At last, a new hompage! It's taken an age, so I hope you all enjoyed our Leiden Ice Age and the half term holiday, and are ready for an energetic and flower-filled spring!
After a day of ineffectual yelling at the children, I often yearn to feel more confident as a parent, especially when trying to navigate the difficulties of two cultural backgrounds and a totally different childhood from my own. And guess what? Help is at hand for all of us! HomeinLeiden has recently got to know Alison Sutton, an extremely experienced and totally lovely child psychologist who specialises in practical solutions based on research into how children's minds work. She will be running parenting courses, (and by this we mean really fabulous, effective, tailored advice, not the same old basics that we all know!) the first of which, in April, is called Bring Out the Best in Your Child - I'm definitely going to do it! Take at her fab new website www.childrearingmatters.com.
And the best news? Especially for HomeinLeiden, Alison is running a workshop on Effective International Parenting on March 12 th , 8-10pm at the Pancrat Buurthuis, Middelstegracht 85 (very near the Hooigracht Albertheijn). Normally such a speaker would be really expensive, but Alison is doing this for free - all we ask is € 5 to cover the costs of room hire/drinks/handouts. It will be an informal and enjoyable evening, and a chance to meet Alison and get to know other parents. and I can't wait! I hope to see lots of you there as it's such a great opportunity for all of us as we muddle through our lives as international parents!
Please contact Alison to register on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Having grown up in the countryside myself, I spend a lot of time trying to work out ways that my children can grow up in the centre of a town without being 'raised in captivity' (an expression from the brilliant Paranoid Parenting by Frank Furedi). It is true that it is far too easy to keep children 'safe' in their own homes with electronic entertainment, and often muc h harder to find ways to give them freedom and fresh air. But just because we live in a town in a heavily-populated country, doesn't mean that they can't experience a bit of freedom and fresh air !
For those of us without gardens, it often boils down to hanging out in the local parks . Playgrounds are great (and I highly recommend joining one or several, as this boosts their subsidies and therefore the quality of their equipment - see www.speeltuinenleiden.nl), but parks can be used for the kind of play that involves the children creating their own spaces rather than climbing on equipment. Obvious choices are Plantsoen (the yew trees are well known for being wonderful climbing trees) and de Burcht, but other ones are van der Werff park, Anker Park, the park at the end of Trompstraat, Groenesteeg graveyard (yes, honestly) and the Hortus. The two latter are less 'free' in that there are rules about how you behave (not climbing on the tombstones and not climbing trees, respectively), but on the upside they are free of dog turds and dope bags and teenage EMOs drinking out of cans. I warmly recommend taking props , such as a picnic rug (ideally one with a plastic back so that they make a house even if the ground is soaking); a bottle of water and some kind of cooking pot and spoon for making potions/ice age stew, whatever. Also, the more children you can take with you the better, so they can run in a pack, but DO make sure they all go to the loo before they get there and that you have spare clothes.
If you haven't discovered Croneysteyn yet, now is the time. It's massive, and brilliant for outdoor adventures, nature spotting, den building or just a long bike ride. Their website www.polderparkcronesteyn.nl has maps, details of the visitor centre and under 'activiteiten' details of activities (watch out for these on our lovely What's On section). For instance, on 18 th March there's a children's activity in the afternoon where the kids go out in a group to look for and learn about herons and other water birds.
Leidse Hout is also brilliant, if rather ' managed' (and full of little canals for the children to fall into, which make parts of it slightly scary with little ones, although bigger children can be happy for hours poking the canals with sticks). See www.vriendenvandeleidsehout.nl). They also have a visitor centre with lots of activities, including a monthly nature club , generally on the last Wednesday of the month (see details of this on our What's On, it's being held at the Kinderboerderij Merenwijk this term).
The first lambs have been born! We've frequently sung the praises of 'T Geertje (www.hetgeertje.nl) but can't recommend it enough as a free outing (either a very long bike ride, a bus and a long walk, or by car) to cuddle the baby goats and give them bottles, ride the ponies, or feed the pigs! Nearer home, the Kinderboerderij Merenwijk had its first lambs on 21 february - including triplets! See http://gemeente.leiden.nl/over-de-stad/natuur-en-milieu/natuur-en-milieueducatie/informatie-nme-locaties/kinderboerderij/.
Scouting is a brilliant way for the children to learn all sorts of skills, especially outdoor ones, and to develop confidence and independence. There are two scouting groups in Leiden: Franciscus www.franciscusgroep.nl (which is amazing, the leader of the welpen is a particularly inspiring man) and St Jozef www.stjozef.nl . Oegstgeest has three (see http://www.oegstgeest.nl/english/children_and_youth/scouting . Some groups have waiting lists, others are recruiting, so contact the one that takes your fancy and find out!
How about some fresh air for you too? If you are into jogging but don't want to go it alone, there are several running clubs in Leiden, for instance the Leiden Road Runners Club (beep, beep) http://www.lrrc.nl/lrrc/ - maybe you could compete in the Leiden Singelloop on 20 April (see http://www.leidschdagblad.nl/singelloop/article14264233.ece/37e-Leidsch-Dagblad-Singelloop for details) or the Leiden Marathon on 20 May (www.marathon.nl). If you prefer biking, take a look at www.bikemap.net for details of nice bike rides in the Leiden area,. If you really want to get stuck into something, rowing is fantastic exercise and seems to be very social - if you would like to know more, contact email@example.com
Or, if like me you are not so physically able, just put on a woolly jumper and sit on a park bench and read a book in the spring sunshine. Bliss.