Enrolling and starting your child

How do I enrol my child in an early learning service or kōhanga reo?

You enrol your child directly with the early learning service or kōhanga reo. Different early learning services and kōhanga reo will have different procedures, so ask them about theirs.

If you still need to decide which early learning service or kōhanga reo is right for you, check out our tips to help you choose.

Tips to help you choose

What documents do I need to enrol?

You will need to fill out an enrolment form, which the early learning service or kōhanga reo will give to you.

Different early learning services and kōhanga reo will need different documents for enrolment, so check with yours. You might need to show them:

  • proof of your child's age and citizenship - birth certificate, passport, citizenship certificate or NZ residency document
  • your child's immunisation certificate (from your Well Child book)
  • medical information about your child such as allergies, medication and existing medical conditions
  • legal documents such as access or custody agreements
  • contact information for you during the day, and an emergency backup in case they can't reach you
  • your child's doctor's name and contact information.

Order a New Zealand birth certificate online – NZ Government(external link)

When you have enrolled your child, the early learning service or kōhanga reo will send your child's information to the Ministry of Education. The Ministry will then assign your child a National Student Number.

Read more about privacy and National Student Numbers here:

ELI privacy information – Education in New Zealand(external link)

National Student Numbers – Education in New Zealand(external link)

What do I take on the first day?

It will depend on your early learning service or kōhanga reo, and what they provide. Ask them for a list of what to bring. It might include things like:

  • a drink bottle
  • sun hat and sunscreen
  • a change of clothes and a plastic bag for sending home dirty clothes
  • food
  • spare nappies
  • a bag to hold all these things in.

How can I help my child settle in?

Some children will settle in straight away, and others take longer. The educators have lots of experience with this, and will have suggestions about ways to help your child settle in.

Here also are some tips to help both you and your child with settling in.

Spend some time there

Most early learning services and kōhanga reo will encourage you to bring your child along for a few visits leading up to their official start date to help them get used to being there and getting to know the staff and other children.

When your child starts spend some time at the early learning service or kōhanga reo with them while they are settling in.  

If your child is starting at an early learning service or kōhanga reo because you are going back to work factor this settling in time into your work plans.

Say hello to other parents and children, and use the children's names if you can. This helps your child feel like they belong.

Talk to the staff

Help the educators and parents get to know your child by telling them things like:

  • special words and ways of communicating
  • favourite ways of being comforted
  • sleep routines - when and how they like to go to sleep
  • toilet training
  • favourite foods and special food needs
  • life and family - important things that may be happening and anything that might be upsetting them.
  • any special education needs, or early intervention services they are receiving.

Saying goodbye

It is normal for your child to be upset when you leave, especially in the early weeks, and it can also be upsetting for you. Here are some things to do to help say goodbye:

  • be positive about the day ahead
  • give yourself plenty of time to settle your child in
  • use a short routine, such as reading a story together or waving to each other through the window
  • always tell your child when you’re leaving, say goodbye, and then leave straight away. If you’re worried, you can always phone
  • pick your child up at the time you have promised, and for the first week or so try to be a bit early.

What if I'm worried about sickness, a medical issue, or behaviour?

If you have any concerns about your child and leaving them at the early learning service or kōhanga reo, let the staff know. They have policies and procedures for dealing with the things you're concerned about and can explain them to you.

If your child gets sick at their early learning service or kōhanga reo

When your child starts at an early learning service or kōhanga reo you may notice that they may get more colds and other illnesses to begin with.  This is normal as they are coming into contact with more children and more bugs.

If your child becomes unwell, the staff will call you and ask you to come and take your child home.  Keep your child at home until they are better, as that will help your child recover faster and reduce the spread of illness to other children.

It's a good idea to have a back-up plan in case you can't be contacted or get there quickly. Make sure that your emergency contact person can pick up your child and look after them if needed.


If your child needs to take medication let the early learning service or kōhanga reo know when you're enrolling. You will need to:

  • tell them about any special instructions for giving the medicines
  • give the early learning service or kōhanga reo written authority to give your child their medicine
  • make sure the medication is clearly labelled with what it is and how much to give.

The early learning service or kōhanga reo have processes for making sure that medication is administered corrected, and will make sure that they have experienced staff administering medicines, that they store it correctly and that they keep records when it's administered.


Early learning services and kōhanga reo work hard to make sure that children are given respect and dignity and positive guidance - using praise, encouragement and by promoting appropriate behaviour.

If you're concerned about behaviour talk with the staff.  Every early learning service or kōhanga reo must have a policy of how they manage behaviour.

What if I need to change early learning service or kōhanga reo?

If you need to change early learning services or kōhanga reo for any reason, you'll need to let your current one know your child is leaving, and then enrol your child in the new one.

Ask the early learning service or kōhanga reo what their policies are about leaving, how much notice you need to give, final payments, and anything you need to know, as soon as you know you are leaving.

Introduce your child to the new early learning service or kōhanga reo in the same way described above, taking time to let them get used to the new environment.

Your early learning service or kōhanga reo records what your child is learning and examples of their work. When your child leaves, the records are yours to keep.

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