Childcare in Germany is a hot topic for working parents because the demand far exceeds the supply. Some parents apply for spots in the nursery (KiTa) system as soon as the child is born, due to the long waiting lists and the limited spots.
The government in Germany usually subsidizes fees for KiTas and you can expect to pay around €150 – 250 per month for full-time care. By comparison, KiTas in Switzerland are not subsidized and can easily cost a couple of thousand per month.
Childcare in Germany – where to start?
You, as the working parent, bear the burden of finding out what options there are and how to avail yourself of them. The first stop is the local children’s welfare department (Kinderschutzbund) to inform yourself of the options available.
The priority for working parents is to arrange childcare for just after school is out at lunchtime. Most children go home for lunch but, if this is not possible, there are other options.
German Afterschool care
Some schools or cities sponsor after-school care that includes lunch or a cafeteria where children can purchase lunch. The after school program that I currently use costs €75 per month. This offers full-time after-school care, provided from 1pm to 4pm, Monday to Thursday.
You should make sure that your childcare also provides lunch for the children. If it is without lunch and snacks, you will either need to pack a lunch for your child, prepare a meal yourself, or have someone prepare a meal for your child.
After-school childcare may be offered by the school that your child attends, or a nearby facility. This after-school childcare arrangement is known as a Hort and is usually available until the 12th year of age.
If your child attends a Hort at another school or facility, it is perfectly normal for them to walk there independently after school. After-school care usually ends at 1600h/4pm.
Read more about the German school system in our 5 point guide.
Holiday camps in Germany
Most cities also provide holiday camps at the city level with various options to choose from. Where offered, holiday camps are available daily and weekly. Some are full-time with an early drop off at 7 or 7.30am and will usually end at 5pm, at the latest.
Full-time camps offer lunch, snacks, and excursions. Excursions are normally included in the price, except for maybe an extra €3-5 for incidentals. You can expect to pay around €50-80 per camp week.
Pre-school aged children
Small towns usually have fewer childcare options to choose from. At the very least, there will be a Tagesmutter/Tagesvater network. A Tagesmutter/Tagesvater or a “Day Mother/Father” is someone who provides childcare in their private home, usually for smaller children. They are regulated by the local government.
You will need to apply for this service through the local government who will then give you a list of Tagesmutters/vaters to personally contact. Most only offer care for small children but can, in theory, care for children up to 14 years old.
They are usually flexible in the hours that they offer their services, since it is in their home, but it is always best to openly discuss the hours that you will need their service just to be sure. This means that the child could theoretically stay over-night at the homes of those who provide that level of service. You should also openly discuss whether they provide food and, if so, what type.
The relationship normally starts slowly and carefully as both the child and caregiver should be comfortable with each other. It may take a few visits with the caregiver before you finally reach a decision. After both parties reach an agreement, the Tagesmutter/Tagesvater will usually provide the contract for completion. This should be sent to the appropriate authorities.
Work and childcare in Germany
You should negotiate with your future employer with the understanding that dependable childcare is indispensable and takes time to arrange. You have a lot of options and you may have to do a lot of leg work yourself. Be sure to have a couple of back-up options in the case of illness or other unexpected emergencies. You will need to show that you are dependable despite being the sole provider.
If your employer is kind and eager to fill their vacancy, they may offer to help you organize some things on the ground to get you going. Once you sort out the childcare, you will be able to work with peace of mind and focus on other day-to-day challenges.