Kids and Family in Moscow
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Expats moving to Moscow with children should prepare for a sizeable challenge. Conquering the cold weather and the intimidating transportation system with little ones in tow requires some real courage, or at least some feigned bravado.
That said, there are plenty of child-friendly activities available in the city, and a number of expat support systems in place to help steel any parent's nerves against unanticipated stress.
Family life in Moscow
The long months of freezing temperatures in Moscow inevitably affect family life, and limit the outdoor activities one can enjoy. Few Russian families and children can be seen out on the streets in winter unless they’re heavily bundled up or out ice-skating on the frozen ponds. Furthermore, the babushkas are known for shouting at Westerners whose children are not deemed properly clothed, something expats usually get used to.
Traffic in Moscow can be a real problem. People drive fast and there are very few above-ground places to cross larger roads. So if using a stroller, this means going up and down at least two flights of stairs to enter and exit the pedestrian-friendly underpass.
The metro is extensive, cheap and easy to use but, again, expats should bear in mind the presence of stairs. Once familiar with the most common metro stops, parents will be able to choose those with no stairs and make life a little easier.
Many expats hire a driver to avoid these issues and to make it easier to get around in freezing temperatures. Expats should try and negotiate this as part of an employment package, if possible.
Best places to live in Moscow with kids
Many expats with kids, especially those with young children, choose to live in one of the gated expat communities just outside the city. In these areas it’s possible to get a house and plenty of green space. However, exposure to real Russian life will be minimal.
Alternatively, expats can live in an apartment in the city centre, and accept the challenges that come with the traffic and the limited green space. This option is typically better for expats with teenagers, or with children who would be interested in enjoying any of the rich cultural activities on offer in Moscow’s centre.
Entertainment for children in Moscow
As noted, frost-free months of the year are scarce in Moscow and, as a result, most of the entertainment options in the city are indoor activities. When the sun does come out, there are some great outdoor spaces to take advantage of. There are plenty of parks in and around Moscow, but their beauty is dependent on the time of year.
In the city centre there aren't the kind of green spaces found in Western Europe, but it is possible to find small playgrounds, boulevards and smaller gardens dotted about.
Gorky Park is the big, centrally located park for cycling, rollerblading or running. Hermitage Gardens is a perfect place for kids to play, with climbing frames and an Uzbek restaurant for family lunch. Many expats meet up here in summer and spring.
Shopping malls are a great way to get out of the house in winter, and many of them have play areas, bowling clubs, cinemas and other activities to keep kids entertained. For a real taste of Russia, expats should try ice-skating on one of the frozen ponds or head out of the city and go dog-sledding.
Cultural activities for kids
Moscow is the perfect place to introduce children to culture, with its world-class ballet performances and assorted theatres. Child-orientated venues include the fairy tale theatre, science museum, children’s musical theatre and the theatre of clown art, but there are many more.
Brunch in Moscow might be a far cry from the well-practised, well-priced extravaganzas found in Hong Kong and Abu Dhabi, but there are plenty of weekend venues which combine food with child-friendly entertainment, especially in winter.
Parent networks in Moscow
Moscow’s many challenges mean that the expat mother’s networks in the city are especially valuable support systems. There are baby and toddler groups hosted almost every day of the week, and the best place to find them is to join the International Women’s Club or to contact the British Women’s Club baby and toddler coordinator. If considering having a baby in Moscow, other mothers are more than happy to help navigate the system and provide advice.