Visiting France with kids of any age is, simply, a no-brainer, especially if you’re looking for the perfect first-time trip to Europe for them. Let’s talk about some of the reasons why, and some additional considerations when planning a family trip to La Belle France.
France and Kids: Perfect Together
The French are (deservedly) proud of their cultural heritage, which means that almost every site you visit in France is well-organized for the tourist. But it also means that there’s plenty of funding for children’s programs at many major sites, so there are targeted activities, exhibits, and literature for the kids to take advantage of; and they’re often divided by age group, so older kids can enjoy the sites in their own way as well. Check the website of the attraction you’re interested in, and chances are you’ll find all the information you need to keep the kiddies happy.
As for traveling throughout the country, France’s infrastructure does have its downside, but for visitors it’s a breeze—the TGV trains are clean and modern, and the highways make road trips a breeze, cutting down significantly on cranky kids asking if we’re there yet.
Then there are the free and cheap things to do around any town, from carefully planned playgrounds and parks to the lovingly restored antique carousels you’ll find in practically every main square in the country. The outdoor seating at cafes and restaurants, particularly in pedestrian areas, let the kids burn off some energy under your watchful eye and in a pinch, chances are a waiter can always rustle up crayons and paper. And the cafe culture makes teens feel unspeakably cool, because who doesn’t feel cool sitting in a French cafe watching the world go by?
It’s a good idea to teach the kids a few words and phrases in French. This way, they will feel a little more comfortable hearing it spoken all the time, and they may even feel empowered to talk to a local child they come across. And as for you, having your kid try their French with a French person goes a long way towards breaking the ice!
French children are almost laughably fashionable, but not formally so. There’s no putting on your Sunday best for dinner out with the family. The French are much more about personal expression than putting on airs, fashion-wise. Make sure that their shoes are the most comfortable possible, because there’s a LOT of walking to be done.
The phrase “Nanny State” does not exist in France. You’re not going to find a barricade around a hole in the sidewalk, and it’s insanely easy to, say, crawl up a precipice or a precariously placed statue. And you may be surprised to see French parents let their kids play near, on, or under all manner of inappropriate or even dangerous things. So it may be good to have a talk before setting out for the day that it’s important to keep your eyes open, watch where you’re walking, and ask before playing with other kids.