Basic information about Czech kindergartens
In the Czech Republic, children can attend kindergarten from the age of 2 in order to socialize and develop a relationship with learning at an early age. However, many children start kindergarten a few years later, often due to the limited capacity of (mainly state-owned) kindergartens. They can then attend kindergarten until they start primary school, i.e., usually up to the age of 6 or 7. The arrangement of children depends on individual institutions: while some kindergartens divide children into classes according to age, others have mixed-age classes. The school year starts on September 1 and lasts until June 30, but even during the summer months, some kindergartens offer their services in vacation mode.
Ever since 2017, one year of preschool counts among the compulsory 10 years of education in the Czech Republic. Accordingly, preschool enrolment is guaranteed for Czech children one year before entering elementary school. The same rule also applies to those immigrants or refugees who plan to stay in Czechia for more than 90 days. Nevertheless, it is expected that the Ukrainian refugee children will need some time for adaptation, so there is no need to rush them into entering kindergarten quickly.
Types of Czech kindergartens
Czech kindergartens can be differentiated based on their founders into public and private institutions. Public kindergartens are established by the state, municipality, region, or association of municipalities. They require smaller school fees and they are free for children who are one year away from entering primary school – only food needs to be paid. Private schools, on the other hand, are established by ecclesiastical legal entities or other legal entities and their fees are higher than the ones of public kindergartens. As a refugee, you may be able to have the school fees lowered (or perhaps completely cancelled), but the situation is likely to differ in each school.
Kindergartens can also be divided according to their specialization. Here are some of the common ones.
- Forest kindergarten – children spend most of their time outside, no matter the weather
- Church kindergarten – may incorporate religion into daily activities
- Montessori, Dalton, Walforf, Začít spolu (Step by step) kindergartens – alternative organizations slightly similar in their aims, often emphasize the independence and autonomy of a child, they enable children to choose rules for themselves and pick their desired activities etc.
- Bilingual kindergartens – often considered great for foreigners, the teachers as well as the children speak multiple languages
What a typical day in a Czech kindergarten looks like
Most Czech kindergartens open between 7.30 and 8.00 in the morning and then take care of the small pupils until late in the afternoon. The program of kindergartens often differs according to their specialization – in a forest kindergarten, children will be outside most of the time, in a Montessori kindergarten, they often have more of a spontaneous schedule and the pupils can sometimes choose their preferred program (of course only if they want to and under the supervision of teachers). Still, all of the institutions have a similar goal – to teach children new skills, entertain them, develop their knowledge and socialization skills. In the current uncertain situation, kindergarten can also provide the children a routine, which can help them adapt in the new country and unfamiliar environment. So, what might a typical day in a Czech kindergarten look like?
How to prepare a child for boarding
Is your child about to go to a kindergarten and you are not sure what skills should he or she master before their enrollment? Each kindergarten has its own list of requirements, but it is often enough if the child has basic communication skills, can respond to their own name, understand simple instructions, or let the adults know when he or she needs to go to the bathroom. Here are a few more skills you can practice:
- Saying hello and thank you
- Using a spoon and a mug
- Putting their shoes on and off
- Knowing their clothes (it is often recommended that children sign their clothes for kindergarten)
- Changing their clothes
- Walking up the stairs
- Blowing their nose
- Washing their hands
- Brushing their teeth
- Using the toilet
But if your child is still unsure about how to do these things, it is no big deal. In the kindergarten, they will certainly have a chance to learn, and in addition, children can set an example for each other, which often speeds up their development. Kindergartens also often cooperate with experts from pedagogical and psychological counseling centers, speech therapy centers and other institutions – so if you are facing any specific problem, it is likely that the kindergarten can help you solve it.
At the same time, it is crucial to talk with your kids about starting kindergarten. Reassure them that nothing bad will happen to them, even though it’s understandable that they may be afraid of the unknown. Tell them that you can do it together and that you will pick them up from the kindergarten every day. Say that it’s okay for them to ask for help when they need it. You can also talk with your children about the benefits of going to a kindergarten – they can find great friends there, learn new skills, play with their favorite toys and learn the Czech language.
How to search for a kindergarten
You can search online – for instance on this page. If you have the chance, make use of the schools’ “Open Doors Day” – an event during which kindergartens open their gates to any applicants. This enables you to see the environment, meet the teachers, and ask any questions you may have. On the websites of individual institutions or during the Open Doors Day, you can also find out what documents you will need to register your child into the kindergarten. The requirements may differ across individual institutions.
Unfortunately, some kindergartens, especially those in Prague and Central Bohemia, have been experiencing lack of capacity for quite some time now. Given the current crisis, the former Czech Education Minister Petr Gazdík expressed his worries regarding the situation in Prague and advised Ukrainian refugees to try to rebuild their lives in cities further from the capital, if possible.
Even though it would be ideal for all children to fit into the existing institutions, it is quite probable that the capacities of Czech kindergartens will prevent this scenario from happening. Additionally, some institutions may make it their priority to firstly take care of the nearby Czech citizens and only then accommodate Ukrainian refugees. Still, in case you’re having trouble finding a kindergarten, do not worry – there are alternatives you can opt for.
Currently, various cities, villages, and organizations are trying to help Ukrainian refugees by offering services that would assist them in adapting to the new environment. Even before the crisis, children could attend the so-called children’s groups, which offer services similar to kindergartens. Some of the main differences are that children’s groups do not have to meet such strict conditions as kindergartens, their main purpose is not to educate but to help parents combine work with childcare, and they accept children from the age of 1.
Nowadays, adaptation groups are also emerging, which should help Ukrainian children and mothers to meet other refugees as well as Czech citizens and find a place in a new community. Before finding a kindergarten, you can also opt for a babysitting service – try searching for a babysitter here. In some cases, it is even possible to look for a babysitter among Ukrainian refugees. That way, you do not have to deal with any language barrier, and you may also help other refugee in need of a job.