Family Life and Childcare for Expats in Brazil

Author: Jason Zhou
Submitted: July 2014

As the fifth largest country in the world in terms of population and geographical area, lifestyles vary in different regions of Brazil. However, family life plays an important role all over Brazil.

Historically, a typical family in Brazil composed of a husband, wife and their children. Husbands would hold authority over the family while the wives took responsibility of taking care of their children and the home. This was especially common in lower income families where the husbands were generally the main earners and at the top of the family hierarchy. In recent decades, as more and more women now participate in higher education and professions, family structures have changed with both parents on equal grounds.

Living conditions can be very different. Many live in houses and apartments of a high standard but living conditions which are very poor are still highly populated. For example, there are millions of people living in shanty-towns or slums, which are called favelas, in Brazil. 

It is common to see grandparents living with families and helping to take care of the children, especially if both the mother and the father work. When children are below the compulsory school age they can go to nurseries or pre-schools.

Early child care services can generally be categorised into three age groups: maternal, jardim and Pre-Escola. Maternal is a play group for children from birth to two, Jardim and Pre-Escola are more academic and normally admit children from three to six years old. There are also Berçários for babies and cèches for toddlers. If you would prefer to use a babysitter, nanny or a child-minder, recommendations from someone local would be beneficial.

Nurseries or pre-schools can be public or private. Public nurseries or pre-schools are free, they follow a national curriculum and children are taught in Portuguese. There is a general view that such public schools are underfunded and lack teaching facilities. Some have a shortage of electricity and toilets, especially in rural areas in the north.

Most expatriates intend to send their children to private nurseries and pre-schools, as they have better facilities and teachers. In Brazil, private schools account for more than one fourth of the total schools. However, they occupy 90 out of the top 100 best schools in Brazil. The fees for a private nursery or pre-school differ but normally you should expect an hourly cost of between 10 and 15 US dollars.

Although teachers tend to teach in Portuguese, most private schools welcome students speaking foreign languages. There is a general view that younger children are more likely to settle in a foreign country than their older counterparts, including learning a language. Therefore, you may want to consider bringing your children to Brazil as soon as you feel applicable. If you would prefer, international schools are available where foreign languages are used in teaching.

To find a nursery or pre-school, asking the local people when you arrive in Brazil is a great way to get insider information. You can also find a list of nurseries and pre-schools online, from websites like this:  

It is always a big challenge for parents to choose a satisfying childcare provider. Apart from the cost, you need to check if the facilities and the teachers meet the standards you require and if the premises and toys are cleaned regularly. You will also need to check if the childcare service provider is licensed.