Last August the four of us were in Finland: Samuel, almost four months, Eva, who was almost two, and Dani and I… a few more. We spent a fantastic week in Santa Claus’ homeland, the country of lakes and forests, saunas, mumins (MUMIIIINS! Do you remember these adorable characters?) of the craziest competitions such as Air Guitar Play or Phone- throwing, etc.
Finland and children
Warning! Consider if you want to continue reading because you’re going to get green with envy…because the facts are the following: they have a maternity leave of one year (with their complete salary) which can be extended for a total of three years. If the mother wishes to reinstate earlier, there are financial aids provided by the government to hire a babysitter and nursery schools are free.
Since 1938, the Institute for Social Security of Finland distributes a box for every birth with the basic supplies for the baby’s first year (they can choose a check instead, but most Finns prefer the box). The idea behind the development of this aid is there should be equality between all children since the beginning of their lives.The box carries inside winter clothes, linens, clothing in neutral colors so there are no differences between boys and girls, toiletries and accessories for the mother.
In most cities, public transport is free if you travel with a stroller.
Their educational system (free) is one of the best in the world according to the OCDE. Just like in Spain…
What to do with children in Helsinki
- Playgrooooounds! Prepare yourselves to find one every two blocks. All of them equipped, apart from the typical swings, with sandboxes, tricycles and/or chests packed with toys. In Finland things DON’T get stolen: all children return the toys to where they belong as soon as they’ve finished playing. If you forget your phone, jacket or camera, it will remain on the same spot the next day.
- Island of Suomenlinna. Highly recommended because it is for kids and adults to enjoy. This island is World Heritage and it has a magnificent fortress, typical wooden houses and… The toy museum!
The island is reached by boat (you can either take the ferry or the water bus from the Marketplace). During summertime, this will be a fantastic 20 minute tour while you admire the view of Helsinki and hundreds of small sailing boats. I can guess that in the Winter it must be a fascinating experience to cross the frozen waters. My recommendation is that you don’t bring the stroller with you, as the ground is quite stony.
- Going to a I beg your pardon? With children?? Finns, believe it or not, do it. We had the immense fortune of spending a day at some friends’ place close to Helsinki and they explained that family gatherings usually take place in saunas. There is one in every house and in apartment blocks they are comunal. We tried, but our little ones aren’t used to it so we had to take turns.
- Visiting a mall. This was the recommendation that the Spanish ambassador, mother to a one year old girl gave us. Apparently, they all have looooads of entertainment for children. That way one of the parents can do their shopping while the other one keeps the little beasts entertained without an effort (nice marketing strategy by the way).
- Stroll by the promenade with a good ice cream. It’s really comfortable to walk with the stroller and beautiful to see on one side the small boats and islands and on the other, the nicest houses in town, There are little stands where you can stop for a coffee and if you’re lucky you can even laugh at a distracted tourist who has had their ice cream stolen by a seagull.
What to do with children in the rest of the country
- Moominworld. MUMIIIINS! Aren’t these hippos adorable? Do you remember them? We didn’t get to visit these little creature’s world and enjoy its attractions but we did buy something for Eva as a souvenir at the Moomin Store in Helsinki.
- Visiting Santa Claus in Lapland. An amazing experience for any kid, with the added appeal for parents to cross the Arctic Circle.
- Staying at one of the thousands of small cabins to rent in the woods. Finland is the country of lakes and forests, the landscape is stunning! Which child doesn’t enjoy going on an adventure in the wild?
Tips and curiosities
- It’s one of the safests countries in the world. An experiment was carried out in which hundreds of wallets were left deliberately in bars, parks, squares… And 99% of them were returned with an intact content.
- When its snows they ski all the way to work. Some fun!
- Don’t be surprised if you see children taking off their shoes as soon as they get to the playground. Finnish parents are aware of the benefits of going barefeet and they do it whenever they can (even if the rest of us are freezing).
- Don’t be afraid of grocery shopping at supermarkets. Prices are quite similar to Spain. We were really surprised because accommodation and restaurants are expensive, but it was convenient for us to organize supper at home and having snacks for the children.
- I would suggest that you check if some crazy event is going to take place during your trip. I can’t think of anything funnier and unforgettable than watching a “carry your wife” or an “Air Guitar Play”contest.
- If you’re lucky you might coincide with Restaurant Day, which takes place four times a year: each family can set up their own restaurant for a day and sell their culinary creations at home or on the street. It’s an awesome and fun way to meet new people, getting to discover their homes and cooking style. This idea has become so popular that has spread to other cities over the globe, like Jerusalem, Lisbon, San Diego or Singapore.
To tell you the truth, I would have never chosen for myself a cold destination for a trip, but both Finland and Iceland have made me change my opinion. They have incredible landscapes and a lifestyle and upbringing philosophy that is very similar to ours.
If you’re planning to visit Finland, make sure to check out this website. Its content and aesthetics are great. That’s all about our experience in Finland. Stay tuned until our next family adventure!