Every German child is given a Schultüte on their first day at primary school
What it is, is a large cardboard cone, decorated on a predictable, usually heavily gender stereotyped, theme (football, racing cars, unicorns, ballerinas…). The child starting school gets a very large cone – buy the largest size and you’ll have the right one.
Its down to the parents to make sure their child has a Schultüte, but most Kindergartens have a hand in the process, offering opportunities to purchase a kit through them, and to build the Schultüte as an organised parent-child activity (with use of their hot glue guns…) at Kinderten in many cases. That’s right, you have to make the Schultüte from a kit; if you are being traditional that is – in fact there are plenty of options for buying ready made ones, but get ready to feel guilty and inadequate if you are that way inclined, as the vast majority of children have Schultüte lovingly hot glued together by frustrated, stressed parents who realise they lack the essential Bastler/in (craft / DIY) gene (more on that in another post soon!)
For those lacking the natural talent to create robust yet beautiful items from crinkle cut cardboard, foam and ribbons, trying to put your own Schultüte together can be harder than you initially expect. This is especially true if you lack a hot glue gun – an essential item for any half decent German parent, apparently (a good present to give a new mum, perhaps – certainly more use than a bunch of flowers…) If you lack the natural crafty talents and the hot glue gun, enlist help form a Bastlerin type, or attend any session offered at Kindergarten where you can make them together using their glue gun – or build yours whilst drinking wine, comforting yourself you’ll buy a ready made one in the morning if it looks awful/ falls apart (and do not leave it until the evening before your child’s first day of school, erhum…).
Once you have built, or bought, your Schultüte, you need to fill it. Remember that your child will have to carry it around for a lot of the first day, often with their Schulranzen on their back too, so don’t make it too heavy! Many people pad out the bottom of the cone with crepe paper, which also stops things from falling out of the bottom if your glueing wasn’t perfect…
Traditionally the cone is filled with sweets, stationary (not the items on the school stationary list but special/ personalised or fun items to be kept at home) and toys. Other items very often included ar a wrist watch, an alarm clock, a “first reader” book (the Leserabe series is well thought of), a special drink bottle (children need these for school anyway) and quite commonly a stuffed toy – sometimes tied to the top. There is usually a vague growing up/ stationary/ educational theme to the gifts, though really anything goes. toyshops and other online retailers often have a special section of Kleine Geschenke für die Schultüte, which can be a good place to browse for ideas. The children open the Schultüte at home after their first day ends (which is usually well before lunch time) so what you put in is really a personal choice – the other children won’t see or expect to share the sweets, but they will discuss what they got the next day!
The first day of school is a lot like Christmas or a birthday in Germany – it is a huge deal, and very special to the children involved. The Schultüte is one very important part of that.