Guest Post: What Preschool is like in Germany
Trish Alegre-Smith is an American photographer (soyourlife.com) working from the Eifel region of Germany. She is a mother of three and previously served in the Air Force, where she met her husband and father of their children. They moved to Germany a little over a year ago. As a military family, they are used to big changes.Transitions can be tough, but exciting. I asked Trish to give me some insight on her preschool equivalent search for her youngest child. Her post and photos are below.
My German Preschool (Kita) Search Checklist
(A counter point to: Westside Mommy’s preschool search checklist post)
Our American family moved to Germany last summer on a temporary to-year work assignment. We have two kids in the toddler and preschool age range so we were looking for daycare and preschool options in our local area. If I had a checklist that I’d hand to other American parents new to the area, these are questions that I would include:
Does your local village have a kindergarten?
Not every village/town has its own kindergarten. For our small village in southwest Germany, we share a kindergarten with two other villages. For our kids to attend that kindergarten we would have to drive them one village over every morning. We also do not have any private preschool options in our village.
Does the kindergarten accept American children?
In Germany, every child from the age of three to six can attend kindergarten. American children (including temporary legal residents like us) are also eligible to attend if there is space available. At our local kindergarten there was already a waiting list for the local German children so it wouldn’t accept our kids this year. We had to look at other villages and towns to see if they had availability for our kids.
Is it mornings only? How many days a week? If I work, can my child stay all day?
Some kindergartens offer toddler groups as well as preschool. Many of these programs are part-day only (about 8:30am to 11:30am or 2:00pm-5:00pm) and toddler-age programs may meet only a few days a week. There are exceptions made for families where both parents work but this is done on a case-by-case basis and will not be free. There are also private full-day childcare options that vary in cost and can be expensive.
What is the day like?
Kids in preschool here do not have formal lessons (these start in what we would consider first grade). There are crafts, structured and creative play, music, and social development. Kids are also expected to speak in German and will be introduced to the language by immersion. Specifically working on letters and numbers is not emphasized.
What do I need to bring?
Kids will go outside in all types of weather here. My kids all have rain jackets and rain pants, rain boots, snow suits, snow boots, and layer their clothes when going to school. Also, if your kids will be staying all day many places require you to pack your own lunch and snacks.
Is there someone at the school who speaks English that I can talk to?
All of the kindergarten staff I’ve found here are highly trained, university-educated, and certified experts in early childhood development and education. This also means you can find at least one person who can help you answer any questions you may have in English.