Beginning your Search for Early Learning and Care

Are you looking for help finding childcare in the Dublin city area?

Types of Childcare


A sessional service refers to a programme for children for up to 3.5 hours per session.  Services may offer a morning and/or an afternoon session.

Part-Time Day Care

A part-time day care service refers to a programme for children over 3.5 hours and less than 5 hours per day.

Full Day Care

A full day service refers to programme for children for more than 5 hours per day. A full day service may include sessional, part-time services and School-Age Childcare Services.

School Age Childcare

A School-Age Childcare service refers to any service for school going children aged 4-15 years, which operates during one or more of the following periods:

School-Age Childcare services may use a range of terms to describe the type of service being offered: breakfast clubs, after school clubs, out of school programmes summer camps etc.


Childminding refers to paid, non-relative care of children aged from birth to 14 (including both early learning and care and school-age childcare) in which children are cared for within the childminder’s family setting. Childminding is sometimes described as ‘home-based’ care.

Making an Informed Decision

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. 

Barnardos has a booklet Quality School Age Care-What to look for in a Service to Care for your Child Outside of School which offers guidance to parents on choosing a quality service for their child during the time when they are not available and their child is not in school. 

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.

For more information on the Regulations and Early Years Inspections see the ELC and SAC Regulations and Inspections section of the website here.

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

The National Child Safeguarding Programme – Early Learning and Care has a leaflet for parents which outlines what parents can expect in relation to Child Safeguarding from Early Learning and Care services, it is available in English and Irish and can be downloaded below:

Contacting a Service Provider


Once you have completed research regarding services, the next task is to shortlist potential services. A brief email or phone interview asking your key questions will guide you to the next stage of choosing a suitable service. When you contact an early learning and care service, you can ask a number of questions initially. These questions may help you to shortlist providers and make informed decisions in choosing an appropriate care for your child.

Such questions may include:

  • Is the service registered with Tusla?
  • What are the opening hours of the service?
  • What age range does the service cater for?
  • Are there spaces currently available or is there a waiting list?
  • What types of care are provided, eg. full day care, part-time, sessional, etc?
  • If your child has specific needs, is the service resourced to meet those needs?
  • What information is already available to you – website, social media etc?

Arranging a visit to an Early Years' Service

After an initial phone or email interview, it is recommended that you visit the service.

It is important that you get the opportunity to meet the manager and staff and explore the setting’s environments, and discuss the policies and procedures that are in place.

This is your opportunity to ask about topics such as the service’s approach to behaviour management, the procedures in place for emergencies, is there a healthy eating policy and how the service encourages your child’s interests and promotes independence.

Then as a parent/guardian, you can decide if the service complements your approach to parenting and is the appropriate fit for you and your family.

Some points to consider:

  • Narrow your choices down to a couple of services that best suit your child and your family.
  • Consider first impressions of the service. What do your instincts tell you about the service? Would you be happy to leave your child in that service?
  • Consider external information available to you: Tusla’s Early Years’ and the Department of Education and Skills (ECCE only) inspection reports are available online, Tusla’s early years inspection reports can be accessed here.
  • Has anyone been able to recommend a service to you?
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions. A service provider should be happy to inform parents on their service, their approach to education and care and clarify any misconceptions.