Types of Childcare
It is important for children to attend a daycare institution as early as possible, because it helps ensure that their development and German language skills reach the highest possible level. The childcare personnel also advises parents on how to best promote their children’s abilities at home and offers further assistance if necessary.
Crèches are daycare centres for children up to the age of three, where they learn to live and interact with other children in an age-appropriate and well-equipped environment. Children under the age of three need a lot of care and attention, therefore the group sizes in crèches are generally rather small.
Child Daycare (Kindertagespflege / Großtagespflegestelle)
In this childcare option, a childminder looks after and educates the child for a fee. If the daycare takes place in the home of the childminder, the child is cared for in the childminder’s family, often together with the childminder's own children. The childminder can look after up to five children in the childminder’s apartment, if the premises are suitable.
There is also the option of having the child looked after in a large daycare facility (Großtagespflegestelle). There, several childminders supervise more than five children together, e.g. in a rented room which is equipped appropriately for the children’s needs. Click here for more information (in German language).
Kindergartens are daycare centres for the education and care of children from the age of three until they enter school. They form the elementary level of Germany’s educational system. The group size here is 20 to 22 children.
Preschools prepare children for the demands in primary school. They are usually located at primary schools, but offer a different education than the first grade of primary school. School-aged children who are not yet ready for regular school attendance will be enroled in preschool.
After-school Facility (Hort)
After-school facilities are open after school hours, at least until 4 p.m. and in some cases longer. The supervisors organise recreational activities and help the children with their homework. During school holidays they usually offer full-day holiday activities.
Did you know that children living in Hamburg are entitled to 5 hours of free care per day, from age 1 until they go to school? Whatever your needs, Hamburg offers a wide range of childcare services at more than 1,000 daycare facilities. The basic care of five hours per day is free of charge for parents, and includes lunch. Parents do have to pay for additional daycare hours: the fee is relative to their income. To make use of this service you need to apply for a daycare voucher (Kita-Gutschein). You can find more information about the daycare Voucher below.
Finding a daycare facility
It's recommended that you look into potential daycare facilities about one year before your child should start daycare. For instance by:
- Asking friends and relatives about their experiences with daycare centres and childminders
- Contacting and visiting a daycare centre of your choice
- Browsing the internet: www.hamburg.de/kita-finden (site in German language)
Use the Kita Database (Kita-Datenbank – site in German language) or Kita Map (Kita-Stadtplan – site in German language), where you can thoroughly study the services on offer and find contact details of all Hamburg childcare centres and preschool classes. User guides for the Kita Database and Kita Map are available as PDF files below.
Once you have selected a suitable daycare facility, inquire about future vacancies and, if necessary, enrol your child onto the waiting list. Check if the spot is indeed available at least six weeks before the preferred enrolement date, so that you still have time to organise a different solution in case of a cancellation.
The proof of place procedure (Platznachweisverfahren)
If you cannot find any vacancies for your child, the employees of the children’s daycare department at your relevant local district office will help you out. There you can get assistance with searching for a Kita place and open the proof of place procedure (Platznachweisverfahren). The procedure works as follows:
- You give the district office a current list of five daycare centres where you have already asked for help and been rejected. Please use this form to provide proof of the search for a Kita place.
- Make sure that the district office has your current contact details (telephone number, e-mail, address).
- The district office starts the search and has three months to do so. If the district office is unable to find a free daycare place, the Department of Labor, Social Affairs, Family and Integration (BASFI) will be involved. The district office will continue to be your contact point throughout the entire process and will forward the contact details of a daycare center to you, if necessary.
- The proof of place procedure will end when a free day care place has been arranged and a care contract has been concluded or if you have been offered two free day care places.
- If you are able to find a place for yourself, please inform the Child Day Care Department at the District Office immediately. The proof of place procedure will then be terminated.
Applying for a daycare voucher (Kita-Gutschein)
Parents should apply for a daycare voucher at their local district office. The application should be sent three to six months in advance. To find the relevant local district office, please enter your child's registered address in the authority finder (Behördenfinder).
There is also the possibility to apply online for care until school entry. The website is only in German, but here you can find an english guide on how to fill out the online form.
You will receive the daycare voucher by mail and can redeem it in every daycare centre that takes part in the daycare voucher (Kita-Gutschein) scheme.
Please note that you have to send in your application to your district's daycare department three to six months prior to the starting date of your child's daycare. Without a daycare voucher you have to pay for daycare yourself. The daycare voucher is valid for a maximum of one year and prolongation must be applied for at least three months prior to expiry.