Parenting in Norway: 'Our five-day-a-week kindergarten only costs us €279 a month...'
Finland's Scandinavian neighbours fare well too. In Norway, special needs assistant Malin Hermansen Hansen and partner Wegard, a fisherman, live in Myre and have two sons, Webjorn, three-and-a-half, and Matheo, almost two.
"Here in Norway, most children go to kindergarten and generally start between one and two years of age. Our eldest son, Webjorn, started kindergarten in Myre, where we live, when he was 20 months old, and his younger brother Matheo joined him at 10 months.
"Naturally, I thought about staying at home with the kids after my maternity leave ended, but I wanted to go back to work. Since Webjorn was already in the kindergarten, getting Matheo in was no problem, and we even get a 30pc discount on the cost for the second child. On a regular day, I drop the kids off between 8am-10.30am and pick them up before the kindergarten closes at 4.30pm.
''Activities include dancing, playing, learning sign language - as one of children in the kindergarten has hearing difficulties - and going for walks or to the beach. As a private kindergarten, the parents get a say in almost everything, and there's also a website where mums and dads can see exactly what their child did each day
''For a full place (nine hours a day, five days a week), it costs 2,580 NOK (€279) per month, plus 250 NOK (€27) for meals. So after the sibling discount, altogether we pay 4,886 NOK (€528) a month for the two boys. Right now, I'm very happy with the standard of childcare, and the boys seem to love it too. Some days they don't even have time to say goodbye!
''Of course, kindergarten isn't for everyone, and some parents here prefer to keep their kids at home for as long as possible. For me though, it's important that Webjorn and Matheo socialise with other kids and grown-ups.
''At kindergarten, they learn to take instruction from other adults apart from their parents, make friends, share toys, argue - and then say sorry. One day soon, they'll be off to 'big school'. As a mum, I'm much happier knowing they've had this experience first."