I’ve listed earlier a few of my favourite free hobbies for toddlers in Helsinki, and written about other low cost activities we like to spend our free time on, e.g. fun walks, reading, camping, theatre and crafts. As a family, we’ve mostly preferred activities where we can have fun together, we don’t invest a lot of money nor are we expected to commit for a long time to avoid a feeling of “I must do this”. So we like riding bikes or a scooter (which our kids now do to get to daycare, and they are mostly quite excited by it), swimming, playing soccer or floor ball, surely ice skating and skiing will be on the cards again when the weather permits, making crafts and music on our own. The sports hullabaloos will start again in October, and will be a good option for “when we feel like it”.
As a multilingual family we also like to choose activities that support their languages: in an environment where Finnish is the language of the majority, we like getting together with other English speaking families to sing Nursery Rhymes every second Sunday (very casual, no cost, no commitment but great people). Our children also love the gym circuit at Jungle Junction: Darlene sets it up close to Iso Omena in Espoo on Mondays and Fridays 10-12am. It is a “come when you feel like it” class, so last year, when my husband had Mondays off, he often took our children there. It is not quite free: 10e/child (15e/2 children). But we love the concept: it is free play on the circuit but lovely Darlene is happy to teach children more tricks in a safe way, if they want it. Each time she also leads a little singing session in English combining songs with movements and play. It is a welcoming place where Finnish and international families mix easily.
Our daughter has also started a weekly class in Creative Dancing together with a friend. We still don’t want all our time after work or daycare to be full of programme but the girls love this. I think our Big Girl (4 years) also enjoys doing something without mum hanging around all the time, which might even be beneficial in the long run ;). At the same time we are learning the meaning of schedules for picking up etc and are happy to collaborate with the parents of the friend. This class is in Finnish and is offered by MLL (Mannerheimin lastensuojeluliitto), Mannerheim League for Child Welfare. MLL offers a variety of classes and groups for a good price (typically about 70e/term) in many towns and most suburbs of Helsinki, so if you are interested in something for your child, or together with your child, you may want to check the website of your local MLL.
Another affordable dancing class I can recommend in Helsinki is with Haga UF and in Swedish. Our daughter went there before she started daycare. She absolutely loved it and her teacher Heidi Palmu was fantastic, and as it was heavily subsidised by the association it was very affordable, I think it cost 25e/term. Unfortunately, because my girl refused to nap at daycare, there was no chance of her continuing with the dance last year. Lucky for her though, her mum and the other parents got involved, and now the very same teacher will start giving dance classes at the daycare!
What hobbies do you, your children, or all of you together have? Do you have good tips on hobbies for children in Helsinki area to share? What thoughts do you have on how much and at what age is good for your children – or you? Do you mind being/becoming a “soccer mum” spending all your free time driving between the hobbies of your children? How important is “unprogrammed” time for you?