Advice on choosing the right German kindergarten

29 posts in this topic

Posted

Hi there,

We're currently in the process of assessing a couple kindergartens for our 2.5 year old. One is bilingual but with somewhat limited facilities & programs, and the other is standard but features an enticing array of activities and well-designed rooms which focus on various concepts (encouraging artistic sensibilities, sport, etc.).

However we've noticed that many of these German kindergartens seem to grant a surprising amount of autonomy to even the youngest children. Don't get me wrong, I don't see a need for such institutions to be run with an iron fist per se, but the teachers we spoke to told us (if my feeble German is serving me adequately) that the children basically are given free rein to run around and choose whatever room and activity they want to get involved in. Our daughter tends to get fascinated with one thing and wants to do it ad nauseam for hours on end, which could be unfortunate if she is never nudged to try out other options which she may enjoy even more. They even have a regular "children's conference" where the toddlers get together to complain and demand changes from the adults (..."are the monkeys running the zoo here?" sort of thing...) :)

Even more importantly, our daughter is very headstrong (somewhat severe case of the ubiquitous "terrible twos") and independent to an almost dangerous extreme. We've taken her every week to "Kindersport" and whilst the other children join together for activities usually she will run off alone to check out whatever she happens to find interesting.

True, she's only two and a half so we're not panicking about this, but my main concern is, how is 3+ years of being allowed to run all over the place with very little structure supposed to prepare her for sitting in school for hours on end being forced to focus on lectures, when that time comes? Parents have a responsibility of course but the kindergarten environment etc. is also a major determining factor.

Has anyone else had these concerns or had any experiences (positive or negative) they can share with this kind of set-up? This is our first child so we're just trying to learn whatever we can and do the right thing.

Thanks!

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Posted

Thanks for the interesting viewpoints (and lost children stories- Yikes!). I also should have mentioned that the German kindergarten we visited was a sort of "middle ground"- the "halb offenes" or half-open concept where there's a little structure and it's not a completely disorganised zoo. Supposedly.

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Posted

Maybe it is just my kita but they are fairly organized. The whole day is planned out. They do have play time where the can play what they want and outside is free game. My child is in a Kneip kita. They have a sauna there and are on the beach all summer. Ok sometimes in spring and fall too depending on the weather. I find the sauna strange but whatever.

We had problems with not enough supervision outside between 3-4:30 after enough complaints the are finally two people out there with kid kids. I agree with going with your gut feeling. Mine just ended up being a good one and close to home. Though I do disagree on their definition of healthy food. Screw sodexo

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Posted

Vierling's Kindergarten, which he attended from three (no German at all) to five years (fluent in German) was a lovely place, in a little Ort near Rosenheim. His teacher told me that their goal for all the children was to have them able to play together in groups, without fighting. She said some Kitas permitted only three kids at a time in play spaces, but that she felt it was important that they should all get along; the teachers all worked hard at this. I'd suggest you ask the heads of the different Kitas you're scouting what their mission and vision are, and go with the one you feel is the most comfortable fit for the plans you have for your child.

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Posted

I really love reading these discussions though there are so many on TT about this. Especially now that I am here in S'Pore and there is so much structure, even for the older babies in the infant group (til 18 months). I'll be facing this when we return to Germany.

When I first visited daycare centers here, I said I let my son crawl all over the place and he seems quite curious, likes to explore, and the director said yes, most mothers of Caucasian babies are like that, whereas the Asian mothers would make their babies sit still. He was very honest and very serious and I thought to myself how in the hell could I get my (then) 9-month-old to stay put? :lol:

I think a bit of structured playtime does my son a world of good. When he's in his playpen and has only one set of toys, he does focus on that, but when I give him free reign, he is all over the place!

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Posted

MUNICH: I have a 4 month old and was told while my wife was 7 months pregnant that we're too late registering for a Kita (Kindertagesstätte). Insane, but true. I was laughed at multiple times; told to come back on the first thursday of the month between 3pm and 5pm. When I did, the girl in charge left early despite reconfirming the appointment 2 days earlier. Oh, how I wish I could treat my potential clients like that. The next location had a Polish girl speaking english to the kids and wanted to know if we'd like to fork over EUR 1000 a month for a spot. Thanks, I'll pass.

I think I'll patent a pregnancy tester which automatically sends a positive test result to the city and signs you up on the waiting list.

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Posted

Wow. We're currently in Australia, looking to relocate to Germany (my husband is a dual citizen) and were wondering about the availability of childcare places for our 2.5 year old and 6 month old girls (will probably be 3 & 1 by the time we settle). It sounds like we are in for a hard time. Is that kind of wait only for English-speaking kindergartens in city centres?

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Posted

Even more importantly, our daughter is very headstrong (somewhat severe case of the ubiquitous "terrible twos") and independent to an almost dangerous extreme. We've taken her every week to "Kindersport" and whilst the other children join together for activities usually she will run off alone to check out whatever she happens to find interesting.

True, she's only two and a half so we're not panicking about this, but my main concern is, how is 3+ years of being allowed to run all over the place with very little structure supposed to prepare her for sitting in school for hours on end being forced to focus on lectures, when that time comes?

My daughter was like that, and still is at 3.5 if she has taken against the activity on offer. Kids learn social behaviours like joining in activities through seeing other kids do it, which is one of the secret skills kindergartens teach. Likewise, the year before they start school they do Vorschule, teaching them the sitting-still aspect of learning.

We were really lucky in finding a local kindergarten that my daughter loves and that we like too. They have very little obvious structure in the day's play (play inside, play outside, eat your Brotzeit when you're hungry) and yet a large amount of secret or incidental structure (singing at 9.00, specific activity or generic indoor play at 10.00, lunch at 12.00, outside play at 1.00) so the kids learn almost by osmosis that certain things happen at certain times. Lessons don't need to be overt for small kids, they'll pick up the skills they need at their own pace just like they learn grammar and word order without formal lessons but just from hearing you speak.

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Posted

Our daughter will be leaving a German state KITA in two weeks. She was here half days from 16m on.

Where I live in Lower Saxony, there are no options in public daycarees for a child under the age of 13m and they tend to only take children at the start of the new school year (Aug).

Positive:

*13 kids with three preschool teachers

*Small warm group; very friendly

*Nice outdoors area for the children

*socialization/structure for breakfast / lunch at specific time and children sit together and eat

Negative:

*all children together, boring for the older children

*activities were limited (occasional singing or art project)

Our solution was a private nanny for the afternoons when I worked. We do regular field trips to the Zoo, museum, parks, international groups and read every day as well as art projecs almost every week. In the afternoon, she has the music school once a week as well as "kinderturnen" another afternoon.

For Kindergarten which starts in two weeks, I was frightened off by the large groups offered in our town where the groups are 25 children of mixed ages between 3 and 6 with two preschool teachers. The entire kindergarten she should attend has 90 children.

My German husband and I wished for smaller classes (8 children to one teacher), more structure and one-on-one interaction. Our daughter does not do well in a large group and could be the one sitting in the corner. For that reason, we decided on a private English kindergarten in the area and still have our private nanny for the late afternoons and the school breaks.

Advantages:

better fits in with our priorities

Disadvantages:

much more driving

additional cost

Our plans are still that she will attend a German primary school and can stay in contact with the German neighbors via the afternoon activities.

My suggestion is to evaluate your own and your child's needs and see what is available in your area. If this is the right solution, let's see in a few months!

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Posted

MUNICH: I have a 4 month old and was told while my wife was 7 months pregnant that we're too late registering for a Kita (Kindertagesstätte). Insane, but true. I was laughed at multiple times; told to come back on the first thursday of the month between 3pm and 5pm. When I did, the girl in charge left early despite reconfirming the appointment 2 days earlier. Oh, how I wish I could treat my potential clients like that. The next location had a Polish girl speaking english to the kids and wanted to know if we'd like to fork over EUR 1000 a month for a spot. Thanks, I'll pass.

I think I'll patent a pregnancy tester which automatically sends a positive test result to the city and signs you up on the waiting list.

What was wrong with the Polish girl?

Wow. We're currently in Australia, looking to relocate to Germany (my husband is a dual citizen) and were wondering about the availability of childcare places for our 2.5 year old and 6 month old girls (will probably be 3 & 1 by the time we settle). It sounds like we are in for a hard time. Is that kind of wait only for English-speaking kindergartens in city centres?

It's not that bad everywhere and depends on a couple of factors like child age and location.

For over 3 year olds it's easier as I think there's a law tht says they're entitled to a place in kindergarten, hence they're given preference over smaller kids on waiting lists. Location also matters, it's easier to find a spot in a smaller town than in one of the big cities.

For reference, I went to the Rathaus to enquire about a place for my older than 3 child and 3 weeks later he started kindergarten (public one in a smaller town, no knowledge of German).

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Posted

I've seen no reference to native speakers in the post I've quoted. But if this is indeed the case, then I totally agree.

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Posted

Yeah, I had my reservations about the half-open concept for my son. He's generally well behaved, but I just don't find the self-directed thing that appropriate for such small children. I also am not a huge fan of the mixed age groups. But good luck finding a Kita that doesn't feature both of these concepts to some degree because they're both extremely trendy!

Anyway, I ended up choosing the Kindergarten that I had the best gut feeling about (or rather, I had the good luck of being chosen by them ;) ) He's now been there for about 6 months. He did become slightly harder to manage as a result of going there because he learned to think of what he "wants" as of paramount importance. It took him a few months to realize that at home, he has to consider what others want. Also, I wasn't totally happy with how he was being treated by the older kids at the beginning, but now he seems to have gained their respect. It also annoys me a bit that the somewhat grueling field trips they go on at least once a week seem much more manageable for older children, but I digress...The scariest thing for me was realizing that the era of having more or less complete control over how he was treated/what he was going to be exposed to was OVER. Not worth overthinking the inevitable, as long as the place seems decently run.

In spite of these reservations, I'm pretty satisfied all around. I would prefer the reality check of being in an environment where he is told what to do a little bit more and asked to cooperate, but it just ain't gonna happen here. Pushiness and argumentativeness are considered virtues after all... ;) Good luck!

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Posted

Hello All,

Need advice on whether to put my kid in the German kindergarten or wait for the Bilingual ones. They have a huge waiting list.

The background- we are an expat family, my son is 2.5 years old, he understands and speaks English and our mother tongue. We are here in Germany for a couple of years and will eventually move out.

I am confused whether putting him in a German kindergarten will be good in the long run.

Please suggest.

Thanks!

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Posted

At what age can a child start kindergarten and can they start mid-year, not necessarily at the start of the academic year? I ask b/c our wee one was born in Feb and it just occurred to me that when we return from abroad, he'll be 2 1/2 and I am not sure if he would go to a childcare center for a year until he is 3 1/2 or we should look for a kindergarten right away.

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Posted

Kindertagesstätten (Kitas) are from children age 0 to 6. Usually the first three years are known as Kinderkrippe and the last three years as Kindergarten, but it is mostly in the same building and more or less the same thing. You can start any time of year, but may find yourself on a waiting list. In the US, kindie is the first year of school, right? In Germany it is not: it IS a childcare centre.

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Posted

In South Germany they make a difference between Kita and KiGA/Creche. Kitas are meant for 3 years and above IIRC. In North Germany we call all of them Kitas and each one has its own rules for starting age, some take babies, some take from 2 or 3 y/o.

Actually most places are given to start the second semester of the year, around the beginning of August. But sometimes it is possible to find places other months of the year. You may as well find a Tagesmutter if he/she is too young.

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Posted

In South Germany they make a difference between Kita and KiGA/Creche. Kitas are meant for 3 years and above IIRC.

Nah, the other way around. Kita is the all-encompassing term (and, to be fair, it's almost a loanword - 30 years ago you didn't hear this term here, and if you did it made you think of the DDR). Subdivided into Kinderkrippe (age 0-2) and Kindergarten (age 3-6). Usually the two are not mixed in the South.

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... In the US, kindie is the first year of school, right? In Germany it is not: it IS a childcare centre.

Yeah, I'm aware of this. In the US we start school with kindergarten at the age of 5. Year one begins with age 6.

We have put him on a waiting list of a childcare center in the Mannheim area, but I just realized they only take care of kids from 0-3 so wasn't sure if they would kick him out once he turned 3 (which is in the middle of the year) or let him stay in and finish the school year, in which case he'd start (German) kindergarten at 3 1/2.

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Posted

Probably best to ask them, then. Don't know how it is in Mannheim, but over here when the crèche and kindergarten are separate the crèche has some sort of an agreement with a nearby kindergarten so that all you have to do is sign a few papers and the children are moved over along with their friends.

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After much searching (from abroad nonetheless), we found a Kiga (kindergarten) that takes kids under 3, starting with 2.9 years, so that is where our wee one will go this fall. However, it is 4 groups of about 20 kids, 2 teachers per group plus an additional 2 interns or assistants that jump from group to group, mixed from 3-6 years old. I was so excited that they had availability (we are currently in Singapore) I didn't ask if they have a curriculum, or about meals or other things one should normally ask. It"s also newly renovated and in our neighborhood so we can walk there.

At the moment he visits a childcare in Singapore that separates kids according to year of birth (his class is small so he interacts a lot with the kids born in 2011), and has a play-based curriculum so now I am a bit concerned of course of how he will adjust being with much older kids and all and from what I hear, Kindies in Germany are very unstructured. How do your kids fare?

I will admit, because we are abroad and are late registering our kid for Kiga (we registered him for many childcare centers, but in Feb they'd boot him out. I didn't know this initially), we didn't look anywhere else so I'm kinda putting all my eggs in one basket. Hoping to see a nice discussion here, interested in what you guys have to say.

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Based on my daughter's experience, the quality, i.e., conscientiouness of the child care workers is extremely important, as well as the ratio of Kindererziherinnen to kids. We switched her to a different kindergarten after his first year, one where she didn't even speak the language (Portuguese) initially, and she had no trouble adapting, not least because everyone was so welcoming and inclusive.

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