15 reasons why Holland is a great place to raise children: a MUST-READ for expat moms and dads!
Are you planning to move to Holland with kids? Or are you already living in the Netherlands with your little ones? Either way, we’ve got some good news for you! In this post you’ll find more than enough reasons why you made the right decision. Not only for you, but especially for your children. Enjoy the 15 reasons why the Netherlands is a great country to raise children.
Written by Isane – teacher, writer and creator at LDO.
1. You’ll find more than enough green parks, forests, nature reserves & playgrounds to bring your kids to to play and relax
In most neighbourhoods you will find at least one spot to play or sit with green around you within walking distance. Even in the big cities. This is great for your kids – and for you – as you get some fresh air, a little exercise and maybe some socializing with your neighbours (which is a great way to practice your Dutch!). Great parks in the bigger cities are the Vondelpark in Amsterdam and the Stadswandelpark in Eindhoven. Nature reserves you should definitely visit are the Utrechtse Heuvelrug, de Hoge Veluwe and de Biesbosch. Especially during this pandemic, you’ll need something to do during summer and the vacation. Take your kids out to a local park or one of these natural hotspots in the Netherlands. You won’t regret it!
2. Traffic is neatly organised, streets and roads are safe and it’s clear for everyone where to walk and ride
Car drivers are obligated to maintain a speed of max. 30 km/hr around school and to stop at crosswalks (=’zebrapaden’). The rules are so clear, even a kid would understand them. And they do. That’s why most parents let their kids go to school by themselves – even in the busiest places. Or bushiest places. Besides, most elementary schools train their children to be good participants in traffic. At the end of their training they do a traffic exam (= ‘verkeersexamen’). Great news in this regard is the reduction of the maximum speed in Amsterdam – down to 30 KM/hrs! Can you imagine?
You can find, and maybe you already did, young kids taking the tram or their bikes all by themselves on trips of 30 minutes or more. Obviously don’t be stupid: make sure you have safety systems in place, and make your kid travel with other kids if the area is exremely quiet and/or dark. Or if you don’t feel it’s safe.
Teach your young ones to enjoy Disney online safely. With Surfshark.
3. Kids are the happiest in Holland, according to this 2013 Unicef report!
Maybe this has something to do with the reasons outlined in this great article? Contributing to the happiness of Dutch kids for sure is the freedom to roam freely and giving them the credit they deserve for their achievements. If you live in Holland, just look around you: especially now, in the summer and with most people on a staycation, you should see kids roaming around on their adventures in your own neighbourhood. This is normal for Dutch children. I remember saying let’s go on ‘een avontuurtje’ daily with my friends in our little village during most summers. Those were some of the best summers of my life. This freedom to go and explore created a sense of ownership and developed social and emotional skills very early on. And this definitely inspires kids to be independent and happy.
4. Education is good..
..but is changing because it can and should be alot better still. Overall, education in Holland is solid. But there are huge problems at the moment: the quality of education is under fire, especially because of the increasing shortage of teachers and discrimination and racism within the education system. Slowly but surely, things are changing though. As a parent, you can still get your kids a very solid education in the Netherlands – as long as you maintain a critical mindset and keep asking questions – both to your kids’ school and your kids themselves. In the end, it’s their life and they should be happy with it – regardless of any labels the school system might give them.
5. There are good social benefits for people with children
Besides the ‘kinderbijslag’ (child support) every parent gets, you can get a allowance for the daycare (up to 96%!) a ´kindgebonden budget’ and a wage-dependent combination discount. This last one is meant to stimulate parents to work more, as it’s a discount on your income taxes. The Dutch tax service, de Belastingdienst, will send you at least one letter on all of these benefits. And you can otherwise apply for them with your ‘Digid’ via their site.
6. Your kids can grow up in a diverse and culturally rich environment
In Amsterdam alone, at least 50% of the residents has a bicultural or multicultural background – with roots tracing back to more than a 100 different countries.
Amsterdam is therefore still the melting pot of the country, even though the city has it’s own problems in terms of segregation (called ‘apartheid’ by some expats even!’). As the Netherlands is finally coming to terms with its colonial past, slavery and inhumane imperialism included, more and more people have made diversity and inclusion part of their business and political vision. Also, more and more white Dutch people, who are and were considered ‘real Dutch’ mainly because of their skin color and their last name, open up on their colonial roots in Indonesia, Surinam and the Dutch Antilles. All of these countries were Dutch colonies not too long ago.
As a product of Dutch colonialism myself, and part of an extremely diverse family, I still feel very proud to have grown up in Amsterdam. This made me the open-minded and culturally rich person I am today, and this is something every kid should experience as this will definitely contribute to their happiness and success in life.
Related: YOUR Guide to Living in the Netherlands! A must-read for Dutchies-to-be!
7. There are great facilities for kids to develop themselves optimally
In regards of sports, creativity and academics, your kids should be able to reach their full potential in Holland. Even if the money might not be there, most municipalities offer support to enable children to follow sports lessons, courses and visit the theaters and museums. Especially in the urban areas of the country, you’ll find clubs for martial arts, tennis, soccer, acting and probably even Tiktok-schools within biking distance. No excuses!
8. There are good job opportunities, even for youngsters
Around the age of 13, my parents signed me up for a job: suddenly I had to deliver leaflets and local newspapers in my neighbourhood in Amsterdam. Not only was I made aware of the weather in Netherlands (I had to do everything on the bike), I also learned how to work for and deal with money, while building discipline and resilience. I continued this job a couple of years, before my younger brothers took it on.
Besides stimulating some discipline and financial consciousness, Dutch kids are able to work and pay for their vacations, movies, games, study and even save. Some save so much making it even possible to start a business and invest while still at school.
9. The Netherlands has quite a central location in Europe and the world,
so its easy for your kids to travel, also after their graduation of for some soul searching (this is common practice for most kids growing up in Holland). There are many scholarships, making it possible to take a gap year in the U.S. for example. Some like to do a roadtrip through Europe, or study for a year in Spain or France. Others make good use of relatively nearby Africa, and immerse themselves in the cultures of Morocco, Tunisia or the other beautiful countries there. Nowadays, the possibilities are almost endless. Your kid could take a Flixbus or Blablacar in Amsterdam or Eindhoven and travel all the way to Andalucia, Spain. Or use an Interrail ticket and train all the way there!
10. Sleep is taken very seriously
Both babies, kids and parents get enough sleep (at least 8 hours) and this is taken very seriously. It’s very Dutch to have a strict sleeping schedule. Most people will hop into their beds and get up around the same times. Most Dutch parents will put their kids to bed at a fixed time, too. Now and then, they can stay up, but generally bed times are set in stone. As a strict sleeping schedule combined with early rising appears to be linked with success more and more, it’s no surprise Dutch kids are very happy!
11. Expressing your opinion is encouraged for everyone, including young children..
..at school and pre-school already. I remember being asked about my opinion from the daycare I attended to my lessons at the university, and where this didn’t happen I mostly still gave it despite the environment. This is respected, generally. I think this really contributes to ones happiness as you learn to think for yourself and your personality and opinion is important – regardless of what others think. Het Jeugdjournaal – the childrens news show – stimulates this alot, by discussing relevant topics during their broadcasts and on their social media. Debating and sharing opinions is a very Dutch thing and whatever you think about this (ha), it’s key for a healhty personal development of kids and youngsters.
Did you miss a reason why the Netherlands is a great country to raise children? Let us know!
12. Another very important reason why the Netherlands is a great country to raise children: according to this report the Netherlands has a great work-life balance.
Both parents therefore have more time to spend with their children, which benefits the relationship with your little ones. As I am a new dad myself and keep one fixed day free during the week, I can absolutely vouch for this.
Generally, you’d work between 8 AM and 6 PM in NL. But when you’re done, you’re really done. Then it’s off to home, to your family, to spend the evening with your loved one and relax, train or spend time on your passions. Same goes for the weekends, which is the reason alot of people take ‘een lang weekend’ off from Friday to Sunday, so they can go on a city trip or visit family at the other side of the country.
13. We eat breakfast together every morning (most of us at least)
85% of Dutch kids eat breakfast with their families, which builds a good family bond and strong identity. Eating breakfast everyday is found to be healthy and linked to a better performance at school.
14. Cycling keeps everyone happy and healthy
Holland is a biking country, so everyone, including young children, is encouraged to bike. Besides being a healthy cardiovascular exercise keeping off the fat, biking in the Netherlands (where, as you probably know, the sun generally doesn’t shine at all) builds character and resilience.
Most Dutch people cycle to work, friends and family -regardless of the weather. Rain, storm, snow – some even do it without clothes! Biking releases endhorphins and gives a sense of accomplishment – especially with bad weather. If that doesn’t make you happy, we don’t know what will!
15. There are great themeparks for families and kids
You can find several fun themeparks throughout the Netherlands. Walibi, Slagharen, and of course de Efteling – where European styled fairytales come true. Although these parks don’t compare to Disneyland, they are still worth a visit. You might even value them more since they’re small, have character and are relatively quiet (so you actually migh get on a ride or two). For older kids, a must-visit are the Halloween Fright Nights at Walibi (with or without their parents!).
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