Playing in Paris with Little Ones: What Local Families Know

Bonjour les amis! We've been back from France for four months now and I'm feeling the distance. It's been nice to send and receive new year's cards this month (as the French do so throughout the month of January), but a completely unreasonable part of me wishes we could have stayed for the whole school year! Some of you are hoping to take your children to Paris someday soon just as my husband and I did. If you go, you should know about these two lesser-known family-oriented places that will give your children opportunities to play and speak in French:

1. Ludothèques:

  Le Ludothèque de Quimperlé  via Flickr

Le Ludothèque de Quimperlé via Flickr

  My son coloring a Keith Haring design at Maison des Petits, Le Centquatre, Paris

My son coloring a Keith Haring design at Maison des Petits, Le Centquatre, Paris

A ludothèque is essentially a toy and game space created for families as a place for social connection. (Ludique means "playful" and "fun"!) Many French ludothèques have a library-loan type system in place so that parents can check out games or toys to take home for a while. The spaces are usually geared towards the preschool and early school-age set, but many are designed for older children too. Most ludothèques have limited hours, but I can't think of a better way to meet local families when you're traveling with children. You can find a list of Parisian ludothèques here, and elsewhere in France here.

2. Le Centquatre:

  le 104.fr by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra

le 104.fr by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra

Every city should have a place like le Centquatre! It's Paris' community arts center, and if you time your visit right, you'll be amazed at what this place offers Parisians for free. When we visited, we saw people krunking, practicing acrobatics, ballet, and flamenco (in full costume), all in an ethereal space set to music. Towards the back of the hall, we were able to catch an old black-and-white film at a temporary exhibit celebrating 100 years of Cinema Gaumont. Then, downstairs, our children delighted in racing through a labyrinth made of rolls of corrugated cardboard. But our favorite area was the Maison des Petits, a playroom and art room for children 5 and younger. The supervisors were kind and talkative, and said that although many Parisian families use the playroom, they also receive visitors from all over the world. The play space is limited to 30 people, so check the hours before you go, and arrive early! (They let my six-year-old daughter enter along with her younger siblings.)

  My children climbing on the sculpture outside the entry of le Centquatre

My children climbing on the sculpture outside the entry of le Centquatre

In a future post, I'd love to feature some family-friendly cafés in Paris. What have been some of your favorite children's play places where you live or visit?

Bon weekend!