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At DULI

See you at DULI

by Natalia Moreno

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.

What is DULI

DULI is part bookstore, part birthday party venue, and focuses on fun workshops for kids and adults in English. What makes it so unique in Delft is that it offers engaging after-school activities for expat kids who have not (yet) mastered the Dutch language. It also offers an easy way for expats to enlarge their expat social circle.

Bookstore

The bookstore is full of fun and educational books in several languages. While browsing, you can enjoy a cup of tea or Brazilian coffee. Bookstore hours are:

Monday-Wednesday 13:30-17:30
Thursday-Friday 10:00-17:30
Saturday 10:30-15:00

Birthday parties

DULI rents out the space for 2-hour birthday parties. The price starts at €120 and includes a workshop for 10 people, including invitations. Food is allowed but must be provided by the host.

Workshops

Regularly-scheduled workshops

DULI offers a host of fun workshops and activities for kids in English. These range from crafts to science to sports. They are offered as an 8-class package over 8 weeks (one class per week) for €80. Individual classes can also be attended for €12 on a drop-in basis. The full list of workshops on offer can be found on their website: http://www.dulidelft.com/childrens-workshops/.

One-day workshops

DULI also offers one-day workshops that do not require any registration. For example, looking for a fun activity on a Saturday and up for some creativity, try a Delft Blue tile painting workshop for kids and adults, taught by Carolina herself.

Adult workshops

DULI offers workshops and talks for adults on Thursdays from 20:00-21:30. They are given by a specialist on a selected topic, usually related to education and child behavior.

Requested workshops

If you have an idea for a (kid or adult) workshop, or are looking for one that is not on offer, Carolina is enthusiastic about discussing requests and ideas.

Workshop location

Depending on the needs of the workshop, the location can be on-site at the DULI bookstore, or at a nearby local school.

The story of DULI’s creation

Carolina’s story

Carolina had always been crazy about books. But the impetus to start DULI was born out of necessity. Together with her husband and two kids, Carolina moved to the Netherlands for work in 2015. They enrolled their kids in the International School, but quickly realized that after-school activities were offered predominantly in Dutch. This left them without a lot of appealing options for stimulating and dynamic after-school activities.

Carolina used her social and business skills to create a network of parents and teachers who were able to teach fun workshops in English to kids of different ages. She rented a classroom at the International School in Delft and organized a variety of eight-week workshops in the afternoon. Carolina was always in search of ways to combine her passion for child development and literature with her business skills. By the beginning of 2017 when her work contract was ending, she decided to take the dive, and in March 2018 she realized her long-term dream – opening DULI.

What does the name mean

From a combination of Duda and Lipe, the nicknames of Carolina’s two children Maria Eduarda and Felipe, the name DULI emerged.

So there you have it. DULI — a great find that offers educational activities for expat adults and kids, in creative, flexible environments right here in Delft.

Enjoy! Genieten! Aproveite!

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How to choose early-stage age-appropriate musical toys

by Zdenka Prochazkova

Success of the “Muziek op schoot” workshop, initially hosted by DelftMama in March, convinced me yet again that music is a universal language — a cross-point where mothers and children from all around the world can meet, sing and make music together. How great that was, proving that no barrier, not even language, can stand in the way of musical play.

Thus, the purpose for this article, an opportunity to offer some basic information about age appropriate musical instruments to help you and your child embrace the joy of that universal language.

About me

My name is Zdenka Prochazkova and I come from the Czech Republic. Ten years ago, after finishing my music studies there, I came to the Netherlands to continue with a specialization in early music in Utrecht.

A couple years ago, I then decided to enroll in a postgraduate program to become a “Muziek op schoot” teacher. Literally translated to “music on your lap”, Muziek op Schoot is a foundation for early childhood music education in the Netherlands. I currently give lessons in Delfgauw, Spijkenisse, and teach regularly at daycares in Delft and Delfgauw. I am also a member of Krulmuziek  — an ensemble dedicated to bringing classical music to children of early ages.

The importance of music to our children

Experience as a teacher and as a parent of two young children has shown me firsthand the positive influence singing and musical play has on child development. Not to mention the simple joy it brings to their daily lives.

The songs we sing to our children at bedtime are part of the transitional space where parent and child are present together. A moment where children feel safe and can overcome fear and anxiety. Through songs and musical play, we can also turn chores and everyday activities such as getting dressed, tidying up, eating, or even brushing one’s teeth into play.

Age-appropriate musical toys

The first, and probably the best, source of rhythm, melody and musical feeling that children encounter is the human body. In fact, children experience music best through hands on engagement with their parents and care givers. Our heart beats in the most wonderful rhythm; our voices can both soothe and entertain, while bodily sounds like clapping, snapping or whistling always seem to catch children’s attention.

The child’s body develops as a unit; it is therefore important for children of all ages to use both of their hands simultaneously, such as clapping and using shakers and jingle bells in each hand.

Consider sound quality and the ease of producing that sound when introducing an instrument to your child. Children should be able to use and bring out sounds from the musical toy; otherwise, it would be hard to hold their attention. For instance, if you give a xylophone and a mallet to a 1-year-old, the child at that age would not have the precision to hit the bars. The instrument would not make noise, and the child would soon lose interest in it.

Toy stores offer various sound/musical toys to entertain children. However, if they have a low-quality sound, are monotonous or lack dynamic possibilities, they do not contribute much to the musical development of the child. Offering varied good quality sounds enrich the child’s experience and even prevents negative reactions to encountering new sounds in their surroundings.

  • 0 to 1 year old: Discovering the world through multiple senses

    Safety and quality are essential when identifying appropriate toys for children this age. Another consideration is the ability to stimulate different senses at the same time. A soft, colorful ball with a bell inside is an ideal tool for a musical ‘massage’. A pleasant-sounding rattle stimulates children’s senses as they try to locate the origins of the rattling sounds and begin to train their prowess of concentration.

    Singing, along with various other uses of the voice (varying between high and low pitches, different volume, “glissando”), dancing and bodily sounds also occupy a central place during this period. At this age, children follow singing for a longer time than speech. They also have very limited or no control over their movements at this stage. It’s therefore important to choose instruments that are easy to manipulate.

    Choose from shakers (e.g. egg-shakers) and maracas to various kinds of ‘jingle’ bells that attach to fingers, wrists, or even favorite toys and sticks. Homemade shakers like these music bottles can also bring a lot of fun and extra visual or thematic stimulation. Bottles with child-safe closures are available to order from Kijk op spel.

  • 1 to 2 years old: Rapid gross motor development during which children learn to sit, walk and run.

    Little ones this age enjoy exploration and relative independence as long as parents remain at an easily reachable distance. They enjoy playing on parent or caregiver’s laps, can combine different movements while clapping to songs, and seemingly have the ability to absorb a fundamental sense of rhythm. Children at this age spontaneously find objects such as tables and chairs for impromptu drum sessions. Give them even more opportunities to explore those percussion talents. Provide toys already on hand such as wooden blocks, boxes, or objects from nature (chestnuts or walnuts for example) for use as sound-making toys.

    Fill a bottle with sand, rice, lentils, beans, wooden pieces, stones, and even feathers to offer a large spectrum of rattling sounds. Suitable instruments are shakers, jingle bells, rhythm sticks, and rainmaker tubes. The harmonica is ideal for this period as a stimulant for voice development. Children this age also really enjoy dancing with some material in their hand.

    Language skills are also fast developing and any musical play and songs with language forming texts are very suitable. Let children listen to different genres of music and you will soon notice them developing a musical taste. Similar to hiding and revealing objects, pausing and resuming music can also be very entertaining. This principle keeps the child’s attention and teaches them to react to the music.

  • 2 to 4 years old: The start of vivid imaginations

    Musical instruments that trigger fantasy are very appropriate. Offer different types of drums, xylophones, metallophones. They stimulate hand-eye coordination, which is important for writing. Toddlers are interested in different aspects of music such as piano/forte (soft/loud) or slow/fast (speed). As a result, they can learn basic principles of music making.

    Choose music and instruments that offer dynamic possibilities at this age. There are various songs, which incorporate the contrast of slow-and-fast or loud-and-soft. Integrate these elements when playing with instruments as well as in singing, dancing (with or without material) and parent-child lap play. Additionally, for stimulating the development of the larynx, kazoos, ocarinas, and slide-flutes are ideal.

DelftMama music workshops

Music workshops within the DelftMama group has been a great initiative of Ildigo Wooning, Marie Kummerlowe and Tatjana Lisjak. The first series drew many participants and proved a big success. During the sessions, we exposed children to hearing and trying the violin, viola, guitar and melodica, as well as egg-shakers, tambourines, metallophones or bells for themselves. The theme of the first workshop series was spring. The current series, which started on May 28th, has a summer flair.

While the general language used in the workshops is English, participants will be exposed to many songs in Dutch (many of which children already hear at daycares). The sessions are a perfect opportunity to enjoy fun time together with your little ones, learn new songs and get some ideas for music making at home.

Not able to make the current series of workshops? Fear not, we’ve already begun exploring options for scheduling additional sessions after the summer holidays.

Embrace the joy of music

When you make music with your littles, it’s a great joy for you both. The interaction makes you learn about each other and the positive effects of music — stimulation of concentration, motor skills, emotional and social development — turn the learning process of children into play.

I wish you many beautiful (musical) moments with your little ones.

For any questions and more information, please feel free to contact me via muziekopschootdelft@gmail.com or www.muziekvriendjes.nl

Useful links:

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The SpeelOké Toy Library: toys for fun and development

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.

Toy circle

Description of suitable toys for different developmental areas for children. Source: speelotheken.nl

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.

Subscription

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).

  • Location
    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!

Volunteers spend 3 hours a month helping out at our toy library. Why don’t you join us?

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!

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GET OUT!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

 

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Memories and Blackberries

Blackberries and Memories

Yesterday, I took my daughters blackberry picking. To someone else this may sound like just another day out, but for me it was special. It was special because it enabled me to re-live one of my favourite childhood memories and to share it with my own children.

When I think of it now, it seems a little strange, a teenage girl voluntarily taking her little brother out to pick blackberries. Remember though that this was in the time before iPads, and we had two months of summer holidays to fill!

This particular memory takes place towards the end of the summer break when we had already spent days at the beach, in the park, hung out with friends, set out crab traps, wandered around the house doing nothing in particular and were feeling rested, relaxed, and superbly content. Suddenly it was the end of August, and what had started as an endless vacation was *gasp* almost over. The race was on to make the most of those last sun filled days. I grabbed a few buckets and shouted to my little brother, “come on! We are going blackberry picking.”

Vancouver Island, where we lived, is a magical island of spectacular natural beauty (but that’s another story). It is also covered with wild blackberry bushes that ripen in late summer. Out we walked into the hot sun carrying our buckets like little soldiers on a mission to the nearest patch. After sizing up the bushes to find the juiciest specimens we dropped our buckets and started picking. We worked in companionable silence broken only by the occasional “ouch!” as one of us scratched ourselves or ‘mmmm’ when we were unable to resist a taste. Occasionally, disaster would strike in the form of accidentally kicking over a nearly full bucket or, particularly painful, falling into the bushes. Much to the hilarity of the other sibling.

If I let my mind travel back there now I can still smell the warm, ripe berry smell, part fermented fruit and part earthy leaves that would soon be turning brown. The hot sun burning the back of my neck, the scratches on my hands and the relaxing monotony of picking. Concentrated as we were on our efforts to find the biggest, juiciest berries, we lost all track of time.

Buckets finally full we trudged home with the fruits of our labour. Tired and hot we competed to see who had the most scratches or whose fingers were the purplest, stained from the dark juice.

Back in the kitchen, I made the pastry and, together with my little brother, we rolled it out to fit the pie tins. Then we cooked the berries, adding lots and lots of sugar. By the time we’d assembled the pies and baked them in the oven, the kitchen was a disaster of flour and squashed berries. At about this time, my Mum arrived home from work to find two children who had made a disaster of her kitchen proudly displaying fresh blackberry pies.

The childhood experiences that my daughters have in Holland are very different from my own back in rural Canada. Sometimes this is part of the fun. We get to experience things for the first time together. But other times it can make it hard to relate to each other. Memories that friends back home hold on to because they are triggered by their familiar surroundings have faded into the recesses of my memory. It’s amazing how a simple activity like this can bring those memories rushing back, filling my heart with a warm glow.

Vancouver Island is too far and too expensive to travel back to regularly. However, I am doing my best to bring a little bit of my life in Canada here to share with my family. When I do and when it works, the distance between here and home closes just a little and the effort is so very worth it.

I would love to hear about traditions from home that you are sharing here with your children?

And of course about any good spots for blackberry picking!

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Delft MaMa 10th Anniversary Picnic

Every year, Delft MaMa organizes a summer potluck event for local families together with food, fun, and friendship. 

The 2017 edition was even more special, as it marked the first in a series of celebrations of Delft MaMa’s ten year anniversary. More than 50 adults and even more children joined us for last Sunday for this event.

10-year Anniversary Picnic Delft MaMa with Delft MaMa Founder Lucie, Delft MaMa Chairwoman Anna, and one of our youngest members

Over a dozen nationalities were represented from Argentina to Australia and back again. The resulting cuisine was much more impressive than your usual picnic fare.

There was a tasty rice salad from Italy prepared by Delft MaMa Luisa prepared an Italian rice salad with boiled rice, cheese cubes, tuna fish, boiled eggs, grilled courgette and other mixed grilled veggies, and olive oil for dressing.

Photo courtesy of Renée Veldman-Tentori

Delft PaPa Eelco provided a Dutch touch with his herring salad. To recreate this dish at home, you need smoked herring, pickled onions, small pickled cucumbers, peas, roasted paprika and dressing (mayonnaise, kwark, orange juice, salt, pepper, olive oil, sambal).

Photo courtesy of Renée Veldman-Tentori

Delft MaMa Zsofia and Delft PaPa Anish made a Middle Eastern couscous salad of bulgur, fresh herbs, chopped vegetables and buttery chickpeas. You can find the full recipe here.

Photo courtesy of Renée Veldman-Tentori

Delft MaMa Zsofia added, “every year we enjoy taking part in DelftMaMa’s summer event. It is a great opportunity to catch up with Delft MaMa families we know and even meet new ones. From a culinary point of view, we do learn and get to taste lovely dishes of different cultures.”

Photo courtesy of Hellen Chandra-Boortman

In addition to the delicious fare, the picnic included fun activities for the entire family. The children took advantage of the sunny weather at the Bomenwijk playground. There were also games and the opportunity to contribute to the ten year mosaic project.

Delft MaMa Nan hosted a special edition of the mosaic workshop! Participants worked on small tree designs and Delft blue detail pieces that will add a bit of sparkle to the final product. As Delft MaMa Shadi shows in the following photos, making a mosaic is an ideal way to spend a Sunday afternoon. 

Photo courtesy of Shadi Parsa
Photo courtesy of Shadi Parsa
Photo courtesy of Shadi Parsa

According to Nan, “the workshops for the mosaics have been mainly attended by Delft MaMas, so the picnic was a chance for the children to participate. They made small sections of mosaic for the arching base of the bridge in blue and white.  Delft blue shards are definitely a MUST this mural since it features very Dutch scenery. The children were enthusiastic about leaving a beautiful mark on Delft!”

Photo courtesy of Renée Veldman-Tentori

Hosting such a successful picnic was only possible thanks to a dedicated group of volunteers.

Delft MaMa Hellen headed the project, and her hard work and leadership skills were much appreciated. She was supported by Delft MaMas Shadi, Luisa and Tatjana. Delft MaMa heartily thanks these ladies and all our volunteers for their time and efforts.  

For Delft MaMa Hellen, “it was really nice to share a wonderful day with some of the Delft MaMa’s members, especially the one I’d never met before. Despite our different cultural backgrounds, we just blended in and enjoyed the lovely atmosphere. Both parents and children seem to have a good time. I’m also very happy to have been given an opportunity to organise the event. I’m looking forward to attending more events in the future.”

We look forward to welcoming everyone to the 2018 picnic, but, in the meantime, be on the lookout for upcoming events that will bring together the Delft MaMa community.  As always, the Tuesday, Thursday and Friday playgroups will welcome the youngest members of our community and their parents.

On September 12th, Delft MaMa Nareen will host the next edition of our monthly Mom’s Night Out. September 17th will be the second annual Delft MaMa Walk at Delftse Hout. All members of our community are welcomed to walk together to keep keep Delft MaMa running.

There will also be mosaic making sessions regularly throughout the month of September on the following days: 

Tuesdays 19:30  – 5, 12, 19, 26

Thursdays 19:30 – 7, 14, 21, 28

Saturdays 10:00 – 9, 16, 23, 30

We will start with the installation of the mosaic at the Achtertuin Playgroup towards the end of September. More updates will be announced soon on the Delft MaMa blog. Depending on the weather, the unveiling ceremony will take place on October 21st or 28th. Please mark your calendars for this momentous (all pun intended) occasion.  

Delft MaMa also hosts an annual Halloween Party, but are actively looking for one or two volunteers for this event on October 29. If you are interesting in helping to make this event possible, please contact info@delftmama.com.

And then it will be on to our fall and winter events. If you are an early planner, you can even put a reminder on your calendar for the 2018 summer picnic, who knows what weekend will bring the sun and fun needed for the picnic.

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5 Easy Weekend Trips from Delft

With busy schedules it can be difficult to find time for a big trip. Work and school schedules often mean travel is limited to peak times. Luckily, from Delft, there are many places you can escape for a quick weekend trip. Here are five ideas that allow you to leave Saturday morning, spend one night and come home on Sunday. Obviously if you can get away on Friday afternoon you’ll have more time to enjoy your getaway.

Texel, Netherlands

Texel is the largest of the Netherlands barrier islands. It is a 2-hour drive by car or a 4-hour trip by public transport, which includes the ferry ride to the island. Although Texel is popular for a summer visit, a shoulder season visit gives you a quiet island if you don’t mind wearing your coat on the beach. Once you’re on the island rent bikes and enjoy the sheep and pristine nature.

Stay at the Grand Hotel Opduin to be engulfed by the Dunes of Texel National Park. Visit Ecomare to learn about the seal rescue and protection the island plays a huge role in. The Shipwreck Museum has a playground and treasure hunt for kids. Make the short hike to Texel’s Lighthouse and enjoy the strand below. You won’t want to miss a visit to the Sheep Farm where, after visiting the sheep,  you can delight in some cheese fondue and sheep’s milk ice cream. A visit and tour of the Texels Brewery is a must.  The island has many restaurants, beaches and bars so you won’t go hungry during your visit. Bring your bike along or rent one on the island to really take advantage of the scenery.

Brussels, Belgium 

The capitol of Belgium is full of fun for the whole family. Two hours by car or train will put you in the city for the night. Stay at the Train Hostel for a fun night. Next door, Train World will captivate children and adults alike with fun displays of trains throughout history. Visit Atomium and climb to the top for views of Brussels. Mini-Europe is a fun day out and easily combined with Atomium and the water park Oceade. Children delight in the Manneken Pis statue. You can also enjoy the Comic Strip Center, Museum of Natural Sciences, Musical Instrument Museum and the Children’s Museum.

 

Cologne, Germany 

A 3-hour drive or 3.5 hours on public transportation (NS to Utrecht, ICE to Cologne) will land you in Cologne, Germany. Enjoy the city by climbing to the top of the Cologne Cathedral. Visit the Museum Ludwig where kids can check out suitcases to explore different elements of art. In good weather visit the botanical gardens or the zoo. Ride the Cologne Cable Car over the river for great views. The Lindt Chocolate Museum is a must for all visits to Cologne. In the summer you can rent bikes or cruise the river and in the winter the vast squares are turned into Christmas markets with a skating rink that runs the length of one of the streets.

Maastricht, Netherlands

Maastricht is 2-hours by car or 2.5 hours by public transportation. The funky Town House Hotel is our favorite place to say although the Kruisherenhotel, built into an old church is also a good bet. Maastricht is full of things to explore from the bookstore inside an old church to caves below the city.  There are river cruises of varying lengths, which our little ones loved. We’ve found a few great playgrounds like Frans van Speeltuin and Speeltuin Fort Willem. You can also head over to Valkenburg, which is a bit touristy but has a fun alpine slide and a few other great kids activities.

Center Parks, De Vossemeren

This campground in Belgium has everything you need for a weekend of fun. Unlike other camping setups, Center Parks, De Vossemeren allows you to book just a few nights so you can do a one or two night stay instead of a full week. The cabins are arranged around several lakes. The campground has pools, mini-golf, bowling, playgrounds. . .basically everything you need for a weekend away. There are restaurants on site or you can cook up food in your cabin. It is an easy get away and they often offer “last minute” deals  The campground is a 2-hour drive from Delft.

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Delft mama of the week: Elizabeth

Our Delft mama of the week, Elizabeth, has worked as a political consultant, a NASA tour guide, and a lawyer, volunteered for the Sisters of the Holy Cross in Ghana, traveled to 30 countries and 45/50 US states, and even been inside the Space Shuttle. Now she is a travel writer and full-time mom living in the Netherlands.

In 2015, Elizabeth’s husband, Jeff, was offered the exciting opportunity to complete his PhD at TU Delft, and Elizabeth and her two older sons eagerly joined him. They saw Delft as a charming town in its own right and an ideal base to travel around Europe. A third son joined the family and their travels in 2016.

Elizabeth is clearly enamored of the Netherlands and of Delft in particular. She describes it as “a real town with the advantage for expats that everybody speaks English and that you can find friends. There are a million little restaurants in every price bracket, and there are parks hiddeneverywhere. You can go climb the windmill, go to the farm and buy eggs, or see sheep at the petting zoo. These are just so many opportunities in this special town.”

A half year before arriving in Delft, she found the Delft MaMa Facebook group and connected with fellow Coloridan Caroline. When she first arrived in town, Caroline helped connect her to Delft MaMa friends and resources, giving her an invaluable piece of advice: “surround yourself with expats who are excited to be here in Netherlands, as your local friends will largely determine your mood.” Elizabeth has put this advice to good use, not only finding supportive friends, but also making herself a valued member of the Delft MaMa community. She co-coordinates the weekly Delft MaMa newsletter with Karen, and in the coming months, you may have the chance to read an original post or two of hers on the Delft MaMa blog.

Elizabeth believes that “Delft MaMa is a wonderful resource that provides something for every personality type. If you are a one-on-one person, there are many events. Ifyou need mom friends, you can go to a Mom’s Night Out. If you need friends for your children, there are playgroups. If you are just are looking for advice, you can ask on the Facebook, and the newsletter details what’s going on locally in the coming months. When I travel, I usually look for something like Delft MaMa, but a lot of places either do not have an equivalent or the local international family group is not on the same level as a support group.”

Elizabeth is thriving in Europe, but the decision to move to the Netherlands was not so straightforward from a professional perspective, as her visa status precludes her from working locally. Elizabeth’s optimistic and driven personality, though, have helped her to embrace this difficulty and turn it into many opportunities – that to spend more time with her children, blog actively, and pursue other endeavors close to her heart, particularly traveling.

Elizabeth’s blog, Dutch Dutch Goose, started as a way to share her European travel experiences with family and friends and as an outlet for her creative and professional talents. Dutch Dutch Goose soon became a popular resource for families around the world. Her post on traveling from the US to Europe on the Queen Mary 2 with children was a particular hit, given the lack of information available on this topic online. Thanks to the success of her own blog Elizabeth was also asked to become editor-in-chief of BebeVoyage, a global community of parents providing local, practical advice on traveling with kids.

Elizabeth and her husband traveled widely before having children and have decided to use travel as an educational tool with their children. They firmly believe that “the places we see and people we meet during our different travel experiences help make our children better human beings. Exposing our kids to so many different tastes, modes of transportation, ways of living, and cultures is the most wonderful gift we can give them.”

Elizabeth is also always challenging herself and looking for ways to grow and learn through travel. For example, this careful planner took a trip this year without having organized any specific destinations or itineraries. You can find more about how the family managed this adventure in spontaneity here.

Through her blog, Elizabeth also shows families around the world that travel with children may be challenging but that it is both a feasible and a rewarding experience. For Elizabeth, there is no need to travel for many weeks or to a distant location to make a trip great, as visiting a nearbyfarm or museum can be just as valuable.

There is also no need to force your children to immerse completely in every aspect of a trip. Instead, do your best to ensure your children are comfortable and enjoying their time traveling, even if this means allowing them to look at the iPad on some museum visits or play at a local playground for some hours rather than visiting a site. Elizabeth notes, “I find that the kids absorb so much of the little stuff while traveling, like going to playgrounds and to kids cafes, as opposed to all the big tourist sites. At these places, they get a better picture of the local culture, differences in parenting, and differences in interactions between the kids.”

Furthermore, “the best trip for me is one where each member of the family has something that peaked their interest, and we have all gotten along and enjoyed ourselves as a family.” During our interview, Elizabeth described how a trip to Brussels’ train hostel that was requested and largely planned by her eldest son fits the bill.

To summarize some of her expert advice, Elizabeth encourages parents to know their kids and make them comfortable, know that disasters happen and don’t let them ruin trips, plan the right balance of activities parents are interested in and child-friendly activities in an itinerary, and allow children to absorb the little details during trips that show cultural differences.

One word that kept popping up during our conversation was “gift,” with travel as a gift, living in Delft as a gift, and even her local un-employability as a gift in disguise. Elizabeth also described her time interacting and talking to her kids while biking as a daily gift and one of the highlights of her life in the Netherlands. I hope all Delft mamas can also recognize and take advantage of the multitude of gifts in their lives and embrace challenges with as strong a positive attitude as Elizabeth. Indeed, it is this zeal for life and focus on uplifting values like joy, discovery, and gratitude that make Elizabeth so charming and her blog posts so delightful to read.

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10 things living in The Netherlands has taught me

In the summer of 2016 my family and I moved from the sunny Costa del Sol to the not-so-sunny town of Delft, and  I wasn’t sure if we’d made the right decision.  I knew that my husband’s work opportunities would be better, my children’s schooling would be a LOT better and that I wouldn’t have any trouble continuing my writing. I also figured that living in such a creative town, and close to other business hubs like The Hague, Rotterdam and Amsterdam, my career could only ever progress. But Holland? Could I be happy there?

Yes I like cheese, clogs are funny and tulips are pretty – but what did I know about The Netherlands? What could the country offer me?

Well actually, it turns out that ten months into our three year placement here it’s taught me a lot. I now understand why everyone thinks it’s so cool and I know (freezing winters aside) I will be happy here. Here are ten things that living in The Netherlands has taught me…

 

 

You don’t need to have good weather to have fun
I’m half Spanish so sunshine runs through my veins…closely followed by mojitos. When I look back at the best times of my life there’s always been a blue sky. Yet living in The Netherlands has taught me that it’s fine to go outside. Even if it’s a bit drizzly and cold. Once I’d invested in a decent winter coat, thermals and thick boots I was ready to explore the amazing scenery. We’ve trekked through fields of tulips, woodlands and farms, canal boat rides, city walks and plenty of food markets – and although it’s been cold it’s also been lots of fun. And as for going out with friends in the evening, I just swap my sangria for gluhwein and it’s all good!

You don’t need a car
In Spain we had a car – in fact we had two! Then we moved to the tiny cobbled streets of Delft, with its multitude of bicycles and parallel parking beside canals and we changed our minds. And you know what? I love not having a car now. I walk over an hour a day and my backside is pert and round. I get fresh air (maybe too fresh) and I get to see the beauty of the town. The trains, buses and trams are (mostly) on time and reasonably priced and best of all I don’t have MOTs and insurance to worry about. I’m sure life will get even better once I get myself a bike…but one step at a time. Literally.

 

 

Kids should be given freedom
To be fair, my kids have always had freedom because I practise the parenting art of ‘do the least possible and tell everyone you are making your children independent’! But in Holland that is a thing. It’s actually their way of life and it’s encouraged for parents to let their children do as much as they can by themselves. Cycling to school, going to the park, going shopping…you see children as young as six years old going about their daily business alone and it’s fine. It feels safe here and you know your children are respected; in fact kids are given as much importance as adults. Apparently children here are also the happiest in the world (they don’t get homework in their pre-teen years, which I’m sure also helps). Take a look at the book ‘The Happiest Kids in the World’ if you don’t believe me!

A home looks better when you fill it with flowers
You know what makes me happy (apart from chocolate and silence)? Fresh flowers. And the best thing about The Netherlands is that flowers are cheap. If you go to the market before they close you can buy a bunch for as little as a Euro! I’ve quickly realised that the dustiest of houses look pristine if you fill them with enough tulips and roses. It also smells better too!

I’m lucky to have English as my mother tongue
Have you ever tried to speak Dutch? Well luckily you don’t need to, as the clever buggers all speak about five languages and feel so sorry for you as you splutter your way clumsily through every sentence that they insist that you speak English. Even the films on TV and in the cinema are in English – lucky us!

 


You can eat crap and still be slim
Dutch people are not fat. Dutch people love their beer, waffles, pancakes, bitterballen, bread and cheese. It must be all that cycling and lack of driving that keep them trim!

Beaches are not just for the Med
I was shocked that The Netherlands had such great beaches (OK, so my geography isn’t great). Although it’s standing room only when the sun makes a rare appearance, places such as The Hague’s Scheveningen is a Hipster paradise full of cool beach bars, restaurants and sand finer and more golden than anything the Costa del Sol has to offer. I wouldn’t bother bringing your snorkel, or getting in the freezing sea in general, but you can still get a mean cocktail or two.

Women are a force to be reckoned with
Being an expat (or ‘trailing wife’…don’t you just love that term?) it’s rare for me to move to a country because of my husband’s work and get asked what I do. It’s a sad fact of life that when you are a mother, and married to a businessman who travels a lot, people rarely expect you to have your own career as well. Except in The Netherlands. How refreshing to be asked if I was here for my studies or my own business. How wonderful to have the opportunity to tour universities and schools talking about my books, host panels at literary events and get to discuss gender politics, entrepreneurships and business opportunities while surrounded by like-minded working mothers. Hurray, an expat location with an advanced mindset.

You can be rude and still have manners
Just ask the Dutch. So friendly, so helpful, so smart…yet so direct!

Europe is actually one big playground
And the best thing about living in The Netherlands? We are at the centre of Europe. We are a short train ride away from Belgium, France and Germany. We can hire a camper van and drive to Italy via Switzerland. Or we can be in the UK in 40 mins by plane. Weekends have just got a lot more fun. So who cares that the weather is cold, the language tricky and the food a bit stodgy? It’s a magnificent country with great people and loads to do…and if you get bored of it you are just a few hours away from other amazing countries. Yes I miss my siestas and balmy nights of sunny Spain – but pancakes on a Dutch beach in an anorak isn’t so bad either. I might even treat myself to some cheap flowers on the way home.

Natali Drake is a published author and freelance Marketing consultant. You can attend her FREE talk about the Rise of Young Adult fiction and its place in today’s society at the American Book Centre in The Hague on 1st June 6.30pm, where she will be also answering questions and signing copies of ‘The Path Keeper’ – her first book from her thrilling fantasy romance series.

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