Raising kids in Johannesburg comes with its challenges. On the one hand, the city’s reputation for crime concerns both expat and local parents who naturally fear for their children’s safety. On the other, Joburg has earned a reputation in some quarters for there not being much to do outside of its sprawling malls and the playgrounds of its mega nurseries.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. There are a wealth of activities for expat children to take part in and which can help them adjust to their new surroundings. While safety is justifiably a concern for expat parents, with the necessary precautions and lifestyle adjustments, their children are likely to be happy and secure in their new lives.
Child safety in Johannesburg
Given the city’s reputation for crime, one of the main priorities for expat parents in Johannesburg is the safety of their children.
As is the case in most places, parents should be extra aware of their children’s whereabouts in public places. They should also ensure that their kids know their parents’ phone numbers, address and emergency phone numbers as soon as possible.
Most parents in the city don’t allow their children to take public transport as it’s often considered unreliable and potentially unsafe. Some parents also don’t allow their children to play in public parks; however, this is largely an area-specific consideration and, in some of the more affluent areas in Johannesburg, children should be safe provided that they are supervised.
The upside of this is that expat families with free-standing houses in the city’s suburbs are likely to have a more spacious garden than they would have had in a major European or American city, meaning that their children will have a large degree of freedom to be outdoors within the confines of their own yard.
Children in Johannesburg may have to be more safety conscious than in other destinations, but if they are taught to be aware of their surroundings and are appropriately taken care of, they should be safe and happy in their new host country.
Activities for children in Johannesburg
While it may not be the most popular of destinations for family-oriented expats, there are still a number of rewarding activities for children in Johannesburg to enjoy. Given its absence of a beach and relative lack of public spaces, businesses in the city often cater to children while many parents are willing to drive a bit further to ensure that their children are entertained.
One of the most popular options for parents is Gold Reef City. The area’s largest theme park, it offers thrill rides like the Tower of Terror and the much tamer Cups and Saucers ride. For expats with younger children (or who just prefer having their feet firmly on the ground) there are plenty of other activities to choose from, such as miniature golf or catching a show at the 4D theatre.
Another popular option is taking a weekend trip away to Sun City, a two-hour drive to the northwest of Joburg. It offers a host of activities suitable for the whole family, with everything from a butterfly sanctuary to a cultural village showcasing the different cultures of Southern Africa. Children will probably be most interested in the Valley of the Waves, an artificial lagoon with a wave pool.
Closer to home, it is always fun for younger children to feed the ducks and geese at Zoo Lake and Emmarentia Dam, which are also popular picnic spots. This can be followed by a visit to the Johannesburg Zoo. Other popular outdoor activities include the Montecasino Bird Gardens, visiting the Cradle of Humankind and, perhaps for older kids, paintballing.
Johannesburg knows how to keep itself entertained indoors too. There is a selection of large indoor playgrounds which are popular kids’ party venues throughout the city. There are pottery and art classes for all ages, and children as young as two years old can go for cookery classes at one of the Little Cooks Clubs spread across the city. Finally, but not exhaustively, is the Wits Planetarium which offers various shows all about the solar system.