Licensing criteria for centre-based ECE services

Section 10 of the Education and Training Act 2020(external link) defines an early childhood education and care centre as a premises that is used regularly for the education or care of 3 or more children (not being children of the persons providing the education or care or children enrolled at a school who are being provided with education or care before or after school) under the age of 6 years by day (or part of a day) but not for any continuous period of more than 7 days.

Centre-based ECE services have a variety of different operating structures, philosophies and affiliations, and are known by many different names – for example, Playcentres, early learning centres, Montessori, childcare centres, Kindergartens, crèches, preschools, a’oga amata, Rudolf Steiner etc.

These centres are licensed in accordance with the Education and Training Act 2020 under the Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008(external link), which prescribe minimum standards that each licensed service must meet. Licensing criteria are used to assess how the centres meet the minimum standards required by the regulations.

For each criterion there is guidance to help centres meet the required standards.

The publication of the criteria on its own can be downloaded as a PDF [PDF, 1.8 MB] and printed. 

The licensing criteria were last updated in September 2022. 


PF14 Infant toddler safe space

  • Criteria
    • Criteria

      Premises and facilities criterion 14


      There are safe and comfortable (indoor and outdoor) spaces for infants, toddlers or children not walking to lie, roll, creep, crawl, pull themselves up, learn to walk, and to be protected from more mobile children.


      To ensure that mixed-age environments are designed to considers the unique needs of infants and toddlers when it comes to safety and a minimum level of quality education.

  • Guidance
    • Guidance

      Any examples in the guidance are provided as a starting point to show how services can meet (or exceed) the requirement. Services may choose to use other approaches better suited to their needs as long as they comply with the criteria.

      This criterion does not require that infants and toddlers are kept separated from older children. Mixed-age settings and whānau grouping are central to the philosophy of some centres.

      When children of varying levels of ability and mobility are together in the same activity space, it is very important the environment is designed with infants and toddlers in mind so they can safely play and explore, both indoors and outdoors. This does not mean that infants and toddlers cannot move throughout the centre, learning alongside older children.

      An infant/toddler space:

      • allows young children the freedom to explore and play in an environment designed especially for them
      • lessens the likelihood of a prone or crawling infant, or a toddler just beginning to find their feet, being accidentally injured by an older child who is fully engaged in their own play and is not aware of their presence
      • provides older children with the opportunity to concentrate and work on a project for a sustained period of time without fear of it being demolished by a young 'helper'
      • means older children can enter the space freely to play and interact with their younger friends or siblings, but do so consciously.

      There is no minimum space requirement for this area to meet the criterion to allow flexibility for services. The size and layout of your infant/toddler spaces will depend on the number of children under 2 in the centre, and how it will be used.

      If setting up a separate area:

      • Ensure there is enough space for adults working in the area as well as the children
      • Think about how the space will be separated – low barriers or fences are not suitable as they could be a tripping hazard.
      • Think about how the space can support infants and toddlers to explore movement such as rolling, crawling, pulling themselves up, climbing and walking
      • If the area for infants is a separate room, think about how you will deploy staff across rooms to ensure adult:child ratios are maintained across the service:
        • It would be good practice to meet the ratio in the under 2’s room so if there are 8 infants there would be 2 adults in that room
        • If staff are needed to move between rooms, the service should ensure ratios are maintained in both rooms.

  • Gallery