Moving to another country is stressful enough and when children are involved and school searches gets added into the mix; chaos can ensue! We know; we’ve all been there!
So to help ease some of that transitional pain, our hard-working TriVienna team put together this primer on navigating the preschool search process! Please send us an email if you have additional thoughts or comments!
The Vienna Babies Club (VBC) is a great starting resource:
In Austria, children typically start going to preschool, “Kindergarten” in German at age 3 – there are a number of public Kindergartens and a growing number of private ones. If you are considering a public provider, be mindful of the application deadline and process as discussed in the VBC website: “You must apply between November 4th-December 31st to receive a place for the following September. You only find out between March and May where you have a place. You may not be offered a place in your first or second choice of Kindergarten.”
In order for children to attend Kindergarten, they need to be registered by the city. The responsible agency is called MA 10 – parents need to file the appropriate paperwork with MA 10 so that the childcare institutions receive city and state subsidies (note that not all providers are subsidized!). The childcare provider may be willing to submit the paperwork on behalf of the parents or walk them through the process. If not, the parents will need to go to an MA10 office for the necessary forms. (For MA 10 locations see here)
- At the MA 10 office parents must show proof of residency in Vienna and supporting documentation. MA 10 will then mail “Kindergarten cards” in return. These “Kindergarten cards” must be presented to the chosen childcare institution.
- Note that non-Austrians with diplomatic credentials are eligible to apply for MA 10 subsidies but they need to contact their HR department for appropriate supporting documentation. This is usually a letter stating the employee’s position and confirms they live in Vienna.
Things to consider
- There are lots of different kinds of Kindergartens: some focus on science, music or dance, etc., while others are more generic; some will teach foreign language or offer religion courses. Some offer extra-curricular classes (such as horseback riding, ice skating, painting, swimming, etc.) in-house or nearby during school hours. Ask if there is a specific focus or activities.
- Some “Kindergartens” will accommodate younger children (those younger than 3 years) but not all. Institutions that accept younger kids are referred to as “Kinderkrippe” or “Krippengruppe.” Check the Vienna Babies Club site for more information on childcare options for younger kids. Similarly, some Kindergartens also have a “Hort” on site which is essentially after -school child care for children 6+.
- Kindergartens differ in daily schedules and annual opening times. Some open early (around 7am) and close in the evening (around 6pm) to accommodate working parents. Ask about the daily schedule and if the drop-off and pick-up times are fixed. The providers with liberal drop-off/pick-up times are likely to stay open year-round including the summer months.
- Feel free to ask what kind of food they serve. Some places serve frozen, bland and boring food whereas others strive for a more “familial” environment and make their food on site, often getting the children to help. Other Kindergartens get food delivered daily from a catering company.
- Go and observe the places you are considering. They expect this. (It’s a good idea to contact them first for an appointment.)
How to find a provider?
The best strategy is to search the databases (see below) for a childcare provider matching your criteria (e.g., location; Kindergarten vs. Kinderkrippe) and then make contact to inquire about availability and application procedures. Note that many preschools do not have a (working) website so you might have to rely on the old-fashioned phone call! Also, many prefer that you have an appointment and may not be prepared to accommodate a spontaneous visit.
If you are looking for something close to home, it might also be worthwhile to walk around your neighbourhood because some Kindergartens may not be listed online because they new or smaller. They are generally visible from the street by their signs or artwork on the windows.
• Kindergarten.at (in German) – click “Sie suchen einen Betreuungsplatz für Ihr Kind” to search for providers by district
• Kinderdrehscheibe.at (in German) – click “Freie Betreuungsplätze in Wien” to see list of providers with openings (this screen allows you to search by zip code and specify your type of desired care)
• Other useful sites: Vienna city resource site (in German) provides general information as well as links to specific childcare organizations and providers.