An Expat’s Guide to Raising Children in China: Pre-Schools and Day Care

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Raising children in China is a whole lot different from Western countries. There’s the obvious language gap that you need to get past, and even once that is taken care of, you realize that the cultural differences are far more pronounced. A common dilemma that expat parents face is of choosing the right preschool for their child. Here’s some basic know-how for expat parents figuring out preschool or day-care options.

The Language Barrier

When you’re putting your children into school, chances are you will look out for one that is bilingual. You should understand that the word “”bilingual” gets thrown around quite easily with educational institutions. In many cases, it translates to a weekly or bi-weekly class by a non-Chinese teacher, which may not suffice what you had in mind. Having said that, there are genuine bilingual schools that dedicate a certain amount of time every day to each language, which you can find by doing a little bit of research. You can even speak to parents of children attending the particular school so you have tangible basis to review the same.

Many parents opt to place their child in a full-on international school. These international schools are fun by foreigners from Western countries and offer curriculum similar to the American or British systems. Most 1st and 2nd tier cities have international schools available.

Teaching Techniques

If you choose to go with a more local route, keep in mind that techniques will be different – especially with discipline. You may judge the teaching styles employed in Chinese educational institutions to be unreasonable, and sometimes cruel. Understand that the methods employed here are different from that of Western countries, in a way that teachers here are a lot more strict than you might please. The focus is on disciplining the students rather than creative expression or its likes. Teachers may use critique and shaming methods to discipline children. Your children may take time to get accustomed to the rigid standards and settle down in the new environment. Weigh the bearings and repercussions this type of environment can have on your children before diving into it. Communicating with the school administration and teachers about what is and is not acceptable can go a long way and is recommended.


There are numerous transit facilities that help children commute to kindergarten / preschool and back home. However, there have been cases where they have failed to stand by safety regulations. One such case that came to the front revealed of a death from suffocation due to a jam-packed van. Although this is just an extreme example of how wrong things could go, you could try looking for a local carpool service offered in the school, so the children travel safely with individual seats, safety belts and et al.

Diapers vs Elimination

If you’re leaving your kids in daycare or will employ domestic help, such as an Ayi, make sure that you and the childcare provider are on the same page when it comes to your kids’ potty habits. If the child is not accustomed to the traditional elimination communication practiced in China, where children go without diapers, you may want to speak with the childcare provider about this. Or they may voice a tone of surprise on finding a one or two year-old sporting diapers. Childcare providers are sure to understand the cultural differences that come in to play in such scenarios and are bound to make accommodations as and when possible.

*Image courtesy of photostock /

Jeremy & Jacquelyn Carman

Jeremy & Jacquelyn Carman

Founders of, Jeremy and Jacquelyn have four children. The first three were born in three different hospitals in China and the last was born at home in the US. Jeremy and Jacquelyn created in 2009 after they found little information for foreigners having babies in China. They love connecting with other foreigners having babies. Learn more about them on the about page.


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