The ABC’s of child-care in Denmark

Choosing the best kindergarten for your child can be a daunting task. This is especially true if you are new to the Danish education system. However, upper Secondary school teacher, Jeppe Jensen says that it needn’t be a worrisome task, as he offers up advice on schooling for your young child.

In my experience, expats have come to perceive the Danish kindergarten as being more lenient than those in their home countries. Excursions, forest treks and napping outside – activities foreign to many expats when considering a kindergarten. My wife is an expat, and like her, I know that this is often a cause of many sleepless nights, tossing and turning over the best kindergarten to send your child to. As a teacher, my knowledge of the Danish education system did assist in our decision making. But, it wasn’t until I visited a few kindergartens and discovered first-hand the ins and outs of this pre-school institution, that I was sure of our decision.

What is a Danish kindergarten?
In Denmark, a kindergarten is a pre-school environment for the care and development of children aged three to six years. The facilities are manned with professionals who are trained “pædagoger” (teachers) and have years of experience taking care of other people’s children. Kindergartens are usually divided into rooms with smaller groups of children (a healthy mix of boys and girls). Danish education law stipulates that each room must have at least two adults to care for the children, including ‘helpers’.

There are four main types of kindergartens in Denmark.

The first is an ‘integrated institution’, meaning that the schooling facility is both a day nursery and kindergarten in one. Although, children are cared for separately according to age. These schools tend to be bigger than the other kinds, meaning more children, but also more public funds and more help if such is needed.

The second type is just ‘kindergarten’, meaning no toddlers, fewer children, more focus on the skills your child needs to grow and develop.

The third and increasingly popular type is ‘Forest Kindergarten’. Here the kindergartens pledge to take children into the forest every day (some do less, I know), allowing free-roam in a forest they are familiar with. Children usually carry out most of their daily activities in the forest.

A fourth type, similar to the other three but fewer in numbers, is the ‘Rudolf Steiner’ kindergartens. They are often praised for their educational approach, focusing on creativity, organic awareness and non-materialistic approach.

Enrolling your child in a kindergarten
The first thing that my wife and I did when choosing a kindergarten was to visit a few that we had shortlisted. This was a good starting point and gave us a first-had look into the daily goings on at a kindergarten. The teachers are often more than willing to show you around and, like most Danes, many speak fine English. Once you’ve taken a look and decided on a list of the most suitable kindergartens, you apply online via your local municipality (kommune). Simply type in your info, make a prioritised list of kindergartens and press send. Unfortunately, and this may be a drawback, there is no guarantee that your child will end up in the kindergarten you wished for, as there are limits to how many kids each can take. In my personal opinion, most places are great and they will work through any language barrier without hesitation. They will talk to you about your kid every day if they have time for it. They will post pictures online, take them on day tours to camp grounds, forests, performances, seeing Santa, visiting castles and so much more. So, after looking at the different facilities, signing up and being assigned a spot, all you have to do is leave your child in the capable care of a group of complete strangers. And that folks, is the hardest task of all!

Meet the writer:
Jeppe G. Jensen – Teacher and father
Jeppe is an Upper Secondary Teacher, teaching both English and Film. He married an expat from the USA and is father to two kids, aged seven and four. He currently lives in Roskilde, but has lived in both Copenhagen and Elsinore. Jeppe has always travelled extensively. First with his parents, seeing almost every European country, then as a student, spending eight months attending Glasgow University. Jeppe and his family often travel on holiday to visit family in the United States. Education is something Jeppe values highly and wishes for everyone.