Cool Info for Parents in Lausanne, Switzerland

Thursday June 25th, 2015

Plans for This Blog

summer2015

Hey there,

Summer is officially here, school will be over by next week, and day-cares will close for summer break soon… holiday time finally arrives!

As next week is already the last week of school and jardin d’enfants for us, we will be super busy in this house and thus I don’t think I will be able to write new post anymore… until school starts again at the end of August. So it will be a good long break for us, but I have some plans for this blog. Good plans, I promise.

To update old post

I currently have 600+ posts on this blog. Some deserve to be re-publish (as now I have many more new readers) and other posts could use an update. So during this summer months, you will see old posts being re-published.

To create a mobile-responsive site

Many of us use our smart phones and tablets to browse, so it is about time this blog gets a make-over so that it will appear better on your mobile screens. I will probably change the look of the site as well, so please bear with me if one day you see a big mess on the site.

To blog more

My son will start school this year, so I will finally have 5 children-free half-days per week. I hope this means 3-4 posts/week. Let’s see!

To bring back sponsored posts

I have been rejecting sponsored posts for the last one year as I haven’t even had enough time to write original posts. Hopefully I could bring them back starting in September. Sponsored post is important for the blog as it’s a source of income that I need to maintain the blog. And it could help the business owners (mostly local parents) and small start-up companies, something that I’d be really happy to lend a hand on. And, many sponsored posts come with giveaways! So, something for the readers too!

So there they are, my plans for the coming months. I’m so looking forward to doing them! I dream that one day this blog could generate some revenue for me, and I hope I could figure out how to grow it to that level soon.

In the meanwhile, I wish you a lovely summer, and a fun and relaxing holiday!

bises, meta.

Wednesday June 24th, 2015

Our Trip to Disneyland Paris

This is not a sponsored post

disneyparis2015

There are a million ways to go to and enjoy Disneyland Paris. To decide what ways we would choose, I read many websites and forums for tips which were helpful when deciding many things for the trip. Here’s how we did our trip earlier this year (Easter holiday, 5-9 April 2015). By no means I’m saying it’s the best way, but perhaps sharing this, you may find some tips that work for you, too.

We bought 1-year passes

Since Paris (or Marnee-la-Vallée for Disneyland) is only a bit more than 3 hours away, and that we hadn’t had traveling plans for the whole year in 2015, we decided to get the Passeports Annuels and to use them for more than one trip. There are 3 kinds of passes and considering our travel plans, we chose the “Fantasy”, merely due to fewer restriction dates as well as discounts in restaurants and shops. Unlike the cheaper “Francilien”, this one can be used immediately and offers the extra “Magic Hours” and free parking  (you can read about the differences between the passes here).

I bought the e-tickets in advance at TicketMaster.fr (and then exchanged them to the plastic cards at the Park on the first day of visit). In Lausanne you can buy these tickets through fnac, however I found that there the tickets cost more. Not too much more but the difference was significant when multiplied by four. In general whether you buy year or day pass, I’d recommend to buy them earlier as otherwise you’ll have to queue in front of the ticket booth. And since in Disneyland you’ll stand in lines all day, do minimize the unnecessary queuing!

The total cost for 4 Fantasy passes was 717.45 (2015 price + 1.45 fee), making it the biggest chunk of the whole budget. However as we went for four days, that was only 20 more than if we bought the normal priced park tickets for 2 adults (47 each) and 2 children (EUR40 each) for 4 days (total of 696).

Note that if you stay in one of the Disney hotels, park tickets are usually included and thus can be cheaper vs buying tickets and booking hotel rooms separately.

disneylandparis-rapunzel

We bought the train tickets 3 months in advance

We went by train, via Geneva. The TGV Lyria from Geneva took us directly to Marne-la-Vallée TGV station which is directly in front of Disneyland. The trip took around 3 hours.

I booked the tickets exactly 3 months in advance, as the train tickets at SNCF only go on sale from 3 months in advance, and by then reduced priced tickets are still available. It may not be necessary to really buy the tickets that on the same day as they go on sale, but that’s just the kind of person I am 😉

Total cost for 2 adults, 1 child (4-12) and one baby (0-under 4) including seat reservations for all was 140 one way.

We stayed at a hotel-apartment

One of the reason we skipped Disney hotels was to avoid having to eat in restaurants all the time. So, we chose to stay at a hotel-apartment and thus could prepare own breakfast and dinner. The hotel (Adagio) was located next to a huge shopping center where there was a huge supermarket. So we bought the groceries there – around EUR20 for food and snack for the whole 4-day stay! I could so get used to French grocery prices! :)

We had a few meals in the park and Disney Village and here’s what we spent for 2 adults and 2 children (age 3 and 6):

  • McDonald’s Disney Village – 45
  • New York Style Sandwiches – 45
  • Au Chalet de la Marionnette – 50
  • Buzz Lightyear’s Pizza Planet Restaurant – 60

Those listed above were the restaurants on the cheaper range (and we had 10% discount thanks to the year pass). We could not afford to go to the more expensive ones, which was one of the reasons that…

We skipped the dining with Disney characters

Although this must be one of the most fun things to do in Disneyland, the prices were just too expensive for us. And, we happen to have very shy kids that we suspect may even shrink to the seats when the characters come. So, no dining with the Disney characters, but I don’t think the kids missed it at all, as they could meet the stars at other places throughout the parks.

That said, go if you could afford it!

Still on the subject of meals, check the Meal Plans offered by the Parks. You may find one that suits your needs and budget.

disneylandparis-pluto

We arrived early at the park and used FastPass when possible

As our year passes offer us the extra “Magic Hours” between 8-10am for the Disneyland Park (not the Studio Park that opens at 10am), we did our best to arrive early at the gate. These extra hours really made the difference. Not all rides and attractions were open for these extra hours, but it was still cool to be able to squeeze in more rides before the park became crowded.

The Walt Disney Studio Park officially starts at 10am, although the gates were opened half an hour earlier. The most popular ride at the moment was the Ratatouille, so my suggestion is to go there directly. You can either go to the ride line, or the FastPass line. If you go directly to the ride line when the ride just opens, you’ll be inside in minutes even when the line looks super long. Come later and it may take as long as 70min. We did this ride with FastPass – when we first got inside the Studio Park at around 9:40, hubby and kids directly went to rides with almost no queue (Cars and Toy Story ones) while I got our FastPasses for Ratatouille. This ride btw, is awesome! Not to be missed!

The rides we used FastPasses with our 3 and 6-yo were:
– Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast, Disneyland Park
– Peter Pan’s Flight, Disneyland Park
– Ratatouille: The Adventure, Walt Disney Studio

If you have older kids, you can also use of the “single rider” lines for some rides.

disneylandparis-cars

We had early lunch

We went early to lunch to beat the crowd, usually around 11-11:30am. This saved us from long queues. However, we found that many Meet-Characters events took place at these lunch hours (obviously to draw the crowd from the dining area), so if your kids can’t skip meeting with Rapunzel or Buzz Lightyear, pack some snack and go for late lunch instead.

We brought snacks and water

The official Disneyland page says you can’t take food and drinks inside, but it’s not really true (read here). In fact you should always have snack and water with you. The range of snack that the parks offer are not what I would normally give my kids, and most of the times there were long lines. When we were there for some reasons I didn’t understand most water fountains did not work. I only found 2 that worked, so we usually filled up our bottles there. Bottled water and other bottled drinks were also sold at some of the souvenir shops where the cashier lines were better than at the food stalls.

You can also bring lunch-type food such as sandwiches, although the Parks forbid a real picnic. We saw many visitors ate sandwiches while waiting for a show (outside the theater before the doors were opened)

disneylandparis-toys

We spent a few days

I knew what to expect with queuing times in Disneyland as I had been to the Disneyworld in Orlando many years ago. So when I planned this trip I realized that we would enjoy it better when we go for a few days (four in this case) instead of just a weekend. It worked really well. We had to wake up and go out the door earlier to enjoy the extra Magic Hours, but inside the Parks we never felt that we had to rush going from one ride to another. We knew we would have the time, and having the year pass also assured us that we would come back another time within a year.

Note that four days were still not enough to do all rides and attractions, but we were totally satisfied with the trip.

disneylandparis-sofia——

A few additional notes

There were many sites that offered excellent tips and I found two very helpful:

I also downloaded the iPhone App, but honestly I didn’t use it much. It was not very accurate regarding wait times for rides, and there was no public Wi-Fi in the parks so that I had to use the 3G/4G roaming data plan from my provider. I believe I only used it to check for restaurant prices (marked by the number of €s).

The maps provided at the Parks were the ones we extensively used as we could only find the schedule of actual events (shows, meet-the-characters) there. They are available in different languages so make sure to pick one up when you enter the park.

We were blessed with lovely weather (sunny and blue sky) but underestimated how cold it would still be in April. So even though we had our spring jackets with us, we ended up buying pullovers at the souvenir shops!

And finally, the (rough) calculation of what we spent for 2 adults and 2 kids (3 & 6) for 4 days in Disneyland:

  • Park year passes = 717.45
  • Train tickets = 280
  • Hotel = 467.52
  • Food = around €250
  • Souvenirs = around 250
  • Total = 1964.97

Not cheap at all but it was really as cheap as we could get at that time! And now excuse me while I book for another Disneyland Paris trip for Christmas time :)

Hope this post is helpful! Have you been there and have tips to share? Leave a comment! x

Wednesday June 17th, 2015

Summer Holiday Activities in Lausanne and Around (2015) – Updated

ouchy-summer

Now that the warmer (albeit wet) weather is here, it’s time to think of school summer holiday! :)

For those not yet familiar with the school here, school kids in Switzerland have holidays often, approximately every 6 weeks (find the list here). This may create headaches to many parents, especially ones who are employed. Chatting around, I found that most employed couple rely on help from grandparents or families (who sometimes fly from another side of the planet). Or hire a temporary nanny when they can afford one. Or they take turns taking off days from their office. But considering the active life of kids, even the stay-at-home parents need programs to keep those little ones and teens happily occupied.

Below I complied different kinds of activities and camps that are offered during the school holidays in Lausanne and surrounding areas. Please click the links for more info.

As a general rule, the winter holiday after Christmas and the Relâches (February) are considered ski holiday thus most of the sport camps offered concentrated into this. For other holidays, activities are more varied.


Passeport Vacances

Passeport Vacances are offered for 5-11° Harmos (9-15y). Offers include 300+ activities and entries to museums, swimming pools and public transport. The passport is offered by 40 communes in Lausanne and around. Will be on sale starting 11 May until 5 June 2015. If it didn’t cover your area, check with your commune. There are many other regional passeports offered throughout the canton

Offers from the city of Lausanne and surrounding municipalities (Le SJL, le CVAJ and la FASL)

Note that these may be reserved for children domiciled inside the municipalities. Check current offers here on the banner on the left hand side

Educational themes

  • Pop In’s – Full or half day, 3-12y (info)
  • L’écoline in St.Sulpice – Full or half day, there is also one bilingual French-English week, 3-9y (info)
  • Kids Break – whole day trips for 4-12y, starts from Fribourg (info) – thanks Bottin de Famille

Languages

  • Key English School – Full or half day English camps, 3-15y. Vaud locations are: Lausanne-Riponne, Lausanne-Malley, Bussigny, Blonay, and Vevey (info)
  • Migros école – English or German courses for teenagers (info)
  • Day Camps Switzerland in Chavannes-de-Bogis – 5-15y (info)

Science and Technology

  • Tech Spark Academy, Lausanne – Full day (9am-5pm), 12-17y (info)

Creative and Artistic Expression

  • Art Classes by Naomi Middelmann in Lausanne – 5-12y, mornings only (info)
  • Têtard in Lausanne (or Leysin) – (info)
  • Atelier poterie by Migros Ecole – 6y+ (info)
  • Bricks 4 Kidz – Half or Full day, 4-13y (info)
  • Painting and Drawing by Atelier Ardersia in Pully – 6-15y, mornings only (info)

Music, Dance and Theatre

  • Melody Music and Art by Emily Hornsby-Martinez – 9am-12:30pm, 3-12y (info)
  • Corps et Masque in Lausanne – 8:30am-1pm, 6-12y (info)
  • Danse Evasion – 9am-4pm, 4-14y, in Cugy (info)
  • Brightlights Summer Creative Camps: “Cruise Around The World” in La Tour-de-Peilz, 7-12y (July 6, 7, 8 & 9 and August 17, 18, 19 & 20, 10am-2pm. Info: brightlights.drama (AT) gmail.com

Make-up

  • Maquillage pour adolescents by Migros Ecole, 13-16y (info)

Sports

  • Lausanne sur mer – 4-26 July, different types of sports, from 12y. No registration required, just show up and pay if the child decided to stay (info)
  • Intersoccer – Soccer for 3-15years, mornings only (info)
  • Swimming in Pully – mornings only, 4-12y (info)
  • Playball in Nyon area – mornings, 3-8y (info)
  • Climbing Camp in Chatelard – 6-10 July, 7-15y (info)
  • Day Camps Switzerland in Chavannes-de-Bogis – 5-15y (info)

Circus

  • KidsUp in Lausanne – Half or Full day, from 5y (info)

Even more activities

  • See this post for family-friendly places in Switzerland, including links to blog post about our visits
  • See this extensive list on Loisir.ch and VaudFamille.ch
  • Check the current offers from RailAway

Do you know other activities and camps I should list here? Leave a comment!

*This is not a sponsored post

 

Monday June 15th, 2015

What You Must Know: Photographs of Identifiable People in Switzerland

photo-people-CH

On Saturday 24heures ran an article on regulations of photographing people in public space, in this case within the area of public swimming pools. Yes that includes photos of own children. Based on this regulations, dated back to decades ago, we are forbidden to take photos at all – though the article also explains that in practice it really depends on the circumstances (Does the child wish to be photographed? Does the child know the photographer? etc)

I posted the link to the article on Lausanne Mom facebook page and it turned out to be popular, with over 1,000 facebookers seeing it on their newsfeed. Obviously, not so many knew about this regulation, and I was not surprised. I myself had only known this a few years ago.

Most Swiss are very careful with their recorded personal information. You may find it odd that a Swiss will strip down naked in a sauna amongst strangers or even colleagues, but not let anyone take a photo while he/she is walking down the street fully clothed. The difference is the former is not recorded and the latter is. Honestly in this era of social media over-sharing, I have to agree with this attitude.

The regulation, as already mentioned, dated back decades ago. In general these actions below require consent:

  • Taking a picture of a person in a public space
  • Publishing pictures of a person in a public space
  • Commercial use of a published picture of a person in a public space

A bit more info as well as a list of countries with specific consent requirements can be found here. (This is also a good list to consult when you are traveling to another country and plan to take photos there.)

With this regulation, it also means that officially we are not allowed to take photos of, for example, the friends of our child at a birthday party in our home unless they or their parents give us consent. But of course in practice it’s usually not as strict for taking the photos – just be careful when posting it on the internet, even on a facebook account that is set to only “friends”.

For myself, for a few years now I have stopped posting children’s photos on my facebook other than my own. I posted photos of my birthday kids on my personal facebook account, but not of our little guests. I also blurred all identifiable faces from the photos on the blog, including my own children’s. Whenever possible, I shot photos with no one on it, although you may then wonder why all restaurants I recommended were empty 😉 I do this as I understand how bothered someone (especially a Swiss) can be when someone is taking a photo with him/her inside the frame. If you have lived here long enough you may remember how a few years ago Google had to painstakingly blur all faces and licence plates from their Street View in Switzerland (info).

It is common to Swiss public schools to ban all photos of their pupils and schools, especially when more data is linked to the photo (i.e. name and location of school). So, don’t, I repeat DON’T tag the photo to the school facebook page. And definitely don’t make a photo out of a printed photo of the class to post it on social media. Also, if the activity or sport clubs your children are attending ask you for permission to take photos, do reply to their email or hand back the coupon (even when you say no) as they need this as prove of your consent (or lack of)

Those of you who like to share may feel all these regulations are too much. I may also feel the same if I didn’t find a photo of me and my son in another blog who copied my entire blog post including all the photos three years ago. I didn’t blur my face and my son was actually looking down on the photo so his face was not visible, but my heart still skipped a beat. Our photo had been used by a stranger! Not in bad way but still! Thankfully that blog went down after a few months. Then we have heard scary stories from blogger fashion photos made into T-shirts by Zara (here), a family photo into an advertisement (here), or stolen Instagram photos sold as art piece for $90k a piece (here). And those are not even the worst.

You may come from a country whose people like to take photos of and share everything – I understand this as I’m Asian! :) but while in Switzerland, we need to respect the local regulations.

Friday June 12th, 2015

Globlivres in Renens

This post below is a guest post, kindly written by a local mom and fellow keen reader Ivana Debogović. I was so happy when she agreed to write about Globlivres. I have heard many raved about it but never made it there as we rarely go to Renens area. Thanks again, Ivana!

globlivres4

First thing I did when we came to La Suisse, was to go to a library although I didn’t speak French. So, I learned about Globlivres, multicultural library with books in 280 languages! And there I found books for me and my 3 year-old son in our mother tongue :)

globlivres1

Globlivres is located in Renens, 5 minutes on foot from the train station. Registration cost 1 chf and you can borrow 4 books for 6 weeks.

There are picture books, comics, novels (all sorts of them), dictionaries, bilingual books, sets for learning French… everything that  you can find in any other public library!

globlivres3

But besides books to lend, Globlivres offers many great activities such as

  • ‘Né pour lire’ : Born for reading – programs for parents who want to cherish their mother tongues along with their children
  • ‘Chez nous – chez vous’ : Your home-my home – meetings where participants share their culture customs and in the same time practice their French
  • Les contes du mercredi : Wednesday’s story time – Once a month children, parents, kindergarten groups come to listen wonderful stories, and there is a snack afterwards to prolong the magic of reading
  • and many, many others…

globlivres2

As you can see, Globlivres is a unique library that offers many interesting things to those who want to read stories to children in their mother tongues, to those who wish to improve their French, to those who want to meet their compatriots or to those who want to read crime novels but not in French (like me) :)

Globlivres
Rue Neuve 2bis
CH-1020 Renens
+41(0)21 635 02 36
info (AT) globlivres.ch

*All photos were kindly provided by Ivana

Thursday June 11th, 2015

Teachers and Day-Care Childminders – To Gift or Not to Gift…

teachers-gifts

We are less than a month to end-of-school term, and are also nearing the summer holiday time of many day-cares. I have heard questions regarding gifts for teachers and day-care childminders around this time, as well as before Christmas. What is the norm here in Switzerland?

What I observed for the last 6 years in garderies, jardin d’enfants and public school was that some parents gave gifts and others didn’t. My conclusion is that it’s really up to you whether you give or not, and it’s not considered rude to give nothing.

That said, we usually give gifts both for Christmas and at the end of school year, except for the one year I didn’t manage as I was feeling a mild depression. The keywords for the gifts are small and  inexpensive, as expensive presents are definitely not expected and would be awkward for the receivers. As a habit, the Swiss expects some degree of hand-/home-made by your children, be it a simple scribble or doodle on the gift tags/wraps or some crafts. We know they spent many hours helping our children craft for our Mother’s Day or Christmas presents so that I think it’s fair that we should at least try to do the same for them.

How much should be spent? Entirely up to you but again, keep them reasonable. For Christmas 2013 we needed 9 gifts to prepare between my 2 kids (2 class and 1 French school teachers, 4 garderie minders, 2 éducatrices) with a really tight budget. So for that occasion I picked these holiday jotter pads and my daughter made easy but pretty paper Christmas ornaments (based on this). We added a pretty gift wrap and twine, the total cost was less than CHF60 for all nine. This end-of-school year we only have to prepare 4 presents and those are for beloved teachers and éducatrices we won’t see anymore so we’ll go up to CHF20 each.

Whenever possible I avoid giving box of chocolates, regular sweets, and flowers as from my observation there were usually some parents giving these already. Or I picked a different kind of sweets, such as jars of local/exotic honey (the ones wrapped on the photo above), a home-made strawberry jam (the kids helped from picking the strawberries in the garden to preparing the labels), and a jar of marshmallows and sachets of chocolate powder.

When giving to a group of people, like the whole garderie staffs when my son was leaving or all the trainers of my daughter’s gymnastic team, I prepare small bags of snacks. Last year I bought a couple bags of pistachios and divided them into several small plastic bags and the kids wrote the labels. To be honest, there were times when we didn’t manage to do this and I ordered dozens of mini cupcakes or buy a large box of Lindt chocolates instead. This year I also simplify and we will give the gymnastic trainers this snack box as we would like to support the (Fair Trade) store, too.

Gifts that I have seen being given by other parents include home-made biscuits, bouquets of flowers, candles, chocolates, wine, and store gift cards.

All said, there is no need to stress yourself about it. Giving gift is good, home-made is awesome, but store bought is great too and it’s not even a problem even if you didn’t give them anything!

Monday June 8th, 2015

What Your Kid Needs for the First Year of School

school-need

I learned that many parents (I was one) were eager to get the official list of items their children would need for the first year of school early. One of the reasons is usually to buy those things cheaper while they go on summer holiday abroad.

But the truth is, the things listed as officially needed are not many. And all can be bought here inside CH inexpensively. The list usually short and consists of:

One pair of house shoes (pantoufles)

They are inexpensive, even for ones plastered with licensed characters. We have been buying ours from Deichmann, Migros, or Vögele Shoes for around CHF15-20/pair. The Hello Kitty ones on the photo were bought at Migros Métropole. Note that our teachers did not recommend Crocs (nor look-alikes) and preferred ones that wouldn’t fall off the feet easily.

Gym outfit

that consists of:

  • a pair of shorts/leggings/training pants*
  • a top*
  • a pair of gymnastic/rhythmic shoes (examples)

*You don’t need real sweat-proof sport quality for this. What you already have should be good enough, just make sure the size will last for the next few months.

Consider buying the shoes earlier during vacation time as the sizes for 1-2P kids seemed to go out of stock everywhere by end of summer holiday.

 

Aaaand… the official list usually stopped here. Told ya, it’s short.

 

Some small items

Depending on the teachers, you may be asked for a few additional items, such as:

  • Stationery – like a glue stick or painting smock
  • A sport bag – the drawstring type
  • Box of tissues and/or pocket tissues
  • An extra pair of underpants and socks – in case of pee accidents

Now after almost 2 years in school, I know what the kids also need that are not on the official list. They are not listed officially, as by common sense (given the outdoors-y lifestyle of the Swiss) the family would already have ones. But if you come from a country with different lifestyle or habits, you may not think about these.

Backpack

My daughter rarely needs a bag when she goes to school. She carries a snack with her, but mostly a cereal bar that can fit into her jacket’s pocket. Yet backpack is needed for school trips. Lunch, a bottle of water, and snack are the minimum they need to carry inside and these things can be heavy in the beginning of the trip when they are still full. So in our case, we never compromised with the backpack quality. Our kids always get a backpack especially made for children and comes with a chest strap. My husband and I ourselves use backpacks regularly and know the benefit of using the chest strap. With little kids, especially when they wear thick winter jackets, the strap is the key to keep the backpack on securely, prevent backache and help them keep a good posture.

We also prefer backpacks that have open pockets with elastic bands on its sides. We have been using those to hold water bottle and pocket tissue – so daughter can grab them easily even with the backpack still on.

Rain coat and rain boots

Our daughter now walks to school and home alone, and when it rains, her rain gears are indispensable. The class also goes to another building in the school complex for gymnastics and rhythmics so yes they also need them during school hours. On a school meeting, her teachers had expressed to all parents that they preferred the children didn’t use umbrella as they forgot or lost them all the time. So do get them good quality rain coats (better with ventilation system to let the body humidity out) and a pair of rain boots.

Snow gear

Even when your kids haven’t started any ski activity, they will play with snow during recess, sled, or ice skate with their class. Yes, prepare this, perhaps in autumn, or as soon as you can figure out what their sizes will be in winter. So make sure to put a full snow gear on your list : a minimum of a jacket with hood, trousers, snow gloves/mittens**, scarf, winter hat, and a pair of snow boots.

**the thick waterproofed ones for the snow, not the knitted ones that will get wet in no time

Helmet

My daughter needed a helmet for the ice skating trip. Any bike/skate/ski helmet would work, so no need to buy a new one, just make sure to have one (at the right size). You can also rent one at the rink, but I think I can safely assume all our kids already have helmets for biking or riding their trottinettes?

Water bottle and lunch box

For the school trip. We have 2 different sized bottles – 0.4L and 0.6L, I choose which one to use depending on the length of the trip, but there were times we used both bottles for longer/day trips.

A pair of sneakers and (sun) hat

No explanation needed here, I believe?

Anti-tick lotion

There has been a rise on the number of cases related to ticks lately. The teachers usually let us know when the kids would go to the forest or other places with high tick risks so that parents could apply anti-tick lotion before going to school. Check your nearest pharmacy for one that is safe for your kid’s age. More info about prevention for ticks diseases in the area here.

Sunscreen lotion

So there they are, the things I have found to be needed on my daughter’s first (and second) year of school.

Are there anything else I should include? Let me know!

 

Monday June 1st, 2015

Child-care Options for School-aged Children

Shortly after I published my blog “Ten Reasons We Love Our First Two Years at Public School“, I received a question from a reader.

Miya asked:

“How do working moms negotiate the strange hours for 1p and 2p? Here, it’s Mon-Wed mornings, Thursdays till 3 and Fri off. Our local UAPE costs more than if we put our son in private school.”

I have to agree to Miya in regards to expensive child care in Switzerland. I remember late December last year I was talking to a friend who lived in Germany and almost fell off my chair when she told me that she paid their day care EUR190 PER MONTH for a 5-day week, while I used to pay CHF125 PER DAY. While the quality of Swiss child care is outstanding, the price IS astronomical.

So how do the employed parents deal with the before-, between- and after-school care when they sent their kids to public school? Here are some possibilities that I gathered from own experience as well as other parents I know.

after-school-drawing

Quit the job

I’m being brutal – sorry. I know this is an un-thinkable option for most of you. But it was what I and a number of other parents (usually moms) did. In my case it wasn’t a hard decision though. I wasn’t very happy with the system where I worked, I was facing a bottleneck selection to advance in the career, and I worked part-time that my work progress was too slow. Then we had our second baby and my academic salary couldn’t meet the price of child-care for 2 kids. There are many more reasons but I will spare you from them for now. The decision was well thought out and 3.5 years on, I still have no regrets.

Some other stay-at-home-mothers I talked to had many other strategies and reasons. Some went on un-paid leave for 1-2 years while looking for solutions for child-care. Some use it as an opportunity to learn a new thing (while kids are at school). Others started home-based businesses that fit the school hours. And some simply wanted to take care of their children.

Those said, I understand that being able to quit a job is a privilege for many. With single academic salary, our family is always on a tight budget, but we are far from suffering. I know that some families need both parents to work in order to fulfill their financial need.

At least one parent works part-time

This seems to be quite a common solution, especially on Wednesday when there is no school (whole day or in the afternoon, depending on the school and age). Many of my neighbors who both parents work have one partner works for only 60-80%. For example, in one family, the mom works 80% and the dad works from home for one day per week. This mean they can already cover 2 out of 5 school days per week.

Grandparents

Then comes the grandparents in the picture. Again, taking the same neighbor as an example, their two grandmas take turn to come once a week, so that they are able to cover 3 out of 5 school days. I know that some of you have local partners and can benefit from having close family nearby. But while most of us (our family included) don’t have family members who live nearby, don’t forget that they can perhaps help during the school vacations. Flying grandparents from another continent may seem expensive but compared to prices for a week of holiday camp, it may be cheaper. Plus, you get to see your parents or in-laws again – this is of course only to be happy about if you had good relationships with them 😉

Accueil familial de jour (a.k.a. Maman du jour)

I observed that many neighbors have maman du jour for at least a couple of days per week, especially for the younger kids (1-4P HarmoS). They drop the kids in the morning at maman du jour‘s house and pick them up there again after work. The maman du jour will bring the kids to school, pick them up before noon, feed them lunch, bring them back again for the afternoon session, and pick them up after school. From what I understand, registered maman du jour are paid by the hour, and similar to public day-care, the tariffs are based on the total revenue of the family. For example, a neighbor told me they paid around chf6/h plus extra for lunch and snack.

More info about this child care option here.

Taking turn with other parents

Two of our neighbors have been successfully doing this 2 days per week for the last 3 years. One of them is a SAHM and the other mom works part time. The kids are in the same class at school and they seem to be happy with this arrangement.

Nanny or jeune fille au-pair

A nanny is pricey (chf3,800-4,000/month based on this) however seems to pay off if there is at least one other child who is not yet in school.

Jeune fille au-pair costs significantly less (estimation here), but as far as I understand you are only allowed to have one if your household speak French (as the au pair is expected to be there to learn the language).

Supervised lunch and after school activities (accueil parascolaire)

The accueil parascolaire in Lausanne are grouped according to the age and class of the children. The kids are dropped at a place in the morning, go back there for lunch break, and picked-up in the afternoon. There are different plans for lunch or help with homework depending on their age and class.

You can estimate how much it cost here.

The children take care of themselves

It may surprise you that in Switzerland one can leave their older children home alone – before, in between, and after school hours. As far as I know (please correct me if I’m wrong) there is no law in Switzerland that stated the legal age a child can be left alone. The parents simply use their common sense – don’t we all know that some children can be trusted already at age 7 while others still can’t at 12.

In most cases I know, the older children (usually starts at age 8-10) keep a house key with them so they can go home, eat a prepared lunch, and go back to school. Lunch break takes around 1.5hours and there are only a couple more hours after school until parents return home from school. The parents I talked to always had arrangements with family or neighbors living nearby so that the children could go to them or call them in case they needed help.

So there they are, the different options for school-aged child-care that I know of.

To compare the cost of accueil parascolaire and the cost of sending one child to a private school, I made a quick calculation based on this calculator, choosing the 100% care level and a total family income of chf120k (afaik, the lowest limit for the highest charge). The result is chf 1,918/month = chf 23,016/year.

cost-childcare-school

Then I picked the school fee of International School of Lausanne (period 2015-2016) at the equivalent to 1P HarmoS (4y):

  • Acceptance fee chf 3,500
  • Yearly tuition fee chf 25,000
  • Other academic related fees* chf 50
  • Transport cost ?
  • Total (at least) = chf 28,550

*I’m not sure what this is but I guess it may be extra fee per class as I heard from a friend sometime ago

Looking at this quick comparison, public school with full time care is still chf 5,000 cheaper per year vs private school. Though it could be different depending on the commune and the private school.

If both parents work (full- or part-time) the child-care cost is tax-deductible up to a certain amount (chf 7,100/child for 2014 tax.) I am not familiar with expat tax, but it seems that international school fee may also be deducted from tax under certain condition (more here.)

Strictly my personal opinion, the critical phases regarding child-care cost in public school only last the first few years. Once the child is old enough to go home, lunch and do homework alone, there is no more cost as school is free.

Finally, I’d recommend asking other parents in your area. They may give you other ideas! Some communes also have Le Jardin des Parents that can help you with more information.

I hope this long post helps!

Tell me what you think! Leave a comment – if possible here on the blog itself rather than only on facebook, or even better in both :)

*I’d like to declare that I am not against sending children to private schools – I fully understand that different families and children needs different arrangements. Public, private, home-schools… Let’s keep all education options open!

Thursday May 28th, 2015

Gurten Park – in Wabern (Bern)

My kids and I have often been in Bern within last few years as a close friend lived there. In fact, Bern had been our main destination for many school holidays. And we could never skip Gurten on a sunny day and it remains one of our most favorite spots in Bern. Bern is close enough from Lausanne to do a day trip (around 1h one way by train or car), and we could totally spend a whole day at Gurten alone.

Gurten for Bern is like Ouchy or Sauvabelin for Lausanne, it’s the place where the locals let go the busy city and breath the fresh air. It is located at the top of the hill above Bern, and not accessible by car. There is a train station (Wabern, Gurtenbahn) at the foot of the hill as well as car parking. Then everyone goes up the hill by climbing the stairs (free) or with the funicular “Gurtenbahn” (for a small fee).  Strollers can be brought in at the end of the funicular, and as far as I know, most (if not all) areas are stroller- and wheelchair-accessible.gurten-viewbelow

Once you get to the top and out of the funicular, you will be greeted by a view to the city of Bern, lots of greenery, and grazing highland cattles. Ahhhh…

A few steps from the funicular stations starts a huge space for younger kids, with tons of fun activities. My kids usually directly go to the kids cars (fueled by CHF1 coins. In the warmer months only)

gurtenpark-car1

gurten-car2

My oldest also love this hands-and-feet-on public art “Tinguely-Maschine” (below) where she can move a ball through the complicated tracks by using the tools correctly. This involves lots of pulling, pushing, pedaling, and lifting. A really amazing thing.

gurten-tinguely

There are also a huge climbing frame for the bigger kids as well as a smaller one for the tots.

gurten-climbing

And then… this super cute paddling pool “Aquaris”. The water may look very green but that’s because the pool quality is maintained naturally and organically. Yes, kids may sometimes chance upon a frog here.

gurten-pool1

This raft alone makes me want to be a child again. How fun it is!

gurten-raft

While we have only tried the parts of the park that were designated for younger kids, there are so many other things that people of all ages can enjoy here, including walking and bike tracks, outdoor live music and many festivals during the warmer months. In winter, when there is enough snow there are sled tracks and children ski schools. We always eat a picnic there but there are restaurants and food carts to go to when hunger strikes.

There is also a mini train that my kids have always had to sit on, but somehow I couldn’t find a photo in my computer. But you can see the photo of the mini train and many more on their website, or check the video below of the play area of the park.

 

 

The best of all, is that you don’t need to plan too much to go here. Just pick a sunny day to go to Bern and go up from the city!

 

Gurten_rauf

 

More info:
Gurten – Park im Grünen
3084 Wabern (Bern)
+41 31 970 3333

Wednesday May 27th, 2015

This & That Week #22 – May 2015

Sorry for not posting much lately. The last 2 off-days happened to be Thursday and Monday – the days my son goes to his Jardin d’enfants so there went my blogging mornings!

There are a few things I’d like to mention here:

  • Again, many awesome events this week and weekend including the Food Truck Festival, the popular UNIL mysteries, Museum Night at the Swiss Riviera, nature festival, running race in Lutry, and more – here!
  • La Fête des Voisins in Lausanne is on Friday 29th. If you want to know your neighbors better this is a good chance!
  • Picard starts in Suisse Romand… in Prilly! – via 24heures
  • Experience “Jardins des Iris” under the stars, 4 and 11 June 2015. Bring a flashlight or lantern! (By reservation. Adult only event) – More info

 

Hope to be back tomorrow with a new post! x

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