Finding childcare in Germany
This guide covers the range of daycare options in Germany: nursery, daycare, preschool, after-school childcare, child-minders and au pairs.
If you're moving to Germany with children, you'll easily find a wide range of childcare options in Germany but childcare costs and availability vary. Organising childcare can be nerve racking at the best of times but expats face additional challenges, such as language barriers. What's available easily or for free can be also hard to find but the supply of childcare facilities in Germany is increasing. Here's our guide to finding the right childcare in Germany, whether you're looking for full-time care for a new baby or after-school care for a 10-year-old.
Childcare options and costs in Germany
Typically, care for ages up to three years old will be with child minders, a nanny or other in-home care, or in a private nursery. Since legalisation in 2013, children aged from 12 months have a legal right to a childcare place, which will be partly subsidised by the state. Children age three to six are also entitled a place in preschool and some after-school clubs. School aged children (6+) have the additional option of wrap-around care at school, although not all schools provide this.
Prices for children's daycare (Kindertagesbetreuung) are very affordable in Germany, with nurseries typically charging EUR 70–150 per child per month. Subsidies are often available for low-income families. This varies from region to region, and is typically worked out on a sliding scale depending on the number of hours of care required and the total family income. Some institutions will charge more, particularly for extended hours or meals. After school care is a comparable price.
The government has committed to finding preschool places for all three to six year-olds and nursery places for at least a third of under-threes, and supply should increase. However, getting the place you want – particularly if you need somewhere with extended hours or language support, or live in a major city – can be very competitive so it's best to enquire as early as possible, even during pregnancy. In some cases, this will be laughed off but in particularly competitive areas, particularly for over-subscribed international schools, applying early is necessary.
Nurseries in Germany: children under 3 years
Care for children under three years is covered privately. Nurseries (Krippen) may be run by individuals, companies or religious organisations such as churches. A few offer support for non-German-speaking children but, with the exception of those attached to international schools, most will be purely German-speaking.
Hours vary from institution to institution. Opening at 8am and closing at 1pm is common, while some have longer hours to 3pm or 6pm. Later hours are rare.
Preschools in Germany: children over three years
Since 2007, all children over 3 years-old have a legal right to a preschool place. Preschools are called Kindergarten or Kita (these are also known as Kindertagestätte). The latter tend to be less formal and may offer after-school care for primary school aged children. Both are staffed by qualified educational professionals.
Read more in Expatica's article about preschool options in Germany.
Before- and after-school care
Children in Germany are under educational obligation once they turn six by the start of the school year (August or September) until a child is 16–18 years old. The school day typically starts at 8am, and after-school care may need to be arranged as early as 1pm, although school hours vary across the country.
In Germany, before- and after-school care is typically provided by on-site 'school clubs' (Schulhort or Horte), usually only available to children attending the primary or secondary school in question, or off-site at a Kita (preschool). You'll also find care services offered by Kitas for children age three to six, as well as wrap-around care (breakfast or before-school and after-school clubs) for primary school age children, a combination which can be ideal if you have more than one child.
Schulehort is typically organised by the individual school, and will provide services based on local demand and facilities available. As a result, there is an enormous variation across the country. The main advantage is that the child will be in one place throughout the day and usually supervised by teachers or teaching assistants. Schulhort may close as early as 4pm, and both Schulhort and Kita usually shut by 6pm.
Fees for before or after-school care are typically reasonable, however this will vary depending on the facilities offered (eg. meals), number of hours and competitiveness of the area.
A less formal atmosphere is created by the child minder (Tagesmütter or Tagesväter), who provide childcare in their home. Each child minder will set their own availability and the ages they are willing to work with. Some will take infants and secondary school children, but most focus on toddler and primary age kids.
Many open longer hours than a Kita and may be willing to collect children from school or nursery. Prices are typically similar to that for local nurseries. However, as a child minder typically works alone, it's critical that you're comfortable with both the individual and their home environment. They will also usually not be able to provide cover if they fall ill or have a house disaster (a burst pipe, for example).
Expect to pay EUR 10–15 per hour, and for the child minder to be caring for their own or other children as well. In Germany, the maximum number of children per child minder is five.
Care in your own home: nannies, au pairs and babysitters
Individual care in your own home can help children settle. It can also be a good way to provide English or other mother-tongue language contact. The level of expertise you can expect and the prices vary considerably.
The main options are:
- A professional nanny (Kinderfrau) may have childcare qualifications from their country of origin or German ones – these vary from state to state. The nanny should also have experience and be able to deal with very small children and babies. They can live in or not, and should be treated as employed professionals, with around a 40 hour work week. Expect to pay a salary of around EUR 1,800–27,00 per month, plus employer's tax and health insurance contributions.
- An au pair (Au Pair) will typically be much more affordable but usually unqualified. They are usually teenagers or young adults far from home, and they will usually live with you. Expect to pay as least from EUR 260 per month and upwards, plus room and board, health insurance and German language classes.
- Babysitters (Babysitter) typically have no qualifications and may fall anywhere on the spectrum, from a teenager to a retired nurse. Arranging a schedule that suits both of you can be complex. Expect to pay around EUR 6–10 per hour for casual Friday-night teenage supervision and EUR 10–15 per hour for regular care by an adult.
In each case, a clear agreement (ideally in writing) over what will be covered by both parties provides a solid foundation for employment. Cooking and housework are common bones for contention. As you will be an employer, you may have to deal with employer's responsibilities such as health insurance, tax and other paperwork.
Government programmes and benefits
All families who have been resident for more than six months should get a Kindergeld payment of EUR 184 (or slightly more for later children) per child under 18, per month. Find out more information and apply online (German only).
Lower income taxes for parents and a payment called Elterngeld may be available to some expat families. Elterngeld is a monthly allowance for parents giving up work to care for their child. It's available for up to 14 months and pays up to EUR 1800 per month, depending on your previous income. Full details are available in this PDF from the Ministry for Families, Women and Youth (Germany only).
To apply for Elterngeld, you must contact your local family ministry office. Find your regional office here. You are likely to be eligible if you are German or living in Germany on a residence permit that allows you to work, live with your child and are caring for them.
You are allowed to work up to 30 hours per week while receiving the Elterngeld payment. If both parents return to working more than 30 hours per week, subsidised childcare is available for children over 12 months, plus some cities and states offer further financial support although this varies widely by region.
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Updated 2011; July 2015.
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