Monday, 11 June 2012

Schultüte: a very rough guide

Prepare for an assault on your eyes. For it's Schultüte time. These mystified me when we first arrived in Germany, I couldn't work out what they might be for, and didn't know then even what they were called. I assumed they were for putting children's presents in, but they seemed such an awkward unusable shape for most things that I couldn't see how that concept would have taken off. The last year with Orla starting school I was told that she should have one to bring with her on her first day, though it turned out that in actual fact she doesn't need one until this year. So, while I blind you with garish colour, here's the low-down on them.

Make your own with supplies from Idee (though you can end up spending more doing it this way)

So reliable old Wikipedia says "When children in Germany and Austria set off for their first day in school upon entering first grade, their parents and/or grandparents present them with a big cardboard cone, prettily decorated and filled with toyschocolatecandies, school supplies, and various other goodies. It is given to children to make this anxiously awaited first day of school a little bit sweeter."

And there you have it. If you are a novice at Schultüte-filling, then you might be wary of buying school supplies to go in it, as most German school have regulations regarding the equipment your child should have for school, and will supply you with a list of items plus the brands that they should be. However, you'll also find that most places that sell Schultüten rather handily have lots of the regulation school supplies right next to them. Bonus! It's quite good fun putting together a Schultüte, and I think it's a lovely tradition that I would love to take back to the UK. I thoroughly enjoyed buying little toys, and paint brushes, and novelty erasers, and coloured pencils when I did it last year. It's like a mid-year Christmas stocking. Though you may want to take some medicinal salts with you on this shopping trip when you clock the price of coloured pencils and those kids paint sets, and realise you're going to have to deny yourself that nice top from Esprit you saw from the escalator on the way up.

The selection at Karstadt, from tiny to huge, mostly all with recognisable characters and brands on them.
 Size: Does it matter? Who knows. I think it probably does. Last year the school's instruction was not to buy the utterly massive ones. So I didn't. And when we turned up on day one and saw the kids going in with their Schultüten, we could see that that advice was 99% ignored. A Swiss friend of ours here says that it should be the "size of the child". Hmmm... if you know more about this please advise in the comments below, but I can't help but think that given the range of sizes available, it's probably not so much of a big deal.

Stuck for ideas? You can even buy books of ideas for girls ones and boys ones, and you can't go wrong with a mountain of crepe paper. Well, no, you probably can. Especially where glitter glue is concerned.

 Cost: I've seen some big ones in Kaufland (the supermarket) for Euros 3.99, and they look ok. I also thought Karstadt were pretty reasonable. The medium sized Spiderman one that Hamish wants (in the second photo from top) was Euros 3.99. The large ones with generic unicorns and pirates and things on are as you'd expect cheaper than the Hot Wheels, or Barbie, or Disney Princess ones which cost around 10 Euros. You'll find the Princess Lillifee & Cap'n Sharkey ones are priced just a little bit higher just to piss you off.

Of course, given that we've learned over the course of the year that what school is really all about is testing your ability as a mother to undertake endless creative projects against the clock, you might as well get some practise in and make your own. No, it won't save you any money, but it will teach your child the lesson 'If you want something doing well, you might as well do it yourself'. If they don't like your ideas they can do it themselves. It'll be hours of creative fun, and you'll finally be able to get rid of that rug you hate, because it's going to get ruined with glitter glue.

Anyway, I'm off-topic. The big basic cardboard cones in Idee cost around 4 Euros. But unless you have a stack of other materials at home, or are planning just to close your eyes and take a Sharpie to it, you'll find all that highly tempting glittery paper and the nicely packaged bits and bobs they have are going to take your spend to  way over the 10 Euro mark. Though one friend is printing Spiderman images off the internet and sticking these on which I think is a great idea. Desperate mums laugh in the face of copyright law.

Why not just go to the KaDeWe, where you'll find all the big names in Schulranzen (those awful-looking German school bags) are ready to sell you something equally ugly. (Though I thought the pink deer one by Samsonite's Sammies range was ok. 20 Euros though - is it worth it?). When you could buy a kit with all the bits to make you stay up cursing late into the night, for exactly the same price? Hmm... I think you know what I'd choose :)
If you look at the sea of DIY Schultüte supplies in Idee and feel lost with so much choice, they have kits that you can buy which contain everything you need to make a certain design. Handy, but they are super-expensive. For the same price you could take yourself (well excluding travel costs) to the KaDeWe and buy one of the branded ones that match the Schulranzen. They have ones by Samsonite, Scout, and I can't remember the other makes. These ones come in at 20 Euros. I was expecting to find some super expensive ones for sale here, but the KaDeWe has sadly let me down on this score. If you want to spend big bucks on an item which will be used for one day and then become a princess hat, then you need to take yourself to one of the little individual kids boutique shops.

Last week I was having a browse when I saw a quite lovely looking fabric-wrapped 
Schultüte on a shelf. It had that kind of 'Bavarian-style' thing going on with a combination of felt, gingham, and reindeer, and it was embroidered with the child's name. It was 40 Euros, which seemed a bit much even if you were going to pack it away in the loft as a childhood heirloom, given that under the fabric it's still just a cardboard cone. BUT, you're forgetting one thing: You could get ahead of the fancy dress costume making game and stay up all night replicating it with your sewing machine. It would probably only cost you about 3 euros for the fabric, and what price do you put on sleep anyway?

I mean think of how great you'll feel having stayed up half the night, on that first day of school when their little eyes alight on it, and they look into your half-shut ones and say, "But I wanted Fireman Sam...". Try and save your tears for when you see them off at the school gate.


  1. Great post! I had an inkling as to what they were for but thanks for all the information.

  2. Ahh, schuletute time again.
    That came round fast...

    Here in Switzerland they are not such a big thing, but I did them for the girls last year anyway.
    We made our own, becasue I am too cheap to spend CHF 40 on another piece of junk which will end up stuffed in the loft for the next 50 years.
    But now I've seen the ready made ones you get in Germany (and the super cheap prices) and I am almost tempted to make a shopping trip over the border for supplies....

    Or possibly leave the whole thing until the last minute, and run around the house like a demented lunatic at midnight, the night before school starts.

    Now I just need to find the 'Mummy-tute'. You know the one with a bottle of wine and a big bar of chocolate, to help me through their first day of school....

    1. Drop by mine, I'll make you a special Mummy-tute with all the essentials! I packed away the ones I got last year and had planned on re-using them this year, but Hamish seems very, very determined to have this Spiderman one. Chances are though I should have bought it while I was photographing it, as they are bound to be gone by the time I go back.

  3. Please let me know where you can buy any amount of fabric in Germany for only three euro! :)

    1. But no in actual fact for what you would need to do this you would only need about half a metre, and you can def. get gingham for that price in places like Idee.


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