The Victorian Government launched Free Kinder in 2023. We asked 3 parents for their honest experience.

Victoria Government
Thanks to our brand partner, Victoria Government

‘So where will they go to kinder?' 

It’s a question many new parents encounter from a well-meaning grandparent, someone in their WhatsApp mother’s group chat or even in their own mind at 3am in the morning. (Why now, brain?! Go back to sleep!) 

For many children, kindergarten as it’s known in Victoria (other states refer to it as preschool) is the first step into early childhood education. It’s a major life milestone for your little one (and us parents), and a foundational stage in your child’s learning journey.

In news that should be shouted from the rooftops, the Victorian Government has delivered Free Kinder, an Australian first initiative, and part of a $14 billion commitment, to ensure the state’s youngest learners have the best start to their lives, no matter where they live.

From this year, Victorian families of three-year-old and four-year-old children will be able to access Free Kinder at long day care and sessional centres.

Bottom line: this removes the financial barrier of sending a child to kinder for two years and ensures that all young Victorians are given the best possible start in their education. Seriously, massive pats on the back for that.

Why are they offering Free Kinder?

Research shows that taking part in quality play-based learning from a young age has positive effects on a child’s development – with the benefits lasting into the school years and beyond. This is particularly beneficial to children in vulnerable circumstances or in need of extra support.


Meanwhile for families, access to two years of Free Kinder provides financial security to the household budget, and in some instances, means parents or carers can return to work (or work more often).  

How does it work?

In Victoria, kindergarten means 15 hours per week for four-year-olds and from 5 to 15 hours per week for three-year-olds. To find a kinder in your own area, there's the handy Find A Kinder Program map tool.

For parents, this translates to savings of up to $2,500 per child each year for standalone kindergarten services. For kindergarten programs delivered through long daycare (childcare), families receive up to $2,000 offset from their out-of-pocket fees (fees after the Child Care Subsidy is applied). 

If your child is attending a kindergarten program in Victoria, irrespective of household income, parents’ working hours or visa status, Free Kinder is available to you.

And in more great news, participating kinders are funded directly, meaning families are financially better off all year round.

Why two years of kinder?

The Free Kinder initiative encourages parents to start their child's education from the age of three, as the evidence suggests that two years of early learning are more beneficial than one. 

In 2020, Victoria was the first state or territory to start offering universal funded Three-Year-Old Kindergarten.

Jessica, a mother and primary school teacher says that kinder lays vital groundwork for children’s schooling years ahead.


“I can say confidently from both sides, as both a parent and as a school teacher, that having two years of kinder can make the transition to school so much easier and more manageable for families.”

Jess and children. Image: Supplied.

“Socially, they also cope much better once they start school and often have the tools and confidence to ask for help when needed.”


Eleanor, a mother-of-three whose middle child Henry participated in the inaugural roll-out year of Three-Year-Old Kindergarten, says she witnessed this first-hand.

“Compared to our older child who only attended one year of kinder, we noticed a big difference in Henry’s confidence,” Eleanor explains.

“Two years of kinder allowed Henry time to build and consolidate his social skills first, before building on skills that enhanced his readiness to learn.”

To find out when your child can commence kinder, try the Starting Age Calculator tool.

How do you choose a kinder program?

The Free Kinder initiative is being offered at participating long day care services and sessional kindergartens – meaning families have the option to choose what type of centre best suits their family.

Emma, whose daughter Isla was one of the first children in Victoria to have access to a free Three-Year-Old Kindergarten program, says that her family chose a sessional kindergarten because they felt it helped Isla “understand that kinder was about learning."

Other determining factors for families might include geographic location and enrolment availability – as well as finding a service that suits your family’s needs.

Eleanor says: “Our Kinder has a strong reputation in our community, which made it an easy decision." She also liked that it was a nature-based program.


Eleanor and Henry. Image: Supplied.

What’s kinder actually like?

Every centre will be unique, just as each family is unique – and the best way to get a feel for each one is to book in for an introductory tour. (And don’t be afraid to ask plenty of questions!) 

A typical day might involve free play, craft, games, singing, reading books, group mealtimes, practising good hygiene and loads of spontaneous activities – all guided by highly trained early childhood teachers and educators. 


Eleanor says what appealed about their kinder is its outdoor-centric approach. “Our kinder provided real tools for the children to build fire pits, bush cubbies and mud pits – there were even chickens roaming freely around them!”

Emma says her daughter Isla’s kinder used play-based learning to support children to make sense of the world around them. “Isla was then able to bring these new ideas into the home and discuss them with the family.”

How does kinder help kids learn?

Kinder kickstarts early childhood education through quality play-based learning, which is proven to support children’s brain development. Ultimately, this translates to better language development, early literacy and numeracy skills, and self-regulation.

As well, at this point in their young lives, it’s equally important for children to learn valuable personal development and social skills. Emma says this was one of the most transformative aspects of kinder.

“Kinder helped Isla gain confidence in herself, and she was able to learn about how to interact with others,” Emma says.

Jessica, whose son George also attended Three-Year-Old Kindergarten in its inaugural year and is now at school, says her son’s favourite part of kinder was “seeing his friends” – and that he grew “from being extremely anxious separating from his parents to begging us to go [to kinder]”.


But what do parents really need to know about kinder?

Kinder is an exciting, challenging and sometimes daunting rite of passage in a young person’s life. And let’s be real; like any new experience for little ones, there will be days when there might be a teary drop-off. However, there’ll also be days where your child has had a blast, made a new pal or learnt something they didn’t know before. 

Like all things #parentlife; it’s swings and roundabouts.

So, what advice would a parent whose recently been through kinder want to share?

Eleanor says: “My youngest child is just starting Three-Year-Old Kinder now – and I would suggest parents approach their first year gently and support their child as they transition to a new form of independence. We expect big things from our little people and it can take them time to adjust to kinder life.”

As an educator and parent, Jessica says that sending your child to kinder not only sets them up for their future – but that they’ll honestly have a really enjoyable time too.

“Don’t be concerned that you’re not letting your child ‘be a child’, because learning through play is what kinder is all about.”

Having Free Kinder supports every Victorian child to get the best start in life no matter where they live. Use the Find a Kinder Program tool to find a kinder in your area, and know when your child can commence kinder with the Starting Age Calculator.

Feature Image: Supplied.

Victoria Government
Free Kinder: Enrolments now open for 2024. Give your child the best start in life with two years of kinder.

To find government approved kindergarten programs, visit Find a Kinder

Look for the Kinder Tick logo when choosing a quality kindergarten program. No matter where your child goes to kindergarten, you’ll know qualified teachers and trained educators will lead the program.

Talk to your local kindergarten or childcare service about their enrolment process. Your council may be operating a central registration and enrolment system in your area. To find out more, contact your local council.