Early childhood education at daycare centres

Municipal daycare centres are open between 6.15 and 17.30. On this page, you can find information on shift care and other general facts about everyday life in early childhood education.

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Helsinki offers a diverse learning environment for your child and opportunities for experience-based activities and learning.

Photo: Konsta Linkola

Information for guardians

Before a child starts daycare, the group teacher has a discussion with the guardians. This discussion gives you a chance to tell the teacher what kind of person your child is and what your expectations and hopes for daycare are. The daycare staff will also tell you how the group operates, what its daily schedule is and what type of clothing your child will need, for example.

You can arrange the dates of your child’s familiarisation with the group with the daycare staff. This familiarisation period usually lasts for roughly a week, but it can also be shorter or longer, depending on the child’s individual needs. The child first gets to know the group together with their parent, guardian or another close adult.

If the child is transferred from one group to another, they can play with and familiarise themselves with the children and adults in the new group in advance.

Welcome to early childhood education and care! (PDF)

The City of Helsinki’s daycare centres are open on weekdays between 6.15 and 17.30, according to the families’ needs. In order to ensure enough personnel, we will agree on the regular start and end times for your child’s need for care in advance. You must notify your daycare centre or care provider a week in advance about any irregular hours or exceptions.

If you would like to shorten or extend your child's daily care hours, please contact your daycare centre or care provider two weeks in advance at the latest. The need for shorter care hours must continue for at least three months of attendance. If the family’s need for shorter care hours lasts for less than three months, we will collect the client fee for longer hours of care retroactively.

We will extend your child's care hours immediately if the need for longer hours of care is caused by the parent or guardian’s unexpected employment, studies or training. Unfortunately, we are not always able to offer longer care hours for your child at the daycare centre you are familiar with.

A family can have regular and refundable absences 4–12 times a month.

Read more about early childhood education fees

Every child in early childhood education has the right to receive education and care that is systematic and goal-oriented, as guaranteed by the Act on Early Childhood Education. In order to achieve this, we draw up an individual early childhood education plan for every child at a daycare centre or in family daycare together with the child and the parents or guardians. The plan sets goals for the daycare activities in order to promote the systematic education and care provided for the child.

The child’s early childhood education teacher is responsible for creating and evaluating the child’s individual early childhood education plan. In addition to a discussion and the writing process, the plan takes the child’s strengths, needs and own views into account.  The child’s previous early childhood education plan can also be reviewed. The child’s entire education and care team take part in the process, and the creation, observations, documentation and evaluation are conducted multi-professionally.

Every child who needs support for learning and development has the right to receive it.

Early childhood education ensures that children feel accepted and receive feelings of accomplishment to strengthen their positive self-image.

The observation of the child’s need for support, and the planning, implementation and evaluation of the support are conducted together with the guardians and, if necessary, other experts working with the child and the family.

If your child needs support for learning and development, inform the daycare centre or early childhood education provider of this in your application for early childhood education.

Cooperation with guardians aims at both the guardians and the daycare centre staff mutually committing to promote the child’s healthy and safe growth, learning and development.

Guardians have the option of setting up parent committees that support and complement the child's early childhood education. A parent committee appoints a chair and treasurer from among the children's guardians.

As a rule, municipal daycare centres are closed on mid-week holidays.

Mid-week holidays that might affect the opening hours:
New Year’s Day, Epiphany, Good Friday, Easter Monday, May Day, Ascension Day, Midsummer’s Eve, Midsummer’s Day, All Saints’ Day, Independence Day, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

For more information on how mid-week holidays affect the opening hours, please contact your child’s daycare centre. 

The municipality the family lives in is responsible for organising a place in early education if the place has been applied for four months before the need for early education begins.

The cities of Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa and Kauniainen have an agreement of organising early education if the child is attending municipal early education and the family moves within these cities. Early childhood education can be organised in the previous city of residence until the end of the next autumn term (ends on 31 December) or spring term (ends on 31 July) following the move, up to the start of pre-primary education. The family will receive a new, fixed-term early childhood education decision.

Prepare your complaint using the form Complaint about the operations of early education, PDF (opens in a new tab). You can also make an complaint as a free-form letter.

You should describe in as much detail as possible what you are dissatisfied with. There is no time limit for making an complaint, but you should do it as soon as possible in order to facilitate the handling of matters.

You should primarily submit the complaint to the person in charge of the daycare centre in question, i.e. the manager of the daycare centre or facility.

In general, complaints are processed within one month, except during holiday periods, in which case the response time may be longer. If investigating the matter requires a longer period of time, you will be informed of the estimated processing time.

The response to the complaint will explain how the matter has been investigated, specifying the reasons and detailing any further measures taken on the basis of the complaint. The response to the complaint cannot be appealed.

Practical information about daycare centres

Common practices at municipal daycare centres.

Always agree in advance with the daycare staff about the arrangements for picking up the child from daycare. If the child has more than one home, the staff will agree on the arrangements for picking up the child separately with the guardians.

The staff will assess the safety of the journey home based on the information available to them when the child is about to leave. This safety assessment takes into account factors such as the child’s age and skills, the ability of the person picking up the child to ensure the child’s safety, the length of the journey home, and any exceptional circumstances.

Contacting the guardians and contact details

It is important that your contact information is always up to date at the daycare centre or other care provider. If a child is not picked up from daycare by the time that has been agreed upon, the daycare centre will contact the guardians and the person who was supposed to pick up the child. If the daycare staff are unable to contact the guardians, they will try to reach the other persons permitted by agreement to pick up the child.

Your child will spend time outdoors in all types of weather at the daycare centre. In addition to weather-appropriate outdoor clothing, your child will need clothing and shoes to wear indoors. To avoid mix-ups and items going missing at daycare, please make sure to put a name tag on all your child's clothing and equipment. During the initial discussion held at the start of daycare, the staff will tell you what type of clothing your child will need.

The City of Helsinki is not liable for any damages to or loss of property. The daycare centre staff will take as good care of the children’s personal strollers, bicycles and toys as possible, but they cannot be kept in a locked or secure facility.

Meals and food education are important parts of a child’s early childhood education. High-quality, healthy and balanced meals and snacks promote children’s health and wellbeing. Mealtimes at the daycare centre covers two thirds of a child’s daily nourishment (in daytime daycare centres). We follow the Finnish Food Authority’s recommendations called Terveyttä ja iloa ruoasta (’Health and joy from food’) in the daycare centre meals.

The menus and guidelines for the food service providers are planned together with the service providers. There are four different food service providers for the city’s daycare centres: Palvelukeskus Helsinki, Compass Group, Palmia and Sodexo. 

Helsinki wants to offer nutritionally balanced and tasty food for children on special diets. We can arrange a special diet for your child for health-related or religious reasons. If your child has severe allergies to any foods or ingredients, you must provide the daycare centre with a medical certificate concerning a special diet.

The notification of a need for a special diet to the service provider is done together with the daycare centre manager. 

Browse the daycare centres’ and round-the-clock daycare centres’ menus

See also

After morning activities, spending time outdoors and eating a meal, the children will take a nap or listen to a story or music. Naptime routines at the daycare centre help the children calm down and rest. While some of the children need to take a nap, rest/storytime is enough for others. The daycare centre staff can tell you more about the naptime practices.

When a child falls ill

Please do not take your child to daycare if the child is ill. If a child falls ill during the day, the daycare staff will notify the guardian, who must pick up the child as soon as possible. If a child falls ill with severe symptoms, the daycare staff will take the child to the nearest health station or a hospital’s outpatient clinic. The guardian is responsible for the child’s further treatment.

The child can return to the daycare centre once the child is able to participate in the activities and there is no risk of infection.

If your child needs to take medication while in daycare, please provide the daycare staff with a doctor's written instructions on how to administer the medication. If necessary, the child’s guardians can discuss arrangements for the child’s medication (such as diabetes or asthma medication) with healthcare and early childhood education staff on a case-by-case basis.

A child with an acute illness can return to the daycare centre or family daycare while still taking medication, after a sufficient recovery period. The staff will administer the medication labelled with the child’s name to the child according to the doctor’s instructions on the right dosage. Daycare staff do not give homoeopathic products to children in daycare.


In the event of an accident, daycare staff will immediately administer first aid to the child and notify the guardians about the incident as soon as possible. If the accident leads to a need for further treatment, daycare staff will take the child either to the nearest health station, dental clinic or the Paediatric Emergency Department at New Children's Hospital, depending on the nature of the accident.

If the child requires aid devices after the accident, the unit supervisor and the guardians will assess the child’s ability to participate in the daycare centre’s activities together.

The City of Helsinki has taken out insurance on the children in early childhood education. The insurance company will cover any treatment costs arising from an accident, based on the fees charged for public healthcare. The insurance company will also cover the costs of a private service to which the patient is referred to by public healthcare services.

Neither the insurance policy nor the City of Helsinki will cover any loss of profits arising from the arrangement of home care for a child.

Shift care in round-the-clock daycare centres

If you have to work or attend studies in the evening, at night, or in the weekend, we can provide your child with care in the evening, at night and at the weekend. Your child can also spend part of the day in a part-time daycare group.

We consider your need for this type of care regular if your child requires early childhood education in the evening, at night or at the weekend for five days a month on average during a three-month period. If your need for this type of care is not significant, we will provide early childhood education for your child at a normal daycare centre or in family daycare. If you need round-the-clock care, we will provide it for your child at a round-the-clock daycare centre as necessary. If you apply for a place at a round-the-clock daycare centre or in a part-time daycare group, we require both guardians living in the same household to provide a certificate of their shift work or studies.

A child can get a place in round-the-clock care (care in the evening or night) if the guardian or guardians living in the same household attend regular shift work or evening studies. If your child needs care mostly in the daytime and during the location’s normal opening hours, you might not be eligible for round-the-clock care.

If your child no longer needs round-the-clock care, or your need for the service reduces, the child will be transferred to a regular daytime group or location. In case a round-the-clock caregiver is absent, we can offer substitute care at a round-the-clock daycare centre.

Round-the-clock daycare centres are open around the clock on all days of the week. Please note that these are all Finnish-language daycare centres.

See round-the-clock daycare centres on the Helsinki Service Map(Link leads to external service)

Daycare centres open in the evening are open on weekdays (Mon–Fri) from 6.15 to 21.00 or 22.00. Please note that most of these are Finnish-language daycare centres. From 31 July 2023 onwards, the only Swedish-language daycare centre open in the evening will be Daghem Nätholmen.

See daycare centres open in the evening of the Helsinki Service Map(Link leads to external service)

It is recommended that the child and guardian get to know the personnel, other children and activities at the shift care for at least one week before the beginning of shift care. You should let the daycare know the schedule of your night shifts or studies that require the child's presence at the daycare as soon as possible, no later than at 16.00 on the Tuesday of the preceding week. If the child does not stay the night, you must pick up the child before the child's bedtime, no later than at 22.00. If your child is staying for the night, you should bring the child in no later than at 20.00. 

The child can stay in the daycare centre while the guardians are at work and while the guardian sleeps after a night shift. No shift care is available during your days off, holidays and medical leave. On those occasions, the child can participate in early childhood education according to a separate agreement, within the opening hours of day-time early childhood education from Monday to Friday. The child must have at least eight days off per month. 

Your work shifts or study times can be subject to sudden, unforeseeable changes, and you may need to modify your need for shift care. The change must be based on a shift change by the employer or study times determined by your education institution. You are required to provide proof of the change. You must also contact the daycare centre that provides shift care and find out if a sudden change can be made. If the change is not possible in the child’s own daycare centre, the personnel will try to find if another daycare centre that provides shift care or evening care. Please note that sudden, unforeseeable shift care needs cannot always be fulfilled.

The child's need for shift care is determined based on the work shifts or study times reported by the guardians living in the same household. When your child's need for early childhood education in evenings, at nights and weekends ends, decreases or is used less than reported, the child will be arranged a place in a day-time group, daycare centre or family daycare that is open between 6.15 and 17.30. If needed, substitute care in a location that is open in the evenings, at night and over weekends will still be arranged for the child. If the child moves to another city, the child’s right to shift care in Helsinki will end on the day of the move or no later than two weeks from the day of the move. 

If the child needs shift care during evenings, nights and weekends less than five times during the past three months, the child’s need for shift care will be considered to have ended. For a period of three months, the child must need care during evenings, nights and weekends on more than 15 days.

Once it has been determined that your need for shift care will end, you must submit a Transfer application in the Asti online service(Link leads to external service)to transfer the child to a day-time daycare centre or family daycare that operates between 6.15 and 17.30. Any transfer preferences will be subject to the same placement criteria as those of new applicants. The guardian has two weeks to submit the Transfer application. 

If possible, the child will be granted a place in the preferred daycare based on the criteria according to the regular admission criteria in early childhood education. If there is no room in the preferred daycare, your child will be granted a free place that is nearest to the child’s home address. If there are more applicants than places, the available places will be primarily granted to children whose siblings are in the same daycare centre. If the applicants start early childhood education on the same date and the sibling principle is fulfilled, the place will be offered to the child who lives closest to the unit in question according to the Helsinki Region Transport (HSL) Journey Planner.

If you reject the assigned place in the Asti online service, the child’s shift care placement will end. A previously submitted Transfer application will not remain valid.  If your child still has a need for early childhood education, a new application should be submitted in the Asti online service. The child will not have a place in early childhood education until you have applied for and accepted a new place. The shift care placement will end two weeks after receiving the place, even if the place is not accepted.

The child will not have a place in early childhood education because the placement has ended due to the end of the need for shift care. You must submit a Transfer application if the child still needs early childhood education or shift care. The shift care placement ends one month after the need has been determined to have ended. 

If the child is in shift care and the family moves to another municipality within the Helsinki Metropolitan Area (Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa, Kauniainen), the child’s right to shift care in the previous municipality will continue as needed until the end of the spring or autumn term following the move, or until the beginning of their pre-primary education, at most. 

This means that if the family moves during the spring, the child can continue in shift care in the previous municipality until the end of the following autumn term. If the family moves in the autumn, the child can continue until the end of the spring term. 

If the child is already in pre-primary education, they can continue in the previous municipality until the end of the spring term if they want to.

If the family moves to a municipality outside the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, the child's right to shift care in Helsinki ends immediately.

Part-time daycare groups

Your child may also attend early childhood education only part of the day in a part-time daycare centre group.

A part-time daycare group can be a good fit for your child if the child has younger siblings at home or regularly requires fewer hours of care per day because of your job. The activities and group size are determined based on the children’s age and number, and the early childhood education teacher is responsible for the group’s pedagogical activities.

The group also participates in all joint events at the daycare centre.

Temporary early childhood education

Temporary early childhood education means having your child attend daycare for a short-term need. Apply for temporary early childhood education by filling out the application to early childhood education (PDF). Submit the paper form by post to the following address: Service Guidance for Early Childhood Education, Työpajankatu 8, P.O. Box 58300, 00099 City of Helsinki.

Receiving child home care allowance or private daycare allowance or having an early childhood education place in another municipality is not an obstacle to temporary early childhood education. A fixed fee will be charged for temporary early childhood education.