Before my child was even born, my husband and I were researching on every childcare option there was and visiting them one by one.
This was because I was deadly terrified of not having a spot in a nearby childcare. My parents and in-laws, being in their early 50s and 60s respectively, still work and are not able to take care of her. We could not afford having one of us stay at home, either.
If you’re a soon-to-be or new working mother without family support, you might find yourself in the same exact position that I was in. Short of hiring a live-in maid, which you may be understandably wary of doing, here are some of the childcare options in Singapore and how much they cost.
Prices of childcare options in Singapore
|Childcare option||Monthly fees||Fees after working mum subsidy|
|Infant care (2 to 18 mths)||$1,275 to $2,600||$675 to $2,900|
|Childcare centre (18 mths to 6 yo)||$720 to $2,500||$420 to $2,200|
|Babysitter||from $700||No subsidy|
|Nanny||from $800||No subsidy|
When you compare the above childcare options with a live-in domestic helper, which will cost you around $500 to $600 per month, these prices seem steep. But what you will be paying for is dedicated help. Childcare and infant care teachers are trained to deal with young children. Babysitters and nannies that are recommended via word-of-mouth are usually reliable and experienced, with an extensive “portfolio” of toddlers and children that they have brought up in the past.
Of course, there’s the argument that a domestic helper will be able to do more around the house. But when it comes to the care of young children, you don’t really want to overload your domestic helper with so much work such that they don’t have the time or energy to attend to your child.
In the end, it boils down to the issue of trust. If you are able to find a trustworthy domestic helper who loves your children, it might be the most economic solution. However, if you value privacy and are uncomfortable with hiring one for whatever reason, then know that there are other options available as well.
Infant care or childcare centre
If you have a full-time job and are consistently unable to be around to look after your kid on weekdays, an infant care or childcare centre is probably your best bet in terms of value for money.
While the cost of enrolling your kid at a childcare is certainly not cheap, it might still be cheaper than hiring a babysitter or nanny for the same amount of time—once your child is past the infant stage (ie. at least 18 months old). Infant care is much more expensive.
In Singapore, there are centres that offer infant care services for babies under 18 months only, as well as childcare centres that have infant care facilities. The latter, centres that care for children from as young as 3 months old to 6 years old, are more common these days as centres innovate so as to cater to parents who cannot afford to stay home.
Note that a childcare centre is usually not just a place where someone looks after your kid until you get off work. Each childcare centre usually has an educational curriculum.
Choosing a childcare centre isn’t easy, as despite low birth rate, families in Singapore are predominantly dual-income. Childcare is quite a competitive industry in Singapore.
How much you want to pay really depends on the brand of the centre and the educational methods they use. Here are some popular childcare providers:
|Infant care||Infant care after working mum subsidy||Childcare/Kindergarten||Childcare after working mum subsidy|
|My First Skool by NTUC||$1,364 to $1,705||$764 to $1,105||$770||$470|
|Sparkletots by PCF||$1,370||$770||$522 to $720||$122 to $420|
|Church kindergartens||–||–||from $850||from $550|
*Some prices are estimates only. Fees in the tables are for Singaporeans only.
My First Skool by NTUC: Being one of the more affordable centres, an infant care under My First Skool costs $1,364 to $1,705 for infants and $764 to $1,105 for toddlers (above 18 months). Take note that it’s quite difficult to get a spot given its popularity. For Singaporeans, My First Skool’s childcare fees are capped at $720 (excluding GST).
Sparkletots by PCF: There are 360 over preschools operated by Sparkletots by PCF. Infant care costs around $1,370 per month while the childcare costs between $522 and $720. Like My First Skool by NTUC, it’s quite popular given that they’re one of the cheapest options.
I placed my child on the waiting list for all the available infant cares under PCF Sparkletots in Queenstown, but only received an SMS 6 months later asking me I was still interested to stay on the waiting list. Well, I hear anecdotes from fellow parents that calling in directly and applying pressure to the school works, so you may want to try that if you’re aiming to place your child here.
Church kindergartens: Some churches in Singapore offer kindergartens, but they usually cater for children from pre-nursery level (at least 18 months) and up. You don’t have to be Christian to enrol your children. While these used to be affordable, now they are on par with the government childcare centres. One that I was looking into in the Commonwealth area was Luther Preschool. It costs $950 per month before subsidy.
Premium childcare centres: You might have heard of brands like Montessori and Blue House International and wondered why they were so expensive. Many premium childcare centres specialise in some special methodology that’s supposed to turn your child into a genius. At a Montessori school, the average cost of a full-day childcare is $1,500 a month, while infant care costs $2,500.
*Note: Depending on your income level, you should be eligible for a certain amount of childcare or infantcare subsidies from the government of at least $300. If your combined family income is under $12,000 AND the mother works more than 56 hours a month you can receive an additional subsidy. Read Child Care Subsidies in Singapore 2022 – What Do You Qualify For?
An option that I also considered was putting my baby at a babysitter’s home. There are freelance Stay-At-Home-Mums and older aunties who offer such services in Singapore.
Babysitters come in all shapes and sizes. Some are older and very experienced, while others are students hoping to make a bit of extra pocket money. Babysitters can be hired in advance or on an ad-hoc basis, and some may even be willing to travel to your place.
If you are entrusting the care of a young baby to a babysitter, you’ll want to ask if they have specific experience with infants and know how to handle breastmilk, sterilising of bottles and diapers.
You can find babysitters through agencies or simply ask around. If you’re asking her to come over to your place, it’s advisable to engage the babysitter a couple of times when you’re around, only leaving her alone with the child when you’re sure she’s not a psychopath.
I interviewed one babysitter found via the Find a Nanny page. She initially quoted me $1,000 a month to take care of the baby, but I managed to negotiate it to $800 a month. In the end, I didn’t go with her because I found a suitable childcare near to my home with a comparable price.
Average cost of baby sitters in Singapore: From $700 a month for 10-12 hours a day, 5-5.5 days a week at your house. Price may be negotiated lower if you drop your kid off at the babysitter’s and are open to her looking after other kids at the same time.
While there isn’t a clear distinction between a babysitter and a nanny, we shall take the term babysitter to mean someone who just minds the child, while a nanny shall be taken to mean a lady who also helps out around the house and often stays overnight.
If you’re sick of waking up in the middle of the night or want someone who can help out around the house in addition to looking after the baby, an amah or nanny might be the answer. Usually older women who have lots of experience looking after kids, amahs or nannies can help out with tasks other than simply minding the baby, such as cooking and cleaning. Be sure to define the scope of duties before hiring in order to avoid misunderstanding.
Many of the channels through which nannies or amahs can be hired are the same as those through which regular babysitters can be found.
When it comes to nannies, there are some qualifications that can point to how knowledgeable they are. There’s Association for Early Childhood Educators (AECES) and Adventlinks-SAUC Education Centre. There are also confinement nanny qualifications from the Wings-KKH Confinement Nanny Training Programme and Thomson Medical Centre under a WDA-approved programme. Many older nannies won’t have these qualifications but might make up for it with experience. Your call.
Average cost of nannies in Singapore: Range is usually from $750 (day-time only, includes the cost of food) to $1,500 (overnight or live-in). You might be able to find Amahs (unmarried, older Chinese aunties) willing to be a live-in helper for around $700 a month as well, so be resourceful and ask around!
Check out these agencies if you’re keen to hire a nanny:
Which childcare option would you choose in Singapore? Let us know in the comments!
Image credit: Seattle Parks via Flickr