As most children in the Netherlands prepare to celebrate the period of Sinterklaas, some of us expats can be left overwhelmed with this uniquely Dutch tradition, without understanding the history behind it. Some aspects might be shocking (blackface), others might be endearing (leaving carrots in shoes for Sint’s horse). Join us as Delft MaMa Anitha Raj, hailing from India, shares a little background on Sinterklaas followed by her observations of this annual tradition.
by Amanda de Souza, with Onica King
One of the enduring memories I have of childhood are birthday parties, the ones my mother held for my brother and I. She was a born extrovert and revelled in entertaining children. She would come to life during those parties, jettisoning daily cares for a few hours and casting everyone in her magical spell. Read more
In See you at DULI, we met easy-going Carolina Nesi of DULI, a place where you can find international/multilingual books for children and adults, as well as workshops and courses aimed at both children and adults. Carolina has a passion for books and it shows in the book-filled interior of the small shop. The centerpiece of the shop, however, is a long table that can seat children and/or adults for courses and workshops. This piece focuses on one series of workshops for parents: the Parents’ Evenings at DULI.
Engaging topics made accessible
Sitting with Carolina over a cup of coffee, she described how she started to feel suffocated by the lack of adult stimulation in the daily grind of raising young children (sound familiar?). This was her biggest motivation in setting up Parents’ Evenings at DULI. Held in the shop after-hours, these evenings create a space for parents to participate in a discussion, usually of a philosophical nature, led by an expert in the field.
Carolina admits that English is not a strong language for her, and she was committed to ensuring the workshops would be accessible to a diverse group. To facilitate the accessibility, group sizes are limited, with an expert giving a presentation to no more than 10 people seated around the table. The presentation is interspersed with opportunities for questions and discussions. In fact, as a deaf person who normally struggles with lipreading and following conversations in a group environment, I found it easy to follow along with everyone in this format.
Starting last spring, the Parents’ Evenings covered topics ranging from happiness to internet safety and international childhood. When asked how she chose the topics, Carolina replied that she simply asked people what they were curious about. She then looked around for experts that best fit the topics. While the coordination of it all can be quite daunting at times, Carolina maintains a ‘learn-by-doing’ attitude as she plans more Parents’ Evenings in the coming months. [From the editor: there’s a sneak peek at the autumn Parents’ Evenings schedule at the end of this article!]
So, what are these Parents’ Evenings like? Last April I joined one; let’s take a look!
A first-hand look at Parents’ Evening at DULI
“Raising a Child of the World”—held at DULI last April—was led by Dr. Ute Limacher-Riebold of Ute’s International Lounge. Ute was perfectly suited to lead this talk both personally and professionally. Her research focuses on multilingualism and international families, and she herself grew up as an expat and is raising her expat family in the Netherlands.
The description of her talk referred to “third culture kids” – children who grow up in a country/culture different from that of their parents (first defined by Ruth Hill Useem). I’d read a bit of Pollock and van Reken’s Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds, so I was curious to see what Ute would bring to the table (no pun intended).
There were six of us in attendance, all of us representing different nationalities and language backgrounds. After starting with introductions, we learned about collective experiences of international children growing up outside their parents’ home culture.
Ute likened our international kids to plants in pots—a plant in a pot is much more mobile than a plant in the ground. However, it needs special nurturing in order to thrive. Depending where that plant-in-a-pot is located, different kinds of nurturing is needed. When transitioning to a new place, our kids also need different kinds of special nurturing to ensure that they can adjust well and thrive in the new environment.
Throughout Ute’s talk, we had opportunities to ask questions and share our own observations. Ute’s personable approach made us feel that our input was valuable to the discussion. The setting of the talk created a feeling of information-sharing rather than being lectured at by an expert. I left feeling empowered with more tools in my mama toolkit to help my daughter thrive as a multilingual and multicultural child.
Parents’ Evenings at DULI in a nutshell
Parents’ Evenings give us the opportunity to explore engaging topics in an accessible format, and allows us to bring up burning questions with an expert in the field. On top of that, it is a chance to have stimulating and eye-opening conversations with a dynamic group of people. All in all, a fabulous night out.
I look forward to seeing the new talks Carolina arranges next. On my wish list is a talk about balancing personal goals with the responsibilities of parenthood. What kinds of topics are on your wish list?
Ute’s International Lounge – The homepage of Dr. Ute Limacher-Riebold, showcasing her work and current offerings—including, consultancy, book club meetings, and courses.
TCK World: The official home of Third Culture Kids – describes Ruth Hill Useem’s research in this area and provides some useful links for networking with other TCKs.
Third Culture Kids: Growing up among worlds, written by David C. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken (sends you to Amazon.de page)
From the editor:
Curious about upcoming Parents’ Evenings at DULI?
Thursday, 13 September | Elegance of Living – Introduction to Access Bars. Aimed at creating a world of consciousness and oneness, where everything exists and nothing is judged, Access Bars is a gentle hands-on technique that quiets the mind.
Thursday, 18 October | The Science of Happiness—led by Mrs. Anna Blasiak—introduces us to scientific facts about happiness; and we discuss the role of our actions and attitude on attaining happiness.
Thursday, 22 November | Book discussion of How To Talk So Kids Will Listen. And Listen So Kids Will Talk.
[Editor’s note: 22 November has been changed to 8 November.]
For more information, contact DULI. Happy discussing!
by Gaelle Fourcade
with Onica King
Mom-1: I heard “Swim Like A Fish” has a really good swim program.
Mom-2: Yeah, I’ve already registered Katie there.
Mom-3: Isn’t your Katie just 4 years old?
Mom-2: Yes, but there’s a waiting list and I want to make sure she gets a spot on a day we can be there. Your Jacob is turning 4 right, where are you thinking of registering for swim lessons?
Mom-3: Ahhh, um. . .
I first discovered the importance of Dutch swim lessons for children just as I began asking around for information about schools for our eldest daughter. At first, I thought it was a bit early to start thinking about swim lessons, yet alone already registering my 4 year old for swim class. But ongoing conversations and the evident parental stress associated made it seem just as important as choosing a good school.
Out of my depth
You see I’m initially from France. There, schools still provide swim lessons to students. So of course, I had no idea what to look for and what to expect with respect to swim diplomas in the Netherlands.
Diploma A, B, C, badje 1-2-3, colored armbands, etc. I quickly became overloaded and confused with this new vocabulary on swim lessons. Oh, and of course, it‘s all in Dutch — a language I understood very little of at the time. It took me months before I understood ZWEM-ABC (literally SWIM-ABC) referenced the various diploma levels. Diploma A was the first swim diploma that included basic swimming techniques and specific swim distance requirements. The progression to Diploma B adds more techniques and longer distances. C indicates the most advanced level of the diplomas in this category.
Letters, numbers, colors and more
After a bit of research and experience (we’ll soon be taking my 3rd through the process) I quickly became intimately acquainted with the mysteries of the ‘badjes’ A1 through A6, and its associated color armbands, red, blue, green, yellow orange and bronze. All beginners start in badje A1 with red armbands. As they begin to better coordinate their movements and master the required skills and techniques of each badje, children receive the ‘reward’ of a new colored armband — much to their pleasure and excitement — before progressing to the next badje.
All this culminates in their ability to swim at least 50 meters using both breast and back strokes and swim 3 meters underwater through a large ‘escape’ hole. Those requirements increase to 75 meters and 6 meters under water for the B certificate. The C diploma requires 100 meters of surface swimming with a few additional obstacles.
The NRZ (The National Board of Swimming Safety) publishes a list of requirements (in Dutch) for each diploma.
Time and money
When we decided to inscribe our daughter, we had no clue how long it would take to achieve completion of ZWEM-ABC. It took us almost 4 years!
Ok, we did not attend during summer holidays (which can be a really good way to speed up your diploma). Our daughter also had ear tubes, so she suffered intermittent ear infections. Either way, I shudder to calculate how much her diplomas cost in total. However, be prepared to invest some time and money. The swim school we attended suggests, “the average duration to obtain the A-diploma is 50 hours, for B- diplomas it’s 10-15 hours and for C-diploma it’s 12-15 hours.” DMM’s recent “Get Out!” blog lists the various swim schools in Delft. Check around to find out more about various types, times and costs of swim programs.
A tropical oasis
So every Thursday afternoon we gathered the swim gear, our daughter and her little brother to head to the swimming pool.
Now that’s some heat and humidity for you. It is literally like entering a sauna!
During the winter, you have to remember to dress in layers, and then proceed to unload yourself of those endless layers as you enter the tropical environment that is the swim school. Then in the summer, you observe the children with envy wishing you too were able to spring in the water to cool off just a bit.
Oh, and let us not forget the entire pre- and post-preparation and seating to contend with. Parents and children alike converge upon the changing room entrance 5 minutes before class time in anticipation. Once the green light flickers to ‘signal go’, everyone enters to help their little 4, 5 and 6 year olds change into their respective swim clothing. Should your session start as another ends (or vice-versa), that means there’ll be as many as 30 – 60 little swimmers and their parents — some like me with younger children in tow — trying to find a corner to maneuver.
Finally, after 5 minutes of rushing to get little arms and legs in and out of clothing, you emerge (more often than not, sweating) from the changing rooms in search of a place to sit and observe your budding swim aficionado, while in my case — also entertaining another toddler. Thank goodness for the well-positioned contained play areas on offer at most of Delft’s swim schools, provided specifically for the welcomed distraction of non-swimming little siblings.
Oh the pomp and circumstance
“Afzwemmen” another Dutch word one becomes well acquainted with in the journey towards ZWEM-ABC completion. Once your child progresses through their respective swim lessons, they are then invited to ‘pass’ for their diploma. Time for them to demonstrate their newly acquired swim prowess before receiving each of their swim diplomas. It’s also time for fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, siblings and the entire list of proud friends and family members to come together in a hot, humid swim school to celebrate the accomplishment (and let’s not forget freedom) of completing a swim diploma.
The whole event is actually a bit of a show. By the time your little swimmer gets cleared for afzwemmen, they have already passed everything necessary in the lessons. Afzwemmen just serves as a final step to acknowledge the investment made by all.
To be honest, despite the sarcasm and slight inconvenience, I have been impressed by the way my children learned and mastered different swimming techniques at their individual pace. The instructors were nice, some very funny and popular. They always had a little time of “grappig” (fun and laughter) during the lesson, and they knew our kids well. I could always ask information about their level and their competencies.
I admire the kids being so strong and courageous for such an intensive hour, and I am so pleased that they learnt to swim in clothes, which in this country — maybe more than others — makes absolute sense!
Last weekend I sat down for tea with Carolina Nesi, the easy-going Brazilian woman who started up DULI. For those who haven’t discovered it already, DULI is a unique concept, and a gem for expat families in the heart of Delft. Part international bookstore and part birthday party venue, the English-language workshops — for both kids and adults — sit at the heart and soul of DULI. In this article, I share the fruits of my conversation with Carolina: what DULI is and how it was created. Read more
Welcome to our first article in a series about toys and play. Is your little one bored with his or her mountain of toys, or are you looking to reduce that mountain without sacrificing variety and quality? Perhaps you are looking to try different types of toys before buying? The SpeelOké toy library in Delft allows your little one to BORROW toys. Read on as Erna Bekink, the chairwoman of the SpeelOké toy library describes what the library is all about.
By: Erna Bekink, SpeelOké toy library
SpeelOké is a toy library in Delft, founded by volunteers to promote playing with all sorts of toys so children can have fun and develop on several dimensions: moving, sensing, developing creativity and fantasy, building and constructing, puzzles, language and thinking games and so on…
Playing is learning
At our library, parents can borrow toys suitable for children from 0 to 12 years old for three weeks. Every three weeks you and your children can select other toys, which allows them to play and have fun with a regularly rotating selection of toys targeting different dimensions of their development.
If you have any questions, ask our volunteers. They are happy to recommend toys that are suitable for your child following the “toy circle,” which we describe briefly below. Our volunteers know what is in stock for each age group and which development phase those toys are suitable.
We make use of the “toy circle” (see figure to the right), a handy guide for choosing toys in all the different development areas: such as movement material, sensory material, fantasy material, etc.
Each category of toys (see the colors in the circle) makes a different contribution to the development of a child. Ask yourself with which category of toys your child plays with regularly, and then choose toys from another category. For example: if you want to stimulate your child’s creativity and fantasy, you can borrow dress-up clothes, Playmobil, a doctor’s set or a doll’s house. These kinds of toys stimulate the imagination of a child.
The subscription fee is €10 per year for one family. The administration fee for new subscribers is €3,50.
With one subscription you can borrow three toys every three weeks. You also pay a small amount for every borrowed toy (€0,50, €1 or €1,50 – depending on the value of the toy).
SpeelOké is located at Van Kinschotstraat 21 in Delft.
- Opening hours
SpeelOké is open every Saturday morning from 10.00 till 12.00. We are closed during school holidays. Check our opening hours here.
Become a volunteer!
If your children start borrowing toys at SpeelOké, there is a possibility for parents to volunteer–our foundation is run by enthusiastic volunteers who spend around 3 hours per month on a Saturday morning in the SpeelOké toy library.
As a volunteer, you can also take part in other activities such as the PR commission or the toy selection and purchasing commission.
Are you interested in meeting new people and being part of an enthusiastic, cheerful team of volunteers? Don’t hesitate to come by and take a look at our toy library or phone our chairwoman for more information: Erna Bekink at 06-242 06 378 – We would love to meet you!
Notes from the editors:
The editors want to thank Annemarie Laan-Oorthuizen of Bloei for the use of her photos in the article (see her article about the SpeelOké library in Dutch here). Bloei is an extensive online resource with guides and blogs in Dutch for parents of children aged 0-12 living in the Delft area. On Bloei you’ll also find an interactive calendar with a short description of fun kid-friendly activities. Looking for something offered in languages other than Dutch? Check this page regularly for classes, activities, services and relevant websites available in other languages.
Next up in this series, Delft Mama Zdenka Prochazkova talks about using music to help your young child’s development, and how to choose the right musical toys for your little one’s age level. In the meantime, play on!
Get Littles Up And Out With Fun Activities Around Delft
Recently relocated to Delft and in search of something to keep your littles active? Or perhaps Lynette Croxford’s recent “How to Delft” blog has inspired you to explore what’s on offer for your primary schoolers outside the classroom. Well thankfully, Delft has a host of activities to keep most children entertained and interested, with the added benefit of helping them integrate into their new surroundings.
But where to start?
To help you coordinate your little’s free time like a native, the Delft Mama blog editing team rounded up a list of fun activities and resources that you and your children can enjoy to make their experience in Delft fun, productive and worthwhile.
So here you go, 6 ways to help your primary school kids GET OUT in Delft.
Get physical with sports
Sports can teach children important lessons in teamwork, patience, and perseverance. It keeps them physically fit as well as teaches them the importance of success through hard work and the acceptance of failure while striving to improve. There are all sorts of sports programs offered by schools and organizations in Delft. Here are just a few.
- Base- and Softball
- Horseback Riding
- Martial Arts
- Table Tennis
- Track and field
Express the artist within
Do you have a young Brando, a musical Streisand, a budding Picasso or an impressive Baryshnikov at home? Then check out Delft’s various venues that help nurture little creatives.
From art to theatre, music and dance, the VAK is a one-stop shop for most forms of artistic self-expression. But creative exploration doesn’t stop there. Delft offers a range of artistic venues and associated professionals eager to foster your young one’s inner artist.
Take it to the extreme
Extreme sport that is.
Does your little trendsetter prefer riding their skateboard or cruising around on their BMX over dealing with the structure of soccer practice or swim lessons? Then perhaps it’s time to consider a more ‘extreme sport’ for your little rebel. There seems to be an increasing attraction to the individuality and athletic self-expression that hallmarks extreme sports. Here are just some ways kids go extreme in Delft.
- Aerial Silks
- Indoor Rock Climbing
- Race Courses
Okay, these next three officially aren’t IN Delft, but they’re rather close by and worth the honorary mention.
Observe Delft’s nature & wildlife
Head outdoors for some fresh air in the local Delft woods. Delft and the surrounding area has numerous lakes, beaches, old windmills, and playgrounds. Use this wealth of outdoor space to introduce your littles to scouting, gardening or plain old outdoor fun.
- Outdoor fun
If scouting camps aren’t your kid’s jam, Delft also offers a couple other interesting outdoor alternatives.
Unleash the mind
Help your littles improve their learning, thinking, analytical, strategic and decision-making abilities with frequent mental exercise. As a university town, Delft offers quite a few options that allow children to expand their learning in fun new environments. In addition to the DOK (Delft’s libraries), here are a few options to help them further stimulate that gray matter.
Take a trip to a Museum
The Netherlands is home to a number of fantastic museums and as luck would have it, some of them can be found right here in Delft. Here’s a list of just a few.
- Museum Prinsenhof Delft
- Vermeer Centrum Delft
- Museum Paul Tetar van Elven
- Medisch Museum “De Griffioen”
- Museum De Beurs van Londen
- Het steen
- Expositieruimte 38CC
Get started and GET OUT!
There you have it, a few fun activities and resources for keeping your primary school children (and perhaps even you) occupied and engaged outside of the classroom.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. In fact, we’d like to make this a ‘living document’ with annual or bi-annual updates through inputs from you. So let us know in the comments if you have recommendations for other after-school activities available here in Delft.
For now, this list offers a good start with a wealth of options for your littles to GET OUT in Delft.