The first time I saw in Amsterdam a mother cycling with her 2 kids inside a rather impressive ‘ BakfietsBakfiets‘ and’ Kinderzitje’ ( Kid’s seat attached on the rear end of a bike) I almost shrieked and laughed! How could this be, in Philippines, Bakfiets or the modern SUV in Holland could resemble much like the ‘Kariton‘ dragged by an animal ( mostly carabao) with the harvest from the farm, mostly sacks of rice. In the fields, kids play while riding it, but purely for fun. In Holland, it’s functional. Bakfiets are attached to a bike and in it, is your child, along with bag of groceries, plants, toys, you name it, it’s all in there! Such a surprising part of Dutch culture that Dutch are known for.
Here in Germany, I saw something else. As I roamed the streets getting to know our neighborhood, I saw and witnessed more and more surprising things about Parenthood that only German parents do with their kids. To tell you frankly, before coming to Europe, I thought Germans are strict, cold, and severe people, let alone being parents, but I was completely mistaken. Here are the reasons why ignorance doesn’t pay and why I love just how German Parents doing it, the German way.
Play comes first (until 6 years old!)
I saw from my friend’s feed that their toddlers & pre- schoolers are already being taught how to scribble, write, draw, count and do the academic side of learning. Do you know what German Kindergarten kids do ?
They play, play & play.
As I was applying for a space for my daughter in a Krippe & Kindergartens , we were invited to visit and have a look at their school and this is where I got the whole picture of playing as the best form of learning for toddlers until 6 yrs. of age here. Kindergartens in Germany are based on the concept that learning is a game of mind (or lernen ist ein spiel der sinne).
While Kindergarten normally starts at the age of 3, most parents who are urged to go back to work immediately can already put their child ( from 6 mos) in a Krippe or Kita. I saw that the kindergarten is full of different play-areas, fun games and interactive media for kids to just play while learning. Learning to read, write and count is not being pushed. I was shocked at same time totally impressed to see a tiny 2-year-old toddler struggle to put on her socks and jacket in the corridor, all by herself. All kindergartens have a spacious outdoor playground with sand pits, climbing areas, ball pits, slides and natural maze that kids can enjoy free-play,while having fun! When they get tired, they have a nap room.
Most kindergarten kids are taken out for a walk touring around the city or just a walk in the woods for an outdoor learning. They also visit nearby playgrounds to play, outside their classrooms. They really give a whole new meaning for playing while learning.
As they say, You are only 3 once in your life, so I find this whole thing of “unstructured playing” very beneficial. Seriously, being a kid is more fun in Germany!
Take their kids Outside-Everyday!
Germans just love the outdoors so they take the kids outside everyday. According to a German saying “there is no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing” which sounds logical to me. The value of outside time is promoted in the schools, hence the “garten” in Kindergarten. It’s also obvious in Germany’s numerous playgrounds. In our neighborhood alone, you can go to 3 different playgrounds within 2 hours! No matter how cold and grey it gets, parents still bundle their kids up and take them to the park, or send them out on their own. I see babies napping in the forest, parks and in the busy streets. Kids are taught subconsciously the value of nature to overall well-being. Walking and strolling everyday is part of every family’s routine.
Freedom and Independency is encouraged as early as age of 2
Along the streets you see mothers walking with their kids on their walking bike at a very young age. Almost still toddling and yet learning how to balance and to pedal the bike. It’s not unusual to see toddlers already cycling at the age of 2.5 y/o and preschoolers cycling going to school. When they eventually learned to cycle, they took them cycling almost everywhere. German parents instill in the minds of their kids to be independent by equipping them with skills to explore by themselves,alone & unsupervised. As research have proved that walking around without parental supervision, or “independent mobility” is good for kids. Nobody follows a kid in the playground. If you see a mother following wherever her kids go, then she’s a foreigner! I tell you, this is what surprised me the most, I am the only mother who runs after my daughter while all the other mothers are just sitting in the bench.
In the parks & playground, mothers are often drinking tea, coffee and chatting with their friends while they let their kids climb and play. They are so lax in parenting because the safety measures and security is highly efficient. They already removed all the risks even before a child touches what’s in the play areas. Playgrounds are very safe for kids, mostly made with wood, with sand and plastics are mostly omnipresent.
Giving them Bikes instead of iPad or Playstation
German parents give less regard on tech gadgets to entertain kids such as iPad or Playstation or XBox , psp etc. I seldom see kids playing with iPad or computer games. This is because of great emphasis on playing outdoors. Almost everyone owns a Bike carrier, kid’s seat and a big part of toddler life is owning a kid’s bike. Why? because it promotes being active, functional & again, independency.
If the Dutch have Bakfiets, then Germans have their carriers. Of course, take it on German efficiency. I observed that kids are brought into an early exposure to be part of the society. The kids are tucked into their carrier, in a kid’s seat at the back of the bike or in a stroller and off they go in everyday life. There is no excuse for German parents for not bringing their kids along. I love the fact that having a kid in Germany shows that a child is not an excess baggage that you bring along with your chores or errands. Add up the efficient transport system then parents doesn’t need to worry about bringing along a baby in a stroller. Even if public transportation isn’t your thing, Germany is a very bike-friendly country. Even if with kids. Especially with kids.
Bringing their kids to Biergarten
German parents knows how to enjoy before and after the baby comes. We all know that they love (adore) beer and Oktoberfest. I was shocked to see locals bring along their kids while they socialize, drink beer and relax.In our place alone, you can find Biergartens almost in every corner. Nowadays they are transformed into a great family destination. Who doesn’t want to do things as a family on a Friday night?
Biergartens have become a go-to destination for family outings, play dates and toddler birthdays. On weekend afternoons, many transform into Gymboree-like spaces with multiple brews on tap. If beer is not your thing, then don’t worry, there are juices, lemonades and hearty bites for you. The great thing is, having a kid doesn’t hinder your social life.
What do you think of German parenting?
Do you think you can raise your own child the German way?