Kita stands for Kindertagestätte and is the German form of daycare or nursery. But, if you are reading this, I can safely assume you know what a Kita is and are on the road to finding the perfect Kita spot for your child.
The good news for those families living in Berlin, Germany that have a Kita-aged child is that the German system is one of the best in the world for subsidizing public childcare costs. Sure, there’s a bit of red tape to get through. However, once you have your Kita Gutschein (kindergarten voucher), you are ready to secure your place at one of your local Kitas. The bad news? There are too few Kitas in Berlin to cope with the number of families needing daycare for their children. Although it’s not mandatory in this country, 151,928 children were enrolled in daycare in 2016. This means that finding a Kita spot is a common problem all over Berlin, and many families need assistance finding an available place.
Kitas are commonly reserved for children ages three to six, but many will have a nursery included and will take children under three. Another option for full-time childcare if your child is under three is to send them to a Tagesmutter. The word ‘Tagesmutter’ translates directly to ‘day mother’ and is a woman (or a man or ‘Tagesvater’ in some cases) looking after your child in the daytime while you work. The differences between a Tagesmutter and a Kita are location, size and child capacity. In a Kita group, you can have anywhere between 16 and 26 children of all ages. A Tagesmutter will only take anywhere between two and eight children at a time, and the childcare takes place at the Tagesmutter’s house. You do still, however, need a Gutschein to utilize a Tagesmutter, and these spots are also limited.
Experience has proven that you can’t hurry the system. So how do we get around this problem of finding childcare if you can’t get a Kita spot right away? Widen the net. There are many services you can take advantage of to get the most out of your situation whilst you wait for a Kita spot to become free.
Not to be underestimated, babysitters are a valuable asset in helping you get back to work and life after your child is ready to go to Kita (no matter what age that is). Babysitters are more suited to a family that needs care every now and then, maybe three times a week. The workload could be shared across several babysitters.
Hire a nanny or au pair
Hiring a nanny or a live-in au pair is a great option for those families that need more regular hours of childcare. Nannies will often be available to spend multiple days with your children and become someone your family knows well and trusts.
Babysitters and nannies will often charge by the hour and can get quite expensive. However, a live-in au pair often turns out to be cheaper in the long run if you have the space to accommodate them. A live-in au pair cares for your children at specific times, often up to 30 hours per week. Rather than an hourly or daily fee, they will often subsidize their monthly fee in return for living in your house rent-free and having access to all household extras (free wifi and food). There may be cases where an allowance is also factored into the arrangement. These scenarios work out wonderfully for families who are open to sharing their home with another person, and it is a great option for those parents going back to full-time work but are still waiting for their Kita spot.
Extra Arms is a professional and competent nanny and babysitting agency to help you find the right person for your family. Simply Private Staff also offers luxury nanny services to families worldwide.
You can also find a number of other Berlin-based agencies to help you with caring for your child whilst you head back to work. Here are a few to get you started:
Co-working with care
If the options above do not suit, and you are a freelancer or can work from home, a wonderful new initiative has started in Berlin in recent years: co-working spaces with childcare. You pay for workspace, and there is on-site daycare for your little one.
The following are the main co-working spaces with childcare in Berlin:
Not just for those getting back into work, playgroups are a great way for your child to interact and make friends with other children.
Your local community centre is likely to have a Krabbelgroupe (crawling group) to join. Mitmach Republik is a site where you can do a keyword search for groups in your area.
Join a support group
Finding a Kita spot in a foreign country can be daunting, so the best way to get through it is to talk to others in the same situation. Seek help when you need it, either online or in person.
The Facebook group No Kita? No German? No Worries is a great source of help and guidance for the expat community.
Here are some other Facebook groups that might be helpful:
Wunderhaus – This establishment is an activity and community club. At Wunderhaus in Prenzlauer Berg, your child can take classes, or play in the childcare area, whilst you catch up on some work. There is also a café, fitness/dance studio for both adult and child classes and a wellness spa for mommies.
At all three IKEA stores in Berlin (Spandau, Tempelhof, and Marzahn), you can drop your child at the play centre, SMALAND, whilst you head around the display and warehouse. Even if you just want to sit in the café and eat Swedish meatballs, why not? It’s free, but there is a one-hour time limit.
At selected Möbel Kraft Stores (Bad Segeberg, Buchholz, Berlin, and Vogelsdorf) you are also able to drop the kids at the play centre, Kinderland.
Need a break to work out? Head to one of the many gyms in Berlin that offer daycare whilst you work out or take a class. All of the gyms below offer daycare at, either one or all, of their Berlin locations. Times and ages range at each location, so contact them first.