Childcare in Portugal For Expat Families

Note: StartAbroad is not an expert in childcare. The guide below is simply information our clients have found useful in navigating the childcare landscape in Portugal. None of the services linked below are official StartAbroad partners. Please do your own due diligence before selecting a childcare provider.

Childcare Summary

Childcare options in Portugal for young children include:

  • Nursery (crèche)- 3 months to 3 years
  • Preschool/kindergarten (jardim de infância) – 3 years to 5/6 years
  • Nanny/childminder (babá or ama)

 

Primary school begins at 6 years old in Portugal, so the childcare options above are suited to children younger than 6.

Childcare options for older children when they are not in school include:

  • Babysitters/nannies
  • Before and after school clubs
  • Summer camps (colónias de férias)

Costs and quality of childcare in Portugal

The Portuguese government introduced free childcare for children 0 to 2 years old in 2023-24 and has committed to phase in free childcare for children up to age 3 in the future.

 

Portuguese childcare quality is good. Jardim de infância teachers must have postgraduate qualifications. The average staff-to-pupil ratio is 1:17 at the Jardim de infância level.

Crèche/Nursery

Nurseries (crèches) typically provide care for children between the ages of 3 months and 3 years old and typically have groups of 10-12 children together. Classes are often divided by age, for example with a group of 0 to 1 year olds and another group of 1 to 3 year olds. Typical hours can vary depending on the nursery.

 

There are not enough spaces available in public crèches for all children being born in Portugal. Many families want to place their children into these public crèches that are government subsidized. In fact, it’s recommended that you register for a waiting list as soon as you become pregnant in order to get a spot in one of these subsidized facilities.

 

For this reason, it usually makes sense for expat families who already have young children to look to private crèche options, at least for the first year or so in Portugal.

 

The average private crèche/nursery costs €200-300 per month, although there are certainly cheaper and more expensive options.

Jardim de Infância/Preschool and Kindergarten

Nurseries (crèches) typically provide care for children between the ages of 3 months and 3 years old and typically have groups of 10-12 children together. Classes are often divided by age, for example with a group of 0 to 1 year olds and another group of 1 to 3 year olds. Typical hours can vary depending on the nursery.

 

There are not enough spaces available in public crèches for all children being born in Portugal. Many families want to place their children into these public crèches that are government subsidized. In fact, it’s recommended that you register for a waiting list as soon as you become pregnant in order to get a spot in one of these subsidized facilities.

 

For this reason, it usually makes sense for expat families who already have young children to look to private crèche options, at least for the first year or so in Portugal.

 

The average private crèche/nursery costs €200-300 per month, although there are certainly cheaper and more expensive options

 

 

Alternative options: International Preschool, Montessori, Waldorf, and More

There are also international options in early childhood schooling and childcare. Most international schools in Portugal offer preschool care and accept children starting at age 2 or 3. These schools will teach lessons in other languages than Portuguese (often English). Note that this option will typically be significantly more expensive than other private facilities.

 

Montessori and Waldorf programs are well-established in Portugal and also typically offer placements starting at age 2 or 3. Many also incorporate English or are international as well as offering their specific pedagogy.

 

Some of the most highly regarded international nursery and preschool options available include:

 

Nannies and Babysitters

Nannies are typically known as babá in Portugal, or sometimes ama (carer). They are available through public and private services. Public options typically provide care in their own homes. Private options tend to come to your home to provide care. In either case, they provide care for children up to 3 years old (before children go to preschool). In a public setting they are only legally allowed to care for a maximum of 4 children at once.

 

Most nannies are qualified with a child first aid certificate and have police clearance, but may or may not be registered with local authorities. If you choose a private nanny for your childcare, please conduct a thorough background check.

 

There are agencies in Portugal that can provide babysitting and nanny services (e.g. https://babysisters.pt/, Nanny Poppins, and Yoopies.pt). There are also a number of Facebook groups dedicated to helping parents find childcare or that represent childcare services. A couple we often see recommended:

 

 

7-8 euros per hour is a standard rate for babysitters and nannies, although you may pay higher rates for more experienced sitters and also for care after school or on weekends. Full-time nannies working 8 to 10 hours a day make €1000-1600 per month typically, although rates will be higher for live-in nannies and for nannies working more than 5 days per week.

Accessing Childcare in Portugal

You can access public childcare in Portugal once you are a resident. Before you finalize your residency process you can use any of the many private carers and centers in the country.

 

In order to access public childcare (public nursery or preschool) you will need to register your child in the Portugal social security system. This means getting an NISS (social security ID number) for your child at Segurança Social. For nursery/creche you should then enquire at the facility where you would like to register and ask to get on the waiting list. For preschool you will then need to enroll your child online via the Portal das Matrículas.



Summer Camps (colónias de férias)

Summer camps may be available through your child’s school or through a private facility or service. There are also often holiday activities for children organized through the local Freguesia. Generally you will be able to find more information on available options closer to the summer, after Easter, and in your local area. We recommend joining a local families/expat families Facebook group and inquiring there, as well as looking to your local Freguesia website. 

Popular private options often include soccer (football) camps, surf camps, and educational summer programming in international schools. 

A few camps recommended by other expat parents include:

 

Please see this article (not affiliated with StartAbroad) for some more suggestions

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