Dressing your Kid for German KiTa

Photo: Erin Porter

My latest haul from another expat family. Photo: Erin Porter

When my baby started Krippe last fall I thought I was ready. I was distracted with moving apartments, loads of typical German paperwork and internet disasters. We had steeled ourselves for our baby spending time away from us for the first time. We thought we had this.

However, suggestions from the Erzieherin started coming in slow and haven’t stopped.

Maybe, you think, she might need boots? See, there is a gap between her shoe and sock and her pants. She needs a warm winter boot to keep her warm.

I was off to pick up boots. Success! Crisis averted. Until…

She has so many hats, but all of them aren’t quite right. They need a tie to keep them on. Better yet, get a balaclava.

First – wtf is a balaclava. Aw, this thing. Off to the discount racks I went. At a local second-hand store I found something that I thought would work and once again the Erzieherin were temporarily sated…until the next request.

Clearly, my American, new-mom standards of how to dress my child weren’t meeting the German. pro-childminders expectations.

All of their suggestions have been just that, suggestions. Delivered firmly, but not unkindly. And I even had a laughing chat with them about how American and British parents do not bundle their kids up as much as the Germans (even in summer). They’ve come to expect that my little American in Germany won’t be as packed tight as her counterparts, but they’ve also admitted she doesn’t appear cold. We’ve compromised.

But to spare you the occasional embarrassment I’ve suffered at these gentle rebuffs, I outlined all the clothes I’ve needed for German KiTa.

Tights (Strumpfhose)

Tights are an essential piece of clothing for little German boys and girls. Worn from fall until spring, they come in a rainbow of styles, thicknesses and prices. Among the many options are tights that come with stickies on the feet that prevent little feet from sliding. In colder weather, they are worn beneath sturdy pants, which are worn beneath bulky snowsuits. It is impossible to overdress a German child.

Rain Pants (Matschhosen / Regenhosen)

I didn’t realize rain pants were essential, but they’re actually kind of brilliant. Coming just as pants or the even-better overall style, they protect your little one from wet surroundings when it is no longer cold enough for a snow suit. You can buy unlined or lined pants for added warmth.

Hats (Hüte)

After receiving 8,000 adorable hats I am dismayed to find how many don’t fit the KiTa standard. And how quickly our lady grows out of them. My baby also hates them. Despite that, you need different hats throughout the year for German KiTa.

  • Spring/Fall – A cotton hat providing light covering. You will find that Germans prefer to have kids’ heads covered at all times.
  • Summer – Yea summer! Warmth! Kids’ no longer need hats…right? FALSCH! German kids must be protected from the sun. Sun hats should be worn at all times, even in the water.
  • Winter – Bring on the heavy artillery! Woolen hats top KiTa kids’ heads, ideally tying/buttoning/velcroing beneath the chin. As I mentioned above, a balaclava is the best option. I’ve been told these were the norm back in the day, but they are retro chic and now quite expensive.
Photo: Erin Porter

German Kid Winter Wear Photo: Erin Porter

Snowsuit (Schneeanzug)

Snowsuits are serious business. While I bought mine from another expat mom for just 15 euro, they can run to the hundreds of dollars. Deluxe models come in sleek, super-warm materials with expandable options, mittens and boot coverings. Winter is a tricky time for crawlers and these attached parts help protect them.

In my opinion, Germans dress their children in these for far too long. You’ll see sweaty little baby faces peeking out from snowsuits deep into spring. But then again – I am the crazy American mom.

Mittens (Handschuhe)

This is another item my baby hates. And must wear.

I bought mittens with strings to connect them, velcro to try in vain to keep them on and even put my gloves over her freezing hands. I failed. And was reminded over and over by the Germans that my daughter should really be wearing mittens.

Scarfs (Schals)

Germans are crazy for scarves and the obsession doesn’t end because they are children. As you can imagine, keeping a scarf on a kiddo can be tricky so the infinity scarves that are in a loop are best. Scarf/bibs are also quite popular and come in a charming variety of colors and styles.

Slippers (Hausschuhe)

As I write this I realize I forgot to send my daughter’s Hausschue with her this morning. Damn it.

This does not mean she went to school shoe less. Kids wear shoes outside and cute little slippers inside. This felt a bit tedious before she started walking, but now makes sens as it is common to take your dirty outdoor shoes off when you come inside, but the kids need something to keep those tootsies toastie and not slip.

Outdoor Shoes (Schuhe) / Snow Boots (Winterstiefel) / Rain Boots (Regen Stiefel)

Yes, all of them. I tried to skate by on high tops during winter when my daughter wasn’t walking, but then her snowsuit got short and there was snow on the ground and the ErzieherIn gave me the talk again.

I have been able to do the inherit/buy shoes from other expats method so far, but it seems that buying shoes in Germany can be quite a process. Former GW Blogger Sarah told us all about it.

These are really just the basics. You must put something like a shirt and pants on the kids too, but hopefully you can figure that part out. I am off to pick up my kid. I am pretty sure the Erzieherin are calling, ready to tell me what new piece of clothing I need to get now.

3 thoughts on “Dressing your Kid for German KiTa

  1. The dressing (your kid, yourself) warmly thing seems to be a matter of East vs. West. Back in Germany, when I moved to a town where many Americans were stationed, you could often spot them a mile away because they were the only ones wearing T-shirts and sandals outside once temperatures hit 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
    And a friend of mine got the full experience: Her family originally moved to Germany from Kazakhstan. Her parents were forever complaining she wasn’t dressing her kids warmly enough. Then she moved to Canada with her family, and her parents came to visit and freaked. out. about the lack of bundling up.
    Here in the U.S., my kid is usually dressed a little warmer than the others, and deep down I’m still convinced she must be cold… Happy medium, I say. Happy medium!
    Oh, and rain pants? I just recently found out those aren’t a thing here. So I’ll be dragging some back with me after my next visit home… Nothing beats a good rainy day outside.

  2. Thanks for your comments Daniela. I’m always interested in hearing a perspective from the other side – in this case not only German but a German in my home country!

    We will keep trying to dress our girl up to German standards and embracing genius inventions that we do like such as the rain pants.

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