Childcare and Pre-school in Costa Rica

Understand the different childcare options available to parents of toddlers in Costa Rica, including information on babysitters, nannies, au pairs, creches and nursery schools...

There are both public and private educational institutions in Costa Rica. Public education is free of charge and is organized by the Ministry of Education.

Pre-school education

Pre-school education (Educación Preescolar) covers the stages between birth and when the child reaches six and half years of age.

Pre-school education in the Costa Rican education system is made up of two cycles - the Ciclo Materno Infantil and the Ciclo de Transición.

The Ciclo Materno Infantil can be further divided up into three sections:

  • Bebes (0-12 months of age)
  • Maternal (1-3½ years of age)
  • Interactivo (3½-5½ years of age)

The Ciclo de Transición is for children aged 5½ to 6½ years.

Entry into each stage depends on the age of the child on the last day of the month of February.

While the education system provides care for children from a very young age, it is advised that children enter this cycle as late as possible, in order to establish strong links between children and their families.

Various public and private institutions also provide education for children from birth to five years old.

The following institutions make up the pre-school education system in Costa Rica:

  • Guarderías Infantiles: for children from an early age up until pre-school
  • Centros de Atención Integral (CAI): day schools for children below the age of six, mainly looking after children whose parents are at work
  • Centros de Educación y Nutrición (CEN): run by the Ministry of Health (Ministerio de Salud), providing food and education to children up to the age of four
  • Centros Infantiles de Atención Integral (CINAI): run by the Ministry of Health, looking after children up to the age of six
  • Jardines de niños: the first stage of formal education, for children aged between three and six. Both public and private institutions exist
  • Hogares comunitarios: day care centers, looking after small groups of children while parents are at work
  • Find more details about pre-school education in Costa Rica

Children are required to wear school uniform.

  • For details about school uniforms for pre-school students: Click here (PDF in Spanish)

Nannies and Au Pairs

Nannies (niñeras) and au pairs may be found by word of mouth or through a recognized agency that provides nannies that have child-minding and basic first-aid qualifications.

Individuals also offer child minding services on classified advertisement websites.

Babysitters can be found through agencies, individuals advertising and by word-of-mouth. The website Babysitter is a free service which aims to put nannies and au pairs in contact with prospective employers.