It may be difficult finding the right kind of child care for your infant or toddler in Seoul. They do exist, but usually not on the same scale as found in other countries. You can place your infant in a Korean daycare or attend a Mom’s and Tots program at an English hagwon, which is a private English kindergarten (there are hundreds in Seoul). When it comes to expat-oriented, English-speaking daycares and toddler groups, though, the selection is limited.
There are Korean and English speaking daycares, if you’re interested in your child learning Korean, and there are one or two expat-owned daycares in the Yongsan-gu area, but as far as selection goes, this is it. One thing is for sure, sending your toddler to preschool is expensive. Expect to pay from 800,000 to 1.2 million won per month for your child’s tuition, and extra for the mandatory school uniforms and supplies. Keep in mind that, while your child will be safe, well cared for and exposed to Korean language and culture (but still taught in English), hagwons are businesses first. Chances are, if you send your child to one of the less expensive schools, there will be no real difference in the level or quality of education, but it will probably be less flashy.
Another thing to think about is the type of food your toddler likes to eat. A lot of these daycare/preschool programs include snack time (brought to school by the child) as well as lunch, which is generally provided by the school. A typical school lunch in Korea always includes rice, soup, some type of kimchi and several kinds of banchan, or side dishes. If your child is a picky eater, cannot tolerate spices, or has a food allergy, you should always check with the school to see what kind of menu they serve their students. You may also want to ask if it is possible to opt out of the lunch and instead pack a lunch for your child.
Poly School: various locations throughout Seoul
The preschool program at Poly (one of Korea’s most popular English hagwons) is designed for small children – both Korean and expat – who already have a background in English, whether they come from an English speaking country or they were visiting there while they’re parents went to school or worked. They are gently introduced to Korean culture and encouraged to continue their English education.
Namsan International Kindergarten: Yongsan-gu
Students are aged three to five years old in three 3 programs: preschool, junior kindergarten and senior kindergarten. Namsan International is definitely one of the most popular with expat parents (from all over the world). It is located right in the heart of the expat community and next to the famous Namsan Tower. They focus on social, emotional, and language development while introducing the children to basic arithmetic and mathematics. The campus is located on 2 acres and is also equipped with an outdoor playground, wading pool and a garden.
Appletree Nursery: Jongno-gu
This nursery school is an offset of the popular YBM English Hagwon chain for kids aged eighteen months to four in a bilingual (English/Koren) setting. At this preschool, teachers “encourage and supervise educational play” and aim to turn toddlers into active learners.
Lots of private kindergartens, or hagwons, offer special programs for moms and toddlers. These groups are usually made up of a foreign, English speaking teacher, Korean moms with some English and their two-three year old children. Generally, these groups have playtime, song time and an arts and craft project for the day.
Maple Bear (Mokdong, Jongno, Songpa)
The Maple Bear Moms and Tots program is a great way to have your toddler meet other kids, learn some Korean and it’s quite inexpensive compared to other programs for toddlers around Seoul (300,000 won for eight weeks if you choose two classes a week or 150,000 won for eight weeks if you prefer just one class a week). Specifically, the Jongno-gu location has a well developed program.
Telephone: 318-5200 (Tuesday to Saturday)
The K Cafe for Expats
For parents of young children who would like to meet other parents, you can check out this blog: The K Cafe for Expats. It’s run by a group of expat parents or parents-to-be and covers a range of topics concerning children and child rearing. They also arrange meetups for stay at home mom’s and their kids. Chances are, if you have a question or need some advice, these are the parents to help out.
Nannies, especially English- and Chinese- speaking nannies, are becoming extremely popular as a childcare choice in Korea – not just with expats, but with Korean parents who want their kids to be bilingual at a young age. People are happy with this option not only because the kids are learning a different language, but because the average Korean housekeeper/babysitter would be more expensive per day than a live-in or live-out nanny.
Nannies generally get paid between 50,000 – 60,000 won for an eight hour workday. If you’re interested in finding the right nanny for your family, you can visit Nanny Job – a networking site where families can create a profile and browse the profiles of potential nannies.
Another way to find a really great nanny is through word of mouth. if you have some time to spare after moving to Seoul, ask the other mothers who they use. The most common nannies are ladies in Seoul from the Philippines who do maid services as well as nanny work. These women are more often than not paid under the table and do incredible work. They speak fluent English and are extremely flexible. You can usually get the contact info of one or more recommended nannies from the other mothers in your area. You could also post on one of the expat sites such as http://www.korea4expats.com.