Before starting elementary school (Grundschule), most children under 6 years old attend childcare (Kita). Kita is short for Kindertagesstätte. It's a type of preschool or daycare centre.

You must go through a few steps before your child can go to a Kita in Berlin.

How much does Kita cost?

Attendance at a Kita is fully funded by the government. Attending Kita is free, but food, special activities and language lessons can cost extra. The food usually costs 23€ per month1, 2. The cost of activities can cost 60 to 90€ per month, depending on the Kita.

Kitas can charge up to 60€ for sports, special food (such as vegan food or organic food), language lessons and activities. If the Kita provides special activities or regular breakfast and snacks for the children, they can charge up 90€ per month. They must itemize all costs above 60€, and they must allow parents to opt out of these costs.

  • Children under 1 year old can attend Kita or have a nanny (Tagesmutter) for a 4-5 hours per day. This is called half days or halbtags childcare. To receive this care, you must prove that your child requires it. You can do this by showing your work contract hours or freelance work commitments. Children living in homeless shelters or collective housing are also entitled to halbtags care.
  • Children over 1 year old are entitled to 5-7 free hours per day. This is called part time or teilzeit childcare.
  • Children over 3 years old are entitled to 7-9 free hours per day if both parents are working, studying or in training. This is called full time or ganztags childcare. If only one parent is working, studying or training, the child is entitled to 5-7 free hours per day.

How hard is it to find a Kita?

Finding a Kita in Berlin is very difficult1, 2, 3; even harder than finding an apartment1. It can take more than a year to find a place for your child. Some parents have sued the state over this, and others organized a protest.

Most Kitas have 6-18 month waiting lists. Some parents start the search while pregnant, or while their child is a young baby, even if their child won't go to a Kita for several years.

Start looking for Kitas as soon as possible. Do not wait until you have your Kitagutschein to start searching1.

Step 1: Look for Kitas

You must look for a Kita that has a free spot for your child. Most Kitas have 6-18 month waiting lists, so you should start looking when you are pregnant1.

There are many places to look for Kitas:

Kitas sometimes post a message on their windows when they have a free place. If you have time, walk around your neighbourhood, and look at the Kita doors and windows for notices. This notice often specifies the age of the children they are willing to accept, and whether they want a girl or a boy. Kitas try to keep a balance of older and younger children, and a balance of girls and boys.

If you live in a very high-demand area of Berlin, you might need to search for Kitas further away. Your child can attend any Kita in the city, not just the ones close to you. Due to the lack of Kita places, some Jugendamts tell Kitas to only accept kids who live in the same district1.

Since it's extremely difficult to find a Kita, you might have to pick the first Kita that has a free spot1, 2. You can't be very picky, but you can always change Kitas later.

Step 2: Get a Kitagutschein

A Kitagutschein is a voucher that provides your child with free childcare in Berlin. The Kita needs this certificate to know how much money they will get when they take care of your child.

You need to apply for the Kitagutschein from 2 to 9 months before your desired start date. It takes 6 to 8 weeks to get a Kitagutschein. Some Kitas ask for a Kitagutschein before they put you on their waiting list. Others don't require it until later. They know that it's difficult to find a Kita in 2 to 9 months. However, some Kitas won't put you on the waiting list before your child is born.

Related guide: How to get a Kitagutschein

Step 3: Contact Kitas

Once you have a list of Kitas, you must ask them for a spot in their waiting list. You should start doing this as soon as you are pregnant1.

You will find application instructions on each Kita's website. Each Kita has a different way of getting on the waiting list.

When you contact a Kita, you must usually speak German. There are also some English-speaking Kitas in Berlin.

Only a few Kitas will answer emails. If they don't answer, call and ask to visit. Many Kitas also have information days or drop-in days when you can go and ask questions1.

If you don’t get a reply the first time you contact a Kita, or they say they have no place available, try contacting them again later1. Sometimes, children will leave, and new places will become available.

Useful services:

Step 4: Visit Kitas

Many Kitas have information days or visit times available1. This is a good time to visit a Kita and ask questions.

When you visit a Kita, ask the following questions:

  • How many children are there, and how many teachers?
  • Are the children split up by age, or are they in different rooms/parts of the Kita?
  • Does the Kita provides food?
  • What kind of pedagogical approach does the Kita follow?
  • What are the Kita's opening hours? If you work full time, the opening hours can be a problem1.
  • How do they resolve conflicts between the children?
  • Where do the children sleep?
  • Are there any additional costs?

You should also look at the Kita's reviews on Google Maps to make sure others had a good experience there. Some parents share their experience on various parenting Facebook groups.

Step 5: Signing a contract

Once you have found a Kita, ask them for a contract. You must sign the contract and send it back with a copy of your Kitagutschein.

Food is not usually covered by the Kitagutschein. It will usually cost around 23€ extra per month. If your Kita offers language lessons or special activities, you might need to pay extra. Each individual Kita will explain this to you.

Step 6: Your child's first days at the Kita

When your child begins at Kita, they will go through a process called Eingewohnung. This is a settling-in process that can take 2 to 5 weeks. During the Eingewohnung, you will stay with your child at first, and then gradually leave them with the Kita educators for longer periods of time until your child is settled. Leave a few weeks for the Eingewohnung between your Kita start date and the date you return to work.

When you choose a Kita start date and a date to begin work, factor in several weeks of Eingewohnung.

Where to find help?

If you are a parent in Berlin, these groups can answer your questions.

These services can also help you: