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The Advocate

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Nurturing Early Minds: Child Care And Education For 3-year-olds In New York City

January 10th, 2024

The first three years of a child's life are crucial for their development. Although New York City’s 3-K program has not yet been expanded, as promised, to guarantee every 3-year-old a seat, there is an important emphasis on the significance of quality child care and education for 3-year-olds. The many options can be overwhelming for many caregivers and we hope the information below will provide some clear guidance and will help you in your application process. This blog explores some opportunities across New York City.

Timeline for Application:

Apply to 3-K in the calendar year your child turns three.This year the application for 3-K opens January 10, 2024. Visit the Who Can Apply? section for more.

There are several types of seats available and depending on your eligibility, families may qualify for the Extended Day/Year Infant and Toddler Program that provides year-round care and learning for up to 10 hours a day and are available in two settings:

  • Center-based care at NYC Early Education Centers (NYCEECs)
  • Home-based care through Family Child Care Networks (FCCNs)

To learn about eligibility and to enroll, contact a program directly, email, or visit MyCity to learn about eligibility and to enroll.

Applying Mid-Year?

Use MySchools to find nearby programs and follow the MySchools Tutorial: How to Add Your Child to Waitlists for enrollment assistance. Seat types will be listed as options to add to your application. Filter for these options by clicking the "More Filters" tab and selecting the seat type(s) you want. We encourage you to visit programs’ websites or contact programs directly to learn more and find out if they are hosting any virtual or in-person open houses or information sessions, or if they have other resources to share with prospective families. The 3-K Directory on MySchools is a resource you can use to find contact information for schools of interest.

Why is this important?

Quality child care and education from age three yield long-term benefits, fostering cognitive, social, and emotional development. Early nurturing experiences set the foundation for academic success and enhanced social skills.

Steps for Parents

  • Determine the type of seat: School Day, Extended Day and Year, or Head Start based on eligibility.
  • Locate a suitable nursery using the 3-K Programs directory on NYC MySchools, applying filters for convenience.
  • After identifying a location, apply by contacting the listed contacts on the school’s NYC MySchools profile.

Accessible 3-K Programs and Language Access

If your child has an IEP (Individualized Education Program) that recommends a Special Education Itinerant Teacher (SEIT) and/or Related Services only, these services can be provided at all 3-K programs, or at home under certain circumstances. If your child has an IEP that recommends "Special Class in an Integrated Setting" (SCIS) or "Special Class," the CPSE will arrange for an appropriate placement in a preschool special education program. These classes are available at community-based special education programs, and at some Pre-K Centers and NYC public schools. Learn more about how the NYC Department of Education serves students with disabilities.

Some NYC Early Education Centers offer language supports to families whose home language is a language other than English.

Language supports include:

  • A staff member who is fluent in the target language and is available to support families with:
  • Interpretation services at family meetings
  • Translated communications in the target language
  • Teaching staff who support the continued development of both English and the target language during instruction

Learn about 3-K language supports in MySchools, and contact schools directly to learn more. 3-K programs offering language supports give priority to students based on their home language.

For more information about programs with language supports, email

Need Help?

Should you have problems with your application process, please reach out to your District Welcome Center.

During early development, offering excellent childcare and education in NYC is crucial for a child's future achievements. By establishing supportive surroundings and actively participating in education, parents unlock their child's potential for success and happiness.

NYC is committed to investing in youth from infancy to college. Enrolling your child in 3-K is the first step in a lifelong academic journey. Don’t miss out on the abundant resources available— education begins well before Kindergarten.

Pre-K for All Updates and Process

As we close, we want to remind parents that Pre-K for All is a schooling opportunity provided for free to every 4-year old in New York City. Pre-K for All helps ensure that all children have a strong start in school and life!

Start thinking about pre-K programs when your child is 3-years old, whether they are enrolled in 3-K, another 3-year-old preschool program, or not. In New York City, children are eligible to apply to pre-K in the calendar year they turn 4-years old. Every child in New York City whose family submits a pre-K application is guaranteed a pre-K offer.

Students enrolled in certain 3-K or three-year-old programs may have priority to attend pre-K at the same center or school. Learn more on the Pre-K portal.

If your child is currently in Early Intervention, learn more about your preschool options by visiting the Moving to Preschool page.

By Lupe Hernandez, Community Organizer, Education & Opportunity, and William “Quinn” Morgan-McClelland, Summer Intern, Education & Opportunity

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