Whether you are having a baby in France or moving to France with young children, child care will be an essential consideration during the early years. Let’s take a look at the three main options for early childcare in France.
For more information see our full guide to La Petite Enfance: Early Childcare in France
#1 Crèche and Day Care Centres
From the age of 2½ months up to 3 years, a child can be placed in a crèche. Crèches are funded by local authorities but, depending on their income, some parents must pay an additional fee. They are open for 11 hours a day, and closed on public holidays and for a month over the summer. France has an excellent child-care system in which the state funds 80% of the care, and all cities, towns and some villages will have a local crèche. However, being in high demand, crèches do get filled up quickly, so it’s wise to reserve a place as soon as you know you are having a baby.
There are three types of crèches in France:
La crèche parentale: a parental crèche, managed by a parental association, with professional staff.
La crèche d’enterprise: a company crèche provided by an employer for its employees, usually in or near the workplace. It has professional staff.
La crèche familial: a family crèche, which means that a professional nounou (nanny) is hired to look after a number of families’ children in one home, with the costs divided between all the families.
#2 Child-Minders or Nounous
A nounou (child-minder) can be full or part-time, and they must be regulated and certified by the State, regularly inspected and attend classes. They are allowed to care for up to five children, depending on the children’s ages. If you are employing them for more than five hours per week, you must declare yourself an employer with the URSSAF.
Once you’ve met and offered the job to your nounou, you must agree their hours and salary and sign a contract. They must be paid monthly with a payslip. Copies of the payslips will be needed to claim back some of the costs. Parents pay the nounou’s take-home salary, while the State pays their social, health and retirement benefits. For families on very low incomes, there may also be additional benefits available via the CAF.
Additional options include a babysitter, who may be employed on a part-time basis to look after children a few evenings a month, for example. A baby sitter is usually a family friend or someone local recommended by a friend. For bilingual families, a popular option is also to hire an au pair, typically a young person, often foreign, who lives with a family and performs chores and child-minding for around 5 hours a day.
A list of crèches and authorised child-minders can be found at the Mairie.
#3 Ecole Maternelle
Attending school isn’t compulsory in France until the age of six, but most children in France attend an école maternelle (pre-school, nursery, or kindergarten) between the ages of three and six years. This provides them not only with day care, but with important social and educational preparation for primary school.