Preschool in Singapore – Kindergartens, Infant Care, Nursery And The Costs Involved
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 of 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.
- Birth to age 3 – early stimulation
- 2 to 18 months – maid, nanny or infant care?
- 18 months to 6 years – preschool & child care centres
- Enrichment classes outside school
- Childcare subsidies in Singapore
- Healthcare for your baby
From birth to age 3 – early stimulation
A baby’s brain grows 1% each day from the day she is born. Within the first 3 months, it will have grown to more than half the size of an adult’s. By age 3, it will be 80% the size of an adult’s.
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. During the first 3 years of her life, your child will be able to absorb and learn things better than at any other time.
This is why early stimulation for your newborn is so important. Every experience enhances the synapses and builds the brain. Here are the key ways you can provide stimuli for your baby:
Decorate her nursery (cost varies)
Your baby spends loads of time in her room, so 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.
Baby toys (from $2.50)
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.
Baby toys are ideal for this. 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.
Play music (from $15/month)
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.
Baby CDs are still available from $25 upwards, but we suggest subscribing to Spotify Premium for Family ($14.98/month) and sharing it with your partner.
Baby books (from $2)
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.
Flash cards (can be expensive – $500 and up)
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 maths. 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 ($591.15 for a set) is probably the most popular. He has developed flash cards for maths (featuring dots) as well as for reading. The system even has a Mandarin version ($459.78) 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.
2 to 18 months – maid, nanny or infant care?
In Singapore, mums enjoy up to 16 weeks of paid maternity while dads get 2 weeks. When those uninterrupted days with your baby are over, 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. If you don’t, you would need to choose between hiring a maid, hiring a nanny, or sending your baby to infant care.
Domestic helper (from $870/month)
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.
Here are the start-up and recurring costs involved in hiring a helper:
|Helper’s salary||$500 to $750 (monthly)|
|Agency fees||Around $1,000 (one-time)|
|Work permit||$60 (one-time)|
|Performance bond||$70 (Indonesian) or $40 (Filipino)|
|Maid insurance||$200 onwards (valid for 26 months)|
|Medical check-ups||$80 (initial, when applying for work permit) or $50 (thereafter, every 6 months)|
In total, expect to spend upwards of $870/month if you hire one. However, if your child is a Singapore citizen you can get a concessionary maid levy ($265) to offset these costs until she turns 16.
Nanny (typically $1,000 and up)
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 nanny’s home (Mon to Fri, 10 to 12 hours a day)||$650 to $1,200|
|Baby at nanny’s home (Mon to Fri, overnight)||$900 to $1,500|
|Nanny at baby’s home (Mon to Fri, 10 to 12 hours a day)||$1,800 to $3,950|
|Part-time nanny or babysitter||From $15/hour|
Note that if your baby stays at the nanny’s place, you’ll be expected to provide your own diapers and milk. When your baby is old enough for solids, you might have to pay the nanny a little more ($50 to $100 a month) for food too.
Where to find nannies / babysitters:
- A-team Amahs & Cleaners
- Nannies on Wheels
- KiZroo & MaMaroo
- Singapore Last Minute Babysitter On Wheels
- look out for mummy blogs and online groups
- ask around your neighbourhood
Infant care ($1,300 to >$2,000 a month)
Thanks to the arrival of infant care in Singapore, you now have another option when the maternity leave runs out. Between the ages of 2 and 18 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 childcare 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||Monthly fee|
|PAP Community Foundation (PCF) Sparkletots||Largest preschool operator in Singapore with >100 centres providing infant care||$1,235.80 to $1,853.70|
|My First Skool||Childcare arm of NTUC First Campus, with 87 infant care centres||$1,356.78 to $2,014.28|
|Little Skool-House International||Premium brand of My First Skool, with 4 infant care centres||From $1,262.60|
|Kinderland Infant Care||4 infant care centres||$1,320 to $1,920|
|Cherie Hearts||14 infant care centres||$1,400 to $1,700|
|Modern Montessori International||11 infant care centres. This is for parents who want the Montessori experience as early as possible.||$1,400 to $2,100|
|Learning Vision||9 centres (of which 3 are exclusively for staff located within the building)||$1,800 (full-day only)|
|Pat’s Schoolhouse||Started out as a preschool but now has 2 infant care centres||$2,161|
For a full list of infant care centres, check out www.childcarelink.gov.sg.
18 months to 6 years – preschool, child care centres
After your baby turns 18 months old, you’d usually send her to a preschool or child care centre. These offer a combination of care and education, and you can usually choose between half-day or full-day programmes.
If your child is going to be cared for by a domestic worker, relative or nanny, that doesn’t mean you should skip preschools. It’s a good way to introduce your child to peer socialisation skills, and also a structured schedule (i.e. preparing her for proper school).
Here’s a look at the options:
PCF Sparkletots/NTUC My First Skool (from $700)
The most affordable childcare options in Singapore are PCF Sparkletots and NTUC My First Skool.
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. PCF fees are $770.40/month on average, while NTUC costs $712.21 to $1,112.27/month.
Between the two, there are some 200 centres islandwide, so you shouldn’t have an issue finding a suitable location.
Private childcare centres (from $1,000)
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 as an early head start.
Here’s a list of the more popular private child care centres and their average monthly fees:
- Cherie Hearts (est. $1,000/month)
- Carpe Diem Childcare (est. $1,284/month)
- Kinderland Child Care Centres (est. $1,400/month)
- Mindchamps (est. $1,800/month)
- EtonHouse (est. from $1,800/month)
- Pat’s Schoolhouse (est. $1,979.50/month)
- Chiltern House (upward of $2,000/month)
- Little Village on the Grange (from $4,290.70/month)
There’s also Montessori centres, which can cost anywhere from $800 to over $2,000 a month in fees. Note that not every centre that calls itself Montessori adopts the Montessori system! And the Montessori centres are not all necessarily branches of the same school.
Religious group-affiliated child care (average $1,000/month)
Various religious groups run their own preschool and child care centres, incorporating some of the teachings and values of that religion.
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. Look for SPARK-certified preschools to sort out the quality centres.
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
- Wesley Vineyard Childcare
- Anglican kindergartens and childcare centres
- Catholic preschools and childcare centres
You can find a child care centre using the government’s Child Care Link website. The advanced search is very thorough but results can take a while to load.
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
Prices vary from $50 to $350 a month, excluding instruments, materials, gear. You are really limited only by your imagination and wallet.
Childcare subsidies in Singapore
Yes, childcare IS expensive in Singapore and we don’t blame you for fretting at the sight of the prices. But the good news is that the government has ways to help Singaporeans keep child-rearing costs down.
Baby Bonus scheme
This is a monetary incentive the government gives to all parents in Singapore who register and open a Child Development Account (CDA), a special savings account for your baby.
Under this scheme, you get $8,000 or $10,000 in cash, a $3,000 grant, and dollar-for-dollar matching on the money in the CDA. Better yet, the more kids you have, the more you get. Check this Baby Bonus portal for eligibility.
Basic Childcare Subsidy
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||Subsidy for working mothers||Subsidy for stay-at-home mothers|
|Infant care (full-day)||$600/month||$150/month|
|Infant care (half-day)||$300/month||$150/month|
|Child care (full-day)||$300/month||$150/month|
|Child care (half-day)||$150/month||$150/month|
Additional Childcare Subsidy
For needier parents, there is an Additional Subsidy of up to $540 for infant care and $440 for child care. You need to fulfill these requirements.
- 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
*From 2020 onwards, the income ceiling will be extended to $12,000.
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. Here’s a childcare subsidy calculator to determine how much you can get.
Kindergarten Fee Assistance Scheme & Start Up Grant
For household incomes below $6,000, children can get their kindergarten fees subsidised from 20% to 99% (depending on income). Your child needs to be enrolled in a programme run by MOE or an Anchor Operator kindergarten, though.
The neediest families, with household incomes of $1,900 or under, also qualify for the Start Up Grant, which is a small amount (up to $240) to help pay for uniforms, school supplies, registration fees and insurance.
Read this article for a full list of childcare subsidies in Singapore.
Final note: Healthcare for your baby
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). 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. A consultation with a paediatrician can cost from $38 to a whopping $360! 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. Most parents transition from the paediatrician to a regular GP some time between age 5 and 12.
Note that using your CDA (Child Development Account) or Medisave can help to pay the costs of your child’s medical treatment.
CDA: Broad usage – can be used at healthcare institutions, optical shops, assistive technology (e.g. for hearing aids) and even at pharmacies.
Medisave: Stricter usage – only for hospitalisation costs, approved vaccinations and approved chronic conditions (e.g. 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 3, 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!