A guide for parents in Canada

Nova Scotia

Who’s responsible?

Who to contact

  • Department of Education and Early Childhood Development
  •   Website
  •   (902) 424-5168

The Early Years Branch at the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development is responsible for licensing and monitoring child care centres, administering child care subsidies, and pre-primary and Grade Primary programs.

The Early Years Branch also offers the Inclusion Support Grant (ISG) and Early Childhood Development Intervention Services (NSECDIS).

Child care
Licensed child care includes full-day child care centres, nursery schools, family child care and school-age child care as well as before and after-school program, which are approved, not licensed. Regulated family child care providers work under family child care agencies.

Grade Primary, or kindergarten is full-school day for all five-year-olds and pre-primary, or four-year-old kindergarten is full-school day for all four year olds.

Pre-primary is not a mandatory program but is available to all four year olds in their catchment areas. To register for Pre-primary, visit the Our Schools & Regional Centre for Education website. 

Finding child care

Facts and figures

  • There is a regulated space for 14% of children aged 0 – 12. (2021)

  • There is a regulated full- or part-time centre-base space for 25% of children aged 0 – 5. (2021)
  • 55% of child care is owned by private, for-profit organizations, with the remainder run by non-profits. There is no publicly delivered child care. (2021)

Families are responsible for finding child care for their child(ren); there is no universal entitlement to child care.

A child care directory is available through the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. The directory provides a search of facilities by name and/or location, and shows whether a facility currently meets its licensing requirements. Parents need to contact centres directly to register their child or put their name on a waiting list.

The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development also offers a guide to support parents in choosing licensed child care centres and approved family day care homes, finding available spaces, and applying for a child care subsidy.

Paying for child care

Families are responsible for paying child care fees.

As part of the implementation of the Canada-Nova Scotia CWELCC agreement, fees for all full-day regulated child care programs serving children 0 – 6 years old were reduced by 50% in 2022. The 50% reduction was to existing parent fees, so parents will find that fees vary across the province.

baby with a blanket


The Child Care Subsidy Program may provide families with a subsidy to cover a portion of their child care costs. Family income, financial assets, and special needs within the family determine subsidies.

Child care subsidies can be used in any licensed program and are paid directly to the child care centre or family home day care on behalf of eligible parents. A program may surcharge subsidized parents if costs are above the maximum subsidy rate.

Accessing subsidies

Forms and application instructions are available online. For further information you can contact your regional community services office.

Note: You must find a child care centre or family home day care for your child before a subsidy can be applied. You will need to let your Child Care Subsidy caseworker know when your child will be starting and the program’s daily fees.

Regulated child care

In Nova Scotia, child care centres and Family Home Daycare Agencies must operate in accordance with the regulations set out in the Early Learning and Child Care Act and Regulations.

Family child care is subject to similar regulations and is approved, managed and monitored by licensed family child care agencies.

The The Early Learning and Child Care Act and Regulations address a wide range of requirements, from space requirements to attendance taking. Selected regulations related to program quality are highlighted below.

  • There are currently five levels of classification for educators in Nova Scotia, each with its own minimum requirement. They are:
    • Entry level: completion of Orientation for Staff Working in Licensed Child Care Facilities or post-secondary courses equivalent to the Orientation
    • Level 1: completion of the Orientation, as well as Level 1 course work and guided workplace experience
    • Level 2: completion of a two-year diploma in ECE, or a successful completion of the Recognition of Prior Learning and Assessment Program
    • Level 3: either a four-year degree in ECE or an area of study that qualifies a a person to plan and deliver early childhood programming, or a diploma in ECE and a four-year degree in any area
    • School-age Approval: completion of the Orientation and a four-year degree, or a post-secondary program that qualifies a person to plan and deliver programming for school-age children
  • In regulated child care centres with infant to preschool-age programs, 2/3 of the staff working directly with children must have at least a Level 1 classification and the director must have at least a Level 2 classification. School-age Approval is not applicable.
  • In a regulated school-age program, 2/3 of the staff working directly with children must have at least Level 1 classification or Schoo-age Approval and the director must have at least Level 2 classification or School-age Approval.
  • In either case, a director who began working as a director before May 1, 2012 may have a Level 1 Classification.
  • All other staff must complete an orientation program. See Orientation for Staff Working in Licensed Child Care Facilities.
  • All staff must provide proof that they have participated in 30 hours of professional development every three years.See the guide to classification and professional development for Early Childhood Educators for more information.
  • A family child care provider must be- at least 18 years old, complete the 40-hour Family Home Child Care Training program within one year of opening, complete five hours of professional development training annually, and cooperate with a family child care consultant during the support and annual assessment processes.
  • Staff:child ratios address the number of staff required per number of children.
  • Group size is the number of children, usually of one age group, that stay together throughout the day in a defined group – often a room.
  • Family child care homes have a specified number of children by age.

Child care centres

AgeStaff:child ratiosMax. group size
Infant 1:4 10
Toddler 1:6 18
Preschooler and toddler older
than 30 months
1:7 24
Pre-schooler 1:8 24
Toddler older than 30 mos 1:12 24
Pre-schooler 1:12 24
Pre-primary only 1:12 30
School-age only 1:15  30
School-age and fewer than 8
pre-primary children 
1:15 30
School-age and 8 or more
pre-primary children
 1:12 30

Regulated family child care homes

AgeStaff:child ratiosMax. group size
Any age*                                 1:7 7
Infants 1:3 3
School-age 1:9 9
*If a care provider is caring for 4 to 7 children, no more than 3 children may be under 3 years of age and of those 3 children no more than 2 children may be younger than 18 months.

Each home may have a maximum of:

  • Seven children of mixed ages including the provider’s own children; or
  • Nine children all in school age, including the provider’s own school-age children (4-12 years old); or
  • Three children all in the infant age (younger than 18 months), including the provider’s own children; or 
  • Four to seven children, no more than three may be under three years of age, and of those three children no more than two children may be infants.

Regulated centres are required to provide meals and snacks that are in accordance with the Manual for Food and Nutrition in Regulated Child Care Settings.

An outdoor play space used by a facility must be safe, age-appropriate, and accessible to all enrolled children, including those with diverse abilities. Children enrolled in a full-day or school-age program must be provided with either one or more outdoor play space located at the facility, or access to an outdoor play space that is within a reasonable distance of the facility.

A child care program must provide a minimum of 30 minutes of uninterrupted outdoor play in the morning and afternoon at a time when the majority of children are in attendance.

See Ministerial Requirements Standards for the Daily Program.

Child care centres and family home day care providers are required to have a  behaviour guidance policy and are responsible to review the policy with staff, parents and volunteers on an annual basis.

“Corporal punishment”, “isolation”, “deliberate harsh or degrading measures”, and deprivation of basic needs (food, shelter, clothing, and bedding) are all specifically prohibited under the provincial regulations.

Child care centres and family home day care providers must establish a parent committee that is an open and accessible forum for parents to provide input and receive notice on matters that may be of interest or concern. The parent committee may be a sub-committee of a non-profit organization’s board. There are no longer specific requirements for the composition of the parent committee.

The regulations require basic health and safety precautions to be met. For example, service providers are required to:

  • Have a daily written record summarizing incidents affecting health, safety, or well-being of staff or children.
  • Have medications stored in a locked place, written permission obtained before staff can administer medications to children.
  • Have a centre-specific written policy and procedure regarding serious occurrences (i.e., injury, death).
  • Have a valid first aid certificate that includes infant CPR training.
  • Follow provincial guidelines for promoting and maintaining health and safety and controlling communicable disease.
  • If over the age of 18, complete a criminal record check. This applies to anyone over the age of 18 who may have contact with children, including volunteers and those who reside in a home where regulated childcare is offered.
  • If over the age of 13, complete a child abuse register check. This applies to anyone over 13 years of age who may have contact with children, including volunteers and those who reside in a home where regulated childcare is offered.
  • Child Abuse Protocol (CAP) Training is offered throughout the province for the staff of Child Care Facilities and Family Home Daycare Agency Consultants. CAP training is delivered by a registered Social Worker, and an Early Childhood Education Consultant, and is intended to provide licensees, child care staff and care providers with the information needed to respond to suspicions and/or allegations of child abuse.

The Government of Nova Scotia has developed the Capable, Confident and Curious curriculum framework. Although the curriculum framework is only mandatory in provincially funded child care centres and pre Primary programs it is used as a curriculum guide in licensed child care centres that access provincial funding.

Unregulated child care

A family child care home is not required to be regulated if it has six or fewer children of mixed ages on a regular basis, including any children of the person providing the care. If children in care are school-age (four years old as of December 31 and attending school or pre-primary), a care provider can have up to nine children, including their own. After-school programs for children in Grade Primary through Grade 6 do not require a license.

Children with disabilities

The Inclusion Support Grant is a grant provided to support inclusive programs. Funding can be used for specialized training and professional development for early childhood educators, additional staff to enhance ratios for the delivery of a facility’s inclusive program, and to purchase educational and resource materials directly related to inclusive programs.

Both the application process and use of ISG funding are the responsibility of the child care facility.

The Nova Scotia Early Childhood Development Intervention Services (NSECDIS) provides specialized services to families with children between birth and school entry who are either at risk for or have a diagnosis of developmental delay. These services are to support developmental outcomes for children through information sharing, support, consultation, and services to help both the child and their family.

See Do you have a child with a disability or special need? for more information on provincial/territorial supports for children with disabilities in child care.

Last modified on Monday, 20 November 2023 12:58