Paris is a wonderful place to grow up…there are glorious parks and museums have special education programs for children. Extra-curricular activities range from music to sports to art and are encouraged, often arranged, by both public and international schools. Children are encouraged to explore interests and develop aesthetic hobbies. The opportunities are endless, which ensures that each child has the possibility to pursue his or her individual interests.

As a general rule, Parisian parents are strict and children are well-behaved. They wait patiently in lines, stay off the grass in parks if it is en repose (resting), sit quietly in restaurants while their parents finish their meals and display all of the social graces that the Parisians treasure. However, children will be children and it is not uncommon to see a parent spank a misbehaving child in a park or restaurant. While this may be unsettling to some, it is quite ordinary. Expect sideway glances or downright stares if you have a child who has a temporary behavioral lapse in public.

There are many resources and publications available for mothers and children both in English and in French that will help ease the adjustment period of a new environment.

  • Message is an English-speaking support group for families with young children. They arrange meetings and events, classes and play groups. http://www.messageparis.org
  • http://www.parismomes.fr is the online version of the bi-monthly magazine that lists activities and interests for children from 0-12 in Paris. The original publication is in French, but they have just launched an English version Paris with Kids.
  • http://www.sortiraparis.com has a good section for what to do and where to go with children including an interactive calendar with daily events. Only in French, but easy to navigate.
  • http://www.wondercity.com/paris.html is a “wonder”ful resourse that allows you to find children’s activities based on age, interest, location or all of the above!
  • Le Paris des Tout-Petits, Le Paris des Juniors, and Les Mercredis de Petits Parisiens are small books (in French) that have information on classes in dance, music, gymnastics, riding, martial arts and sports.
  • The centre d’animation and the mairie of each arrondissement provide classes for 3 year olds to adults. Classes are in French. Visit your mairie for a directory of activities.

Child-friendly Restaurants

Don’t expect many restaurants to have highchairs, booster seats or even kid’s menus. There are exceptions and there are some restaurants that cater towards children at specific times. Fast food chains, like McDonald’s, are abundant in Paris and can be comfortable and easy. Other citywide chains that have children’s menus are Chez Clement, Hippopotamus, Buffalo Grill, Bistro Romain and Leon de Bruxelles for mussels and yummy French fries.

Brunch is considered a family affair and there are quite a few venues where children’s entertainment is provided to keep them busy while the adults enjoy the food and some quiet conversation. OuBrucher (http://www.oubruncher.com) allows you to search for brunches with children’s formulas. Below are some of the best brunch options.

  • O Restaurant is a boat that floats on the Seine in Levallois-Perret just outside of Paris. For Sunday brunch, they have special children’s menus as well as balloons, crayons, face-painting and shows to entertain the children while the adults eat. 47, Quai Michelet, Levallois Perret – 01 47 58 54 05, http://www.orestaurant.fr
  • La Gare also provides games and shows for children during Sunday brunch. 19, Chassee de la Muette, 75016 – 08 25 00 12 22 http://www.restaurantlagare.com
  • Makassar Lounge and Restaurant is part of the Hotel Renaissance Paris l’Arc de Triomphe. There is a corner for the children with their own small buffet, one or two entertainers and a TV with cartoons during the Sunday brunch. 39 avenue de Wagram, 75017 – 01 55 37 55 57 http://www.makassarloungeandrestaurant.fr
  • River Cafe has entertainment for children on Saturdays and Sundays at lunchtime. Expect the same diversions including face paintings, games and more from a professional entertainer. Keep in mind that this is a lunch and not a brunch buffet. 146 Quai de Stalingrad, 92130 Issy-les-Moulineaux,(0)1 40 93 50 20 http://www.rivercafe.fr

And, not just for brunch:

  • Les 400 Coups was started by two moms and includes a play area for children 0-8, workshops and entertainment for children – for the parents, there is a press area and WiFi. 12, bis rue de la Villette 75019 – 01 40 40 77 78, and a second location at Cinémathèque française, 51 rue de Bercy 75012; http://www.les400coups.eu
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