Ed Talk: Daycare or not daycare

Navigating the daycare system can be a harrowing experience. What’s best for your child? Vuggestue or dagpleje? Everyone is telling you to sign up early. You’re tired. You haven’t slept. The home nurse pays a visit and informs you of your options. There’s talk amongst the parents about where is best for the LOs. Whether or not you’ve connected with other parents through parent groups or social media can make a big difference! 

Log onto Borger.dk and find bøernepasning (daycare). Some municipalities have their own digital plasanvisning (digital placement). Here is where you search for places and, if you’re lucky, you will find information. Some places have easy-to-find descriptions while other places are a bit more difficult to figure out. Some institutions are private and a bit trickier to find out about because they’re not always listed on the municipality sites. This is where parent word-of-mouth can be helpful. 

Dagpleje vs vuggestue
Your child is around ten months old and is ready to start their daycare. It depends on the criteria most important to you and your family. We are a high-risk family, so germs are a big issue. Most dagpleje institutions have four kids or occasionally five. They are small and allow room for each child to be seen.

Vuggestuer can have a lot more children, but will have trained pedagogues and other support staff. If you want your child to have a broader social experience with a wider array of personalities, then this is the place for you. Some vuggestuer are integrated with børnehaver and, while they are usually separate, there can be some mingling. 

Dagpleje institutions are placed in the caretaker’s private home. They are harder to choose from. When you sign up to a waiting list, you sign up for either a specific vuggestue (and eventually børnehave) or a dagpleje area. You can’t choose between specific dagpleje institutions – you just tick ‘dagpleje’ and they offer you one in your district. Depending on the municipality, it might not be as close as you’d like to your home. You can also look into private dagpleje options. 

Making the choice
This should go without saying, but always try and visit a place. You can visit the institutions on your list, but you can first visit a dagpleje once you get an offer. You can learn a lot by taking the time to see a place before signing up. While it doesn’t tell you the full story, you can get a feeling of how the staff are and the cleanliness of the environment, but most of all: are the children happy? 

Consult social media – after all, most communities have groups and parents exist in these groups. They are thrilled to discuss their experiences with the system, institutions, pedagogues etc. It helped a great deal when signing our LO up to børnehave.

Prepare a list of questions: what is the adult-child ratio? What are their hygiene policies? What are their meal policies? Some require a packed lunch and some offer food. At some børnehaver, there is an extra fee for prepared meals.  Some places offer organic or vegetarian meals, and some have no sugar policies. Bring any important issues you want to raise when meeting with an institution’s staff. 

Linguistic difficulties
Being an expat in this system can be tricky. Some districts have language acquisition policies. While some will intervene if your child isn’t speaking Danish by the age of three, some will start to hound you if the child isn’t speaking, or speaking Danish, by the age of two! 

Høje Taastrup is one of the municipalities with the strictest language policies. If they are concerned, they might demand that your child attends daycare a minimum of 30 hours a week for language stimulation. If you don’t comply, they might take away your børnepenge (child allowance paid out quarterly). They might insist that you speak Danish with your child. Once you are in the system, your child might be visited by a language or speech pedagogue. 

This turned into a big issue for us, which is for an entirely different piece, but be aware that they are watching! It is always possible to find a district with more lenient language policies or sign up to one of the international daycare institutions. The downside can be convenience of location and the possibility of above-average tuition costs. 

Follow your gut!
When charting the sometimes-turbulent waters of the daycare search, try to be patient, ask questions and don’t be afraid to go with your gut. 

Jennifer & Jonathan Bauer  

Jennifer and Jonathan Bauer are both teachers. Jennifer is from Chicago, and Jonathan is from New York. Jennifer has been teaching for 14 years and Jonathan for 11. They are parents and amateur Epicureans. Jennifer currently teaches privately. For more information, go to jennibauer.com.