Moving to Germany with your children

Childcare in Germany
Updated 2024-04-03 09:42

If you intend to settle in Germany with your children, their care, education, and adaptation to the environment will definitely be among your primary concerns, especially if there is no stay-at-home parent in the household. Germany offers various childcare services for toddlers and preschoolers, such as nurseries, kindergartens, and childminding facilities.

Depending on your child's personality (e.g., do they enjoy interacting with new people? Are they physically active?) and your work schedule, you can decide what type of childcare you would like to introduce to your child. Generally, it's worth taking into account that a group care environment may be helpful for your child's adaptation to the new country — not only will the child be exposed to the German language, sports, and some discipline, but will also start establishing new relationships and friendships. 

Pre-schools in Germany

Pre-schools operate under the aegis of the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women, and Youth. As it is common for both parents to work and extended family (e.g., grandparents) is not always easily accessible, children in Germany stay with a private Tagesmutter (a babysitter) or attend Kinderkrippe (day nursery) from one year of age, followed by a Kindergarten or Kita for children from 3 to 6 years. Note that in the first period of acclimatization (Eingewöhnung), Kitas require the involvement of the parents, organized to ensure that the child is comfortable with being left at the daycare.

Schools in Germany are managed either by charitable organizations (Verbände der Freie Wohlfahrtspflege/Free Welfare Organisations), churches, or local authorities. However, parents are required to make a financial contribution according to their monthly income. State-supported facilities are limited, and depending on your region, it can be challenging to secure a place for your child. Therefore, most German parents start applying early, right after birth or even during pregnancy. Note that the registration process takes place only once a year. Hence, as a newly arrived expat in Germany, you don't stand equal chances of getting into the priority list. 

Preschool education is not compulsory in Germany. In some regions, children are enrolled in preschool when they are 5 years old to have preparatory courses before joining primary school. Most preschools operate half-day, usually in the morning, but you can still find full-time schools. After you find a daycare, you should consider some essential things:

  • The location of the daycare should not be too far from your home or work;
  • Child-to-caregiver ratio to make sure that your child will get all the necessary care and attention;
  • The language preference of your child;
  • The opportunity to have a safe playground and outdoor activities;
  • The opening hours of the daycare and whether they match your family's schedule;
  • The dietary requirements of your child and the food offered.

Good to know: 

Some private kindergartens offer options for working parents, such as being open to 11 or 12-year-old children after school hours (Hort).

Allowances for parents and parental leave 

In Germany, you will receive financial state support for generally one year (Elternjahr), depending on the previous year's salary. Additionally, both parents are eligible to take unpaid leave (Elternzeit) until the child's third year of age. However, most parents take a one-year leave and then use childcare. In Eastern Germany, childcare is traditionally very affordable and well-covered since mothers tend to work full-time. In the Western parts of the country, it is more difficult to arrange full-time childcare, especially for babies, as the majority of mothers work reduced hours.

Parental allowance (Elterngeld) is meant to support unemployed parents, parents who study, and parents who work no more than 30 hours per week. There are three kinds of parental allowance: basic (Basiselterngeld) for 2 months or more until your child's first birthday; plus (ElterngeldPlus) for double the amount of time compared to the basic allowance and the partnership bonus (Partnerschaftsbonus) for parents who work at the same time. The basic parental allowance is between 300 to 1800 euros per month, depending on your income and the number of children. 

Good to know: 

You can apply for parental allowance at your local parental allowance office (Elterngeldstelle) or fill out the application online


The national funding program "Betriebliche Kinderbetreuung" (employer-provided child daycare) encourages employers to offer child daycare support. 

Alternative pedagogical methods in Germany

Some kindergartens and schools follow specific pedagogical principles and programs, such as Waldorf and Montessori. In fact, Germany is among the countries with the most Waldorf schools, which is not a surprise considering that the first Waldorf school opened in Stuttgart, Germany, at the beginning of the 1900s. Waldorf schools emphasize “expanding imagination and creativity” and give teachers a great amount of flexibility by allowing them to adapt the curriculums according to the children in class on the basis of the idea that not all peers reach the same milestones simultaneously.  

Good to know: 

Not all Waldorf and Montessori schools in Germany are costly; some of them are free of charge.

Childminders and nannies in Germany

If you prefer to entrust your child to a childminder, you should consult with the local youth office (Jugendamt). In general, German childminders are professionals having all the necessary qualifications and skills. Note that childminding costs are less than kindergartens and nurseries and offer a lot more flexibility (but this depends on which city you are in Germany – in Berlin, for example, kindergartens are very cheap). You can also hire a nanny or an au pair to look after your child for a few hours on a regular basis. Nannies and au pairs can be found through word-of-mouth, forums such as's Germany forum, or specialized agencies. Their services are usually paid per hour. 

The German education system

The German education system is governed by the Ministry of Education and Research or the Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung. While Kitas cover the daycare, usually between the ages of 3 and 5, schooling starts at the age of 6 until at least 15 years of age, but it varies depending on the region and which level of education you choose. Grundschule (elementary school) is from the age of 7 to approximately 11 years old. Some schools may offer childcare after school (Hort). From the age of 11 on, children are streamed into different levels of schooling depending on their abilities to Förderschule, Hauptschule, Realschule, and Gymnasium (A-levels), with the majority opting for Gymnasium. 

Good to know: 

Public education is free of charge, but you can still find many international and private schools.

Enrolling your child in a German school

You will have to visit the nearest municipality to your place of residence before enrolling your child in a pre-primary school. Officers will first assess your residential address and financial, family, and social situation to determine which school will best suit your child. A written confirmation will then be issued by the local Jugendamt (Youth Office), including the details of your child's care, as well as the contribution you are expected to make according to your financial means. Most of the schools hold classes in the German language, with the exception of some private international ones. Hence, depending on your child's age and knowledge of the language, you should make sure they are well prepared to follow classes in German.

Useful links: 

Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth

Berlin Senate – Find childcare

Leisure activities for and with children

Childminders and childcare portal 

Familien Portal (Family Allowance)

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.