have?
9. When are they closed? Will they be open during school or federal holidays?
10. Do children get regular outdoor time? If so, where?

Asking these questions and taking a tour as a family can help you determine whether each particular childcare centre you’re considering suits both your needs and your budget.

Canadian childcare availability – what you need to know

While there’s a strong movement towards making childcare in Canada more affordable, there is still a long way to go. Another issue that many Canadian parents have is daycare and childcare availability. Even if they can afford it, there are still not enough spaces available for all the children who need it.

Agreements signed between the federal government and the provinces have laid out the goal of establishing .

In some sitations, parents may need to weigh up making potential changes in their working life, enrol their children in unlicensed childcare centres, or rely on extended family members to fill a gap unless or until another option becomes available to them.

Let Scotiabank help you set up your accounts to handle Canadian childcare expenses
Exploring your options for childcare as a newcomer to Canada can be complex, but it’s an essential part of your arrival if you’re coming with children or plan to have them while you’re here.

Understanding the diversity of childcare offerings, from preschool and daycare to school-age programs, is the first step. From there, it’s crucial to research the specific regulations and guidelines governing childcare in your chosen province or territory, as they can vary significantly.

For those needing immediate childcare, consider getting on waitlists well in advance, especially in metropolitan areas and cities where demand is high. Keep in mind that certain provinces offer subsidized childcare spaces, and federal benefits like the can offer financial assistance once you’ve established your residency.

Determining your budget is an essential part of this process, and that’s difficult to do without your banking fully set up. 1 is designed to help newcomers to Canada get started on establishing their financial security and navigate the Canadian banking system with ease. Their advisors can help you securely transfer your funds into Canada so you can set up your accounts and pay daycare or preschool fees whenever necessary.

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¹ Scotiabank StartRight® Program is available only for Canadian Permanent Residents from 0-5 years in Canada, Interational Students and Foreign Workers.

Citation "Childcare in Canada: A Guide for Newcomers." 鶹ӳý. . Copy for Citation