Oslo is an amazing place to raise small children! We’ve been living in Oslo for just over a year and it has been wonderful. This is probably the safest place I’ve ever lived; people notoriously leave their babies in strollers out on the sidewalk while they head into a cafe or store (though I can’t bring myself to go that far). I see elementary and middle school age children out walking without adults every day. It may sound weird to say, but the water out of the faucet is the best I’ve ever tasted – though maybe I feel that way because we were living in Maputo, Mozambique before this and couldn’t drink the water without boiling or distilling it. The public transportation is plentiful, reliable, and pretty spotless. Oslo is an important capital city, but it’s so small it doesn’t always feel like it, it’s very manageable. The air is crisp and clean and there are green spaces literally everywhere. The Norwegians love their outdoor time! Which means we’re outside a lot.
Our weekend days usually start with some sort of excursion outdoors (at least since the mountains of snow disappeared a month ago, ha). Sometimes we hit one of the two playgrounds a short walk from the house (I think Immi’s favorite is the one on the other side of the dam – she loves watching the ducks and “big ducks,” as she calls the swans). Since spring has started we’ll visit a nearby open farm to walk the grounds, view the lake, and pet the baby cows. An old reliable is heading to the famous Frogner Park near the city center, where we can walk among the Vigeland statues, run around in the wide open spaces, or explore the large playground with separate spaces for the tiny ones and big kids. As the weather continues to warm up we will definitely be visiting places like Sognsvann, a nearby fresh lake with walking trails and picnic spots, and our favorite beach on the Oslo fjord with another awesome playground. And in the middle of summer we can go to the FrognerBadet, Immi gets in for free and we can post up in the shade at the children’s pool with snacks and spend the morning splashing and relaxing.
In general, Norwegians seem to like kids. There have been plenty of occasions when people helped me or made way for our stroller on the bus. Children are welcome at restaurants and in museums. You can find a baby changing station almost everywhere, and not just in the women’s restroom either, but also the men’s or unisex. There just seems to be an understanding that these little people have just as much a right as everyone else to occupy space, and to encourage them to explore new environments and situations. Very much an “it takes a village” mentality.
It certainly helps that all Norwegians are entitled to parental leave. All families get a year of paid leave when a baby is born, and they can choose how to use that leave. Some mothers or fathers stay home the whole year, while other couples choose to split the time between them. These parents are given a network of other parents of newborns within their community through their local health station (government-run clinics in every neighborhood that monitor your baby’s basic health needs during the first 15 months). Then there are so many activities for infants and their parents in that first year! The movie theaters have Baby Kino, where you can bring your baby to a movie during the day (they turn down the sound and turn up the lights). Most malls, and even some restaurants that aren’t fast food, have play areas. Baby swim classes are very popular – we started with Imogen last fall which has been super fun – as are music, yoga and gym/tumbling groups.
As Immi grows there’s going to be even more that we can take advantage of. We have at least another year of living here and I’m trying to plan ahead and make the most of our remaining time in this beautiful country!