Finding a kita in Berlin

All international parents in Germany have heard how complicated it can be to find a daycare spot for their little ones. It can be a confusing and overwhelming process, but you can influence it by taking some steps and improving your chances at securing a spot at the right kita for your child.

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Kindergarten

Introduction

We parents want to make sure we find a good daycare spot for our kids, especially when we have to go back to work after parental leave. There are so many things to think about, the size, the distance from where you live, what concept they have, and most importantly, will your child be well taken care of there. We live very centrally so we had a lot of kitas to choose from but it wasn’t an easy decision. 

Being a multicultural family, we found it important that the kita should also represent that diversity. And then you have the Tagesmutter option as well making it even more confusing. Since I know how difficult this can get, I spoke to my friend Lisa Hübner Moreno who is a parent of two and also runs Kietzee, a platform for new and expecting (international) families in Berlin. 

In this article, Lisa shares her tips and tricks for Kita search in Berlin – how to find a spot, how to choose the right Kita and what to expect from the Eingewöhnung.

You can also listen to The Confused Mother podcast episode in which she talks about how she started Kietzee 

How to find a Kita

Kita is the abbreviation of the German word Kindertagesstätte, which translates to children’s daycare center. This is the main form of daycare in Berlin. 

Before you get started, you should understand a few key details:

  • The main time to start Kita is in August and September as that’s when the oldest kids vacate their Kita spots to start school. It will be harder (but not impossible) to get a spot any other time of the year
  • Siblings always have priority so you will find that many of the available slots will already be taken
  • Most Kitas won’t allow you to put your unborn child on their waiting list but some will, so do check
  • Kitas have certain criteria for how they structure their group in terms of age and gender of the kids, so they may specifically be looking for a non-German girl born in 2022 (as an example)
  • Most Kitas have their own system of how they accept and process applications – so unfortunately, you will need to check with them individually for how they want you to apply (email, online form, phone, in person…) as well as if and how they want you to follow-up

It’s also helpful to know that there’s a second main type of daycare providers, which are called Tagesmutter. Tagesmutter providers are qualified and certified to take care of up to five children aged 1-3 years old, and often offer a more family-like environment with fewer children. They also accept Kita vouchers and follow the same guidelines as Kitas. However, Tagesmütter may have limited opening hours and often do not have replacements when they are sick. Parents may consider both options to increase their chances of finding a daycare spot. There is no online database of Tagesmütter in Berlin, but there is a list provided by each district.

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How to choose a kita?

Begin your Kita search by considering the key factors that matter to you such as the Kita size, amenities (such as a garden, meals made on premise), concept, daily opening hours and annual closing times, multilingualism, parental work, and the Kita’s location. 

Afterward, you can start looking for Kitas in your vicinity or even in your workplace area, if this suits you. If you reside in a central location, you should research and apply to around 20-30 Kitas. 

Once you have researched the application process, craft a well-written letter that includes all the important details such as your child’s name, date of birth, and desired start date at the Kita. It’s also a good idea to provide additional information about your family and explain why you are interested in a particular Kita. Many kitas require you to apply via the Kita Navigator so you can also do that. However, don’t rely on feedback via the portal as it may not come. You should actively follow up with the kitas that you are applying to.

Next steps: 

Once you’ve run through the above steps, be sure to stay in touch with your preferred Kitas to demonstrate your continued interest and to ask about any available spots for your child(ren). You can do this by calling them and expressing your interest.

In the meantime, make sure you apply for the Kita Gutschein (the voucher that will enable you to claim your spot and which also provides the Kita with the necessary funding). You can do so a maximum of 9 months before the desired start time. Do not leave it too late as the current processing times are a few weeks long.

Hopefully, you will soon get invited to visit some Kitas so you can get a first-hand impression. This will be even more helpful than any information on their website about their concept or amenities – in the end, it’s the people that make the place!

The "Eingewöhnung"

Finally, once you have secured a spot, it’s time to start thinking about the infamous “Eingewöhnung.” This is the adaptation phase required for all new kids in Berlin Kitas. This can be a lengthy process so make sure to plan accordingly for this period, which usually lasts between 3 and 6 weeks. 

The goal of the Eingewöhnung is for the child to develop a strong connection with the Kita educators and acclimate to their new surroundings through brief intervals, which are accompanied by a parent. 

Remember that the Eingewöhnung is also an important process for you as a parent: to let go, to see the new environment your child will be in and be reassured that they will be well taken care of.

Initially, the child and one parent will visit the Kita together for short periods of time, starting at around 20 minutes. This period is slowly extended until the first attempt at separation, where the parent leaves the child for a short period of time. Once the separation is successfully extended, the child will start to partake in more and more activities such as meals and eventually nap time. Once nap time has been mastered, your child will be able to stay for the main portion of the day (for example from 8:30 to 15:00) and is considered “eingewöhnt.”

Once the Eingewöhnung is done, the child should have established a strong rapport with their teacher(s) and feel secure in their new environment. They should be familiar with all the various areas, as well as the customs, regulations, and schedules (depending on their age).

For more information, you can visit the Kietzee blog: Kietzee | Blog

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Podcast

The Confused Mother Podcast

Do you want even more content on motherhood? Here is The Confused Mother podcast, where I talk to mothers and experts about everything related to motherhood and work. Click below to tune in on Spotify or Apple podcasts:

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