Settling in Kita – Berlin & Munich model for a successful start

Off to daycare – a new stage in life

When the toddler enters the nursery of the daycare center, it is something very special not only for the child, but also for the parents. A new phase of life begins for the entire family. Often the child is away from home for the first time for an extended period of time. It is important for all involved that the child arrives well at the nursery. Settling in at the daycare center is especially important.

This is because a successful settling-in process will ensure that the child feels comfortable at the daycare center in the long term. If you keep the settling-in period too short or even too long, the child may suffer severe setbacks and regression. Crying children who resist staying in the crib are not pretty for anyone to watch. To prevent these dips from occurring in the first place, some models have been developed for easier familiarization. The Berlin acclimatization model is one of the best-known models. There should be a guideline for the settling-in period that can nevertheless be individually adapted to the child.

Familiarization according to the Berlin Model

Most daycare centers follow the Berlin Model for the acclimation period of young children. This should help the children to experience the separation from their parents particularly gently. Because settling in at the daycare center is exciting. Toddlers who have been separated from their parents only rarely or even not at all usually find it very difficult to settle in. If the settling-in period for these children is kept too short, for example because the parents have to work quickly, it rarely goes well. Many children break down after a few weeks in the nursery and cry heartbreakingly when brought in.

Educators should therefore always make it clear to parents that there is little point in starting the settling-in period with stress or pressure. Settling in according to the Berlin Model can help educators provide parents with a clear process. It is best for parents to receive a flyer with a description of the Berlin Settling-In Model when they register the child at the daycare center. This allows them to adjust to the length of time it takes to get acclimated to the nursery.

How does the Berlin acclimatization model work?

The Berlin Familiarization Model is based on John Bowlby’s attachment theory. The model was developed by Hans-Joachim Laewen, Beate Andres and Éva Hédervari-Heller in the 1980s at the Infans Institute in Berlin. The model is designed to prevent children from becoming more ill and anxious after too short an acclimation period than those with a longer acclimation.

Not only the length of the acclimation period in the nursery plays a role, but also a fixed reference person to whom the child can adhere. The parents stay close to the child until he/she has managed to form a bond with the caregiver. This prevents excessive demands and allows the child to take as much time as they need. As a result, the time can vary between one and three weeks. Some children even need up to six weeks to really arrive at the daycare center.

The process of settling in according to the Berlin Model

The Berlin familiarization model is divided into four phases that build on each other:

  1. Phase: The basic phase
  2. Phase: The first separation
  3. Phase: The stabilization phase
  4. Phase: The final phase

The basic phase

In the basic phase, the child stays in the nursery together with his parents. For three days for one hour. In the basic phase, it is especially important that parents do not withdraw. They stay close to the child, play with him when he asks the parents to and help him when he asks for help. However, they should not offer to do so unless the child asks them to play.

It is important that the child learns safety and confidence in the new environment. The reference educator should sit nearby and follow the basic phase from some distance. If the child makes contact with the educator on his or her own initiative, the educator may respond positively. However, physical contact such as swaddling should still be avoided. If the child needs to be changed, the caregiver goes along, but lets the parent do the work.

The first separation

The first separation: The second phase begins with the first separation. This takes place on the fourth day of acclimation, but should not happen on a Monday. If it is a Monday, you postpone the first separation until the fifth day. The first separation serves to estimate how long it will take the child to settle into the nursery. For the first separation, the child first comes into the group with his parents. The parents now wait until the child has turned to a game. Then they go to the child and say goodbye to him.

It is imperative that the educators tell the parents in advance that they will need to remain in the nursery that day so that they can be brought back quickly if needed. Now there are two possibilities. The child cries and cannot be comforted by the reference educator, then you get the parents back. If the child continues to play unimpressed or can be easily distracted while crying, then call the parents back after half an hour.

The stabilization phase

The third phase is for stabilization. If the first separation attempt worked well, you can proceed again as you did the day before. Parents can now stay away for up to an hour. You should again, even for the following days, still stay in the manger. On the seventh day you can try separation for 1 1/2 hours. If the child does not yet tolerate the separation for a long time, of course, keep the time shorter. The time is always increased only if the parents did not have to be fetched earlier the day before.

The final phase

For children who settle in well, the final phase occurs from the eighth day. However, this time may well arrive later and should be adjusted individually to the child. The final phase consists of not having the child picked up until after lunch on the eighth day. On the tenth day, the child may also be put to sleep in the nursery without the parents being present.

Criticism of the Berlin Model

The Berlin Model is used in most daycare centers and nurseries. If you follow the plan exactly, nothing will stand in the way of a good settling-in period and then a relaxed day at the nursery. Nevertheless, there is some criticism of the Berlin acclimation model. On the one hand, the parents need a lot of time for the acclimatization. Time that many do not have. You have to go back to work soon or are expecting a second baby. It puts additional stress on parents if they have to spend a lot of time in the nursery. Many parents also find it hard to believe that the long settling-in period is important for the child. After all, your child is one of those children who would like to get rid of their parents immediately when they see other children and toys. Nevertheless, it is also important for these children to arrive gently at the nursery, and the Berlin Model also allows for a shortening of the settling-in period to a certain extent.

Another point of criticism of the Berlin acclimatization model is the severe shortage of staff in German daycare centers and nurseries. There is often a lack of skilled workers and temporary staff such as interns are not sufficiently trained to implement the Berlin model on a one-to-one basis. In addition, interns usually only spend a short time at the facility and thus do not represent a reliable reference person. New professionals bring additional turmoil into the daycare center’s daily routine. Don’t new educators actually need an adjustment period as well? Some agencies tell facilities they will work according to the Berlin Model, but at the same time do not give them enough time to allow ten new children the optimal amount of time to do so.

It’s just not that easy to implement in everyday life. Nevertheless, there is basically nothing to complain about in the Berlin model. Because the gentler a child is allowed to start in the nursery, the better he or she will arrive there. The goal is considered in the long term.

Alternatives to the Berlin Settling-in Model

But what alternatives are there to the Berlin model? The Munich acclimatization model is a good alternative to the Berlin model. The basis for familiarization according to the Munich Model is also Bowlby’s attachment theories. The secure attachment from the child should be supported to protect the child especially psychologically. The Munich acclimatization model was developed through a project at daycare centers in Munich. The study examined how the child settles in when he or she is actively involved in the settling-in process. The goal was for the child to settle in on his or her own, not to be settled in. In the Munich Model, one trusts that the baby or toddler is already competent enough to decide what is good for him.

Familiarization according to the Munich Model

Familiarization according to the Munich Model takes place in five phases. The goal here, just like in the Berlin Model, is that the acclimation process is as gentle as possible. However, the focus of the Munich Familiarization Model is on transition. This refers to the transitional phase between care by parents to care by educators. The first separation attempt takes place much later here than in the Berlin model. In addition, the child with its wishes and needs is placed more in the center. As a result, the settling-in process takes longer, but it also takes a much closer look at each individual child.

The phases of the Munich Familiarization Model

  1. Phase: Preparation phase
  2. Phase: Getting to know each other phase
  3. Phase: Safety phase
  4. Phase: Confidence phase
  5. Phase: Reflection phase/evaluation phase

The preparation phase

The Munich Acclimatization Model starts in the preparatory phase with an intensive exchange between the parents and the educators. In this context, the acclimatization according to the Munich Model is explained to the parents, as well as the concept of the crèche or daycare center. Thus, the parents can get an idea of the work and are also already prepared for the length of the settling-in period. Likewise, the preparation phase is intended for the educators to get a picture of the family and especially of the child.

Individual needs of the child, rituals of the family and important information such as allergies of the child can be discussed here. Helpful questions for this phase may include:

  • What are the child’s hobbies/interests?
  • What is the child’s sleep pattern?
  • What can you comfort the child with?
  • Does the child have allergies/intolerances?
  • Does the child have a cuddle cloth, pacifier, etc.?
  • etc.

The getting to know phase

In the familiarization phase of the Munich Model, the child comes to the daycare center with one parent for several hours a day for one week. It should stay as long as it is feasible for the child. In the process, it can get to know the daily routine of the nursery. The goal is for the child to be completely relaxed about the routine at the nursery with the secure bond with his or her parents behind them. This includes watching the other children dress and undress, play, sing, eat, etc. The child can participate in the activities or watch from the safe haven of their parents.

The safety phase

In the second week, we move into the safety phase according to the Munich acclimatization model. Again, the parent remains present the entire time. A separation is not yet performed. However, the parent should now withdraw more and more. Sitting down at a table when the child goes to play or pulling back from a play situation piece by piece. The child’s primary educator now takes over initial tasks such as dressing or changing the child. The other, “old” children in the group also make up an important part of the settling-in process here. They give the new child the security of being trusted.

The trust phase

The fourth phase begins in the third week. By now, the child should have gained confidence in the new environment and be ready for the first separation. In exchange, the parent says goodbye for 30 to 60 minutes. Unlike the Berlin model, however, separation is not interrupted here if the child does not calm down. The separation is kept for the set time and the parent comes back only afterwards. If the separation works well, the time will be extended step by step over the next few days.

The reflection phase or evaluation phase

In the final phase of acclimation according to the Munich Model, the acclimation period is evaluated with the parents in a discussion. In the process, the educators can also provide advice to the parents. The interview and any findings from it, should be recorded in writing.


Suggested Citation

Götz, S. (2021). Settling in at daycare – theories for a successful start. Berlin Model & Munich Model explained. ISSN: 2748-2979. Accessed 29.01.2021. Available at:

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