The pregnancy is over. Whew! The delivery went smoothly. Yeah! Now, you have an adorable tiny person who is a totally unique individual in her own right. Welcome to parenthood. Your adventure has begun. Like every parent before you, you want the best for your child. Education – whether it’s helping her learn informally or sending her to preschool – will be one your major concerns.
We understand where you’re at. So, here’s our one-stop guide on the cost of educating your little one from birth to preschool.
1. Early stimulation
A baby’s brain grows 1% each day from the day she is born. Within the first three months, it will have grown to more than half the size of an adult’s. By age three, it will be 80% the size of an adult’s. Big-headed suddenly has new meaning.
Size aside, your baby’s brains will be busy developing brain-cell connections or neural synapses. These synapses are what help her learn from her surrounding, retain information and even reason. By the first year, she will have developed trillions of these synapses. By age two or three, she will have twice as many synapses as an adult.
But why do babies have more synapses than adults? Because they need it. The extra synapses make their brains especially sensitive to external input. During the first three years of her life, your child will be able to absorb and learn things better than at any other time. After the third year, synapses that don’t receive stimuli get pruned or become lost, which is why you have fewer synapses than your baby.
And it’s also why, within the first three years of her life, it is important that your baby receives a variety of stimuli. Every experience enhances the synapses and builds the brain.
One of the best ways to stimulate your baby is to provide her with interesting environments. Her nursery – whether it’s a room of her own or a corner of yours – is one place she’ll be spending a fair amount of time in. Make it somewhere worth looking at. Bright colours, different shapes, moving objects – all these will help train your newborn’s eyes.
|paint||$120 – $250|
|mobile||From $8 – $162.73|
|baby gym||From $17.10 – $159|
|crib decorations||From $1.77|
|posters or wall decorations||From $3.10|
|ceiling decorations||From $2.20 (for a pack of stars)|
If your child has her own room, you’ll need paint. It costs about $120 for 4 cans of paint (if you do it yourself) or from $250 if you hire help (inclusive of paint).
If your baby has a crib, mobiles can be clamped to the crib so your baby has something interesting to look up at. The movement also trains her to track objects.
If your baby doesn’t have a crib, you might want a baby gym. The gym is a play mat with a mobile or toys hanging over the mat. Some even come with tabs on one end that will make sounds or play music when baby kicks at them. Even if your child has a crib, getting a baby gym for her to lie in during the day will give her a pleasant change of environment.
As for decorations, there is an assortment of soft, interactive toys you can attach to the crib so baby can look at them or even reach out for them.
Walls are also a good place to put up decorations. Your child will be spending quite a lot of her time lying on her back, you could also extend your wall decorations to your ceiling.
Paint a mural on the ceiling or purchase glow-in-the-dark stars to attach to the ceiling.
As your baby grows, she will do more than just eat, sleep and poop. You’ll find her alert for longer periods, especially after being fed and changed. Those are the times she is most open to stimuli. Anything that’s colourful, makes a sound, lights up, plays music or moves will interest her.
At first, you may have to play the toy for her. As she grows and is able to sit up or grasp at things, she’ll be able to play with the toys herself. For very young babies, you can buy wrist rattles. These are soft bands that can be attached around your baby’s wrists and ankles. When she moves, the rattles will sound. This will encourage your baby to move her arms and legs, and discover her body parts.
Toys needn’t be confined to the room. You can get bath toys that can make bath time fun, baby chair toys to entertain her while she’s fed, stroller and car seat toys for when she’s on the move. If your budget allows it, it can be all play all day.
Cost: from $2.50
Babies can hear even from the womb and studies have shown that they respond particularly well to music. In fact, experiencing rhythmic patterns in music can improve their ability to detect rhythmic patterns in speech, helping them to talk earlier.
While many say that listening to classical music, particularly Mozart, will make your baby brainier, studies have show that babies respond to all kinds of music. So, go ahead, share your love of K-pop or jazz with Junior.
Cost: from $14.98 (for Spotify Premium for Family, share it with your partner!) – upward of $25 per CD
Like music, reading to a child can help her acquire speech. It can also teach her to read. For very young babies, cloth books and hard cardboard books are best because they can be easily cleaned, are difficult to destroy and can tolerate being gnawed at and gummed. You can even buy bath books made of plastic that you can take to the tub.
Look out for books that have different textures within its pages – rough, furry, silky and so on. These add the element of touch to your reading sessions, heightening your baby’s senses.
Cost: from $1.98
These are sets of cards that you hold in front of your child and flash them one by one in rapid succession. They are supposed to train your baby’s sight and, in time, teach her to read and do Math. Because it requires no more than the child looking at the cards, you can begin with your baby from the day she is born.
There are several types of flash cards. The Glenn Doman system is probably the most popular. He has developed flash cards for Math (featuring dots) as well as for Reading. The system even has a Mandarin version now. And each comes with a book so you can understand how the system works and how to work the system.
Outside of the Glenn Doman system, there are plenty of picture flash cards that teach all sorts of things from animals to plants, vehicles, household objects, body parts, colours and textures.
Cost: the Glenn Doman system costs $591.15 for the English set, $459.78 for the Mandarin one and $20 for the Math set on Carousell, but of course you can look for cheaper options
2. Baby care
In Singapore, mums enjoy up to 16 weeks of paid maternity while dads get two weeks. When those days of solitude with your baby are done, you have to consider how your child will be cared for when you return to work. It would be ideal if you can count on relatives. But not everyone has the luxury.
This is a popular option because having stay-in help means you have someone to count on not just for the baby care but the chores as well. Weekends are also covered. Plus, you don’t have to worry if you go past the usual time you get off work. Baby is home safe anyway. Hopefully.
|Domestic worker’s salary||$500 – $750|
|Maid levy||$60 or $265 (depending on whether it is a concessionary rate or the ordinary rate)
You are eligible for a concessionary rate if your child is a Singapore citizen under 16 and lives with you.
|Agency fees||Around $1,000|
|Performance bond||$70 for an Indonesian domestic worker which covers a performance bond of $6,000 which you have to pay if you breach the terms of employment.
$40 for a Filipino one for a $2,000 bond.
|Medical and personal accident insurance, aka maid insurance||Around $200 onwards for 26 months|
A medical check-up is required when applying for a work permit.Thereafter, your helper needs to go for a medical check-up every six months.
|TOTAL:||from $870 / month|
Before foreign domestic workers and child care centres became commonplace, working parents turned to local nannies to help them with child care. These are usually matronly aunts or grannies who don’t mind a little extra income minding a child or two.
The child is sent to the nanny’s during the day. Parents who find the daily commute difficult can leave the child with the nanny throughout the work week as well. The beauty of this system is that it simulates care by a relative. The child gets to be in a home environment and can dictate her own schedule.
For parents who believe in child-led schedules or who think home environments are more personal, nannies are still a viable, although pricey, option today. Of course, gone are the days when the only criterion for a nanny is that they have brought up children before. Nannies today are trained in infant care, first aid and CPR.
|Baby at nannies’ home
(Monday to Friday, 10 – 12 hours)
Diapers and milk not included.
|$650 – $1,200
$50 – $100
|Baby at nannies’ home
(Monday to Friday, overnight)
|$900 – $1,500|
|Nanny at baby’s home
(Monday to Friday, 10 – 12 hours)
|$1,800 – $3,950|
|Part-time nanny / babysitters||from $15 / hr|
Where to find nannies / babysitters:
- look out for mummy blogs and online groups
- ask around your neighbourhood
Thanks to the arrival of infant care in Singapore, you now have another option when the maternity leave runs out. Between the ages of two and eighteen months, you can send your baby to infant care. Half-day and full-day programmes (7am to 7pm) are available.
Some parents prefer this option to domestic workers, nannies and even grandparents because the staff at infant care centres are trained not just to care for but to nurture and educate your little one. There are schedules for feeding, stimulation and play, even socialising with peers. Infant care functions just like a child care centre except it’s for babies.
If you think your baby will benefit from the dynamic environment, age-appropriate activities and social contact, this might be the pick for you.
Generally, it’s better to send your baby to a centre near your workplace because you can drop by at lunch to cuddle her. And if you are late from work, it’s a much shorter commute to get to your child.
Here are some of the more popular infant care services around:
|Infant Care Centre||Notes||Cost|
|PAP Community Foundation (PCF) Sparkletots||Largest preschool operator in Singapore with over 100 centres providing infant care.||$1,235.80 – $1,853.70|
|My First Skool||This is the childcare arm of NTUC First Campus Co-operative Limited. There are 87 infant care centres under this brand.||$1,356.78 – $2,014.28|
|Little Skool-House International||This is the premium brand of My First Skool with four infant care centres||from $1,262.60|
|Kinderland Infant Care||It also has four infant care centres||$1,320 – $1,920|
|Cherie Hearts||There are 14 infant care centres||$1,400 – $1,700|
|Modern Montessori International||There are 11 infant care centres under this name. This is for parents who want the Montessori experience as early as possible.||$1,400 – $2,100|
|Learning Vision||Of the nine centres under Learning Vision, three are exclusively for staff located within the building.||$1,800 (full-day)|
|Pat’s Schoolhouse||Pat’s started out as a preschool but has since moved into infant care as well with two infant care centres||$2,161|
For a full list of infant care centres, check out www.childcarelink.gov.sg.
Infant care Cost: on average $1,502 (full-day) according to ECDA (Early Childhood Development Agency) records
3. Early education
From 18 months, you have several options in terms of your child’s care and education:
Child care centres
These provide care and education for children from 18 months to six years with both half-day and full-day programmes.
There are three broad groups of child care centres:
1. Child care centres run by government-linked organisations
Unsurprisingly, the two organisations that have strong ties to the Singapore government are the largest child care centre operators in the country and tend to be cheaper.
- PAP Community Foundation Sparkletots (Cost: on average $770.40)
- NTUC My First Skool (Cost: $712.21 – $1,112.27)
2. Private Schools
These are run by private organisations and individuals. They generally charge a heftier fee in return for some special programmes based on pedagogy they’ve developed.
Many have wondered if a tot can tell the difference. Still, in meritocratic Singapore where education is the key, some parents are willing to pay for what they perceive is an early head start.
Some of the more popular private child care centres include:
- Pat’s Schoolhouse (Cost: about $1,979.50)
- EtonHouse (Cost: from $1,800)
- Montessori – Do note: not every centre that calls itself Montessori adopts the Montessori system. And the Montessori centres are not all necessarily branches of the same school. (Cost: $800 – over $2,000)
- Kinderland Child Care Centres (Cost: on average $1,400)
- Cherie Hearts (Cost: on average $1,000)
- Chiltern House (Cost: upward of $2,000)
- Carpe Diem Childcare (Cost: $1,284)
- Mindchamps (Cost: on average $1,800)
- Little Village on the Grange (Cost: from $4,290.70)
3. Religious groups
Different religious groups run their own preschool and child care centres, incorporating the teachings and values they hold dear. If you want your child raised in a religious environment, this is an option.
Some parents with no religious leanings opt for these preschool and child care centres as well because they tend to be less pricey than the private ones and are believed to be on par with them in terms of quality.
Here is just a small sample of the child care centres run by religious groups:
- Tai Pei Child Care Centre
- IMAN Childcare
- Ramakrishna Mission Sarada Kindergarten
- List of Anglican kindergartens and childcare centres
- Wesley Vineyard Childcare
- List of Catholic preschools and childcare centres
To find a child care centre, go to https://www.childcarelink.gov.sg/ccls/home/CCLS_HomeParentsLocateCCC.jsp. The advanced search is very thorough but results can take a while to load.
For a list of SPARK-accredited child care centres, go to https://www.ecda.gov.sg/sparkinfo/Pages/ListingOfCertifiedCentresByYear.aspx
Cost of child care: on average $1,033 (full-day) according to ECDA records (excludes materials and uniform)
These are like the kindergartens of old and are half-day programmes that offer early education. It’s school done kiddy style. If your child is going to be cared for by a domestic worker, relative or nanny, you will have to consider preschool:
- Playgroup – from the year they turn 2 (if you want to expose your child to some schedule and peer socialisation)
- Pre-Nursery – from the year they turn 3 (more parents are sending their children to preschool at this age just so they know someone else is there to teach their children something constructive)
- Nursery – from the year they turn 4 (most children start preschool at this age)
- K1 – from the year they turn 5
- K2 – from the year they turn 6
Like child care, you can go the government-linked, private or religious groups route. Many of the same places that offer child care often run preschools as well although there are places that are strictly just preschools.
Cost: from $78.85 – $2,140 (for a list of kindergarten costs, go to https://data.gov.sg/dataset/list-of-kindergarten-services?resource_id=ede63efd-176d-471a-a2bd-0e24e7a6ea83)
How to pay less
Lest you fret at the sight of the prices, the government has ways to help you keep preschool costs down.
Infant care and child care subsidies
If your child is a Singapore citizen and is enrolled in an infant care or child care preschool licensed by ECDA, you enjoy the following subsidies:
|Programme||Working mothers||Stay-at-home mothers|
|Full-day||$600 subsidy per month||$150 subsidy per month|
|Half-day||$300 subsidy per month||$150 subsidy per month|
|Programme||Working mothers||Stay-at-home mothers|
There is an Additional Subsidy of up to:
- $540 for infant care
- $440 for child care
If you fulfil the following:
- you are a mother or single father working 56 hours or more a month
- your monthly household income is $7,500 or less (the lower your household income, the more you get)
- your family’s per capita income (PCI) is less than $1,875 a month (PCI is calculated by dividing total gross household monthly income over number of family members living in the same household)
(if you have a large family with many dependents, you can choose to have your Additional Subsidy computed on a per capita income (PCI) basis)
Calculate how much subsidy you can get with at this tool at https://www.childcarelink.gov.sg/ccls/home/Subsidy_Calculator.jsp
Baby Bonus scheme
This is a monetary incentive the government gives to all parents. Under this scheme, you get:
- cash (given out in 5 instalments over 18 months)
- a CDA First Step grant
- a government dollar-for-dollar matching contribution for each dollar you save for the child in the Child Development Account.
Better yet, the more kids you have, the more you get. You can use this money to help defray child-raising costs.
Baby Bonus cash gift
|Child||Cash Gift||Baby Bonus Plus||Total|
|No 1 – 2||$6,000||$2,000||$8,000|
|No 3 onwards||$8,000||$2,000||$10,000|
Child Development Account (CDA)
Within the Baby Bonus scheme is the CDA First Step grant which is a co-savings scheme for your child. The government will, up to a certain maximum amount, match your savings for Junior dollar for dollar until she turns 12.
This money can be used for, among other things, your child’s education at Approved Institutions registered with the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF).
|Child||CDA First Step||Dollar-for-dollar matching||Total government contribution|
|No 1 and 2||$3,000||Up to $3,000||$6,000|
|No 3 and 4||$3,000||Up to $9,000||$12,000|
|No 5 and beyond||$3,000||Up to $15,000||$18,000|
4. Enrichment classes outside preschool
Beyond what the kindergarten or preschool teaches your tot, you might want to train your child in other skills. The choices are myriad:
- various musical instruments
- speech and drama
- creative writing
- different sports e.g. swimming, inline skating, tennis, football, pilates, yoga, cross-fit, archery
- language immersion
You are really limited only by your imagination and wallet.
Cost: $50 – $350 a month (instruments, material, costumes and gear not included)
While it’s great for Junior to be sharing a space with a bunch of other small humans to learn, it’s also a breeding ground for illnesses. When she falls sick, it’s time to look for a doctor. Many parents prefer to send their children to a paediatrician as opposed to a general practitioner (GP). Some do so until the children are 12, others stop much earlier at five or seven years.
The advantage of a paediatrician is that they are specially trained to tend to tiny patients. The con is that they tend to be more expensive than a GP. But if you consider the fact that your child will need specialised care for only a few years, you may be more willing to bite the bullet.
Consultation: $38 – $360
Note that using your CDA or Medisave can help to pay the costs of your child’s medical treatment:
|Pay with||Pay at|
|Child Development Account||Healthcare institutions
Assistive technology device providers (eg. for hearing aids)
Approved chronic conditions, such as asthma
When you add it all up, the cost of raising a child through preschool can seem staggering. In truth, the amounts are spent in small parcels, a little here, a little there. Trust this seasoned mum of three, you’ll hardly feel it. Okay, not much. Meanwhile the returns – your child’s development, his budding personality and quirky ways – are truly priceless.
Do you feel you’re financially prepared to raise a child through preschool? Share your thoughts with us!
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