How to find a Kita for your child in Germany | Expat Guide

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Tender beginnings for the  little ones 

Guys, after almost 9 months of waiting, finally, we got a spot for my daughter in a Kita here in Germany!!! 

I know, I know, I heard you, you might say that this is such a normal thing,no big deal, but hey NO! not here in Germany. Believe me, once you got a spot in the Kindergarten or Kita for your child here, you’ve got to be jumping for joy and saying thanks all over again. Because I am telling you, It’s not EASY. It was never EASY.

Okay, maybe I am overreacting, but yes, it is quite a relief when we got the letter from the municipality informing us that my daughter was selected to join a Kita this coming September.It was a long wait and therefore we loooove this  news. A new chapter for my child’s life, and as well as for us parents. Finally,an end to long days and months of waiting.Of course, as a disclaimer, this is purely based on my experience. Maybe someone got so lucky that they immediately find a place for their child in Kita, a case to case basis. But I observed this phenomenon for long months now and therefore have established my opinion about the complicated system for childcare and Kindergarten schools especially here in our area in Bavaria, southern part of Germany.

So how did we got the spot? What techniques did we do?

If you are an Expat parent like me, I am so sure that the moment you moved into a new country and you’ve started to explore your new neighborhood for parks and playgrounds, the next thing you want to establish is joining a playgroup, Nursery, childcare or a Kita /Kindergarten for your little ones especially if you are a working Mama. It is very important to get a support group for your children. This is one of the natural ways in “re-potting the uprooted child”.

“So here’s the truth: Getting a spot in the Kita/Kindergarten for your child here in Germany REALLY ONLY depends on LUCK, or in logical terms-written in the stars, destiny, or some may call it fate, or your blessing!”

What you need to do as a parent ? Here are practical ways ( which I did!) on the course of our application for Kita in a span of almost 9 months;

  1. Do your research. –  I don’t speak German yet but I did a lot of research even prior to arriving here in Bavaria. I made a list from the schools which I saw online even while I was still in Kuwait and then mapped their location once we got here. Depending on the area where you live, find as many Kita that you can in your vicinity. If you apply for 2, the chance is almost zero, but if you apply for at least 8-10, then at least you can have a chance. For complete listings of Kita per area, you can always refer to the information provided online by your local municipality or ask from the Rathaus. For residents in Ingolstadt, there are so many information provided by Stadt Ingolstadt and there is a department who is really in charge of finding a space for every child to be put into a Kita/Kindergarten.There are persons there which main job is this; helping you get that slot for your child ( Freie Plätze in Kindertageseinrichtungen).

 

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My Pre-schooler tiny Goblin

2. Explore and visit the Kita/ Kindergarten in your Area – You need to be out and find the location of the school. As soon as we have the list, we started walking and exploring and visiting the school one by one. It is always good to personally inquire from the staff for any vacancy.

3. Write a formal “Anmeldebogen” ( Application) in Deutsch ( German) and send by post or email– This one is very effective, at least it works for me. Most of the staff I’ve talked via phone always told me that they don’t speak much English so when they read my letter and my inquiry written in Deutsch, I got concrete answers, even quick replies.

4. Follow Up. Every single Month. If you are forceful like me-make phonecalls  to ask for progress. Take time to follow-up. Sometimes, there might be a chance that someone left the Kita or moved away so a vacant space is available. The Kita that we’ve got is the one we’ve got on the opening day and not the first one we’ve applied or visited.Also, take note that depending on your area, you are most likely to get a spot on the place where your local address is linked to.

5.Attend the Opening Day – All Kitas and Kindergartens have an opening day held during the month of January where you can write the application once again for your child at the same time take a tour of the facilities of the school and their profile. This is very important. They have an announcement on this on their websites so pay attention for updates and changes of dates.

In the Kita, it compose normally of 2-3 groups, with around 25 children.During the opening day, I have asked the teachers what are their criteria in choosing a child to be in their Kita and here’s the information I’ve got :

  1. Parent’s status – If both parents are working, single mother/father .
  2. Location of residence, and if you work on certain companies ( like Audi , Schanzer etc.) then you can have some benefits or privileges.
  3. Language of the child/ spoken at home and the age of the child.
  4. Decision by the Municipality ( Department for Children and Families – Kitaplatzkoordinator)

With all these, all you can do is wait for a confirmation from any one of the school that you’ve applied, and nobody knows when will it be.They will give out confirmation around March and have the meeting with parents of the children who were chosen by month of June to prepare them for the  start of semester in September.

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Repotting the Uprooted child

So what are your options if you can’t find a place for your child?

Today, kindergartens here in Germany are an integral, yet voluntary, part of the early education system: Over 80% of all children between three and six years attend a kindergarten in Germany. The state supports parents with monetary incentives, such as tax reductions and child allowance (Kindergeld). The basic concept of Kitas and Kindergarten here are all “play based”, which is totally opposite from the American and English system which has more emphasis on academics. Now, I have written before how kid-friendly Germany is and how it is more AWESOME to be a kid living here. But then have a shortage of Kita really sucks!

Generally, in every area, there’s plenty of Kindergarten to choose from but it seems that it’s still not enough to accommodate the number of children who needs to be enrolled, add the fact the number of migrant’s children and the booming Expat population, especially in big cities like Berlin, Hamburg or in Munich.The staff have always told us that the waiting list is too much and “kein frei platz “( or no vacant space) .Even if there are many options for parents on where to put their child, the competition is still tight.

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Eager to learn..

Here are the childcare options for children ( 3 months up to 6 years old) here in Germany ;

Tagesmutter  ( or Day mother) – yes, you can hire a “Mother“in Germany. The Tagesmutter takes care of 3-5 children in her home, like a small daycare. Tagesmutter take care of your child in their home while you go to work. In most cases they care for additional children as well, so your child is guaranteed to have contact with peers.A Tagesmutter needs to be certified by the youth welfare office and most of them have a Pedagogy background and have a great experience with children.

Nannies-  are also an option in Germany. In contrast to in-home daycare providers, nannies come to your home to care for your child. In-home daycare providers and nannies are not required to be trained early childhood educators.  For a 20-hour week, in-home daycare providers charge an average of 300 to 600 euros per month.

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The long wait is over…

Here in Ingolstadt, in South Germany ( Bavaria) , you can contact the Mobile Familie e.V if you are interested for alternative options. There are equivalent of these services depending in the area where you live.They have the following services available all throughout Germany:

  1. Tagespflege (Daycare)
  2.  Kibeno ( Childcare Emergency Call)- supports parents in emergency situations where a caregiver is needed for the child / child at short notice.
  3. Kinderfrau – ( Childminder) -A childminder regularly takes care of the children in the parents’ household over a longer period of time. The Kinderfrau is employed by the parents.
  4. Au-Pair ( Nanny/Governess) – An au pair lives with a family, supports them mainly with the care of the children and helps in the household.
  5. Notmutter – (Emergency Mother) -An emergency mother takes care of the children of a family in emergency situations, especially when the mother is ill.
  6. Babysitters 

I hope the above information have helped you in a way to have an idea how it goes here when it comes to applying for a Kita/ Kindergarten for your child.

If you have more questions, please feel free to give comments or share your own experience for your child.

For Expat Mamas and Papas who are in this stage, good luck with your application !

 

Walking on a frozen lake

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Walking on the frozen lake
Would you walk  on a frozen lake? Or what about running after your kid in it? Well today, I just did. But hey,  its a Frozen lake! 

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Germans walking their dogs in the Auswaldsee
The past weeks here in Bavaria has been cold and temperatures are negative. Really freezing cold.Now mother nature have done something during these times, somewhat surprising us with a frozen delight to appreciate the cold.The waters in the dam turns into ice, with zero current. I was totally clueless this could happen, more because I’ve never seen such thing before. I didn’t expect that the Baggersee and the Auswaldsee will get frozen! Last summer, I remember walking around the lake and we had an amazing time exploring the nature around,watching the deers, enjoying its blue waters on a sunny day. I also cycled here last Fall and watch how it turned into a nature paradise of trees in their colorful  leaves. Such a beautiful scenic place! Its typical to bring a picnic, camp, and  some fishing enthusiasts flock in this lake to fish, sail a romantic boat and watch the time goes by.

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Meeting up in the frozen lake
But I never really expected that one day, I would be walking through the lake, walking on normal ice.It is an amazing experience, but scary as well. Especially when you are walking with a two-year old. I don’t even want to imagine a rescue scene here so it took guts to finally step on it.

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Lazy sunday walks is perfect on a frozen lake

Today was another day that’s still cold, still negative temps but at least we had some sun. You can tell that it’s a good weather today compared to yesterday where in we freeze our asses out in the cold.We needed to be out  the whole day since we look into the 5 prospective Kita for my daughter.A day like this, as usual,the  Germans are out, doing their usual routines. I already noticed that the waters of the dam were frozen ice. There is no movement  anymore and it reminds me of the movie ‘Frozen’ when Elsa freeze the fjord . Its my daughter’s favorite movie so yes, I know it!

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A game of Eisstockschiessen, It’s a Bavarian thing!
It was so nice breathing in the crisp winter air, enjoying the scenery . It’s always a great time to just be out and stay under the sun. People are walking in their heavy bundles, carrying backpacks with thermos. Some are still braving the cold cycling, and of course, since this is Germany, people run, jog and do Nordic walking. We were surprised to see so many ducks, swans, and birds gathering there in the thin ice. People start to feed them with bread crumbs so they flocked on one side while the rest stay on the other side, having a nice sunbathing. I love to watch in silence how the ducks and the swans swim in the icy cold waters.

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Enjoying some wildlife scenery
I tell you, I was apprehensive at first to do this. What if it cracks?  I didn’t know how thick the ice could be. What if I step on a thin ice and it breaks? Would I survive from the cold?

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The birds are chillin…A typical sight in the the frozen Auswaldsee
I see so much fun around me. People are playing Eistocks schiessen and broom hockey. Kids are ice skating, sledding with their parents, and enjoying the experience of being in the icy lake. I walked with my daughter as well, holding her tight because she keeps on falling. I am so sure I’ve stomped on my feet just to check if the ice is really that hard! It felt so different,really surreal, but then so fun!  You really need to wear the right shoes or else your toes will freeze as well.The scenery of Baggersee this winter is what the Dutch called as Gezelligheid, different and overwhelming. A different winter beauty worthy to see.

Watching the families frolicking on the clear frozen lake, some running after their dogs would surely brings a smile on anyone for sure. It’s so crazy that parents even brought the stroller there.No matter how tempting and thrilling this experience, I recommend to be always be on safety especially if you don’t know the nature of the frozen lake. Make sure that the lake is frozen enough to enjoy!  It can be scary if you underestimate the thin ice on frozen lakes.

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Just a duck
Another helpful hint is to monitor any cracks in the ice. Ideally they should look about four to six inches or deeper, although people have skated on three-inch thick ice. Also, dark, fresh ice is safest. And remember that occasional rumbling and cracking are normal.

Don’t let a little cold weather stop you from enjoying the sun on a cold freezing winter days! 

Now did this awaken your interest? Personally,I admit its bucket list for me since I grew up in a tropical country.So here are some tips for you to enjoy winter days in a frozen lake if you are planning to visit one. Best of all, most of them are free;

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One fine hazy afternoon in a frozen lake
Ice skating. The most obvious activity is also the most timeless. No need to pay for an indoor or small outdoor rink.

Broom hockey. If you have actual hockey gear, by all means have at it.  Broom hockey is a fun team-based activity to enjoy on the frozen water, with or without skates.

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Reflection of the sun in the ice
Ice stock Schiessen. Also known as Bavarian Curling. In German, it is known as Eisstockschießen. Competitors slide ice stocks over an ice surface, aiming for a target, or to cover the longest distance. Ice stocks have a gliding surface, to which a stick (ca 30 cm) is attached. This is a new sight to me so I really enjoyed watching how they play the game.

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Bavarian Curling or Eisstockschiessen
Photography. I’m no expert. But a frozen lake may very well be more beautiful and majestic than a thawed lake. I’ve shared here some of the shots I’ve made today. All stunning. So why not catalog and capture your own impressive views of the lake?

 

Wildlife observation. Not all birds fly south for winter. So take a pair of binoculars and listen to the sounds. Admittedly, you won’t encounter flocks of species in the winter. But with the refreshing silence, you’ll immediately know when you encounter something of interest. And you’ll be reminded of how delicate life can be. Watching the ducks and swans can even be therapeutic.

 

Enjoy the silence. In the mountains, like our winter wonderland in the Zugspitze Arena enjoying the Alps  the surroundings as well in the lake is so serene. So relaxing.So peaceful because you are close to nature. The only sound you hear probably is the ohhhs & ahhhs when you are about to slip! Be careful!

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The art of capturing the winter beauty
Weather watching. Before you roll your eyes, know this: weather conditions at lakes are something fierce. Weather conditions at frozen lakes can be even fiercer, so it’s easier and more impressive to observe. Case in point: Fog banks, ice crystals, sunsets, and ice floes, all of which make their appearance this time of year. A dam that is completely zero current–that’s quite a sight!

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A small fall near the dam
Dog sledding, etc. This is what I knew Germans to be doing 24/7, no matter what the weather! Walking with their dogs is considered as a habit here, so why not let him do some fun adventure as well. Dog sledding is new hype.

Can’t believe that January will soon be over,time flies. How are you surviving the cold?

Have you ever tried walking on a frozen lake?  Do you remember doing some thing for the first time?

Thank you so much for reading my friends. Wishing you all a great week ahead.If you enjoy this post and want to see more of my photography , follow me on Instagram and my Expat stories!