Monday, September 14, 2009

Kid-centric Zeeland

Ask any Zeelander, and they'll proudly tell you what a fabulous place this is for kids. And they're not exaggerating! Indoor gym areas for kids every 30 kilometers, kid-hikes, kid-events, etc.

And Zeelanders go all-out for their children. Just over a week ago there was an incredible event catered to, and hosted by, children in the nearby city of Goes. Goes Kinderstad had plenty of cool, kid-focused events -- from squirting a fire hose to trying their hand at field hockey, and everything in between. Jumping castles, cotton candy, face painting... you name it, they had it! Needless to say, Lukas had a blast. One of my favorite stands was one were kids could decorate a t-shirt for a child in a South African orphanage (sometimes with a little adult help). It was fun but meaningful.

Another one of Lukas' favorite things to do here in Zeeland is to visit the butterfly gardens in the small town of Langeweegje, which is why we shared the experience with friends yesterday afternoon (above photo). After roaming through the sub-tropical indoor garden he'll dash outside, running through the bamboo forest to get to the wooden playground. Usually, we'll end the afternoon with a yummy hot chocolate at their charming café.

As a rule, I think Dutch parents do a fantastic job of keeping their kids busy (afterall we all know that busy kids tend to get into less trouble). An hour of cycling to school (often in the rain), an hour of cycling home (again, often in the rain), plus dinner and homework... really, there are too few hours in the day for these little-athletes!
But what is our role as parents? Should we be sheltering our children and keeping them as safe as possible? If so, Zeeland is the place to be. Or should we be showing them as much as we can of the world, teaching them about other cultures and ways, and instilling tollerance and open-mindedness (which Dutch parents definitely do more often than not)? I'm not sure we'll ever find the answer to that question, but we certainly were lucky to have experienced Zeeland, as a family.

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