• I moved from the US to Germany 12 years ago and gave birth to my three kids here. 
  • Day care in Germany starts a little later than in the US and focuses on early independence. 
  • Kids brush their teeth before nap time and are expected to clean their toys and set up their lunch.

I'm an American parent who has had three children go through day care in Germany, and it's been quite fascinating to observe how day care — called "Krippe" in German — works here.

As one might imagine, there are a number of significant differences between German daycares and American daycares. Some of the reasons are due to varied systems, like how parental leave functions in both countries and some are more cultural in nature.

My kids were older when they started day care in Germany

Germany offers paid parental leave, which is most typically taken by mothers. That was the case for me as well — I had anywhere from one to two years of parental leave with each of my kids. I enjoyed the time at home with them, and it made things like breastfeeding less stressful.

Unlike in the US, where many infants start day care as young as 2 to 3 months old, in Germany, kids over the age of 12 months have a legal right to a spot in day care. Because of this, it can be quite challenging sometimes to find a day care that will accept a younger infant. I was OK with having my kids start a little later, to be honest.

The cost of day care depends on where you live

The costs for day care differ throughout Germany based on your location. In some areas, day care for children from either ages 1 and up or ages 2 and up is completely free. In most areas, though, you do have to pay some fees, although for families or single parents, the fees may be significantly reduced. Public daycares typically cost less than private daycares, which can sometimes be quite expensive.

All of this was very helpful for us as parents. Day care costs can be very prohibitive for a lot of my friends in the US, so having lower-cost options was an amazing opportunity for a family with three young kids.

There's a settling-in period to help kids navigate changes

A major difference between German and American daycares is the "Eingewoehnung'," or "settling-in period" in Germany.

Instead of dropping off your child solo on day one, Germans take a very gradual approach. The parent sticks around for the first hour or two for the first several days; then, a slow separation occurs as the parent leaves for longer and longer chunks of time. Depending on the child and the day care itself, the process can go from anywhere from a week to eight weeks long.

I was a bit mixed on this as, in some cases, I felt it dragged on unnecessarily long, but overall I think the concept is good, especially for kids who need longer to adjust. That was my experience with my middle kid, who really benefited from the slower process.

The focus is early independence

German daycares focus on fostering communal spirit and independence. American parents might be surprised to learn that many German daycares use utensils and cutlery from ceramics, metal, and glass, believing that kids are capable of learning how to be responsible in handling these items at a young age.

Many changing tables at German day cares have steps so that older babies and toddlers can climb up to the table by themselves. Another interesting thing is that kids brush their teeth before naptime at German day care — you'll see adorable little toothbrushes all lined up in the bathrooms.

I've definitely observed with my own kids how their day care experiences made them more independent at home. They helped me set the table at a young age and had an understanding of where toys needed to be put away or trying to put on their clothes by themselves.

Read the original article on Business Insider