Things to do with a baby, toddler or kids in Brussels: Check out a book at the Children’s Library

Mooo
Mooo

I constantly get amazed at how many great resources and things to do with kids there are in Brussels. Especially when I get a hot tip on an English-language Children’s Library right in our very backyard in Woluwe Saint-Pierre. Thank you so much to Pippa for cluing us in!

Set back from the street a ways, the library is housed along with a ludotheque in an intriguing old home surrounded by a garden. Head up the stairs and to the left and sure enough, there it is. A 20 sq meter space packed floor to ceiling with loads of children’s book. Board books on the bottom all the way up to early teen novels near the top of the shelves. So many books and a nostalgic atmosphere of the children’s library section you visited growing up complete with little cards that get stamped with the date when you check them out.

With so many options we had a lengthy negotiation process but ultimately all left happy. To check out books, you have to sign up for a library card that is 4 EUR per year. Then you can check out up to three books for 50 cents. 50 cents! If you are addicted to acquiring children’s books like me, this is a real coup. 🙂 You can keep your books for two weeks and then the fun begins again.

The library is only open on Wednesdays and Saturdays so you have to plan things a bit. Saturday morning has story time every other week.

Happy reading

Where: Center Crousse, Rue au Bois, 11 — 1150 Brussels

When:

  • Wednesday 3-5.30 pm
  • Saturday 10-12.30 pm
  • Closed on public holidays
  • School Holidays – opening times may vary, changes will be posted on this site
The adventure begins
The adventure begins
Some magic
Some magic
Deep in thought. Is this my book?
Deep in thought. Is this my book?
Color
Color
Endless possibilities
Endless possibilities
Come for the books, stay for the storytime
Come for the books, stay for the storytime
Shadows and light
Shadows and light
There is magic everywhere
There is magic everywhere

Things to do with a toddler or kids in Brussels: Have it your way at Kessel-Lo

Two seeking adventure
Two seeking adventure

Ages and ages ago, I took a walk with a friend and our new babies in Kessel-Lo. Taking in the monumental climbing areas and wood structures, I looked at my little bababoo and tried to imagine her big enough to take on some of these amazing adventures. Well today we set out to try our chops on the king of all local playsets.

Kessel-lo is situated in Leuven and about a 25 minute drive from Brussels. It is also possible to get there by bus. At Kessel-lo you really can have it your way. On the grounds you will find beautiful walking paths, lined with flowers, trees and ponds. If you care to venture out on the pond, there are some sweet little paddle boats on offer. Also a small animal park sporting donkeys, goats, and chickens. Yes, there is even a pool! But truly the highlight for us are the gorgeous and abundant play structures which cater to around ages 2 and up.

The play structures are mostly made out of wood and blend in with the forested surroundings. That makes it all the more fun as you get tired on one and then notice a castle or massive slide peaking out from behind the trees around the corner. There is so much to discover! It is a real paradise for the adventurous little one.

Though the pool was closed today, it looked really fun with a big slide and plenty of space for kids to play. We would return just for this as well, should the weather gods turn it up past 25 one of these days. 🙂

Not the adventure sort? There is plenty of space for a nice stroll and a picnic with lots of flowery fields, picnic tables and neat designed wooden seating.

So one of these warm early summer days, definitely check this place out! Though there are a number of parking areas, I recommend P1 which you can find by putting 203 Eénmeilaan, Leuven. Happy whatever you like. 🙂

King of the castle
King of the castle
My big girl now :)
My big girl now 🙂
Saving a seat for you
Saving a seat for you
Lean in
Lean in
Black diamond slide
Black diamond slide
Float
Float
A pool!
A pool!
Its the climb
Its the climb

Things to do with a toddler or kid in Brussels: Visit the Zoo at Planckendael

In the wild
In the wild

On a recent February morning we decided to embrace the Swedish concept of “there is no bad weather, only bad clothes”, and headed out to Mechelen to check out the zoo at Planckendael. We love animals and as Babatwo is finally able to differentiate between gorillas and giraffes, it felt right to introduce them in person.

To call Planckendael a zoo is really not doing it justice. With restaurants, play areas, and interactive exhibits, it really is a full day of fun, including lots of time and contact with the many varieties of animals. A bit of a maze, as you might expect but one thing you are really struck by is how much effort has been put in to masking or minimizing the barriers between you and your furry or feathered friend. This alone makes the experience special. As you wind your way around the map of the world, you come across many different play areas which give a very nice break from what can become a monotonous checklist of going from one animal to the next. Inside you find the excitement stays high as you bounce from activity to viewing and back.

Without a doubt the monkeys stole the show for my little ones though the elephants held their own. The passage to Africa was closed when we visited as the giraffes are expecting a little one soon. Hey, we are all due for a little privacy when so pregnant you want to just lay down and hibernate until your 100 kg and almost two meter tall baby makes its arrival. Lord have mercy.

The park provides cute wagons you can pull the littles along in which I highly recommend!

It is easy to get stuck in your Brussels bubble but come on, Mechelen is only 25 minutes away. Take advantage of the discounted offers meant to bring you out for a winter viewing. See animals, have fun. 🙂

Where: Leuvensesteenweg 582, 2812 Mechelen

When: Check their calendar for times. Open 7 days a week!

How much: Not cheap but for me worth it when you see that the animals are actually happy and well cared for. 🙂

  • Free for under 3
  • 17.50 EUR for 3 – 17 years
  • 25.00 EUR for loving and well meaning parents
Nesting
Nesting
Stripes
Stripes
On a break
On a break
Birds of a feather
Birds of a feather
Wagon: the only way to travel
Wagon: the only way to travel

Brussels Family Resources: Brussels Childbirth Trust (BCT)

A world of good
A world of good

Although it seems like the obvious thing to do, somehow I have not managed to write about the BCT as a family resource yet. Why not? Somehow it just seems so ubiquitous that it would be akin to writing, “its cold in the winter” or “hey, the chocolate is good here!” The BCT is a non-profit, volunteer run family network that has been operating in Brussels since 1979. For expats finding their way in Brussels, whether pregnant or already with little ones, it is one of the most important resources out there for support, friendship, activities and fun events.

I first found my way to the BCT through their “Pregnancy in Brussels” night. In addition to getting the lay of the land, I also made two fast friends who are still some of my closest today (hi Claire and Heather!). Next up was the BCT Nearly New Sale where I managed to stock up on many gently used baby essentials. But by far, the biggest impact on me was the community that has grown out of this wonderful group.

Let’s face it, after all the excitement of being pregnant, giving birth and getting settled at home wears off, many a mom finds herself going a tad stir crazy. In these moments, it is essential to get out and make some connections or risk tipping the scale from stir crazy to all out nuts. Local BCT groups run everything from walking groups, coffee afternoons to cooking and art classes for the little ones.  There are fun get-togethers at the BCT playhouse, Imagine, out in Wezembeek-Oppem. The list goes on and on.

I definitively recommend checking out the BCT. There is a membership fee of 50 EUR a year which is well worth it for the wealth of resources. Also a huge personal thanks from me to all of the moms and dads who volunteer their time, energy and resources to make this a truly irreplaceable Brussels family resource. Thank you for all you do!

It’s official! Fall mini sessions at Marie’s Garden

Fall in Love sessions
Fall in Love sessions

I am proud to announce that Bear & Dragon will be holding a day of gorgeous fall photo sessions on October 19 at Marie’s Garden! An absolutely beautiful setting with wide fields, sunflower lined paths and of course pumpkins. Come enjoy the space, harvest some lovely vegetables and take timeless family photos.

This is the first of two fall mini session dates. The second will be set in a forest or local park to capture the height of fall leaf colors. The location and early November date will be revealed shortly.

Email for more information: BearandDragonPhotography@gmail.com

Brussels Family Resources: Antenatal and Baby

On your side
On your side

So you have found yourself living in Brussels and pregnant. Date is getting closer and you realize its time to figure out this whole giving birth thing. Where to start? Your doctor? Too busy. Your friends? Good but perhaps subjective. Mom? Well, you survived into adulthood but may be interested to hear about the latest developments in child birth. Time to call in the professionals.

From what I have found, there are really two resources out there that offer high quality support to would-be mommas and poppas, The BCT and Antenatal and Baby. Both special in their own right, BCT will be the subject of a later post but today I want to zero in on Jo Everatt at Antenatal and Baby.

After hearing the name from so many of my clients, I decided it was finally time to investigate myself. So I asked Jo to lunch and got to know her a little better. For those who have not had the pleasure, Jo is one of those people who seems to feel completely comfortable in their own skin. One who has seen it all and been left unruffled. Someone you would want on your side in the new show, Survivor: Pregnancy edition. She has been a practicing midwife for 26 years in many different settings. Around four years ago, she set up Antenatal and Baby and now focuses on offering antenatal courses, breastfeeding support and home visits as well as special topic classes and a mom and baby group.

As we talked more, we found that we had a shared core belief that if you do what you love and are passionate about it then you really can’t go wrong. As such, Jo has established a practice where she is able to offer exactly what she is best at; accessible, practical care based on extensive clinical expertise. Except for being present at birth, Jo is a one stop shop for support before and after birth. Based on what I learned, Jo’s “moms” have her cell number and free rein to call at any hour. And they do.

I could go on but her website explains it much better than I can. Suffice to say, I think Jo is someone to be trusted. If you are looking for someone to be by your side and set you up for success on your birth, I think she will do just that. The Mom & Baby group also seems like fun. 🙂

So what is the difference between BCT and Antenatal and Baby? This is a difficult question to answer and I can only give my opinion. The BCT has been like a second home for me and is amazing based on its network of committed Moms that share their experiences, lives and coffee on cozy afternoons and in fun play groups. I did attend the antenatal class there and enjoyed it. BCT also offers breastfeeding support as well as mom-to-mom after birth support, which is fabulous.

With Antenatal and Baby, there seems to be a bigger focus on the clinical side of setting up for a successful and realistic birth. Jo is really the backbone of the organization and if you want to benefit from her experience then she will be with you every step of the way. Antenatal is smaller and so in someways more flexible and personal. I suggest looking into both and deciding which fits your needs best. Either way, you win. 🙂

Disclaimer: I have not been paid in any way for this review. I just like writing about things I like. 🙂

A cozy space
A cozy space

First look: Balloons!

You will be mine!
You will be mine!

Marie first contacted me after she received a gift of a photo session from her partner. She had tons of great ideas on fun things to include in the session for her 10 month old, Diane. Summery outfits, bright colors and best of all…balloons! Now sure to be a staple in the studio, it was so much fun watching Diane play and intensely pursue these bright globes. A doll from start to finish and in an act of happenstance, sharing a birthday with my own babatwo. 

Enjoy the show. 🙂

On the prowl
On the prowl
The love
The love
balloons-8
Before
balloons-3
After – ha!
Drama
Drama
Proud
Proud

Things to do with a toddler or baby in Brussels: Stroll through the forest at the Rouge Cloitre

Long light
Long light

You can feel it, can’t you. The air is a little cooler. The forest a little quieter. And somehow the light has more gold in it than before. I just can’t help but fall in love all over again. Fall is coming.

We are making the most of our last summer days. Out and about, long walks, picking berries. I just can’t believe that my little Bababoo is starting school in a matter of days. Where does it all go?

Enough musing and on to the topic of this post! If you find yourself taking a drive down Avenue Tervuren, look for a sign on the right side of the road for the Rouge Cloiture. Located in the ForĂŞt de Soignes, the Rouge Cloiture is one of our favorite places to get away. When we say, let’s go for a walk in the forest, this is where we mean. But the Rouge Cloiture is much more than just a beautiful forest. After a while, you emerge to find the Abbey which was founded in 1367. Lots of beautiful buildings and an art gallery but more often we are there to pet the muscular working horses, to take coffee and cake on the weekends or to just walk around the grounds. A perfect step away from passing time. It is truly a wonderful way to spend the day. To get you in the mood, I wanted to share a few snaps from a recent wander.

In Bear & Dragon news, things are already getting very busy for the fall. It seems I am not the only one who loves Autumn colors! I am planning a series of mini photo session in a location soon to be finalized. On hand will be gorgeous portrait and family photo set ups, great light and of course brilliant red, gold and green fall trees. Drop me a note at bearanddragonphotography@gmail.com to get on an early list. October weekend spots are already getting scarce!

In formation
In formation
Glow
Glow
Sweet breeze, lazy days
Sweet breeze, lazy days
Them boys
Them boys
Ride
Ride

Things to do with a baby or toddler in Brussels: Sip, shop and play at Haricot Magique

Stroller Cafe. Fabulous idea!
Stroller Cafe. Fabulous idea!

Somehow when I started maternity leave I envisioned myself frequenting cafes, sipping coffee and chatting with a friend while our little ones snoozed nearby. Much to my surprise, there is somewhat a lack of chic and yummy momma cafes. In Brussels? Really?! Strange! A while back I heard about Haricot Magique (Magic Bean) but it took me until now to make my way to Schaerbeek to check it out.

What a lovely place. Just as I imagined only better! It is as though they made a check list of all the ingredients that go into a great momming lunch and made it happen. You need a nice, fun place for kids to play while you sup? Check. Fresh healthy food (baby and adult) and free trade coffee? Sure. A bright bathroom with changing table, potty and real towels? Check, check, check. We had such a nice time here! I also learned that they have lots of fun sounding workshops, book readings, etc. We will be sure to check one soon. Maybe Introduction to Music on Saturday!

If you are in the vicinity of Parc Josephat, stop in! You won’t regret it. Cheers.

Where: Avenue Louis Bertrand 22, 1030 Bruxelles

When: Monday – Saturday, 9:30 – 18:00

Be welcome
Be welcome
Future birthday presents
Future birthday presents
Something for everyone
Something for everyone

 

Les Poussette
Les Poussette