Expat Children Guide
Auckland is a great city for families and a wonderful place to raise children. Wherever you go in the city, you run into parents with children – at restaurants and cafes as well as on the beaches and at the numerous parks that dot the landscape. On weekends, it seems nearly every grassy area in the city is hosting youth soccer or rugby game or a cricket match. And those kids who aren’t playing a team sport are likely competing in a youth-run or triathlon, or splashing in the water, or playing on a playground.
Auckland is a safe city with a very low crime rate. Gun ownership is not legal for most residents, so you don’t need to worry that your child’s next playdate might take place at a house with a weapon. Kidnappings and other crimes against children are extremely rare. This is not to say you don’t need to take any precautions whatsoever – when it comes to children, it is always wise to use common sense. But as far as issues of safety and security are concerned, Auckland is a great place to grow up.
Most parents feel comfortable letting their children walk to school or the local dairy, and it’s fine for older kids to go to the beach with their friends to “hang out” – provided they know how to swim, of course! The waters of the Waitamata Harbour are calm and safe. However, letting your children tackle the massive waves and dangerous rips of the West Coach beaches alone is not for the faint of heart.
The mild climate and proximity to beaches, forests and mountains means Auckland is packed with activities for children. These range from typical neighbourhood playgrounds to full-fledged recreation destinations ranging from Snowplanet (http://www.snowplanet.co.nz) – an indoor downhill skiing facility in the North Shore suburb of Silverdale – to Tree Adventures (http://www.treeadventures.co.nz), an adventure course park in Northwest Auckland’s Woodhill Forest. There’s also a good zoo, the transportation museum MOTAT, art classes, martial arts, Girl Guides and Boy Scouts and many more activities.
New Zealanders’ focus on the youngest members of their society begins at birth. Preschools and kindergarten are very popular, and primary school, which begins at age 5, is an extremely nurturing and fun environment for kids. Education in New Zealand is “child-centred,” focusing on developing kids’ creativity, self-esteem and thinking skills, as opposed to strict discipline and rote memorization.