Beginning your childcare search

Childcare Information for Parents

Choosing a good quality early years service for your child is very important for child’s early learning and development. Many parents are unsure what to look out for to ensure they are choosing a quality early years servcie. The following guides will assist you in making your decision. You can also view a service’s latest Tusla Inspection Report via the following link.

Types of Childcare

There are a variety of options available when it comes to arranging childcare for your children. What suits you best depends on practical issues such as the hours that you work or study, where you live and the availability of places, as well as any personal preferences you may have for choosing a home or center-based environment for your child. When choosing childcare it is important to take an honest look at what is best for your child’s personality and your parenting style.

Full Day Care

Over 5 hours, age range 0-6 years. Services covered under this definition are those offering a structured full day service for children which may include a part-time service and a sessional service also.

Part-Time Care

Up to 5 hours, age range 0-6 years. Services covered under this definition may include a sessional pre-school service for pre-school children not attending the part-time day care service. The service must provide the same physical environment including rest, play and sanitary facilities as for full day services.

Sessional Care

Up to 3.5 hours, age range 2 years 10 months – 6 years. Services covered by this definition may include pre-schools, playgroups, montessori pre-schools, naoínraí.

Parent & Toddler

One morning per week, age range between 0 – 2.5 years. A Parent & Toddler Group is a local support group where parents and carers can meet to compare notes and develop friendships in a safe and friendly environment while their children play and socialise together. In a Parent & Toddler Group, each parent or carer is responsible for their own children at all times. The age of children would range from 0 to 2.5 years.


Up to 2 hours. Services provided in shopping centers, leisure centers, hotels etc. on a temporary basis. In drop-in services the children are cared for over a period of not more than two hours.

Childminding - Homebased Care

A Childminder cares for a small group of children of mixed ages part-time or full time in the childminder’s own home. Childminders who care for 3 children or less are legally exempt from registering with Tusla.

Certain categories of Childminders are legally obliged to register their childminding service with Tusla: Childminders who wish to care for 4 or more preschool children or care for 7 or more school age children or a mix of both.


Age range 6 – 12 years. An out of school service is provided and takes responsibility for children when they are not in the school setting i.e. before school, after school and during school holidays. Out of school services should operate on the basis of an agreement between parents/carers and staff with on-going structured links with local schools.

What to Look for in an Early Years Service

This resource from Barnardos will support parents in consulting with early learning and care providers and in choosing a service if they are selecting a setting for their child for the first time.

The ebook covers areas such as children’s rights; relationships and attachment; interactions; social, emotional and behavioural development; the learning environment; and management of the setting.

Tusla and their resources

Researching various services allows you to make informed decisions when choosing an Early Learning and Care service.

School-Age Childcare services are regulated by the Child Care Act 1991 (Early Years Services) (Registration of School Age Services) Regulations 2018. 

The Early Learning and Care sector is regulated under the Child Care Act 1991 (Early Years’ Services) Regulations 2016. Tusla Child and Family Agency has statutory responsibility to support compliance and quality standards through regular inspection.

To view Tusla registered service’s inspection reports visit: Tusla’s website  

Tusla Tips for parents

Tusla’s website contains some great advice on the practical steps towards choosing the right childcare for your family. Helpful tips for those looking for the first time, and also for those already attending an Early Years Childcare Service.

Children First in Early Learning and Care Services

Children First: National Guidance outlines that all organisations working with children, including Early Learning and Care Services should create a culture of safety that promotes the welfare of children and young people availing of their services.

First 5, A Whole-of-Government Strategy for Babies, Young Children and their Families

First 5 is the first ever cross-Departmental strategy to support babies, young children and their families.

The aim of the  ambitious ten-year plan is to deliver:

  1. A broader range of options for parents to balance working and caring
  2. A new model of parenting support
  3. New developments in child health, including a dedicated child health workforce
  4. Reform of the Early Learning and Care (ELC) system, including a new funding model
  5. A package of measures to tackle early childhood poverty

Find lots of other help on our site including a Westmeath Childcare Directory and information on a range of funding programmes. Alternatively if you can’t find what you need, get in touch with us on