If you’ve moved to Italy with your family then finding good childcare facilities is a vital part of settling down in your new home.
Italian society is famous for having strong family roots and connections which serve as an unshakeable bedrock of life; with families frequently sharing long meals together and children often living with their parents until well into their 30s.
This has meant that traditionally, the larger extended family played a major role in childcare, with grandparents often taking the lead to look after their young grandchildren while their parents were at work. However, this is slowly changing, with these traditions surviving better in the South of the country than in the more industrialized North.
In a typical modern Italian family, both parents now work and often move away from their home towns or regions to pursue their careers in the major cities. This has meant that private and state provisions of childcare services have been massively increased, which is good news for Expats looking for childcare services after their move.
Overview Of Childcare In Italy.
Moving to Italy with your family will be the start of an exciting chapter in your life but you will need to make sure that you have arranged the necessary provisions of childcare to ensure a smooth transition.
You can often begin the arrangements before you arrive in the country to help the transition go without a hitch – and this is certainly advisable. You will, therefore, need to have a good idea of how childcare and preschool works in Italy so you can start to navigate your options as soon as possible.
There are 3 main ways that childcare services in Italy are structured, which include:
- Private individual providers, such as nannies.
Nursery Schools In Italy.
Nursery schools accept young children soon after birth from the age of 3 months and upwards. Day nurseries, or ‘asilo nido’, generally operate from 08.30am until 12.30pm. However, many parents leave their children at nurseries for extended periods of time in case they are working or have other appointments. This convenience will cost you. The cost of nurseries vary widely and will mainly depend on the number of hours that your children attend.
Nursery schools in Italy are both state and privately run. The state run nurseries are subsidized by the government while the private nurseries operate independently, and thus charge higher fees. The costs of nurseries vary based on their location, the hours a child is there for as well as the types of services they provide.
The places in nurseries are often in high demand, particularly in the cheaper state-run nurseries, with many having waiting lists of children who are yet to be accepted. When the nurseries decide which children to take on they usually give priority to families where both parents are working, single mothers and low income parents; as well as children with disabilities or learning difficulties.
As an Expat, you might be surprised to find out that nurseries in Italy are not regulated by the government. This means that the quality of nurseries and the services they provide can vary enormously from region to region. Before you sign your children up for a nursery you should do some serious research into the nurseries in your area until you find one which offers the types of services you require at a cost that meets your needs.
In many rural areas, there are much fewer nurseries and you may need to take your children to a nearby town or village. This is partly because in rural areas the traditional family structures are still more widely in place but also due to the fact that in many villages and small towns there are not enough children to justify running a dedicated nursery for them.
Preschool In Italy.
For children who are a little older, between the ages of 3 and 6, you can send them to a preschool. The vast majority of children in Italy attend a preschool, in fact over 95%. Preschool is optional in Italy unlike school for children over the age of 6, which is mandatory. Attendance in preschool can be lower in certain poorer parts of the country.
The preschool year begins in September and to be eligible to attend your child must have had their 3rd birthday by then; however preschools will sometimes accept children who have their 3rd birthday before 31st December of the school year.
Regular school hours for preschool are from 8am until 12.30pm although many schools also run after school programs, which are helpful for working parents.
There are three kinds of preschools in Italy; one type is the state run and managed preschools, another is the state-subsidized preschools and the last type is the privately run preschools.
The costs of sending your children to a preschool also varies widely across the country with a private preschool costing anything from 100 Euros per month right up to 500 Euros or more per month.
It’s worth remembering that in some regions, particularly rural parts of Italy, the number of places at preschool can be fairly limited so you should apply as soon as you can to ensure your child has a place.
Preschools in Italy are regulated on a national level by the ‘Ministero della Pubblica Istruzione’ (MPI), or the Ministry of Public Education. The MPI regulates the schools however it does not lay out a nationwide curriculum so you will find very different programs being run in the different preschools.
You can find out in advance what the curriculum is to help you make a choice of preschool. Generally though, children are sent to the preschool in their district unless there are no places available; so you may want to include this consideration when you are choosing where to relocate to in Italy.
Private Independent Nanny Childcare Services.
Since schooling is not mandatory in Italy until children are over the age of 6 you do not have to send your child to a nursery or preschool. You may still want to employ a private nanny to look after your child at home while you are at work though. Most nannies will look after your child in your own home while others care for small groups of children in their own home settings.
How Do You Choose The Right Nursery or Preschool For Your Children?
There’s a lot of factors that you need to take into account when choosing the right nursery or preschool for your child. The first factor that you need to consider is the cost. You can keep costs down by sending your child to a state run institution, which is either free or very heavily subsidized, although if you have a high income you will not be prioritized over other lower income parents. Alternatively, you can choose a private nursery or preschool, where prices are still very reasonable for the services you receive.
There are some other important factors to take into account though, above and beyond the cost of sending your child to the nursery or preschool. It’s always better if you can visit the location in advance to get a feel of the space before you make a decision.
General Considerations Before Making A Decision.
- Does your child have any specific learning or physical needs that need to be accommodated?
- What type of care do you want for your child? What do they require at their age; also taking into consideration their personality.
- How many hours per week does your child need to be cared for? What are your personal commitments and how does that fit in with the nursery or preschool hours.
- What is the most convenient and cost effective way that you can arrange child care that also suits your family’s preferences?
Extra Things To Consider Before Making A Choice.
- Does the nursery or preschool feel welcoming? Does it feel like it would be a nurturing space for your child to spend time in?
- Do the staff at the nursery or preschool seem to be happy? How do they interact with the children under their care?
- Ask if the staff are trained in First Aid in case there is an accident while your child is at school. Is there a nearby hospital or clinic the children can be taken to in an emergency?
- Do the other children at the nursery or preschool look happy? Are they enjoying themselves, playing games and interacting well together?
- Is the nursery or school clean and tidy? Are there dirty corners or other signs of neglect or is it properly maintained and clearly conscious of health and safety procedures.
- Does the nursery or preschool have enough outdoor space for the children to play? Is there an age appropriate playground, swing sets or other outdoor play facilities?
- Are the children in the nursery or preschool taken out for regular walks in nature, parks and other outdoor settings?
Arranging Childcare And Preschool In Italy Need Not Be A Headache.
When you arrive in Italy with your family it can feel daunting to find a new school, nursery or childcare for your child as well as dealing with accommodation arrangements, bank accounts and residency forms!
However, if you plan ahead in advance and do your research before you arrive you should be able to have your child accepted into the nursery or preschool of your choice before you arrive. It’s always advisable to arrange as much as you can before you depart for Italy because when you do arrive there will always be a few unexpected things that crop up and need to be sorted out immediately.