Childcare for children under the age of three

In France, school attendance is mandatory for all children from the age of three. If your children are under three years old and you need to have them looked after, there are different childcare solutions available. The role of childcare is to care for children and ensure their health, safety and well-being.

Verified by Ouarda Varda Sadoudi on 29/09/2023

Sometimes it may seem scary to entrust your baby or toddler to people you don’t know personally, especially in a country you haven’t grown up in. 

However, childcare in France is provided by qualified professionals, trained to ensure the safety and well-being of young children. The vast majority of these professionals are women. 

In France, the main childcare options for young children are:

  • collective establishments called “crèches
  • accredited childcare professionals called “assistantes maternelles” 
  • private childcare services in the home.

You can search this website to find out what childcare solutions are available near you.

Collective establishments known as “crèches

Crèches” are facilities that look after children in a group. There are different types: community, family, parental or corporate.

In “crèches”, children are taken care of by qualified professionals who have undergone specialist training. The vast majority of these professionals are women. 

This method of childcare is the easiest to manage administratively.

  • In order to be admitted to a “crèche”, your child must meet the following two conditions:

    • be aged between two months and three years
    • have received the vaccinations required for their age, unless a medical certificate attests that they are contraindicated.
  • Costs depend on the type of “crèche” and are generally tailored to parents’ income.

  • As a first step, you can contact your local town hall or “mairie” to find out about how to register for a “crèche”. 

    You can also search for “crèches” that have places available in your town on this website.

    The registration process depends on where you live and the type of “crèche” you have chosen. Ask about what to do and documents to provide.

    If you work, you can also ask your employer if it is possible to have access to a company childcare facility known as a “crèche d’entreprise”.

Accredited childcare professionals called “assistantes maternelles

An “assistante maternelle” is an accredited childcare professional approved by the administrative authority of your department called the “conseil départemental”. 

They have received specialist training and meet the conditions to care for up to four children:

  • in their home 
  • or in a shared location with other accredited childcare professionals called a “maison d’assistantes maternelles (MAM)”.
  • Assistantes maternelles” generally set an hourly rate, on average between three and four euros per hour, plus daily allowances: 

    • meal allowance if food is provided for your child
    • maintenance allowance for the purchase of materials.

    The total monthly cost will depend on many factors, including how many days and hours they will look after your child.

  • There are several ways to find an “assistante maternelle”. 

    It is recommended that you contact the early childhood service in your region, called the “Centre de protection maternelle et infantile (PMI)”. You can also search by postcode in this directory

    Once you have contacted them:

    • they will be able to provide you with a list of “assistantes maternelles” near you
    • they will be able to inform you of the steps to take to recruit one. In particular, you will need to set up an employment contract.

    Other options for finding an “assistante maternelle”:

Private home care services

Private services for childcare at home also exist, for example:

  • You can employ someone called a nanny or “nounou” to look after your children at home.
  • You can agree with another family living near you to employ a “nounou” together and organise a system of shared childcare. In this case, your nanny will look after the children alternately at the home of both families.

It is mandatory to establish an employment contract.

The cost of at-home care is generally higher than a “crèche” or an “assistante maternelle”, but you can benefit from a reduction on your income taxes.

Find support

In France, there are many services that can support you, give you advice, and assist you with procedures and paperwork. Most of them are free of charge.

  • The “Centres d'Information sur les Droits des Femmes et des Familles (CIDFF)” helps the general public, especially women, in many areas such as: legal rights, health, employment searches, training, business creation, and even childcare.

    • These services are free of charge.
    • They will be able to inform you of your rights and the steps to take. Some centres can assist you with procedures and paperwork.
    • Languages available: mainly French.
    • Contact: you will find the contact details of the “CIDFF” in your area in this directory.
  • Social workers or “travailleurs sociaux” and “assistants sociaux” are professionals who support people in their administrative procedures and help them find solutions according to the difficulties they are faced with.

    • These services are free of charge.
    • You can make an appointment to receive personalised advice according to your situation and help you with the next steps, for example: applications for state financial assistance, applications for social housing, registration with the French unemployment office “Pôle emploi”, etc.
    • Available languages: mainly French.
    • Contact: you can request an appointment with a “travailleur social” with: 
  • A “Mairie” is a local administration in charge of local policies. Its main role is to help its citizens in difficulty. They can inform you about your rights and the financial assistance available, direct you to relevant organisations, and even help you with certain administrative procedures.

    • This service is free of charge.
    • Language available: mainly French.
    • Contact: you will find the contact details of your local “mairieon this site, by specifying the name of the city or town where you live.

While the utmost care has gone into providing you with the most accurate and up to date information, this page is not intended to replace legal or professional advice. Laws and procedures change regularly so it is important to consult qualified professionals.

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