A Kid Friendly World—France and Canada

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Self Portrait, Ottawa, May 2013

Self Portrait, Ottawa, May 2013

Now that I have joined the dark side—and that Feng can look at Mark and say “I am… your father” in a Dark Vador voice—I do see the world a little bit differently. And yes, I use words such as “kid friendly” (but I still swear, don’t worry!).

I can safely say that Canada is a kid friendly country. For instance:

1)      There is always a changing station in public washrooms, and yes, they are clean.

2)      Some stores even have a dedicated “nursing room” or “family bathroom”.

3)      Although not specifically designed for parents struggling with strollers, the handicap button to open doors is a blessing. And if no such button exists, people almost fight to hold the door open for you.

4)      Buildings are accessible—you can skip the stairs, there is always an elevator or a ramp somewhere.

5)      Restaurants often have high chairs for little ones.

6)      Supermarkets and large stores have carts with kid seats and a belt to keep them safe.

These are just a few examples of how the country makes life easier for parents on the practical side… and as a new mother, I appreciate it.

In terms of keeping little ones busy, Canada also has a lot. For instance, our neighborhood has five or six playgrounds within a five-minute walk with swings, splash pads, sand box, etc. Museums have kid friendly sections or activities, and there are places like Funhaven for when they are a bit older. Trust me, we have no shortage of options when it comes to entertainment!

Basically, the only thing that’s not kid friendly her is the weather, which is either too hot or too cold—and still, little ones who are born in Canada doesn’t seem to mind it as much as we, immigrants, do!

All these observations made me wonder if France was as kid friendly.

From a practical point of view, the country is definitely less easy for the parents, from what I remember as an older sister anyway. Finding free and clean public washrooms is already a challenge, let alone one with a changing station. In terms of accessibility, I clearly remember having to carry my brother and my sister’s stroller up in the stairs—France is not very handicap friendly either. There are stairs everywhere, and charming cobblestone-paved streets make for a bumpy ride.

A lot of activities in France are also for adults, and kids are pretty much expected to tag along, keep quiet and eventually grow up to be old enough to enjoy it. The only “real” kid activity I can think of on top of my head is Eurodisney—there are always great offers for the Paris Disneyland because most parents decide to take their little ones to the amusement park sooner or later. I mean, the Louvre is great but few kids truly get Mona Lisa! But French strongly believe in educational activities over purely “fun” ones like attraction parks. For the record, I did go to Paris Disneyland once when I was 16, and yes, I enjoyed it like a kid!

That said, both Canada and France are kid friendly in the sense that people do value children and families and will make you feel welcome. Sure, there are differences in the way children are raised and in the activities offered, but no matter where you are, you can always find a way to keep your kids entertained!

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About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

10 Comments

  1. I have never payed attention at how kid friendly Canada is ! I guess you start seeing those things when you are around kids.

  2. I get the impression that France is pretty kid-friendly (as long as the kids are well-behaved!). I think the accessibility issues, and possibly the bathrooms too, are Robert to do with the fact that the country seems to get by with old buildings and infrastructure and doesn’t modernise much. So, for example, the new lines of the metro and the tramway in Paris have lifts, wide doors etc, but the old ones don’t, and they won’t until replacing the stations and the trains becomes urgent.

    • Maybe it improved since I was a kid as well! French do want well-behaved kids, they have no patience for screaming kids in restaurants, unlike North Americans.

  3. I have heard that France is the most kid- friendly place in the world?! It seems that all European countries (not England) have such a family orientated feel to them – even in restaurants. In England the bars and restaurants are where couples or singles go, in other European countries whole families sit outside until late at night. Oh I love France. I honestly love France more than any other country (that I have been to) thus far!

    • I think France is often branded “kid friendly” because parents get social benefits, mat leave, etc. Maybe not so kid friendly from a practical point of view.

  4. I think big bathrooms and stairs are definitely a problem in France! However, it may be different over here but my when my family visited Montreal, we were surprised by how very unwelcome children felt as soon as you were out of officially child-friendly places.

    I think the flip side of the coin is that in France, its pretty much OK to bring your children along for whatever you feel like doing as long as they are well behaved. I feel like here, people strongly segregate between “things to do and place to go to with children” and grown up stuff. And honestly, I find it unfortunate to exclude kids from some activities – at least when they are a bit older than yours 🙂 I used to go to the drawing/treasure hunt ateliers at the Louvre, and they were so much fun! But maybe I’ll understand better when I have children myself.

    • We haven’t felt unwelcome anywhere yet in Canada, and I hope it won’t happen because it’s not cool. I always make sure Mark behaves though, and would take him out or do something if he gets fussy or cranky.

      I agree with your analysis, French don’t mind kids in “grown up places” as long as they behave. That’s also how I was raised, and I tend to take that approach with Mark. We took him to museums, art galleries, etc. I’m not going to spend my life in kid friendly places!

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