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Vuggestue or dagpleje? The difference between early Danish childcare options 

Elizabeth Anne Brown
Elizabeth Anne Brown - [email protected]
Vuggestue or dagpleje? The difference between early Danish childcare options 
Small children at a Danish 'vuggestue' in June 2021. File photo: Signe Goldmann/Ritzau Scanpix

Denmark is world-renowned for its guaranteed (and heavily subsidised!) daycare, or 'daginstitution', before formal schooling begins. But some of the options don’t really have an equivalent outside of Denmark—what’s the difference between 'vuggestue', 'børnehave', and 'dagpleje', and which is right for your family?


Ages of eligibility and cost

Early Danish childcare is bookended by parental leave and børnehave, or kindergarten, where children are enrolled from about three to six years old. Babies become eligible for vuggestue and dagpleje at 26 weeks old, though many families don’t enroll their children until about 9-12 months of age. 

Whether you choose dagpleje or vuggestue, the municipality will cover at least 75 percent of the cost of attendance, including your child’s lunch and snacks.


Vuggestue, literally ‘cradle room’ in Danish, is likely what you imagine when you think of daycare—a nursery where multiple adults care for many children who range in age from infants to toddlers. By law, vuggestue are staffed by adults with training and certification in pedagogy, or methods of teaching. There must be an adult for every three children in vuggestue.

Many vuggestue are attached to a børnehave, or kindergarten, which can make for an easier transition once the child turns three. And for families with multiple children, dropping off baby and toddler at the same place can streamline their morning routine.


One important selling point for vuggestue are their consistent, longer open hours. Some vuggestue are themed, with a special emphasis on nature, arts or dance. Children in vuggestue—or really any Danish childcare—can expect to spend a significant percentage of every day outside.


In dagpleje, which translates literally to “day care” in Danish, a handful of children are hosted in a private childminder’s personal home. A single adult can care for a maximum of five children, but up to 10 can share a dagpleje if there are more adults.

Dagpleje promise more individualised attention for each child and may be better able to care for children with special needs. Dagpleje are by nature a ‘homier’ environment and are often calmer than the hubbub of a vuggestue with dozens of children, which can be a boon for kids who are easily overstimulated. And with the same caregivers every day, children who go to dagpleje can form a close relationship with their childminder.  

However, dagpleje are less standardised than vuggestue so it’s incumbent on parents to make sure their dagpleje of choice would be a good fit. The adults at a dagpleje aren’t necessarily pedagogically trained, though they do have access to municipal experts they can consult about activities, their ‘curriculum,’ and any potential concerns about a child’s development. On the social front, a limited pool of possible playmates can be frustrating for some children (although many dagpleje meet other dagpleje for playdates (legestue!).

Dagpleje became more attractive to some families during the Covid-19 pandemic since the chances of exposure increase with a higher density of children. However, the flip side of the small pool at dagpleje is that if childminder is sick (or even on vacation), the children will need to be relocated to other dagpleje with adults they may not know.  


How to register your child for care  

Your child will need a Danish CPR or personal registration number to be registered for daycare.

Contact your local Pladsanvisingen, or daycare office, to find out how early your child can be registered (generally, you can have them added to a waiting list once they’re between 4 and 6 months old). On’s childcare landing page, you can find information on childcare centres near your home—or even outside your municipality, if you choose—and digitally add your child to waiting lists.

Parents can visit vuggestue and dagpleje before enrolling, but always call ahead to schedule an appointment.



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