Kids in Madrid
Expat mothers and fathers moving to Madrid can take comfort in the warm-natured approach the Spanish have toward children, and the even warmer child-friendly climate. Long spells of sunny skies and dry seasons makes for enjoyable outdoor play dates and easy activity planning for the cost-conscious.
Education and schools for kids in Madrid
If you are moving to Madrid with children you will certainly need to consider the education on offer. Madrid isn’t short of private international schools – Italian schools, French Schools, English Schools, even Russian Schools. If you prefer to integrate your children into a Spanish school you will have to come to grips with their point scoring application system.
The Ministry of Education also recently introduced a bilingual programme and some Spanish schools now operate as bilingual schools. In principle, bilingual schools offer a few hour a week more of English and the bilingual teacher is responsible for teaching English Language, Arts, Science, Arts and Crafts, and Physical Education with the main subjects being taught in Spanish.
If you have children younger than three years of age, you may wish to take them along to one of the English-speaking playgroups in Madrid. These playgroups are formed by international parents as well as Spanish parents wishing to introduce English at an early age for their little ones. They’re a great place to start meeting some of the international residents, to swap advice and opinions and to make friends.
Dining in and out with kids in Madrid
Cooking for the kids can become difficult if you happen to have little ones hung up on their favourite foods from home. Luckily for expats, over the past few years many international shops have started to surface in Madrid; English shops, American Delis, Swedish, Arabic, Hindi, Asian, and Italian shops, you name it – you can find it in Madrid.
Some stores, like the Food Hall, even have online purchasing available.
Family restaurants abound in Madrid; the city has more cafeterias and restaurants per square kilometre than any other location in Europe. For a taste of nostalgia, visit any of the themed restaurants, such as the Hard Rock, Vips, and Hollywood, that cater to Westerners craving the familiar.
What to do with the kids in Madrid
There are plenty of attractions both nearby and just outside the city limits, if you prefer to take the little ones on a field trip to explore the surrounding countryside.
Not to mention, Madrid is a mere 45-minute drive from several winter ski resorts if a family holiday is in order.
The Parque de Atracciones (Amusement Park of Madrid) is in Casa de Campo, well within the city parameters. You can get there by metro, by bus or by car. Even though it’s now labelled a theme park, it’s valued for its classic Fair Ground feel and style. The great thing about the amusement park is that you can pay a small fee to walk around and simply observe your children having fun, or you can pay for an “all in” ticket and participate on some of the many gravity defying rides.
La Cripta Magica, located close to Atocha, captivates adult audiences during the week with magnificent magic shows, but on weekends it dedicates two shows in the afternoons especially for kids from 2 to 12 years old. Children can sit right in the centre of the theatre for a full view and a truly magical experience.
If you prefer for your children to experience more of an educational attraction, head off to the Cosmo Caixa. This science museum in Alcobendas allows children to take part in an extraordinary journey of the solar system in a 3D planetarium. Kids can also get up close to some of the plants and animals of the planet in “Toca Toca”; alternatively, they can experiment and take on a challenge with specially adapted scientific instruments in “Click”.
For something a little out of the ordinary, take your children on one of the themed train rides that take you back in time and run from several different train stations in Madrid. One of the favourites, “El Tren de la Fresa”, allows expat kids and their parents to enjoy local strawberries en route while listening to tale of the past all the way to Aranjuez in medieval style.
Arts and culture for kids in Madrid
Madrid’s cultural repertoire is world renowned, and doesn’t discriminate against the young artistes and auteurs to come.
One activity enjoyable for adults as well as their miniature counterparts is the art walk. The Reina Sofia, El Prado, and Thyssen museums are all within a 5-minute walk of each other; each offering guided tours as well as workshops for families (these usually need to be booked in advance as places are limited).
Digging a little deeper, you can even visit places like the Royal Tapestry of Madrid. If you plan your time right here you might just catch a glimpse of elegant tapestries being woven on the premises.
Parks in Madrid
Otherwise, let the little ones get rid of some of their ample energy with a picnic and some playtime in any of Madrid’s beautiful parks.
El Retiro, Madrid’s most emblematic and largest park, is located in the centre. At El Retiro there is always plenty going on, free puppet shows for children on weekends, rowing on the lake (seasonal), as well as several exhibition halls which exhibit interesting and unusual sculptures and art installations throughout the year.