AN A-Z OF PARIS FOR KIDS
Where to take your children in Paris
A is for animals
The new Grande Galerie de l'Evolution at the Muséum Nationale d'Histoire Naturelle houses a three-floor exhibition that your children will love. The lower levels are occupied by creatures of the deep while a Noah's Ark of stuffed animals makes up the centerpiece of the middle floor. Birds in flight top off the exhibition. Glass lifts transport you from the top of the world to its murky depths, and sounds of the savannah recreate its atmosphere. If, however, you'd rather see the living, breathing versions of these creatures, visit one of Paris' zoos:
Bois de Vincennes, métro Château de Vincennes, 12th
Jardin des Plantes, rue Buffon or rue Cuvier, 5th 01.40.79.30.00
Zoo de Paris, 53 av de St-Maurice, 12th 01.44.75.20.10
Château et Parc Zoologique de Thiory, 78770 Thoiry-en-Yvelines 01.34.87.52.25
B is for bilingualism
If neither parent is a native French speaker, it should be reasonably easy to bring up your children to be bilingual. However, if one parent is French and you send your children to a French or even bilingual school, so that most of their friends are French, you will have to make serious efforts to keep them bilingual. The golden rule is this: the non-French parent should never address the child in French and should never allow the child to address them in French. As far as is practical, it is best if the child thinks that the parent doesn't speak or understand French. It helps to have English-speaking au pairs. There are a growing number of organisations that now help children to become or remain bilingual. The best place to look is the guide to education produced by the Association of American Wives of Europeans (see Yellow pages). There is also a new store, the Children's English Learning Centre, 33 rue de Fleurus, 6th, 01.45.44.43.21, which was opened with these children in mind. It sells all kinds of user friendly material to help children improve their English: carefully selected books, videos, CD-ROMs and games. On Wednesday there are activities for older children and initiation in English for younger children between three and five.
C is for crèche
Your town or quartier will offer several municipal establishments where you can send your child before he goes to school, all of them highly subsidised. They are highly regulated and you can be sure that your child is in safe hands here. The crèche is from 7h to 19h, five days a week, and is for working mothers who have no help at home. Places are difficult, sometimes close to impossible to get and the amount you pay will depend on your income. The halte-garderie is the equivalent of a part-time crèche. Places are easier to come by, but you will still often have to register your child in advance. The halte-garderies have different ways of allocating their time. There is usually a limit to the number of hours you can take your child a week (normally two mornings or three afternoons). The more children you have, the cheaper it is, even if they are not all at the halte-garderie or the crèche. For example, once you have four children you will be paying about €,30 an hour in an halte-garderie, even if you only have one child there.
D is for dance and drama
There are a multitude of ateliers in France where you can send your children to learn a wide range of disciplines. Dance and drama are popular pursuits so it is more a question of choosing your atelier than finding one. To find out more about dance, visit Cité de la Musique, 221, av Jean Jaurès, 19th 01.44.84.44.84 or check Minitel 3615 DANSE. The theatre at the Ecole Koenig, 22 rue Vangelas, 15th 01.45.31.16.15 was opened three years ago and drama is now taught as an integral part of expression alongside music and dance. Another theatre workshop operating in English is
Le Petit Atelier, 11 rue Jacob, 6th 01.46.33.55.08
E is for entertainment
Marionnettes (puppets), in particular Guignol, the French equivalent of Punch, entertain children in Paris in most of the large parks. Shows usually take place during Wednesday afternoons, weekends and school holidays. Check during the summer holidays as Guignol has been known to follow the typical Parisian example of heading off to a warmer clime in July and August. You'll find shows at: Jardin des Tuileries 1st, Jardin du Luxembourg 6th, Champs de Mars 7th, Rond-point des Champs-Elysées 8th, Parc de Choisy 13th, Parc Montsouris 14th, Parc Georges-Brassens 15th, Jardin d'Acclimatation, Bois de Boulogne 16th, Jardin du Ranelagh 16th, Parc des Buttes-Chaumont 19th.
F is for film
The majority of cinemas show films for children throughout the year. For something a little special, try the 180° screen at the Imax Dome, Parvis de la Défense 01.46.92.45.50. Films for children are occasionally shown here on Wednesdays.
G is for games
To borrow games or just come and play, visit one of Paris' ludothéques- toys and games libraries, where playthings are loaned out in the same way that libraries lend books. ADAC, Agence pour le Développement de l'Animation Culturelle, runs four ludothéques in Paris: 22 ter, rue des Jardins-Saint-Paul, 4th 01.42.77.86.09 18 rue Poliveau, 5th 01.45.35.68.95 65 rue Galande, 5th 01.43.25.96.09 65, bd Bessières, 17th 01.42.29.62.03
H is for holidays
The Mairie de Paris offers a range of breaks for children attending French schools. For information call Allô-Scolaire on 01.42.76.23.45. There are also a lot of companies offering to take your offspring off your hands. You can snatch a couple of weeks of peace and quiet with complete peace of mind whilst they enjoy activities with optional academic courses at the Château de Bellevue in the Loire Valley. Children between the ages of five and 14 come from around the world to work, rest and play in the 25 acres of wooded grounds.
I is for illness
If you're paying Social Security contributions, you are entitled to the same health-care as the French but this is by no means comprehensive, and we advise you to back it up with private cover (see next issue). In an emergency, you can get First Aid at any pharmacy. To find one that's open, either call your local commissariat de Police (who can also provide you with details of the nearest doctor on duty), or visit your local pharmacy which, if closed, will have the address of the nearest open pharmacy posted on the door. If you are fortunate enough to live near the Place de Clichy or the Champs-Elysées, you can buy medicines at any time of day, on any day of the week. Pharmacie des Champs-Elysées, 8th Pharmacie Européene de la Place Clichy, 9th
J is for jardins
There's no shortage of green space in Paris, and many of the city's parks have facilities to amuse your little ones. You can take pony rides, hire toy yachts and play games and sports in most of the large parks. The Jardin d'Acclimatation in the Bois de Boulogne offers amusements ranging from a magical mini canal ride to sea lions. There are also exhibitions following themes such as Babar and his world of elephants, complete with game sheets, available in English.
K is for kindergarten
For a list of English and bilingual pre-schools, known in France as jardins d'enfants, see our Yellow pages.
L is for library
The American Library, 10 rue du Général Camou, 7th has story times for kids. For one- to three-year-olds they take place on the last Tuesday of every month from 10h30 to 11h. For three- to five-year-olds they are every Wednesday 2h30 to 15h30, and for six- to eight-year-olds they are on the last Saturday of every month from 10h30 to 11h30.
M is for museums
The outstanding museum, guaranteed to keep all the family entertained with its interactive exhibits, is the Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie at La Villette which receives more visitors annually than Disneyland Paris. You can practice your weather reporting technique, make music by moving and see three-dimensional films. Unfortunately, adults unaccompanied by children are banned from the Cité des Enfants. Details of activities for children in all state museums are published in Objectif Musée, available from museums.
N is for nannies
Finding the ideal nanny in France (as anywhere) is no easy task. You have the option of going to one of the many agencies, who will cut out all the hard work for you. Alternatively you can scan the ads posted in most of the churches and Anglo-phone embassies, or you can search from the comfort of your home in the Classified ads section of our very own web-site: www.parisfranceguide.com.
Whichever way you go about it, as Dominique Radoux-Kahn from Nannies Incorporated explains, "The important thing is to take your time-the ideal nanny is rarely found in a day." Although it has been reduced recently, the French system continues to give tax relief to those employing any kind of domestic staff. You can ask at your bank for a chèque emploi services, a special checkbook with which you pay your employees. The complicated addition of charges is taken care of for you.
O is for Opèra
Children between the ages of five and six can discover the Palais Garnier with a guide who is 'friends' with a resident phantom. Tours last one and a half hours and cover the history of the opera house from its creation. Reservations need to be made two weeks in advance on 01.40.01.19.88.
P is for Pediatrics
The golden rule for finding a doctor for your child is location. It really is important that the the doctor is only a short walk away for you, or for somebody else, to take your child. It is also a good idea to check that the doctor is prepared to come to your house, if need be. Some doctors refuse to call, whatever the circumstances. Ask at your local pharmacie for the address of the nearest pediatrician, and if there are several, ask which they think is the best. A growing number of doctors, especially younger ones, speak English these days, but if you can't communicate with a nearby doctor, you may be obliged to seek the name of an English-speaking one from the American or British embassy. If your child needs a consultation from a specialist, your local doctor will be able to organise this for you. Should the language barrier prove insurmountable, inquire at the American hospital. Of course it will be much more expensive, and there is no guarantee that it will be better. Be careful of the way doctors over prescribe medication, especially antibiotics for children.
Q is for Quasimodo
An evening of entertainment for adults and children alike is the highly-acclaimed production of Notre Dame de Paris adapted for the stage by Luc Plamondon (text) and Richard Cocciante (music). Unfortunately if you're not already in possession of tickets you're out of luck, the show is sold out.
R is for Restaurants
Generally speaking, the French are very welcoming towards children so you shouldn't encounter any problem taking them into cafés and restaurants. Below, you'll find a selection of restaurants where you can find some food for your brood:
Altitude 95 : Lift €3,50, €2,10 for children, Menu €9. On the first floor of the Eiffel Tower, 7th 01.45.55.20.04.
Brunch at the Lutétia : €15 for children under 12, €37 for adults. Prices include wine, hot drinks and mineral water. 45, bd Raspail 6th. 01.49.54.46.90. Every Sunday 11h30-14h00.
Justine : Free for under 4's, 4-12's €17. 19 rue du Commandant Mouchotte 14th. 01.44.36.44.00. Baby brunch Sun 12h-16h.
Chicago Meatpackers : Menu €9. 8 rue Coquillière, 1st metro Les Halles. 01.40.28.02.33. Everyday 11h30-1h.
Spicey : 8 av Franklin Roosevelt, 8th 01.56.59.62.59. Every day 12h-14h30 and 19h30-23h30 and until 12h30 Sat, Sun evenings.
S is for Schools
Private schools, providing that they conform to certain standards, get the same subsidy as a state school. They can then top this up with fees to provide certain advantages. Their fees are therefore extraordinarily cheap (often ten per cent of the price of a private establishment in the UK or the US). A handful of lycées are considered as the best establishments in the country (on the basis of the success of their pupils at the baccalauréate). These are entirely free, though competition to get into them is naturally very fierce.
Of course if you want your child to go to an American, British or other foreign school, where they will follow a foreign syllabus, these schools are entirely unsubsidised and so you will have to pay the very expensive fees. However, for anyone who expects to live in France for a reasonable amount of time, there is a good selection of schools, including the bilingual ones (see the Yellow pages under Education). They will give your child an equally good chance of getting into a good British or American university, at a fraction of the price that you would probably have to pay to achieve the same in the UK or US.
T is for Travel
The SNCF (French railway) is generous with families. Even if you are not travelling with your family, you benefit from reduced tarifs once you have your carte famille nombreuse, until the children have grown up. When you have five children, you will be entitled to a 50 per cent reduction off the normal price of rail tickets-a benefit which lasts for the rest of your life. Under 16's travelling alone pay half-fare on trains if they have a carte kiwi, and under 12's pay half-fare on Paris metros and buses.
U is for Unbelievable advantages
There are important subsidies for families with children, which normally increase with the number of children.
Once you have three children, you will get an important promotion to the exalted status of a famille nombreuse which allows you all kinds of perks, (provided you are a tax payer). There are also lots of bonuses offered by the town you live in. For example the Mairie de Paris gives you a card which allows free entry to many municipally owned places, such as swimming pools, museums etc. You also get reimbursements for metro and RER passes. Check with your local mairie.
Most of the following entitlements depend on your income and resources.
Allocation pour jeune enfant
You are entitled to these from your fifth month of pregnancy until the month preceding your child's third birthday
Allocation parentale d'education
You get this from the second child on, until he is three years old, if you have had to reduce your work hours or stop working.
Aide à l'emploi d'une assistante
You can get this subsidy providing the child is looked after by a 'recognised' assistante maternelle at her place or yours.
Garde d'enfant à domicile
If both parents work and you employ someone at the house to look after a child of less than six years old, you are entitled to a subsidy.
If you have two or more children, you are entitled to these as soon as the second child is born.
You receive this once you have three or more children of over three years old.
Allocation de parent isolé
A subsidy for single parent families.
Allocation de soutien familial
In the event of the death, divorce, or departure of either parent, you are entitled to this.
Allocation d'education spéciale
An allocation which you can receive if you have a handicapped child, until he is 20 years old (after which he will receive the allocation for an adult). Housing subsidies include Allocations personalisée au logement (APL), allocation de logement familiale, allocation de logement sociale.
Prime de demenagement
You receive this if you move between the fourth month of your pregnancy and before your third child is two years old, or if you move into accommodation which gives you the right to claim an allocation de logement familiale or APL (see above)
Prêt à l'amelioration de l'habitat
Home improvement loan. You will receive this if you are already entitled to a family subsidy.
Revenu minimum d'insertion
If you are without resources, you are entitled to an unconditional minimum income, the RMI.
For more information, call the Sécurité Sociale Caisse d'Allocations Familiales, and the mairie in your quartier. (For details see Yellow pages)
V is for videos
When ideas and energy are running out, plonk your kids in front of a video. You can hire films in English from Reels on Wheels, 12 Villa Croix Nivert, 15th 01.45.67.64.99, which also rents VCRs and delivers to your home, or from Prime Time Video at 24 rue Mayet, 6th 01.40.56.33.44, or you can rent them from The Children's Learning Centre, 33 rue de Fleurus, 75006, Paris. 01 45 44 43 21.
W is for Wednesdays
As you will have discovered by the volume of activities available on Wednesdays, young children in France have this day off school. You can take this opportunity to develop their interest in the extra-curricular activities to which a relatively small proportion of school-time is devoted. Full details can be found in the book Paris des Touts Petits (Paris for the very small) which has a section in English and is on sale at most bookstores. The Children's Learning Centre has special course for bilingual children in art and theatre. 01 45 44 11 66
X is for Xtra xtra small (clothes)
As for every age, there is no shortage of clothes shops in Paris when it comes to tots. Even designers such as Dior and Gaultier have extended their lines to include them. You can avoid the crowds and shop from your armchair with catalogues such as La Redoute and Cyrillus, and can take the opportunity to kit out the whole family. Le Dauphin Voyageur's range is limited age-wise to those under 6, but knows no bounds when it comes to the range of products on offer. You'll find the shop on rue de Rennes (see Yellow pages) and you can pick up a mail order catalogue while you're there. Miki House has good quality, fun clothes for children up to the age of 12. Their clothes line is accompanied by caps, bags, stationary and toys (see Yellow pages).
Y is for 'youpi!'
The French equivalent of yippee! Other cute translations of children's vocabulary include 'coucou' for hello and 'aïe!' for ouch. 'pin-pon' is an imitation of a siren, 'coin coin' is a duck quacking. Guns in French comic books don't go 'bang!', they go 'pan!', and nothing goes 'pow!', it's always 'paf!'
Z is for
Once you've exhausted the all amusements that Paris has to offer and coped with the French bureaucracy to claim your benefits, a good long zzzz is exactly what you'll be needing.