Preschool and other educational activities
For children between the ages of 1 and 6.
Preschool is for children between the ages of 1 and 6. Preschool is meant to be fun, safe and educational for all of the children who attend. If offered in the municipality, there may also be other educational activities for children between the ages of 1 and 12.
Preschool and other educational activities are voluntary. The objective is partly to make it possible for parents to combine parenthood with working, and partly to offer stimulating and developing activities to the children.
Preschool should stimulate children’s creativity, curiosity and self-esteem. Children should be given the opportunity to develop their ability to explore, communicate and reflect. Educational activities should stimulate children to take initiative and responsibility and give them the opportunity to work both independently and together with others.
The educators should encourage and challenge children to try out their own and other people’s ideas, solve problems and translate ideas into action. This is done, for example, by playing, singing, moving, cooperating, painting and exploring nature. Meals are included at preschool and are a part of the educational activities. Creating security and good relationships with children and guardians is an important task for preschools.
Municipal and independent preschools
There are both municipal and independent preschools. Independent preschools can be operated, for example, by parent cooperatives or staff cooperatives, by a foundation or a limited liability company.
The municipalities are responsible for providing preschool places in the municipality that meet the need so that children are offered a place. The municipality is also responsible for checking that all activities in preschool meet the requirements of good quality and safety. The same rules apply to independent preschools as to municipal preschools.
Who goes to preschool?
Preschool is voluntary. The municipalities must offer preschool to children from the age of 1:
- when the parents work or study,
- when the parents are unemployed or on parental leave or
- if the child has a personal need due to the family’s situation.
Children of people who are unemployed or on parental leave are to be offered a place for at least 3 hours a day or 15 hours a week. Some municipalities offer more time than this.
The municipalities must also offer preschool to:
- all children the year the child turns 3 (public preschool, 3 hours per day),
- children who are in need of special support for their development due to physical, mental or other reasons.
Three hours per day in public preschool are free of charge from the autumn semester of the year the child turns 3. The time beyond these three hours is subject to a fee. It is the municipality or the operator of the activities that determines how much a preschool place will cost.
The size of the fee is determined by the parents’ income level. Today, all municipalities use a system with a fee ceiling. The fee ceiling means an upper limit for how high the fee can be for different families.
Other educational activities
Other educational activities are childcare for children between the ages of 1 and 12.
There are four different kinds of other educational activities:
- educational care
- care during times of the day that preschool or a recreation centre is not offered
- open preschool
- open recreation activities
Educational care can be offered to parents instead of preschool or a recreation centre. Educational care can be offered in the educators’ own homes, in other premises or in different multifamily solutions.
According to the Education Act, the child groups must have an appropriate composition and size and the premises must be functional for this purpose. There must also be staff with such training or experience that the children’s needs for care and good educational activities can be met. Activities shall be based on each child’s needs and be structured so that they promote all-round contacts and social interaction.
Who can operate educational care?
Educational care can be operated under municipal or private direction. The municipality must strive to offer other educational care instead of preschool or a recreation centre if the child’s guardian so requests.
The municipalities may charge a reasonable fee for a place in educational care. Today, all municipalities use a system with a fee ceiling for childcare. The fee ceiling means an upper limit is set for how high the fee can be for different families and is determined based on the parents’ income. The fee ceiling also applies to educational care, private as well as municipal.
Care during times that preschool or a recreation centre is not offered
Care during times of the day that preschool or a recreation centre is not offered can be offered evenings, nights or weekends, for example.
The municipality must strive to offer care for children during the time that preschool or a recreation centre is not offered to the extent necessary considering the parents’ employment and the family’s situation otherwise.
Open preschool is for children who are not registered in preschool. A parent or another adult must accompany the child to open preschool. Open preschool offers children an educational activity in a group together with the adults who accompany them. At the same time, the adults have the opportunity of social interaction. The children are not registered. The parents decide if and how much the child participates.
Open recreation activities
Open recreation activities are for 10-12 year-olds who do not need the care and supervision provided at recreation centres or in educational care. The families decide when and how often the children will participate. The open recreation activities are often coordinated with the school and recreation centre and/or the municipality’s other recreation activities for children and adolescents.