How to enroll kids in kindergarten (vrtić) in Croatia

Kindergarten's playground in Starigrad, Hvar
Kindergarten’s playground in Starigrad, Hvar

UPDATED: 28.3.2024.

Enrolling your children in kindergarten before they start elementary school is not mandatory in Croatia, but it’s good for children to socialize and begin their education earlier. Like most things in Croatia, enrollment in a kindergarten can take time. More than seems necessary.

The demand for kindergarten services has increased in recent years. Parents are busy and have no other option but to enroll their children in kindergartens or hire a nanny. Kindergartens often don’t have enough space for all children.

A kindergarten is called vrtić (little garden) or dječji vrtić (children’s garden) in Croatian. Children who have not attended vrtić before the age of 6 must attend preschool called predškola or mala škola for 1 year before they can start elementary school.

In this post, we cover:

The facts are these…

Why enroll children in kindergarten in Croatia

By enrolling children in kindergarten in Croatia you will gain numerous benefits for their early development. Kindergartens provide a structured environment where children can socialize, learn, and grow. Also, if your child is learning Croatian and goes to a Croatian kindergarten, it will quickly boost their language skills.

Through play-based activities and interactions with other children and educators, children develop crucial social, emotional, and cognitive skills that form the foundation for future learning success. For those planning on living in Croatia and having their children enrolled in elementary school in Croatia, attendance at Croatian kindergarten is a crucial step in children’s education and adaptation to the new environment.

[Read: How to prepare your children for Croatian schools after relocation]

Kindergarten teaches children independence, creativity, and a love for learning, preparing children for the transition to primary school and beyond. To working parents, kindergarten offers a safe and supportive place for their children during the day, allowing them to pursue their careers with peace of mind.

Foreign parents usually lack the support they would get in their native country, where grandparents, aunts, and uncles can jump in if they need to care for a child while parents are at work or need to do some errands. This is why enrolling your children in kindergarten in Croatia will not only help them, but also it will help you in your everyday life.

Types of kindergartens in Croatia

Croatia has several types of kindergartens, including:

  • Public kindergartens – city and municipality kindergartens
  • Private kindergartens – owned by individuals
  • Alternative kindergartens
    • Montessori pedagogy
    • Waldorf pedagogy
    • Agazzi pedagogy

[Read: International kindergartens, elementary and primary schools in Croatia]

Montessori pedagogy

Montessori pedagogy is based on acquiring practical knowledge in different areas of life in which a child will participate as an adult. It follows a child’s need for freedom within boundaries.

A child develops their psycho-physical abilities in a carefully prepared environment and activities. Education is based on children’s self-motivation and ability to self-develop and improve their own skills.

A child learns self-discipline and the essential determinants of democracy. They learn that respecting others and their rights means they will ensure the same rights for themselves.

View the list of Montessori kindergartens and schools in Europe, including Croatia, here.

Waldorf pedagogy

This educational method combines different activities, including play, meals, rest, and artistic and work activities.

Children develop their understanding of ecology from an early age. Toys, furniture, and didactic materials are of natural origin. They are shaped and colored to stimulate the healthy development of the senses.

The aim is to develop active, non-violent, and creative play in a child, born from a child’s inner self. In adulthood, this is equal to serious and creative work, born from full freedom.

You can learn more about Waldorf pedagogy in Croatia here.

Agazzi pedagogy

In this pedagogy, a child is at the center, and a kindergarten organizes children’s activities.

The main value is building a special relationship between a child and an educator. This relationship is born from the first meeting with a child who lives with others, plays, works, speaks, and acts.

In Croatia, there is only one kindergarten that follows Agazzi methods; view it here.

How to enroll kids in Croatian kindergarten

The requests for enrollment to the upcoming school year are submitted in May for private and April for public kindergartens. Kindergartens will publish a notice of enrollment in advance. The school year lasts from September 1 to August 31.

When applying for enrollment at a public kindergarten, you must choose the kindergarten closest to your home address. If a kindergarten has available places during the school year, you can enroll your children in the kindergarten at any time.

If spots are unavailable, your child will be put on a waiting list, or you can try checking with the other kindergartens nearest to your residence.

Priorities in enrollment in Croatian kindergarten

Some children are given priority during enrollment, including the ones:

  • Of victims and invalids of the Croatian War of Independence
  • Of employed parents
  • Of single parents
  • From foster families
  • Without parents or adequate parental care
  • From a family with 3 or more children
  • Who live in difficult circumstances
  • With disabilities, if they can be integrated into a regular kindergarten program
  • Who will enroll in elementary school the following year
  • Of parents who receive a child allowance

[Read: Family services and child benefits in Croatia]

Documentation for enrollment in Croatian kindergarten

When applying for enrollment, there is required documentation you must provide as part of the application.

The application must include:

  • Izvod iz matice rođenih or rodni list (birth certificate) – view a guide here
  • Potvrda o prebivalištu (certificate of residence) – view a guide here
  • Potvrda o radnom statusu roditelja (certificate of parents’ employment status)
  • Zahtjev za upis (application for enrollment) and popunjen upitnik (completed questionnaire) that you get in the kindergarten
  • Knjižica cijepljenja (vaccination record) showing receipt of mandatory vaccinations

[Read: Mandatory vaccinations required by law]

All application requirements are published together with the formal notice of enrollment that kindergartens publish before applications are open. The notice is usually hung on the kindergarten’s doors.

The results are published no later than the end of June. If you are unhappy with your result, you can appeal to the kindergarten within 15 days.

The application procedure is the same for children who wish to enroll during a school year that is already in progress. If there are available places, you must submit the request. The kindergarten will send you the results within a period of 15 days.

Once your children are accepted, you must sign a contract with the kindergarten in August. Parents of children with disabilities can sign a limited-time contract of up to 3 months.

What is the cost of a Croatian kindergarten?

The full cost of a kindergarten program is typically between 210 and 332 euros per month. The prices are determined by the kindergarten’s founder and can vary depending on whether the kindergarten is public or private.

For public kindergarten, parents pay only a part of the costs, and the city or the municipality pays the rest as long as the parents meet the residence requirements.

The subsidized price that parents pay is usually up to 80 euros, but the price varies depending on the city. Some cities will cover the whole amount. In other cities, you could pay as much as 106 euros per month.

If you have more than one child you’d like to enroll in kindergarten, usually, you’ll pay a lower price for each additional child.

EU/EEA citizens and third-country citizens without permanent residence in Croatia must pay the full price charged by the kindergarten. Therefore, parents in this situation consider private options instead of public.

[Read: How third-country citizens can apply for permanent residency in Croatia]

How to find a kindergarten in Croatia

The list of kindergartens in Croatia, along with their contact information, is available here. This list is also available as an Excel file here.

You can also view some private kindergarten options in this post.

Kindergartens in Croatian hospitals

There are seven preschool programs in Croatia for early and preschool children with health issues established in hospitals in Zagreb, Zadar, Rijeka, Split, and Sisak. This is a unique partnership between kindergartens and hospitals with a goal to offer preschool education to children who cannot attend regular kindergarten.

Hospitals that have these programs are:

  • Rijeka
    • KBC Rijeka – Kantrida (Rijeka Clinical Hospital)
  • Sisak
    • Opća bolnica „dr. Ivo Pedišić“ (General Hospital “Dr. Ivo Pedišić”)
  • Split
    • KBC Split (Split Clinical Hospital) – view here
  • Zadar
    • Opća bolnica u Zadru (General Hospital in Zadar) – view here
  • Zagreb
    • Klinika za dječje bolesti Zagreb (Children’s Disease Clinic Zagreb) – view here
    • KBC Zagreb (Clinical Hospital Zagreb) – view here

The preschool education program for children with special health needs serves several crucial purposes:

  • Creating a welcoming and supportive atmosphere that caters to kids’ emotional and learning needs in hospital settings
  • Encouraging physical and mental growth, as well as overall development, to match each child’s progress and abilities
  • Quickly recognizing and meeting individual needs to boost confidence, self-esteem, and social skills
  • Customizing activities to fit each child’s age, health status, and unique requirements
  • Helping children express themselves, learn new things, and explore their creativity
  • Promoting family engagement by actively involving them in activities with the children

Educators engage with children aged one year to school-going age, conducting sessions not only in designated kindergarten areas but also at patients’ bedsides across various hospital departments, including waiting rooms, playrooms, and oncology units, often collaborating with department therapists.

These activities adhere to the national curriculum for early childhood education, considering the children’s health and psychological well-being. Additionally, kindergarten facilities provide parents and children with free access to children’s books, board games, and educational materials.

[Read: Healthcare and health insurance in Croatia]

View our other Croatian education articles

Frequently asked questions

What age do kids start school in Croatia?

In Croatia, primary and lower secondary education (grades 1 to 8) form a unified system of mandatory schooling spanning eight years. It typically begins around ages 6 to 7 and continues until ages 14 to 15. However, students with developmental disabilities may extend their education until they reach the age of 21.

What is the early childhood education in Croatia?

Early childhood education and care in Croatia are provided in kindergartens, which cater to children from as young as 6 months up to the time they commence primary school. While attendance is not mandatory, it offers valuable developmental opportunities for children during their formative years.

Are there English-speaking schools in Croatia?

Croatia has several international and English-speaking kindergartens and elementary and primary schools. To learn more about them, read this article.

How long is a school day in Croatia?

Croatian students typically spend 6 to 8 hours per day in school. There are three shifts in Croatian schools, with the Croatian government aiming to establish only one shift in the future:

  • Jutarnja smjena (morning shift)
  • Popodnevna smjena (afternoon shift)
  • Međusmjena (middle shift)

View our guide on Croatian school shifts here.

Is Croatia good for kids?

Children are embraced in a society where family values hold great importance. Playgrounds are everywhere in Croatia, and many tourist spots offer discounted rates for children.

Alternativni program i vrtići by Ministarstvo znanosti i obrazovanja
Upis u dječji vrtić by e-Građani
Kindergarten in the hospital by e-Građani

Please note: Information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal or financial advice in any form. Croatian laws and bureaucratic rules often change, and each personal case is individual, so different rules may apply. For legal advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. For financial advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian tax advisor or accountant.

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