Understand the different childcare options available to parents of toddlers in Germany...

For parents choosing to return to work there are many childcare options available. A law on consolidating daycare for children (Gesetz zum Ausbau der Tagesbetreuung - TAG) was introduced at the beginning of 2005. The aim of the law is to ensure that some form of childcare is available to all pre-school age children irrespective of their family circumstances.

Children start school in the August of the calendar year they are six. However, many primary schools (Grundschule) offer free half-day sessions for children to attend the year before they are due to start full time.

The German Ministry for Families (Bundesfamilienministerium) provides a database tool to make it easier for parents to find available daycare places for their child to suit their needs.

Nursery school (Kindergarten or Kita)

As of August 2013, children over the age of one have a legal entitlement to a place in nursery school (Kindergarten). Places are often limited and in some cases new admissions are only accepted once a year, so it is advisable for parents to place their child on the waiting list of the nursery of their choice well in advance.

All children aged one and above have a statutory right to a place at a nursery (Kindergarten/Kita). A "Kita" is a more informal kindergarten, often run by parents' associations; some also offer after-school care for children up to the age of 11 or 12. Most nurseries operate half-day sessions (usually mornings), but approximately one third offer full day care. Nurseries are run by local authorities, churches, and charitable organisations. Parents are obliged to make a financial contribution towards the cost based on their family income.

Major towns, for example Berlin, also have many private (some German-English bilingual) nurseries which offer flexible daycare sessions and longer opening hours to meet the demands of working parents. There are also a number of nurseries which follow specific pedagogical teachings and principles such as Montessori and Waldorf nurseries.

Enrolling in a kindergarten

There is a specific procedure for enrolling a child at a kindergarten. First visit the local municipal nursery office "Kita-Stelle" where the financial and social (for example single or dual parent) status of the family is assessed and recorded. Written confirmation is then given by the Office for Youth (Jugendamt) which details the childcare entitlement and sets the financial contribution ratio expected of the parent.

Childminders (Tagesmutter)

Childminders can be found through personal recommendation or by contacting the local Office for Youth (Jugendamt) who will recommend a registered childminder, often with a professional childminding qualification. Childminding costs are generally lower than nursery fees.

Babysitters and au pairs

These may be useful for evenings and shorter periods of time on an ad-hoc basis. Some of the local expatriate websites post small ads with babysitters offering their services. Check with local schools or neighbours for recommendations. Most German teenagers speak English well so communication should not be an issue with small children. Hourly rates vary and more is usually paid after midnight. There are also a number of agencies which provide babysitters, au pairs and other forms of domestic help.

A national babysitter and au pair finding service (including English-speakers) can be found at: