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A Kid Friendly World—France and Canada

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. 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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