Play­ing grounds

Paris turned out to be a fun city for chil­dren too.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FAMILY -

Lux­em­bourg where young and old flock to when the sun de­cides to make its ap­pear­ance. The old­est carousel in Paris is here, de­signed by the same cre­ator of Opéra Garnier. A pup­pet show en­ter­tains the very young. A big play­ground keeps ev­ery­one hap­pily oc­cu­pied while mum and dad sip an espresso.

We have many other small parks dot­ting our neigh­bour­hood (and all Parisian neigh­bour­hoods), two of which boast the only vis­i­ble re­mains of the Gallo-Ro­man era. One is the Arènes de Lutèces, where a mod­ern play­ground has been dis­creetly placed out of view in this an­cient am­phithe­atre. But the kids quite of­ten just play a game of foot­ball in the cen­tre of the arena, imag­in­ing the crowd on the stone ter­races cheer­ing on their gla­di­a­to­rial com­bats.

And then, there is the fact that Paris has the high­est den­sity of cin- emas in the world, with more movie the­atres per capita than al­most any­where else (and they’re not in shop­ping malls). Well, France is, af­ter all, the birth­place of the cin­ema.

Go­ing to the cin­ema has now be­come one of our new weekend rou­tines. It is such a shame that French chil­dren’s movies don’t get trans­lated nor viewed much out­side of Europe. They are cre­ative, sweet, in­tel­li­gent, well made and there is hardly ever a princess in the story.

School­child­ren as young as seven years old are taken to cin­e­mas on school out­ings. The chil­dren watch a se­ries of clas­sic films and are in­tro­duced to dif­fer­ent film gen­res. And the word ‘bur­lesque’ gets added into their vo­cab­u­lary, just like that. I was duly im­pressed when I had the chance to ac­com­pany my younger daugh­ter’s class to the cin­ema sev­eral times.

The li­brary is also a big part of our chil­dren’s lives here. Once a week, we head there. I take along my shop­ping caddy be­cause 25 books can be quite heavy when you have to trudge up the lit­tle slope to our home. Mem­ber­ship is free, and al­lows you to bor­row from any li­brary in Paris.

Mu­se­ums, of course, merit a men­tion. Work­shops for chil­dren are or­gan­ised on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. Chil­dren’s ver­sions of au­dio-vis­ual guides are of­ten avail­able. And best of all, chil­dren get in free. It’s def­i­nitely a new ac­tiv­ity to pur­sue.

In Paris, you have, of course, the cel­e­brated Lou­vre or Or­say mu­se­ums, but you also have smaller mu­se­ums which kids will find fas­ci­nat­ing. What­ever the child’s in­ter­est, be it dolls, magic, vam­pires, tex­tiles, masks, sculp­ture … the list goes on, as there are more than 150 mu­se­ums in Paris, one is spoilt for choice.

Carousels are a big thing in Paris, es­pe­cially dur­ing the fes­tive sea­son. Dur­ing the Christ­mas pe­riod, chil­dren can ride on carousels for free, thanks to the town coun­cil.

Skat­ing rinks are con­structed, and stay open for about three months. If you have a pair of skates, you skate for free. Other­wise, rent­ing a pair of skates only set you back five eu­ros (if I were en­ter­pris­ing enough, I would be rent­ing out skates on the pave­ment for three eu­ros). So, this too has be­come a new pas­time for us dur­ing the win­ter sea­son.

Our daugh­ters have man­aged to con­tinue with their favourite ac­tiv­i­ties in Paris, and have even taken them to a new level. My el­der daugh­ter is pas­sion­ate about clas­si­cal bal­let. What bet­ter place to be than in Paris?

Each ar­rondisse­ment (district) has a con­ser­va­tory of dance and mu­sic, and though ad­mis­sions are com­pet­i­tive and the train­ing is rather in­tense, the chil­dren, in­clud­ing my daugh­ter, love it.

We also have an an­nual sub­scrip­tion to the Opéra Garnier, just like we had one for the Malaysian Phil­har­monic Orches­tra.

Be­fore we left, I told my­self to ex­pect life here in Paris to be dif­fer­ent. And, in­deed it is. The day un­folds dif­fer­ently. School hours are dif­fer­ent. Birth­day par­ties and play­dates pro­to­cols are dif­fer­ent. People are dif­fer­ent. At­ti­tudes are dif­fer­ent.

So, it’s quite good to be do­ing some of the same things we used to do. We want to hear about your dif­fer­ent fam­ily ex­pe­ri­ences, wher­ever you are – be it in Kuala Lumpur or Syd­ney or abu dhabi. Par­ent­post is the new Star2 col­umn for you to share how you are bring­ing up your chil­dren in dif­fer­ent en­vi­ron­ments and cul­tures, as well as the in­sights you have gained. Please e-mail us your sto­ries (800– 1,000 words) with pho­to­graphs in high res­o­lu­tion to star2@ thes­ ar­ti­cles will be edited for clar­ity and to ac­com­mo­date space con­straints.

En­joy­ing the out­doors: There are lots of parks and play­grounds all over Paris.

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