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From Crèches to Child-Minders: Childcare in France

No matter where you are in the world, every working parent wants the best possible care for their children. Fortunately, France has several options, and our expat guide offers advice on where to send your little ones and how much you can expect to spend.

At a Glance:

  • Some crèches accept babies at the early age of three months, but waiting lists for the state-run daycare centers can be rather long.
  • While there are some bilingual nursery schools, choosing a French école maternelle might help your child integrate into life in France.
  • A French nanny, called nounou, has to be professionally trained and approved by the state.
  • Hiring an au-pair or babysitter can offer more flexibility, but communication can be an issue.


Preschool in France is not compulsory, and unlike in elementary school where children are registered automatically, parents must enroll their children. However, for those wishing to get back to work or take up a few hours, there are several options available.

Highly Contested Crèches

It is possible for mothers in France to go back to work soon after birth, as the French government provides state-run daycare centers known as crèches. Maternity leave tends to end when the baby is three months old, and crèches accept babies from this young age. A list of crèches in the area can be found at the local town hall, the mairie. It is worth applying as early as possible for a place for your child, as waiting lists can be long.

There are three types of crèche in France:

  • La crèche parentale is managed by parents with professional staff.
  • La crèche d’enterprise is offered by a company and provides professional childcare for its staff.
  • La crèche familial is a family crèche, in which a childcare professional is hired to look after children from different families under one roof and the cost is then split between families.

There are also crèches which are privately run, and the price of sending children to a private crèche can vary; however, it is usually around 300 to 400 EUR for those living outside of Paris. In the capital of France, prices tend to be higher.

Finding a Nursery School

French nursery schools, or rather écoles maternelles, are state-run, free of charge, and attended by children between the ages of two and six years old. When applying, be aware that older children tend to be given preference over younger children.

While it is recommendable to place your children in a French nursery in order to integrate them into their new location, there are also bilingual schools available for young children. The Bilingual Montessori School of Paris educates children between the ages of two to nine years old and organizes education activities, as well as prepares its students for the next steps of their education.

Alternatively, the United Nations Nursery School accepts children from two and half years old up to six years old. The teachers are bilingual, speaking both English and French, making the school a perfect environment for your child to settle. The classes are small, and there is also a focus on music and art, allowing the children an extensive education from a young age.

Your Nounou: Nannies in France

A French nanny is charmingly named a nounou, and will have been professionally trained and approved by the state. The state will also cover the nanny’s social, health, and retirement benefits. Nannies may care for up to five children at one time, depending on the age of the children being cared for.

A nounou should be given a contract which specifies their hours and monthly salary, and must be formally paid with a pay slip. If they are caring for your children for over five hours a week, it is necessary to declare yourself an employer with the URSSAF.

On average, a nounou will charge around 3.50 EUR per hour, as well as 3.50 EUR for every meal the child eats, however, this varies according to your area and it is worth talking to other parents to see what they are paying in your local area.

Finding Babysitters and Au Pairs

Alternatively, you may opt to engage a babysitter or an au pair. Babysitters can be casually paid and employed as and when is necessary. They are often recommended by word of mouth, or else found online and should have civil liability insurance. If the babysitter is younger than 15 years of age, their parents should be made aware of the arrangement. Babysitters in France tend to charge anything between 6 EUR and 12 EUR per hour, as this can vary on location and level of expertise.

Au pairs often come with fixed salaries from au pair agencies and it is customary to provide them with accommodation and an agreed amount of pocket money, which will be decided on before their arrival. Au pairs tend to come from abroad to learn French or another language, so consider if communication will be an issue.


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