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Fulltime Day Care: 

You probably know Full Day Care as the provision of care for the full day for your child in a nursery or crèche. “Full day care service” according to the Child Care (Pre-School Services) (No 2) Regulations 2006 and Child Care (Pre-School Services) (No 2) (Amendment) Regulations 2006 (aka the regulations the early years sector is governed by) means a pre-school service offering a structured day care service for pre-school children for more than 5 hours per day; and which may include a sessional pre-school service for pre-school children not attending the full day care service.

What is a preschool service? Well it is defined as services which generally cater for pre-school children in the 0-6 year age bracket. Typically a premises offering full day care each will have the following rooms e.g. baby room, wobbler room, toddler room, pre-preschool room, preschool room, afterschool room. Your child will be assigned a room depending on their age, stage of development and individual ability.

Part Time Day Care:

Some parents may not need childcare for the full day so part time care might suit their needs better. Part time day care means a pre-school service offering a structured day care service for pre-school children for a total of more than 3.5 hours and less than 5 hours per day, and which may include a sessional pre-school service. The service must provide the same physical environment, including rest, play and sanitary facilities, as for full day care. Services covered by the above definition of part time daycare may include pre-schools, playgroups, crèches, montessori pre-schools, naíonraí, notifiable childminders or similar services which generally cater for pre-school children in the 0-6 year age bracket.

Sessional Care:

When we think of sessional care we can often think of the terms, ‘going to preschool’, and ‘going to playschool/Montessori’. A Sessional pre-school service means a pre-school service offering a planned programme to pre-school children for a total of not more than 3.5 hours per session.

Drop in care:

The provision of Drop in care is not as common in Ireland as perhaps years gone by. Drop in care means a service where you can drop your child in for a short period of time if you have something to do e.g. in a shopping centre or in a hotel etc for a certain fee.

A “Pre-school service in a drop-in centre” means a pre-school service offering day care which is used exclusively on an intermittent basis.
A pre-school service in a drop-in centre refers to a service where a pre-school child is cared for over a period of not more than two hours while the parent or guardian is availing of a service or attending an event. Such services are mainly located in shopping centres, leisure centres or other establishments as part of customer/client service.
A pre-school service in a temporary drop-in centre refers to a service where a pre-school child is cared for while the parent or guardian is attending a once-off event such as a conference or a sports event.

Curricular Approaches Typically found in the Early Years.

Play based approach:

Some services offer a play based curricular approach to children’s learning and development. It could be argued however that many do not see the value of children’s play and the wonderful opportunities it provides for exploration, discovery and learning. However when you look at the concept of play as a curricular approach more closely, it is genius really as you are using the thing children like to do the most in the whole world, and using it to support and extend their learning and development. By the age of six, in most cases children’s brains are approximately 90% of their adult size; this suggests that supporting children to learn and develop in their early years is more effective than intervening when the brain is fully developed. For example have you ever noticed how easy and naturally occurring it is for the under 6’s to pick up a second language, while us adults struggle?! Research also highlights that children learn best when they are actively involved in something and when they are, most importantly, interested in it. Because of this ‘play based approaches’ are being recognised as one of the best ways to support early learning. Think about it! As a 3 year old do you think it would be more fun to go out in the garden with a jar and find bugs (and put them back of course!), rather than sitting in a circle and looking at a book that talks about bug? A play based philosophy harnesses the fun parts, to build the learning parts. How do you do that? Simple the early years practitioner comes with an in-depth knowledge of play and then gets to know the children in their care so well that they know what interests them, what the like to play and who they like to play with. The practitioner uses all of this expert knowledge to build their play based curriculum. They have help too! Irelands first early years curriculum framework called Aistear is based on a play based philosophy. This framework was launched in 2009 and covers 0-6 years…right up to infant classes in Primary school. Why not check it out here.


Caters for children from 3 to 5 years of age typically. Montessori was named after its founder Maria Montessori in the early nineteen hundreds. Montessori had a particular philosophy or approach to the early education of children which was based on her own observations of children and how they learn. Montessori services follow this philosophy today. Montessori emphasised learning through all five senses in a ‘prepared environment’ in which children are free to choose their own activities. An important belief of the Montessori method is that children learn individually at their own pace and according to their own choice of activities.


In a naionra service children play and learn through the Irish language, under the guidance of highly proficient Irish speaking staff. Children usually attend a Naoinra service from ages 3-5 years.

High Scope Childcare:

High Scope is another approach or philosophy of early education. Centered on the ‘plan-do-review’ philosophy, the High Scope approach firmly believes in children learning through socializing and through active, hands on experiences with their peers and guiding adults. Children are encouraged to plan their activities, carry them out and review how they went. Competencies which promote the development of thinking skills and concrete learning experiences.

Afterschool Care:

Afterschool care refers to the care of Primary school going children, after school ends or before school starts. Afterschool care usually incorporates the provision of a snack/hot meal and in some cases supervised time to complete some homework. Afterschool services should not be responsible for the completion of all homework assigned to a child however, it is the parent/guardians role to ensure this.  Therefore it is important to note that after a long day in school, it should not be all work for the children. Having fun, socializing with peers, and building and nurturing interests is a huge part of the philosophy of an afterschool service. Throughout an afternoon children should in engage in prepared and freely chosen activities and play outdoors, or if they wish, have time to simply chill out.


Sometimes preschool and afterschool services will offer ‘camps’ such as mid-term/Easter and Summer Camps. Camps are different to the everyday activity of a preschool service, and involve a lot of planning and preparation to ensure activity filled days, and that most importantly children have lots of fun. However in some cases Camps can be specific to an activity like GAA, football or tennis for example.


Childminders provide a Childcare service in the childminders own home and are self employed. This service is offered for the full working day or for different periods during the day. A childminder (a person who provides a childminding service) should look after not more than 5 pre-school children (0-6 years) including her own pre-school children. No more than two children should be less than 15 months. Exceptions in relation to numbers under 15 months can be made for multiple births or siblings. Childminders who do mind more the 3 preschool children must notify themselves to TUSLA The Child and Family Agency (formerly the HSE) and are subject to inspections under the Child Care (Pre-School Services) (No 2) Regulations 2006 and Child Care (Pre-School Services) (No 2) (Amendment) Regulations 2006. Childminders who are exempt from the provisions of these Regulations because they are caring for three pre-school children or less, pre-school children of relatives, or preschool children of the same family in the childminder’s own home, can avail of the voluntary notification and support system which has been put in place by the City and County Childcare Committees and Tusla the Child and Family Agency (formerly the Health Service Executive). They can then avail of information and training on a range of topics, . For more information on Childminding please visit our dedicated Childminding pages.

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