Types of Childcare

There are a number of options when it comes to childcare. Services can either be community or privately run, centre-based in a childcare facility, or home-based in your or the carers home. Find out what types of services are on offer in your area to help you choose childcare which best suits you and your child’s needs.

Centre Based Childcare Facilities

A centre-based childcare facility is ideal for you if you want your child to mix and socialise with similar aged children in an environment that is centred around early childhood care and education. Whether private or community run, services must be registered and inspected by Tusla under the Quality and Regulatory Framework (QRF), which sets out the core regulatory requirements for compliance with the Early Years Regulations 2016, The Quality and Regulatory Framework applies to all registered Early Years Services

Crèche/Nursery/ Full day care service

A crèche, nursery or full day care service provides care for children from six weeks to four or five years and beyond, often integrated with early education and other services such as school age childcare. Opening times are typically 7.30am-6.30pm, 50 weeks per year. Places are offered on a part time or full time basis. The créche/nursery should offer a key worker system whereby a child is assigned to a particular member of staff to ensure continuity of care between home and the childcare setting.


Pre-Schools/Playgroups provide structured play and learning activities and usually follow a particular curriculum approach to early childhood education and care for the under five year olds, such as High/Scope, Montessori, etc. The duration of sessions typically ranges from 2.5 hours to 3.5 hours per day, five days per week during term-time. Many services extend their service over the summer months by way of offering summer camp activities.


A naíonra is a playgroup for children who come together daily (usually for 2 – 3.5 hours) in a pleasant, cheerful and safe environment, under the guidance and supervision of a Naíonra Leader or Stiúrthóir. It is run solely through the medium of Irish. Staff in the naíonra structure the environment to ensure that all facets of the child’s holistic development are catered for, while giving the child the opportunity to acquire Irish naturally through the medium of play. Naíonra are usually attached to a Gaelscoil whereby, attendance at the naíonra is a requirement for entry into the Gaelscoil.

A naíolann is a similar type of service, which is offered on a full day care basis.

Drop-in Service

Drop-in services offer care for children for no more than 2 hours continuingly while parents are availing of a service or attending an event. These are normally found in shopping centres, leisure centres or other establishments as part of customer service.

School Age Childcare

A school age childcare (SAC) service offers school-aged children a safe and stimulating recreational environment in which to play, learn and unwind outside school hours.

On the 18th February 2019, the Child Care Act 1991 (Early Years Services) (Registration of School Age Services) Regulations 2018 came into effect. Services who cater for school age children (including childminders) must now register with Tusla, the Child and Family Agency. School-age childcare services have not, to date, been subject to registration, so this is a significant step forward in ensuring quality school-age childcare.

The School Age Childcare Team in Tusla are responsible for promoting the quality, safety and appropriate care of the children by assisting in the registration of services within the sector. Applications for registration can only be made online.

For further information, please visit Tusla

Parent and Toddler Groups

Parent and Toddler Groups offer parents and carers the opportunity to meet locally with their children on an informal regular basis. Parent and Toddler Groups meet one or two mornings per week and parents contribute a small fee per day. Some Parent and Toddler sessions are facilitated by Play Workers arranged by DCCC to work alongside parents and children in order to share interaction techniques and model play opportunities, which can be replicated at home. The attending parent/carer is responsible for the care and supervision of the child at all times.

Home Based Childcare

A home based service is ideal for you if you want your children to be cared for in a home environment where they can socialise with small groups of children from varying age groups. Home based childcare can also provide structured educational play and learning.


A childminder is someone who offers childcare in the childminders own home. They provide a home from home environment, which can offer continuity from the newborn to afterschool stages. Childminders can offer flexible hours to meet parent’s needs and provide wrap around care, i.e. drop-off and collection from pre-school or school.

A childminder who minds 4 or more pre-school children is obliged to notify and be inspected by Tusla, Pre-school Services under the School age Childcare Regulations 2018, and should care for no more than 5 pre-school children (including their own).

A childminding service MUST be registered with Tusla if they are minding more than 6 mixed aged children at any one time. A childminder who is required to register should apply to register as a pre-school childminder if they care for more pre-school children than school age children, and as a school age childminder if they care for more school age children than pre-school children.

However, a Childminding Service is exempt and are NOT required to register with TUSLA, if they care for:

  • 3 or less unrelated pre-school children or Pre-school children from the same family only
  • 6 or less school age only children
  • 6 or less mixed age children (provided no more than 3 are pre-school)
  • For more information on Tusla’s registration requirements for numbers of children minded, click here.

It is realistic for parents to pay for childcare on days where the child is not with the childminder, for example, bank holidays, parent sick days, parent holidays etc.

For a list of HSE Notified childminders in Co. Donegal, please contact Tusla on 074 91 23669.

Nanny/Au Pair

A Nanny/Au Pair is employed by parents to provide childcare in the child’s own home and can look after children of any age. Nannies may be ‘live-in’, or come to your home on a daily basis, or as required. There is no legal requirement for a Nanny to be qualified in childcare but many have childcare training. Nannies do not have to notify Tusla.

When choosing a Nanny it is important that you interview the person and check all references supplied before offering the post. When employing a Nanny, the parent should be aware of the relevant employment legislation and have Employer’s Liability Insurance cover.


Word of mouth is usually the best way to find a babysitter. Talk to other parents who have used babysitters. If you advertise, you should insist on references and check out these references. Babysitters need to be informed of the children’s routines especially where babies and young children are concerned.

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