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Childcare in Toronto - Everything you should know

Updated: Nov 18, 2023

Settling in Canada to start a new life is an exciting adventure! The journey often comes with challenges, and for newcomers with children, childcare is one of them! Balancing cost, service quality, convenience, and availability, finding the right childcare solution in Toronto can be especially complex for newly settled parents.

Photo d'enfants dans une crèche

Ages and Types of Childcare

Upon the birth of a child, the total parental leave can extend up to 18 months in Ontario (check out our article on maternity and parental leave here). With a year and a half of maternity/parental leave, it's not uncommon to see mothers and fathers sharing this leave to spend more time with their baby. This is also why childcare options expand from 18 months onwards, even though many childcare services accept much younger children. Additionally, school starts at the age of 4 in Canada: the child must be 4 years old by December 31st of the school year to begin school. Before that, it's essential to plan childcare that best suits your needs and those of your child.

To care for your child after parental leave and until the age of 4, several types of childcare are available in Ontario:

  • Licensed daycare centers or nurseries

  • Licensed home-based childcare services

  • Unlicensed childcare services

  • Before and after-school care services

This article explores the various childcare options available in Toronto, details the costs and subsidies to help you plan and budget effectively. We will also share some tips to guide you in finding childcare services that suit your needs.

Licensed Daycare Centers (Daycare or Childcare Centre)

Daycares can be subsidized or private. Not all are authorized to work with infants; some only admit children aged 18 months and older, while others start at 2 and a half years old.

In any case, their fees vary depending on the child's age, typically falling into three categories:

  • Infants: Non-walking children up to 18 months

  • Toddlers: Children from 18 months to 2 and a half years

  • Preschoolers: From 2 and a half to 4 years old

Daycares can be located in schools, buildings, or residential homes, so they may not always be very visible from the street. There are numerous daycares in Toronto, and you can find them all on the city's website, whether they are English or French-speaking.

Many daycares are highly sought after, so it's crucial to join the waiting list as soon as the child is born, or even earlier, to have a chance of securing a spot when needed. It's also advisable to be on the waiting list for several daycares simultaneously to maximize your chances of getting a spot.

Regarding prices, it depends on whether the daycare participates in the federal subsidy program:

  • Infants: $850 to $1,200 per month if the daycare has applied for the federal subsidy program, otherwise $1,700 to $2,500

  • Toddlers: $700 to $1,100 per month if the daycare has applied for the federal subsidy program, otherwise $1,400 to $2,300

  • Preschoolers: $600 to $1,000 per month if the daycare has applied for the federal subsidy program, otherwise $1,200 to $2,100

Our advice: prioritize daycares that have applied for the federal subsidy program. There is no difference between these daycares and others. Daycares that have chosen not to apply to the federal program have done so voluntarily (for a reason I cannot explain).

Daycares sometimes also offer services for school-aged children. In this case, they are often located in or near an elementary school, providing a before and after-school program.

You can find all licensed daycare centers on the City of Toronto website.

Licensed Home Daycare Services

Childcare services are managed by a caregiver within their home. This caregiver is part of a network accredited by the City of Toronto. It's an individual with the necessary qualifications who hosts a group of children in their home. The advantage of using a home daycare agency is that each caregiver has been carefully vetted by the agency, including a check of their criminal record.

Providers offering home daycare services do not hold a license issued by the Ministry of Education. Instead, they are contracted by licensed home childcare agencies, which do hold a license from the Ministry. Additionally, the network often implements its own educational program and monitors the commitment of caregivers by conducting its inspections and reports. You can find all home daycare agencies on the City of Toronto website.

In terms of pricing, these home daycare services tend to be 30 to 40% cheaper than daycare centers.

Unlicensed Childcare Services (Nanny or Home Daycare)

The Nany

A nanny is an individual who comes to care for your children at home. She can either live with you (live-in) or come each day (live-out). She may be shared among several families and is considered a domestic employee. To find one, it's best to ask around or go to children's parks directly. The Facebook group MOMS & NANNIES TORONTO, as well as the websites Sitly and Care, also list nanny and babysitter ads. Once selected, you'll need to conduct interviews. The blog Nanny Services provides good indications on how to hire a nanny. Once found, the article Sample Nanny Contract will help you establish the contract.

In terms of pricing: Expect to pay between $20 and $30 per hour.

Unlicensed Home Daycare Services

These services are similar to licensed home daycare services in principle. The only difference is that the caregivers are not selected by an accredited agency. Unlicensed home daycare services are not inspected by the Ministry of Education and are not subject to most provincial standards. Therefore, it's up to you to gather the necessary information in the neighborhood to ensure that the quality meets your expectations.

In terms of pricing, these unlicensed home daycare services tend to be 10 to 30% cheaper than licensed ones within a network.

Before and After-School Care Services

Don't think you can bid farewell to childcare just because your child is of school age!

In Ontario, most schools start at 8 am (with no option to drop off earlier) and end around 2:30 pm. If you can't keep your child before 8 am and after 2:30 pm, you'll need to use before and after-school care services. These services are offered within the schools themselves or in independent centers. A standard school-based childcare system will cost you around $500 per month (possibly more if you also want to use their before-school service). Many sports or art clubs also serve as after-school care: in this case, your child will engage in the club's main activity (karate, tennis, dance, theater, etc.) for an hour, and the rest of the time will be in standard childcare mode. The cost of these childcare services depends on the desired activity; you won't pay the same amount for childcare at a horseback riding club as at a judo club 😊

It's possible that the existing school bus system allows your child to be taken from school to childcare in a supervised manner without you having to manage it. Inquire with the childcare provider.

Financial Assistance

As you've gathered, childcare options in Ontario, especially in Toronto, can be quite expensive. It's crucial to consider this when setting up your expatriation budget. However, financial assistance is available to help cover the cost of your child's care. These subsidies depend on your income and come in three types:

  • Ontario Childcare Subsidy

  • Ontario Child Benefit

  • Canada Child Benefit

For more information, visit the Subsidies page on the Ontario website.


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