Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Taking a Toddler to Paris

Left: Entering the Hall of Mirrors, at Versailles

Watching the boats on the Seine.

Noah, running towards Rodin's house.

Outside Versailles.

Outside the Louvre.

In the Louvre.

My husband, son Noah (20 months old) and I just returned last week from a 2-week trip to Paris. I have been getting a lot of questions (including a few along the lines of "Why the heck would you want to take a toddler to Paris?!?") and requests for tips. I realize my experience is only one of many, and every child is different. Nonetheless, I will give what information I can that may be useful to some of you considering such an endeavor.

First of all, let me say that it was well worth it for us to enjoy this adventure with him. And, I dare to say that although this is probably not a city that would come to mind as a fun place for young children to visit, he did take delight in a lot of it. In my opinion, it is what you make it for them.

So, here are some suggestions.
  1. Rent an apartment - These are mainly in the same price range as hotels, but you save more money if you can make at least one meal (breakfast, for us) in the apartment. Our apartment was small, but included a kitchen area, a bedroom, a playpen for our son to sleep in, internet, a cd player, and a washer/dryer (you can pack a little lighter and just do the minimal amount of laundry you need to, while you're there).
  2. Bring your baby carrier! If you have an Ergo, or a similar carrier for older babies, it would help to use it in conjunction with your stroller. (We had meant to bring ours, but it was the one thing we forgot!) Many museums require you to check your stroller, (Versailles for one). I may have had Madonna arms before we left, but they were sure Arnold Schwarzenegger arms upon our return, especially since he is in an "only mommy can carry me" phase.
  3. Prepare to do a lot of lifting Even if you follow tip #2, you STILL will have a lot of lifting to do. The subway system is very extensive, which is great, but it meant a lot of walking up and down stairs underground to change lines. Even outside of the metro, it seemed that we were constantly lifting his royal highness (in his royal stroller) up and down stairs.
  4. Few restaurants have high chairs And the mess this can create on your child's lap, can make the washer/dryer, mentioned in point #1, that much more valuable!
  5. Be flexible about where you are willing change your child's diaper, because you won't find many change tables around! Vacationing in a warmer month meant that I could change his diaper in parks (behind a bush, of course! I wouldn't want to commit a faux pas!). If it's just pee, you can always change them in the bathroom of a restaurant. I just had Noah stand up, and I'd whip a new diaper on him. (Actually, funny sidepoint. He started to play a game called "Pee before mommy can get the new diaper on". He found that quite hilarious. One of the 'delights' of his trip, no doubt!)
  6. The Parisians are not as tolerant about breastfeeding as Torontonians are. Just choose to find humour in the disdainful looks you receive. We were prepared for this, so we found it funny when a few elderly women were particularly aghast at the sight of me breastfeeding Noah. (Of course, it could be that Noah is such a big boy that they wondered why I was still breastfeeding a 4-year-old.)
  7. Get as many tickets (for museums, etc.) as you can online. Waiting in line is not fun. Waiting in line with a toddler - less fun.
  8. Most playgrounds aren't really toddler-friendly Noah wasn't able to climb onto most of the structures. They were for children at least over 2, I would say. Also, I never saw a normal swing the whole time I was there. There are these crazy, two-seater swings you must pay for (and operated by an attendant) that look as if the children will fall right out of them.
  9. Things your toddler probably CAN do There is a playground at Luxemburg Gardens that is extensive and has something for ALL ages. Also, Paris is full of carousels, found randomly on the streets or in parks. Parc D'Acclimation is a great place for kids. Here you can find a small zoo, a waterpark, a playground and a small amusement park with rides for young children.
  10. Don't assume your child is too young to enjoy the things you do Noah did enjoy walking around the Louvre, Versailles, and various other museums, though his favourite seemed to be Rodin's Museum.


  1. Hi Charla,

    Great first post!


  2. My wife and I are going to Paris in November with our then 20 month old daughter and your blog was very insightful. I'm looking for any helpful information for I'll be alone with my daughter from mornings to the afternoons, while my wife will be attending workshops and seminars for her work. I will surely try to read more of your blogs.
    If I have some questions about Paris and an energetic toddler, would you be so kindly to help a worry wort of a dad :)
    -Giovanni Liauw

  3. Thank-you, Giovanni! Please email me if you have any more questions about entertaining a toddler in Paris!

    1. Thank you Charla. I like your blog very much it already gave me plenty of ideas. Keep up the great work!