Kids in Houston
Needless to say, Houston is incredibly child-friendly, both in terms of the infrastructure in place to support families, and in terms of the entertainment and activities on hand to distract the little ones.
An expat parent’s perspective
Despite its status as the fourth-largest city in the country, Houston offers expat parents many of the perks of a smaller, suburban community.
Housing costs are 21 percent below the national average, and the cost of living as a whole (after tax) is 11 percent below the national average. Even families with a single “breadwinner” can often afford a larger, more spacious home than they're used to, and can look to attain a higher quality of life.
Most expats with families opt to find accommodation outside the city centre; and whether settling into the affluent and exclusive residential area of River Oaks, the master plan communities of Sugar Land, or the “villages” of Woodlands, expats are likely to have little trouble finding a safe and secure neighbourhood to suit their preferences.
It is important to evaluate the educational landscape of an area prior to selection though, as public school attendance in Houston is based on catchment zones. Parents will want to choose accordingly: some school districts perform far better than others.
Furthermore, traffic and commute times can be treacherous in this ever-expanding metropolis, and as there’s nothing more frustrating than being stuck in congestion with young children on a day-to-day basis, you’ll want to make sure you choose an area with easy-to-reach amenities.
The good news is that there’re plenty of options: expats must just do a little preliminary research upon arrival, and spend some time acquainting themselves with the Bayou City’s many areas.
Parents moving to Houston can also take comfort in the exemplary standard of local healthcare facilities. The Texas Medical Center (TMC) claims multiple nationally-ranking institutions, and the Texas Children’s Hospital is an internationally-renowned, full-care paediatric hospital. Medical professionals in the city are top-notch, and expats must just make sure they find health insurance that can ensure appropriate coverage to fund what can otherwise be high fees.
An expat kid’s perspective
As a southern city with mild winters and blazing summers, kids in Houston can spend nearly every month of the year exhausting themselves outside. Even on summer days when the heat gets unbearable, there’s plenty to do indoors, it just takes a little added effort on the part of parents.
The best thing about living in any one of Houston’s peripheral neighbourhoods is the fact that expat kids are likely to find playmates aplenty. Children can make fast friends, and the more sociable kids tend to spend time playing games in nearby front and backyards, or within neighbours’ houses.
When 'capture the flag' and 'cowboys and indians' lose their spark, parents can sign up sporty children for any one of the innumerable youth athletic leagues in the city. Nearly every sport is represented in some way or another, and teams are organised through churches and temples, community centres, and formal athletic leagues. This is a fantastic way to introduce your child to potential mates.
For indoor pursuits, peruse the legendary Space Center Houston, or the wondrous Children’s Museum of Houston. Both offer kids interactive experiences, that manage to be exciting and educational at the same time. Even parent’s won’t be able to resist a little bit of giddiness when given the opportunity to touch a moon rock (at the Space Center), or allowed to guide their child through a simulated grocery store experience (at the Children’s Museum).
Houston also houses IMAX theatres, telescopes available for public viewing (George Observatory), and ten professional sports teams, including the Houston Astros ( MLB baseball) and the Houston Texans (NFL football).
And even when you tire of routine, there’s always some sort of event to look forward to, like the Livestock Show and Rodeo or the Renaissance Festival. Not to mention, the freshwater lakes of Galveston Bay are less than 50 miles (80 km) away, and offer families a fun escape from the push and pull of the city. Rent a boat and spend the day water-skiing, tubing or just relaxing on the water.