At the start of the bilingual (or even trilingual) trip of life with kids you often are looking for places where they can meet and play with other children. It’s also (which is not less important) a moment when you can reconnect with your home country, take time to chat in your mother-tongue around a cup of coffee!
Oxford is packed with lots of different playgroups and little language schools! All these places give you the opportunity to connect with other multilingual families and to share cultural events and customs. It’s a new way for your children to explore your and their home-culture in another environment than at home. We do certainly all agree that this is extremely useful. It is during these meetings that they realise that they are part of a cultural and linguistic community.
I discovered the importance of such places since we are expatriates and as part of my work on Bilingual Families: Bringing Up Children between Cultures. That’s why I was thrilled to discover all the different playgroups and schools for children with an international background. Continue Reading
The Family Centre is slightly hidden behind some trees and bushes. These also give the place a cosy garden-atmosphere when you are outside the centre. And in fact, it’s a special spot, once the gate and two doors passed, you discover a rather unexpected venue. A giant place, like an enormous tent decorated with windows to see the sky… I can barely describe this incredible construction.
Entering Donnington Doorstep Family Centre feels like a harbour where you simply want to sit down to a cup of coffee and let your children play. A baby-corner, messy-play area, some tables with toys or craft activities, a place with books and some role-play equipment… your kids will be spoiled for choice!
For whom? Mums, dads, grandparents and carers with kids! There is also a Youth Group (read more: Good to know!).
Where? Townsend Square, OX4 4BB, Oxford. Contact: 72 77 21
Opening times? The family drop-in sessions are every day except for Sunday. Mon-Tue-Thu-Fri 10am-3pm, Wed 10am-1pm, Sat 10.30am-3pm.
What for? Lots of fun plays for Toddlers. The volunteers prepare every day tables with new activities. But the kids can also play outside, in a sandpit, cruise around with little cars or do some painting. Some days, the Centre offers special activities: Mondays Cooking in the afternoon, Tuesdays Singing with Lizzie (1.30pm-2pm), Wednesdays Bonfire in the garden, Saturdays Cooking session (11am). One of Donnington Doorsteps favourite activities is the messy-play (inside or outside). Be prepared and do not dress up your children in their best Sunday-clothes, in spite of some aprons to protect and some wellies to go out in the sand or if it’s raining in the mud 🙂 Continue Reading
If you’re in East Oxford, you’ve got access to many family-friendly places, including parks, restaurants, and cultural gems. One of the best places to spend an hour or two with children is the Pegasus Café, located on the first floor of the Pegasus Theatre. It’s no secret that it’s great for families – in fact, every time I’ve been there, every table included children!
The main menu includes sandwiches, soup, salads (but no hot mains), and cakes/treats, as well as tea and coffee. The kids’ menu features easy favourites such as cheese on toast and ham sandwiches. The Pegasus Café has free WiFi if you would like to stay a while and get online. Staff are always friendly and helpful and will bring your order to your table if you need assistance. Continue Reading
In the heart of the vibrant centre on Cowley Road – which is by the way the best place where you can find charity shops next to one another (ok, second best if you take Headington into account)– there is a good old Oxfam charity shop. A lovely meeting with the shop manager Nikoletsa (on the picture with Francesca, volunteer [left]) offered some interesting details about giving a second life to toys, children’s’ books and clothes!
There is no hazard! In 1943 when Oxfam’s adventure began the aim was to support the Greek population during World War II “when the shopmanager where I worked as a volunteer told me this, it became very special to me, I couldn’t imagine to work for any other charity…” tells Nikoletsa, who is herself Greek. She loves working here and underlines that she never looks at her watch whilst she is managing her volunteer-team and the Cowley Road shop.
A spot for second hand children’s stuff
Mother herself, Nikoletsa admits “I try to keep the children’s area stocked up and encourage to donate things. I know how important it is to find affordable things which are also in good quality. And for us at Oxfam we always remember that one or two pounds maybe seem to be not much here, but are hugely important in countries we support, like for example South Soudan.” Continue Reading
You can’t miss the playground between Abingdon Road and the famous Hinksey Splash Park! We discovered it on a somewhat “catastrophic” day in the summer of 2013, while the water games didn’t work. The neat recreational park looked like a rescue area back then! We had a memorable time – mothers sitting with their babies in the shade of the trees and children discovering the different games offered by the park.
Some months later, there was a flood at the playground and a part of it went underwater, however this didn’t stop the children from playing… It’s a good option when you think to yourself “gosh, where can we go to change a bit from the usual playground down the street?”
What? The Hinksey Park Playground
Where? Lake Street, off Abingdon Road, Oxford, OX1 4RP
How can I go there? Several busses coming from Oxford’s City Centre stop close to the park. You can also cycle there from the City Centre (Abingdon Road) or from East Oxford via Donnington Bridge (take the fabulous walk close to the Isis and then left [before the University College Boathouse], pass by the Four Pillars Hotel and here you are in front of the Hinksey Park Playground.) Continue Reading
Are you looking for a change? Do you feel like trying some exciting new slides or games? We recently went on a bike excursion to the Bury Knowles Park in Headington! Wait a minute, don’t lose interest… Headington is not that far away from Oxford as you might imagine… Frankly, this playground is worth seeing! Everything is about the atmosphere here. When you get in, you are not just crossing a gate, you are walking through a wardrobe as in Narnia’s story…
You will find that the playground games are full of fun and very imaginative: unicorn and crocodile see-saws, great swings and slides and a pirate ship immersed in sand with a water game area. I couldn’t resist trying a special spinning swing with my other half, the kind where you fly around in seconds… our children just howled on!
What? The Bury Knowle Park -London Road, Headington, Oxford, OX3 9HX
How can I go there? Several busses coming from Oxford’s City Centre stop nearby. You can also cycle there: take the Morell Avenue to avoid the Headington hill, then the Gipsy Lane which leads onto Headington Road.
Suitable for Babies and Toddlers? Yes! The playground is divided in two main parts: one of them –enclosed by yellow gates- is more suitable for the younger ones, up to toddle age. Outside this area (see picture) you have some exciting playground games for older or more adventures children (spinning swings, zip wire, climbing spaces).
During the last 70 years the world around birth has definitely changed: mothers are encouraged to eat and drink during labour, fathers are allowed and even expected to attend the birth, mothers can breastfeed confidently in public, parents are advised to choose their birthplace carefully…
Thanks also to the campaigns, contri-butions and engagements by the National Childbirth Trust, better known under the name NCT, these facts are now established. Set up 1957, the charity counts today 5,000 volunteers and more than 100,000 members in 320 local branches.
NCT’s main idea: Support for new parents on your doorstep for the first 1,000 days – which means from conception to the second birthday of your child.
What does NCT offer in Oxford? Different courses and activities are set up by the local branch: ante-and postnatal courses, a group about home birth support, Baby cafés (Breastfeeding support), First Aid courses, Bumps & Babies group, Speed Bump and Coffee groups. NCT Oxford offers also a hire service for Valley Cushions (to help mothers who have difficulties to sit after giving birth).
What are Bumps & Babies, Speed Bumps and Coffee Morning groups? One of the main aims of NCT is to offer places where parents-to-be and young parents can meet one another. There is nothing worse than to stay alone with this new and often overwhelming experience of expecting or having a baby.
- Coffee Mornings come off twice a month at a volunteer’s home. It’s a friendly and informal meeting between parents! Drop in whenever you can make it with your baby from 10am to noon. Need to talk about bad nights, want to have some good advice about weaning or just happy to have a chat with other parents – this is the right place to be! There’re two Coffee Morning Groups in Oxford: one South/East Oxford, another in West Oxford.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org (Sarah)
- Bumps & Babies takes place every Tuesday from 10.30am until noon at Wesley Memorial Church (New Inn Hall Street – OX1 2DH). Pregnant or with a tiny one (up to walking age), you are more than welcome! In a pleasant atmosphere there’re some toys for the babies and refreshments for the adults!
Contact: email@example.com (Hannah)
- Speed Bumps is a social event for parents-to-be, in the spirit of “speed dating” but simply for couples who are expecting a baby. Keep your eyes and ears open, the local NCT Team do their best to set up the next one in the summer of this year!
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org (Sarah)
Do I need to have a membership? Continue Reading
In my continuing search for Oxford’s best baby-friendly restaurants and cafés, one of the places I keep returning to again and again is the Jam Factory. I first discovered this fabulous café-restaurant when my baby was a tiny tot and I was a nervous new mother. With their friendly and attentive service, they made me feel that both I and my baby were very welcome. Staff are great at chatting to babies and toddlers and they’ll also take it upon themselves to do you little services here and there – like bringing you hot water to warm your baby’s bottle or delivering your drink to your table if they see your hands are full and you can’t make it to the bar. Continue Reading
For some it’s the secret garden, for me Restore Café is the oasis of Cowley Road. Between the international food-shops, restaurants, charity shops and some pharmacies, eyes, ears and mind sometimes need a space to calm down, sit and relax. The Restore Garden Café is one of these special places. And it’s particularly beautiful because children are more than welcome – which you do not feel in all cafés, right?! Continue Reading
“I discovered Rainbow House more than twenty years ago, when my first son was little and I was looking for a place to meet friends who were living on the opposite side of Oxford” relates Katherine, the coordinator of Rainbow House. And in fact, this great café is just behind Cornmarket street, where you have to change buses when you want to go from one side of the town to the other.
Based in the Church Hall of Wesley Memorial Church, supported but not run by the church, Rainbow House opens three days a week to welcome Under 5’s with their parents or carers. The friendly atmosphere, home-made food for reasonable prices, and a large space for children to play add up to a relaxing site in central Oxford.
“I like having lunch with my children here” highlights Rebecca who regularly meets friends there. “Once the children are fed they can play and you can have lunch, maybe also a coffee, and at the same time you chat with other mums!” Another strength of Rainbow House, is that you feel at home without having to clear up tables afterwards! “But we kindly ask you to bring the dishes and cutlery in the boxes provided after your lunch” asks Katherine who is also in charge of the team of volunteers. Generally four volunteers, two in the kitchen and two at the buffet, help her to keep Rainbow House running! Continue Reading