The best preschools in Canberra

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teacher and preschool children playing a game

Where are the best preschools in Canberra? Photo: File.

Our children mean everything to us. Their happiness, health and wellbeing are our top priorities, which is why finding a welcoming, safe and reputable preschool is so important.

While starting preschool can be a big transition for children and parents, the right preschool can make the experience a positive one.

In this article, we’ll outline the qualities to consider when choosing a quality preschool and share where to find the best in Canberra.

What makes a great preschool?

A great preschool takes the stress out of what can be an emotionally draining experience. After all, you want your little one to get the best start on their education. You want them to feel safe and you want to feel calm and confident.

It can be helpful to keep the following in mind when choosing a preschool.

  • Dedicated, quality staff. Preschool staff can make or break your child’s experience at preschool. The very best staff are dedicated to their work and they go above and beyond to support your child as they grow and learn. They’re patient, engaging and energetic.
  • Excellent facilities. Some of the most highly rated preschools have great kid-friendly facilities and features. This could include vegetable gardens, quality playgrounds and intriguing cubby houses.
  • Convenient location. You don’t want to live or work too far away from where your child attends preschool. Look for a preschool that’s close to your home or workplace.
  • Stellar reputation. One way to judge a preschool is to ask for feedback from others who have direct experience. This could include other parents, friends, family members, and even those you work with. You can also review the preschool’s website.
  • Innovative environment. The best preschools provide environments in which children can explore, build their confidence, gain a stronger sense of self and are eager to play, play and then play some more.

The best preschools in Canberra

RiotACT’s editorial team has combed through 20 years of on-site comments to compile a list of the most recommended businesses according to you.

To be listed in our Best of Canberra series, each business needs to have consistently received positive feedback on RiotACT and Facebook as well as maintaining a minimum average of 4/5 stars on Google.

Watson Preschool

Connected to Majura Primary School, Watson Preschool is known for its close-knit community, passion for education, and commitment to quality care. The school believes in fostering respect and responsibility in kids of all ages. Staff continually strive for excellence by challenging and engaging little ones through play-based experiences.

Goodstart Early Learning Child Care Centre Kingston

Goodstart Early Learning Child Care Centre is in Kingston, within the Parliamentary Triangle and a five-minute drive from the CBD. Professional, friendly staff make preschool fun and welcoming. The centre uses the Early Years Learning Framework which fosters learning through play. Parents are invited to participate. Outside, the centre has age-appropriate play spaces and equipment, all geared to enhance childrens’ awareness of their surrounds and the greater environment.

Goodstart Early Learning Centre Turner

Tucked away on a quiet leafy street just a stone’s throw from Canberra’s city centre is the Goodstart Early Learning Centre Turner. This fully licensed preschool is home to quality educators. It can welcome 65 children. The passionate team provides all meals and a nappy service for nursery and toddler children.

The University Preschool and Child Care Centre

The University Preschool and Child Care Centre – also known as the Uni Preschool – is a community-minded, not-for-profit childcare centre situated on-campus at The Australian National University. Since 1969, this highly regarded preschool has delivered an industry-leading level of care and education to children of those attending the university and of the general public.

Inner North Playschool

Inner North Playschool is for 3 and 4-year-olds. It began life as the Reid Playschool in 2000. It provides more for children than a playgroup. Parents and carers can leave their children knowing they’re in the care of trained and experienced staff who will keep them engaged through a mix of free and directed activities. The playschool is operated by the Inner North Playschool Inc. Committee, made up of parents and carers.

If you’re looking for more information on services in Canberra for young ones in your family, you might like our articles on the best childcare centres in Canberra and the best family day care providers Canberra has to offer.

Your experience with preschools in Canberra

Thanks to our commenters who have provided insightful feedback. If you believe we have got it wrong, please let us know.

Have you had experience with any of the preschools listed above? If so, share your feedback in the comments below.

Frequently Asked Questions

What makes a great preschool?
Many features go into making a great preschool. This includes quality staff who are dedicated and committed to quality care. Other factors include location and facilities. Reputation is also important.
How much do preschools cost?
This depends on many factors so it’s best to make an appointment with the preschool to explore their offering and discuss specific costs.
Do the best preschools offer more than just play?
The best preschools offer play-based experiences that challenge and engage little ones. They support preschoolers to build their confidence and respect. They also encourage them to take an interest in learning. Great preschools support children to grow and learn in innovative ways.
How do I check a playschool’s reputation?
You can check a playschool’s reputation by visiting its website, exploring itssocial media and making an appointment for a tour or discussion about what they offer. You can also check with other parents, friends, family members and even those you work with to see if they have feedback for you.
Is location important?
Most parents and carers feel location is important. They don’t want to live or work too far from where their child is attending preschool. This means it’s convenient to get to and from the preschool.

What's Your Opinion?


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14 Responses to The best preschools in Canberra
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Tony4PM Tony4PM 8:26 pm 21 May 13

Given you mention inner south, if you wanted to go private the Early Leaning Centre at Girls Grammar takes kids from 3 years old in their Reception level, which goes on to Pre-Prep. From there it’s onto Prep in the junior school to year 6, and up the road to the senior school for 7-12. Not cheap though.

Jurls Jurls 10:40 am 04 May 13

thatsnotme said :

Madam Cholet said :

thatsnotme said :

Just to clarify re early childhood schools, the Government funded portion of the school is preschool to year 2. Before that, they have childcare providers attached to the school, who operate like any regular childcare and charge fees.

Also, regular preschools are subject to Priority Enrollment Areas, so it’d be worth you looking up which preschool covers your area. Being accepted to a preschool outside of your area is a matter of hoping they’ve got a spare space. The early childhood schools don’t have priority areas though.

Isabella Early Childhood does have priority areas – which is the suburb of Isabella. They kept referring to us as ‘out of area’ – makes you sound like you are trying to get something you are not entitled to.

That doesn’t sound right to me. Not saying you’re wrong – I’m sure that’s what they’re telling you – but that directly contradicts what the ACT Government have to say on the matter here http://www.det.act.gov.au/school_education/enrolling_in_an_act_public_school/preschool_enrolments

Early Childhood Schools
The Early Childhood Schools are located at Narrabundah, Isabella Plains, Lyons and Scullin (Southern Cross) and Franklin. The O’Connor Co-operative School continues to operate as a Preschool to Year 2 school. The schools are a highly successful model of early years learning that provide children with the best start to their early development and education. Student placement in an Early Childhood School is not governed by Priority Placement Areas such as preschool classes that are part of primary schools. For more information please contact the school.

I think they have priorities/priority areas which they set themselves, as opposed to the Government defined Priority Placement Areas. I looked into the Early Childhood School at Scullin and their priorities are as I was told; 1) Scullin, 2) siblings of children already at the school, 3) children attending the daycare centre at the school and 4) everyone else.

emd emd 7:39 pm 02 May 13

I’ve had kids at South Curtin and it was quite good. That pre-school feeds into Curtin Primary across the road, which has lots of programs to suit kids with all kinds of interests and developmental needs and has some really great teachers.

sepi sepi 5:06 pm 02 May 13

I think those areas have more space in their preschools, but i would stick pick one and enrol ASAP. You are only allowed to enrol in one govt preschool. many fill up and you will not be offered a place if you book in too late.

Many preschools will first accept kids from their own enrolment area (on the link above). any left over spots go to out of area enrolments, but if the preschool is full with in-area kids you miss out.

So I’d get on the list at your local in-area preschool, and then only change if you are prepared to possibly miss out, or find out great things about another school, and they have low enrolments.

thatsnotme thatsnotme 1:17 pm 02 May 13

Madam Cholet said :

thatsnotme said :

Just to clarify re early childhood schools, the Government funded portion of the school is preschool to year 2. Before that, they have childcare providers attached to the school, who operate like any regular childcare and charge fees.

Also, regular preschools are subject to Priority Enrollment Areas, so it’d be worth you looking up which preschool covers your area. Being accepted to a preschool outside of your area is a matter of hoping they’ve got a spare space. The early childhood schools don’t have priority areas though.

Isabella Early Childhood does have priority areas – which is the suburb of Isabella. They kept referring to us as ‘out of area’ – makes you sound like you are trying to get something you are not entitled to.

That doesn’t sound right to me. Not saying you’re wrong – I’m sure that’s what they’re telling you – but that directly contradicts what the ACT Government have to say on the matter here http://www.det.act.gov.au/school_education/enrolling_in_an_act_public_school/preschool_enrolments

Early Childhood Schools
The Early Childhood Schools are located at Narrabundah, Isabella Plains, Lyons and Scullin (Southern Cross) and Franklin. The O’Connor Co-operative School continues to operate as a Preschool to Year 2 school. The schools are a highly successful model of early years learning that provide children with the best start to their early development and education. Student placement in an Early Childhood School is not governed by Priority Placement Areas such as preschool classes that are part of primary schools. For more information please contact the school.

Madam Cholet Madam Cholet 1:10 pm 02 May 13

thatsnotme said :

Just to clarify re early childhood schools, the Government funded portion of the school is preschool to year 2. Before that, they have childcare providers attached to the school, who operate like any regular childcare and charge fees.

Also, regular preschools are subject to Priority Enrollment Areas, so it’d be worth you looking up which preschool covers your area. Being accepted to a preschool outside of your area is a matter of hoping they’ve got a spare space. The early childhood schools don’t have priority areas though.

Isabella Early Childhood does have priority areas – which is the suburb of Isabella. They kept referring to us as ‘out of area’ – makes you sound like you are trying to get something you are not entitled to.

thatsnotme thatsnotme 11:49 am 02 May 13

Just to clarify re early childhood schools, the Government funded portion of the school is preschool to year 2. Before that, they have childcare providers attached to the school, who operate like any regular childcare and charge fees.

Also, regular preschools are subject to Priority Enrollment Areas, so it’d be worth you looking up which preschool covers your area. Being accepted to a preschool outside of your area is a matter of hoping they’ve got a spare space. The early childhood schools don’t have priority areas though.

Kramer Kramer 11:40 am 02 May 13

Unless you are planning to move house, I suggest your local (in area) pre-school.

Watson Watson 11:32 am 02 May 13

Forgot to say: enrolments started yesterday so you want to do some quick thinking and get your form in.

Watson Watson 11:31 am 02 May 13

You really should be thinking a bit more long-term than just the preschool decision. You basically should decide now which primary school you would like your child to go to the year after and whether or not you want them to go to a K-6 place or are happy to move them to another school in year 3 (at which point you probably want to take high school choice into account). You would then normally choose the preschool that is linked to that primary school as that will mean a smoother transition to kindy and beyond. That’s not a fixed rule, but any schooling decision should not be made in isolation, but be viewed from a longer term angle. Just my 2c.

HeighwayQueen HeighwayQueen 11:15 am 02 May 13

The preschools and the early childhood schools are both government run.

Normally the preschools are associated with the local primary school and after finishing preschool the child then normally goes into the primary school which runs from Kindy to year 6.

The Early childhood schools take kids from babies to year 2 and then at the end of year 2 you need to find a new school.

Enrolments for government preschools in the act opened this week and generally it’s first in best dressed, it’s also difficult to get into one if you are out of area. So you might not want to leave your deliberations too long. Most schools and preschools welcome parent enquiries and will be happy to sit down and talk to you and give you a tour of the facilities.

Good luck with your choice, and welcome to Canberra

Madam Cholet Madam Cholet 10:16 am 02 May 13

And welcome BTW! And if you do decide on an early childhood school, get your name down quickly – they are in high demand.

Madam Cholet Madam Cholet 10:14 am 02 May 13

Really happy to comment here. Our son just started pre-school at the Isabella Early Childhood centre. I can’t begin to tell you how much he loves going there. He also goes to an excellent long day care centre that provides pre-school level although I would say that the difference is quite marked in terms of the challenges they are given.

If the ACT government has done one thing well it is to set up these early childhood centres. I gather they are in quite high demand because they are so good. My understanding of the difference is that the early childhood schools cater for a range of ages from pre-school through to Year 2 which is apparently according to research the best year in terms of educational requirements and the childs development in which to transition your child to their ‘big school’.

I was sceptical about moving him given his longevity at his day care centre – which we can’t say too many good things about. But the difference in what he is provided with is large and I feel that this was the best preparation for going to school that he could ever have been given. I think that many kids who are left at day care right up to school age might struggle somewhat with the transition to the formal school structure.

Obviously the Early childhood places are free as they are provided by the government – not sure about the other places.

globaltraveler globaltraveler 9:41 am 02 May 13

Welcome to Canberra!
Preschools are government funded places for four year olds and are usually linked with a public primary school. Early childhood schools take children from 0 (for childcare) up until the end of year 2.

I can’t speak for all of the preschools you mentioned but my experience is with the Yarralumla Preschool and Primary school. I can’t recommend it enough! The staff are great and the links for the preschool children to start learning Italian is wonderful. The primary school in Yarralumla runs an Italian-English bilingual program (95% of the school is bilingual and learns 50% in English and 50% in Italian from Kindergarten through Year 6). The preschool children mainly learn in English but learn some songs, their colours, etc in Italian.

Yarralumla Primary and preschool are having an open day on Saturday 1 June from 11-1, so I would recommending visiting to check it out!

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