Woohoo – the first Kita day is approaching! But how to prepare for the “Eingewöhnung”?
What is an Eingewöhnung?
Eingewöhnung can be translated to “settling in period” or familiarization. The basic idea is that the Eingewöhnung should be gentle so the child can build a relationship with the Kita teachers and get settled in their new environment during short intervals, which in the beginning are accompanied by a parent.
What is the “Berliner Eingewöhnungsmodell”?
Berlin Kitas follow the “Berliner Eingewöhnungsmodell” which outlines the settling in period in six phases:
Phase 1: The Kita informs the parents about the basics of the Eingewöhnung. Parents may get the opportunity to submit information about their child beforehand.
Phase 2: During the first few days, the child will “visit” the Kita with their parent for short periods of time. The parent will stay in the background but be available as needed.
Phase 3: The Kita teachers will determine when they would like to make the first attempt at a “separation”. The parent will say goodbye to the child and then leave the facility for between 10 and 30 minutes – so as long as the teacher is able to comfort the child. Otherwise they will return after a few minutes.
Phase 4: The teacher will take over more and more (comforting, playing, changing of diapers, feeding, etc.). If the periods of separation go well, they can be slowly extended. In this phase, the child will have lunch and then nap time at the Kita for the first time.
Phase 5: In rounding out the process, the teacher and child learn to navigate the day-to-day together and the child learns (and perhaps) tests the rules and routines at Kita. They will now spend several hours on their own at Kita with the parents on call as needed.
Phase 6: The Eingewöhnung is finished when the child will let the teacher(s) comfort them when they are sad and when they enjoy going to and being at Kita. This is shown by the child participating with joy in the daily activities and processes and by them showing that they know (but will also from time to time question) the rules.
What is the goal of the Eingewöhnung?
By the end of the Eingewöhnung, the child should have a good bond with their teacher(s) and feel safe in their new Kita environment. They should get to know all the different rooms but als the rituals and rules and schedule.
How long will the Eingewöhnung take?
It depends on the child but make sure to block 3-6 weeks for the Eingewöhnung. After that your child will mostly likely be able to stay till after nap time (around 3pm) or longer.
Who should do the Eingewöhnung?
Either of the parents or potentially a close relative (such as a grandparent) can do the Eingewöhnung. It’s best to discuss with with the Kita to get their input. It is sometimes recommend that the father do the Eingewöhnung rather than the mother as the separation process may be easier but this will vary according to the child and family.
Why are the parents part of the Eingewöhnung?
The accompanying parent is there to provide a “safe haven” for the child while they are getting used to their new surroundings. It also offers an opportunity for the parents to get to know the Kita, the teachers and rituals.
Why do an Eingewöhnung at all?
Studies from the 80s found that kids who did not do an Eingewöhnung with their parents got sick up to 4x as much as kids that had an Eingewöhnung with their parents. They were also found to be more anxious and less able to take advantage of the different offerings at Kita.
Any other tips?
It is recommended that you don’t plan anything out of the ordinary during the Eingewöhnung, if possible. This includes vacations, moving houses, the birth of a younger sibling etc.
Personally, I found it helpful to communicate often and in positive ways with the child in the lead up to them starting Kita and to make sure that you as a parent are also ready to start this new phase in your life! Children are very perceptive as to their parents’ feeling and attitudes and so I found it very important to show that I too was excited about Kita while still loving them just as much (or more).
Hopefully this is helpful in you planning for and navigating this exciting process!