I will try to provide a brief description of the key services in Switzerland with at least one local example from the Biel area. Keep in mind differences do exist between urban and rural areas. Child care options vary in the level of structure, frequency, length and cost.
Services fall into roughly 2 categories:
1. Short term options such as play groups, babysitting, drop-in day care and emergency in-home care, or
2. Longer term options such as traditional day care, Tageseltern and afterschool programs.
Spiel Gruppe (Play Groups): Play groups can be a good starting point for a new mom, or a mom new to Switzerland. It can provide a great way to feel more connected to other parents and kids. Due to the range of different play groups for baby’s, toddlers and younger children, your child can experience being in groups, learning the local language and exploring different activities. Ask around because new ones are often popping up! If you are outside of Biel you can enter “Spielgruppe” in Local.ch. Some examples in the larger Biel area include:
www.waldspielgruppe-biel.ch (Kids go into the woods by Linden Quartier)
www.minouche.ch/angebot/ (bilingual German & French Group)
www.singdingbiel.ch/index.php?article_id=22 (Singing, music and yoga for baby’s, toddlers, mostly in German)
www.chezaline.ch/ (Land art, yoga, and Tages Mutter in Brugg area)
www.steinerschule-biel.ch/angebot/vorschule/sunnestuebli-spielgruppe-und-tageskindergarten/ (Parent Child group, Play Group and Kindergarten at the Steiner School)
www.famiplus.ch/de/angebote/krabbelgruppe (A group for parents with children 0-2 at Famiplus, that offers various kid and family friendly activities)
www.atelier-pinocchio.ch (Creative workshops, Wald play group in Leubringen).
Drop In Day Care: This is a one time service used in an as needed basis. Length of time can be determined on the spot. For those irregular appointments a drop in day care can be very handy:
www.multimondo.ch/kinderbetreuung/ Those taking a course at Multimundo day care is included. Otherwise, it costs 5 CHF/hour.
www.ctsbiel-bienne.ch/fitness/angebot/kinderhuetedienst/ At the Congress House in Biel (Above the indoor swimming pool), Cost 7 CHF/hour.
Red Cross Kinderbetreung zu Hause (Child care in your own home): Red Cross provides an emergency babysitting service for your children in your home. Typically older women who come to your house for 1-2 days or half days, for when you may not have other options. I for example found them really helpful when I suddenly became sick and my husband couldn’t take anymore time of work. I even found one who spoke English! They can usually arrange care quite quickly if needed. The website is unfortunately in French and German, but one of the ladies who answers the phone speaks English quite well.
Babysitters: This is the more flexible and inexpensive option for infrequent care we all know and may have memories of doing it ourselves. As you’d expect babysitters may vary in age in experience, which influences the rate (12 CHF – 25 CHF). You can search for babysitters via different platforms or post an Ad yourself indicating your preferences. The Red Cross offers a training course and can provide help finding one in your area. I was glad to find one that spoke English to make coordinating easier, although she spoke Swiss German with the kids. Most internet search links include information for babysitting and Tages Eltern:
Kinder Tagestate KITA (Daycare): This is the most similar to the traditional day care as I knew it from the US. The kids nap, eat (a cooked meal!), play and may even do little outings. Staff to child ratio can be quite high, because they often have interns helping out. Quality may vary per location, but my impression is that they are usually of high quality. My sons had young male students who they adored. Some centers even have smaller baby only groups, like TuttiFrutti. The waiting lists are long, so I recommend to sign up early. The fees are based on net income. There are also private Daycare places, some examples include:
kidsaulac.ch (Day care at the Au Lac behind the Biel train station)
www.kitafairy.ch (Day care in Beaumont)
www.corina-christian.ch (Daycare in Leubringen).
Tageseltern (Literally translated Day Parent, but some sites say “childminder”): This option is popular among Swiss Families when they do not have their own parents helping out. Here the care is provided by adults in their home, possibly with their own children. They are required to attend a minimal amount of training and have some supervision. Fees vary, but they are often cheaper than institutional day care. Each Tages Eltern provides a limited number of slots and usually indicate which ages and genders they want. You can interview them and see if you feel comfortable with them and their surroundings. I have known friends who found this really helpful because the Tagesmutter was more flexible regarding times and vacations. Also due to much smaller setting, the kids build very personal relationships. The local Tageseltern Organization is: www.tevapa-biel-bienne.ch/start%20d.htm (Tages Eltern Verein – In German).
Tageschule (Translated literally as Day School): This is the childcare located on the school premises to cover the times before, during and after the regular school schedule. A warm cooked meal is provided for lunch. The fees for their services are based on blocks of time (like from 7:00-8:15, 11;45-13:45 (lunch), 13:45-15:15, or till 18:00) and net income. These programs have expanded exponentially over the last few years. They try to provide care that fits the different age ranges, such as separate corners/rooms for the kindergarten kids, or help to older ages with homework.
While this is obviously not a comprehensive list, it hopefully provides a starting point of options to consider and explore further on your own. In a later blog, I will talk about extra curricular activities and vacation child care options.