Monday, April 20, 2009

Moving Toddlers and Young Children to NZ

If you have young children and are moving to a new country you know the lengths you will go to to make sure they are happy and settled. So I thought it might be helpful to write about some of the things I have done to help my two girls settle in as quickly as possible and make them feel at home and part of the community. These things have also stopped me from going round the bend (if you have young children at home full time you will know how easy it can be for them to drive you completely nutty).

We have been living in our house for almost 6 weeks now without any of our furniture or toys so it has been rather tricky entertaining the girls (they are aged 4 and 2). We have managed to borrow a TV which has helped but we have no chairs or seats, so watching it is somewhat uncomfortable. This means that I have tried to get them out of the house as much as possible.

In Wellington there are an enormous number of play areas and parks which is great when the weathers good. They are all really well maintained and extremely popular. They have some unusual climbing frames and swings and are very imaginatively set out to look like pirate ships or cars. My girls love them. Its also a great way to meet other Mums and Dads. I have nearly always found someone to chat to and they can let you know about other places and activities available to entertain your kids.

One of the best things I have found so far and has been a real godsend, is the local Toy Library. You pay a small joining fee and then pay about $2 to rent any toy you want for two weeks at a time. They have all kinds of toys from car and Lego sets to ride on cars and bikes. Ours is extremely well used and every time we go the car park is packed with parents unloading trampolines and kitchen sets from the back of their cars.

I would also suggest one of the first things you do when moving to a new area is check out the local library. Ours is brilliant for kids almost half of it is taken up with children's books and they have a local notice board packed with all the activities available for toddlers in the local area. The library also runs its own "Story Time" for toddlers where they read books and sing songs for half an hour each week. DD1 loves this but DD2 kept saying "Its boring Mummy, Its boring" in a very loud voice so I think I will have to give our local one a miss for a bit.

From the age of 3 children can go to Kindergarten in New Zealand and they are entitled to 20 hours free childcare which can be used in any child care provider of your choice. I recommend that you check out your local Kindergarten as most are attached to primary schools and its a great way to introduce children to the school routine and they will meet other children there own age.

Our local Kindergarten was oversubscribed and when I first approached them they couldn't take DD1 straight away and we were told we would have to wait a few months. They suggested that we come and have a look around anyway and that I could bring DD1 down anytime I liked as long as I stayed with her. This is very different to the way pre-schools work in the UK. The ones I have been to back in England were reluctant to let me come down without an appointment and wouldn't have welcomed parents just popping in whenever they liked. Here however parents can pop in for a coffee and a chat whenever they feel like it. Its far more open.

DD1 has now started Kindergarten as they made her a priority and let her in early. The children there appear to run wild but they actually do have many structured activities available to them and the emphasis is on learning through play. When I lasted popped in there where several boys wondering around purring and dressed up as cats, they were all clearly very happy and enjoying themselves. Its a huge contrast to the way things were done in Belgium where children are expected to sit in a classroom environment from the age of 2 and a half. The facilities are great with a large outdoor area with a massive covered sandpit, climbing frame, swings and ride on cars. I think its a great start to school life.

Children in New Zealand actually start school on the day of there 5th birthday. Its made a very big deal, with a "Happy Fifth Day" celebration at Kindergarten before they leave for school. Consequently children in NZ are always looking forward to starting school.

Kiwis are into sport in a big way. There are masses of clubs and sport facilities to take advantage of. I found the best way to find out about a lot of the clubs was to pop into the local sports centre and swimming pool. I have begun to take the girls to "Kindy Gym" which is run weekly for pre-schoolers. They spend an hour dancing and jumping on and off trampolines, walking along bars and generally running around at great speed. Its really good as they are then exhausted for the rest of the day. Other clubs available include pre-school football/rugby, swimming, cricket, sailing and tennis. I am sure there are many more I haven't spotted yet. DD1 has just started dance lessons which she loves, mainly because she gets to dress up like "Angelina Ballerina".

Plunket is a good organisation to get into touch with as they can give you information on a lot of the facilities and groups for young children in your area. This is there website -

Another good organisation in the Wellington area is Playcentres. They appear to be like a large playgroup organisation that also provides some childcare. I haven't been to the one in our area yet but as soon as I do I will report back. This is their website. -

We moved to New Zealand because we believed it would be a better place to raise our girls and so far we have not been disappointed. One of the things I love is the number of kids you see out on their bikes and skateboards and playing in the parks. It reminds me of the idyllic settings you used to read about in books by Enid Blyton when you were little. Children have been out over the Easter holidays playing in our local park and wooded area, climbing in trees and building camps. This is the kind of childhood I want for my girls.


  1. Although you wrote this awhile back - I am just now undergoing the "decision-making process" of should we move to Wellington?? So I've come upon your lovely positive blog. This post near about brought tears to my eyes and I can hope that I also find such a positive future for my daughter. I'm thoroughly enjoying reading your take on your move - and perhaps it will sway us in our deciding. DH's interview with Ministry of Fisheries is tomorrow! He's there now, our 11 month old daughter and I are in Oregon -waiting and secretly planning our move....

  2. Hi - Thanks for your kind comment. I am glad my ramblings are useful and good luck with your potential move!