Summer in the city alone with the children – an opportunity for fun and play? Or an absolute nightmare? Alexandra D’Urso navigates the choppy waters of a Stockholm summer at home with the kids.
So it’s July, and for whatever reason, you’ve decided to spend the summer in Sweden. Unfortunately for you, several or all of your (Swedish) friends may have taken off for vacation in other places, leaving you and your child/ren lonely and wondering what to do. If you’re a new parent, being alone during the summer — especially if you have a partner who continues to work — can be quite isolating. Furthermore, many things like open preschools shut down, leaving you with few options for planned activities.
Not to worry! YLC has lived through the lonely summer experience and we have the perfect tips if you’re plain out of ideas.
A couple of things to remember: chances are high that if you’re reading this, you live in the greater Stockholm area. Terrific! Being the capital city, your options are much greater: all you need to do is get a monthly metro pass for yourself (children under 7 travel for free with a parent or adult with a valid ticket) and you have your ticket to summer fun! Let’s see how…
1) Visit a new playground every morning
If your usual crowd is no longer around, you’re quite forced to step outside of your comfort zone so that you don’t go insane from supersized doses of cabin fever. One way to resolve this is to plan to visit one new playground every morning (yes, even if the weather is terrible: if your kids don’t already have rain clothes, pick up some inexpensive used ones at your local secondhand store). Sound ambitious? You bet! However, the constant surprises ahead of you each day will guarantee at least a vacation from boredom. This link takes you to a map of the 274 playgrounds in Stockholm.
2) Visit a new library branch in the afternoon
If you keep up with activity number 1, you’ll find yourself in new areas of Stockholm and its suburbs. Why not make a full day out of your travels and spend the afternoon at the local branch of the public library? If the library’s activities are on hold for the summer, create your own by having your very own family story time in the children’s section. Clicking here will take you to a listing and map of all of the Stockholm city library branches. There’s likely many more than you expected! The Stockholm library web site also an option to show which libraries are open on the day you are checking the site so you can be sure to not turn up to a locked door.
3) Create your own metro tour, complete with games
Some days, you may not feel up to checking out playgrounds or libraries. No problem! You’ve got a metro pass, and never underestimate the power of trains to fascinate children, young and old. For younger children, help them build vocabulary by describing different things in metro stations or on trains (e.g., lights, turnstiles, escalator, elevator). For older children, pick up a copy of the metro map and have them check off each stop that you visited or passed through. Another option is to write the (Swedish) alphabet vertically, and have your child play a long form of metro bingo: write each metro stop you pass next to the letter that the stop begins with. When someone gets five consecutive letter stops listed, they may (insert reward here, for example: press the elevator button, push the button at an intersection in order to cross the street, decide what you will eat for dinner, etc.)
4) Make a summer memory scrapbook
Just because you don’t physically leave the city doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy your time and create a fun record of your memories. Why not create a summer scrapbook documenting your activities and visits to different places in town? It need not be an elaborate scrapbook: just staple together several pieces of construction paper on one side, landscape style, so that it resembles a scrapbook. Include your own and your children’s drawings of playgrounds, libraries, trains, metro stops, people you met, you name it. Make sure you write down the date somewhere on each page so you have a chronological account of your activities, if this is important to you. How about including a pretty leaf you found on the ground, or sprinkle some playground sand onto a bit of glue? If you visited a museum, paste or tape in the admission ticket and describe what you saw and did. Who knows: if you only spend a short time in Sweden, this kind of keepsake could be meaningful for you and your child/ren someday.
5) Dare to talk to a new person every day
Shocking though it may seem, when we are out of our element or in a new place, some people tend to become reclusive. Parents are no exception, although having children certainly helps us to meet other people. Luckily, children are not always as shy as we are. So, if you’ve gotten used to completing your daily routine during the summer without as much as having a conversation with an adult other than your significant other, dare yourself to strike up a conversation with at least one new person every day. Don’t speak Swedish? No problem! Take a chance with your English. The worst that can happen is someone might not understand, in which case it might appear that you’re being brushed off. Try not to take any rebuffs personally: instead, view them as a challenge to try talking with someone else instead. A conversation could be as simple as asking someone if they’ve ever been to Allsång på Skansen, or asking or a recommendation for someone’s favorite restaurant. You might be pleasantly surprised with how warmly people appreciate you reaching out to them!
Boston-area native Alexandra moved to Sweden in 2009 and gave up cod for smoked salmon and Sam Adams for wine in plastic bottles with screw caps. When not bragging about the awesome aspects of Swedish life to people back home, she spends time writing and laughing loud enough to disturb innocent bystanders.