Child Care Options in China

Find out about the options for childcare and finding a nanny or babysitter when living in China...

Nannies (Ayis)

Many foreign families in China opt to have an ayi (which means "auntie") to look after their children. Ayis can do anything from childcare to domestic chores and can be part-time or can live in. It is recommended to get a referral or recommendation for an Ayi.


There are no legal requirements for babysitters in China. Most people use a family member or an ayi to babysit. Ayis can be hired for little money on an ad-hoc basis.

Alternatively, websites like NannyBeijing are helpful, or classified advertisements in English-language print media and websites.


The availability of pre-primary education varies between rural and urban areas. Urban areas have a variety of pre-primary facilities, including international kindergartens, but pre-primary education in rural areas is available on an ad hoc basis.
Pre-primary functions as both early education and childcare, and promotes physical, moral, intellectual and artistic development. Play is the basis of educational activities.

Children tend to start kindergarten in China at the age of two years and remain until they are six years old, when they go to school. Kindergartens are split into the following grades:

  • Grade 1: Nursery/Playgroup (2-3 years)
  • Grade 2: Lower Kindergarten (3-4years)
  • Grade 3: Upper Kindergarten (4-5 years)
  • Grade 4: Pre-school (5-6 years)

There are both local Chinese and bilingual kindergartens, as well as international private kindergartens. Some take children as young as 18 months. Chinese schools and kindergartens tend to be more strict than Western-style kindergartens and may use different methods of discipline with less emphasis on creative development.

Tuition fees are payable for most pre-primaries, and costs depend on whether the school is run by a private or a government institution.

Residential boarding schools

Many Chinese parents choose to send their children to residential boarding schools, to enable the parents to work as well as for educational reasons. While this may seem strange to Westerners, it is common in China and these facilities offer excellent childcare facilities as well as teaching.