One Mom, Seven Kitas – Learn Her Tips18 July 2019 | By Lisa H
Meet Mel, an expat mom originally from Melbourne, Australia. Mel’s husband is a friendly Berliner. They have a daughter and for her first birthday they got her a Kitaplatz 😂👏👶🎊🙌🎂. That’s not all though. In the end she managed to get a whopping seven (!) offers from Kitas for their daughter.
She left a ton of helpful Kita reviews in Schöneberg for anyone looking in this area.
What are your Top 3 tips for securing a Kita spot in Berlin?
Be organised and start early - Sadly I think you need to start as soon as you find out you're having a baby (it's crazy I know). Write everything down, including time of day you called kitas so if you can't get through you can try another day/time. Have a calendar. Get someone to help you call and email if you can't speak German. Don't get your hopes up and if possible have a back-up plan.
Be resilient and cast a wide net - Don't just apply to the place on the corner and hope that you’ll get a spot (it might happen, but it would be close to a miracle). If you didn't start early don't be disheartened. Look for new kitas opening, join playgroups, go to playgrounds and ask around, I know a few people who have got a spot this way. Talk to other parents in your area.
Be kind and respectful - At least this was our approach: ask only for necessary info, supply only the necessary info. Be kind and understanding. Don't hassle kita staff, or show your resentment or frustration. In our experience almost all Kita staff were helpful and trying their very best, but are understandably close to burnout due to the Kita crisis. In group situations avoid asking a million questions that are specific only to you/your family. Instead, ask the organisers at the end so as not to waste everyone’s time. I’ve seen some parents really monopolising attention at open days and I’m pretty sure you get put on the bottom of the list 😉
One last thing: If you work full-time or even both parents part-time it might not work for you to apply for an Elterninitiative (parent run kita) or Kinderladen unless you want your evenings and weekends to be Kita consumed. They really do depend on dedication from the parents. We applied for a few and it was a mistake, and in hindsight we wasted their time. In a crisis it’s hard to stay calm, but it’s important to decide what your family needs and to follow your heart and gut.
Here’s some more good tips (in German) from Kita Krise
How did you structure/organize your Kita search?
My husband did the majority of the work as he is the native German speaker of the household. Here’s how we went about it:
First we contacted the kitas within a few blocks of our home.
Then we downloaded the full PDF list from the Jugendamt (with postcodes) and started an Excel list of the places that fit our criteria: they take 1 year olds, are open until at least 5pm, and are located within 30 mins walking or 20 mins by public transport from our apartment.
Just to get a rough idea of how many open spots they may have available, we noted how many kids under 3 they had, and divided this by 3 so we could reasonably manage our expectations and focus on places that would be more likely to give us a spot.
Then we went through our list, called/emailed and asked to be put on the waiting list.
When we contacted a kita we asked if they put people on the waiting list before birth. If so, we gave our details and said we would call back when our daughter was born to give exact date of birth and full name. If not, we put the kita on a list to contact once our daughter was born.
Where possible we also asked the Kitas:
How/when would they like to be contacted again; What time of year they start kids (almost always staggered due to Eingewöhnung, starting in August, but sometimes all year round)
How many spots they were likely to have, if they have an open day or chance for us to visit and when they would be making their decisions / letting people know if they got a spot. It’s rare the person on the phone could answer all of these questions, but every bit of info helps.
We wrote all of this down in the Excel doc and calendar and updated it when we called back/got added to the waiting list.
Later, when we were invited to visit kitas or went to open days we wrote our impressions in the Excel doc and I gave the kitas a mark (e.g. A+ = nearby, perfect atmosphere, C- = only if we get no other offers), just so we could remember.
What we did not do: send photos or additional info other than exactly what was requested, repeatedly call/visit/email unless asked to. Exception: in March we had not heard from many kitas (for a spot in August), so we sent an email or called our favourite kitas saying we were still looking for a spot.
How did you ultimately decide on the Kita you chose?
In the end we contacted over eighty kitas and managed to get on about fifty waiting lists. From that we were invited to about twenty kitas for visits or interviews.
We got offered seven spots in the end, but six called after we’d already decided to accept a spot.
The one we chose is not the closest to our place, and unfortunately is in the opposite direction to our workplaces, but is only two S-bahn stations away (around 20 mins travel time each way).
Big pluses: lovely and relaxed Kita manager, flexible hours, huge indoor and outdoor play areas, close to parks and Oma, and I’ve heard good things from people who have their kids there.
What was your experience like applying for Kitas in Berlin and why did you decide to share your tips on Kietzee?
I found it an exhausting, frustrating and confusing endurance sport with no set rules that we did not want to be competing in. So now that we’ve successfully found a spot, I wanted to share what we've learnt and help others get a Kita spot for their kids. Hopefully some tips can relieve a bit of the additional stress and pressure on the Kita staff!
Good luck to everyone! 🍀🍀🍀