Licensing criteria for home-based ECE services

Section 10 of the Education and Training Act 2020(external link) defines home-based ECE services as the provision of education or care, for gain or reward, to children who are under the age of 5 years, or who are aged 5 years but not enrolled at school, in:

  • the children’s own home; or
  • the home of the person providing the education or care; or
  • any other home nominated by a parent of the children.

These services 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 services meet the minimum standards required by the regulations.

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

The publication of the criteria on its own can be downloaded as a PDF [PDF, 1.3 MB] and printed.

The licensing criteria were last updated in September 2022.

PF11 Outdoor activity space

  • Criteria
    • Criteria

      Premises and Facilities criterion 11

      There is an outdoor activity space that is:

      • easily accessible and available to children;
      • enclosed by structures and/or fences and gates that are maintained so that children cannot leave without an adult's help; and
      • safe, well-drained, and suitably surfaced for a variety of activities.

      The criterion aims to:

      • uphold a minimum level of quality education by ensuring that children have easy access to the outdoor environment
      • uphold children's safety by ensuring that the outdoor environment is securely fenced so that 'escape' is less likely, and
      • uphold children's safety and a minimum level of quality education by ensuring the area is well drained and has suitable surfacing.

      The criterion is underpinned by the belief that the opportunity for outdoor play is an important feature of the education and care of young children in New Zealand.


  • 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.

      It is important all mobile children are able to get outside without being dependent on adults.

      Outdoor space should:

      • enable children to experience natural settings (for example, wind, sky, sun, rain)
      • enable children to undertake activities that would generally not be allowed inside a home (for example, running, kicking a ball).
      • include items typical and distinctive to outdoor settings (such as dirt, grass, sandpits, paddling pools and outdoor play equipment).

      The suitability of the outdoor space to provide the outcomes for children will be assessed on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the practicalities and risks of each case under the provisions of Regulation 54(3)(external link) of the Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008.

      Children cannot be in a position to leave the licensed premises without the knowledge of the educator.


      It is important that children playing outside are safe and not able to leave the home setting unassisted or unnoticed by an adult. The most practical way of keeping children safe is to have unclimbable fences or barriers enclosing the play space. It is recognised that fences in home-based settings will vary in design and height. The materials fences or barriers are constructed with, height and space design, and size should also be considered.

      Beware of plantings (trees) and placement of moveable equipment that negate the height of the fence.

      Fences under one metre that are made of climbable materials can be made unclimbable with the addition of shade cloth or use of additional barrier or fencing type materials, such as brushwood fencing or chicken wire.

      Very low fences may need to be replaced to ensure children cannot leave unnoticed.

      Temporary fencing forms may be appropriate if erection is stable and secure so that a child is unable to climb over or through the barrier or push the barrier over.

      If there are significant hazards such as roads, rivers, or animals in close proximity to the home, consideration needs to be given to how the risk can be mitigated or managed by the educator. More guidance for rural properties is given in Things to Consider.


      Gates need to have a working locking mechanism so children cannot open them unassisted.


      Having a variety of surfaces (such as grass, decking, concrete, paving, etc) to play on supports children’s exploration and helps them to make links with the wider world. Regardless of the types of surfaces at the home, each must be safe, well drained and fit for purpose. Any surface that allows water to pool is a potential safety hazard that will need to be managed.

      Grass is an ideal surface for most outdoor activities. It can also be used as a safety surface for equipment under one metre in height. It has the advantage of staying cool in hot weather and is suitable for both walking and crawling children.

      Areas of decking, concrete or paving are also suitable for outdoor activity, provided they do not pose any other hazards. Both types generally drain well and have the advantage of needing little maintenance. However, they are hard and abrasive and cannot be used as a safety surface.

  • Things to consider
    • Things to consider

      Rural properties

      A very large outside area may make supervision more difficult and the fencing of an enclosed smaller area adjacent to the home may be a sensible option.

      Wire stranded farm fencing restricts movements of animals but not children, and additional covering will be required particularly when water troughs, roads, animals or farm machinery are nearby.

      Electric fencing is unsuitable as a barrier.