Ludotèque? This definitely wasn’t a word I learned in AP French. A quick Google search (gotta love smart phones when on the go and curious…) told me that a ludotèque is French for “toy library”. How super cool!
I came across this through some Geneva-focused blogs here and here.
I was excited to hear about a toy library – what a brilliant idea! I’d never heard of it before but it makes absolute sense, especially when you live in a small apartment in a big city. When I got home, I did a bit more research and it turns out there are ludutèques all over the French speaking countries, and equivalent places in Germany. In the US, Canada and UK, there are a handful of toy libraries but they don’t seem as popular. Here in London, we have Children’s Centres where there are times for free play but you can’t take any toys home to use for a week or two. Being able to test out a toy before buying is brilliant. Or, if you know you’re only going to want a toy for a few weeks. Or better yet, you’re off to visit Grandma and Grandpa and want to travel light (if there is such a thing with infants). I bet that visit to the grandparents will be even more special if there’s a new set of toys every time.
In Geneva, there were a lot of things to do with Little Man – head to a ludutèque, go to an indoor playground called Yatouland, or even (had I thought about this beforehand) head to a Gymboree class, as we are enrolled in Gymboree here in London. There is also an outdoor animal park we could have even gone to in Geneva – La Bois la Batie. Even head to the Museum of Natural History. All of these are accessible via public transport or walking from the city centre.
This time in Geneva, I realised how easy it is to walk everywhere. Although if you want to go somewhere away from the lake, be prepared to walk up a few hills. If you do get tired or want to go away from the lake, visitors are able to get free travel on public transportation with a specific card from your hotel. Just make sure to carry your passport with you at all times, as you need it along with the card. I didn’t take the buses this time, but I did see mums with strollers so it looks like you can take them on without having to collapse them. Travelling outside of Geneva may require a car but there are also the trains, which are brilliant although some have a few steps from the platform.
So, what did we do when we were in Geneva? Enjoy the sun!
With lots to do with Little Man, it was a shame we were there for only two days. The first day, there were only a few hours just me and Little Man and we spent the time walking around the lake because it was such a glorious day with the sun shining. We also tried the Natural History Museum but they are closed on Mondays.
The second day, my husband had meetings for most of the day, so we started up at the Museum of Natural History. Afterwards, we went back to the hotel for a bit of relaxation and hang out with my husband while he was in between meetings, and then we found one of these ludotèques.
The museum was great. There weren’t any exhibitions specific for really little ones, but it was great to see lots of animals. Lots and lots of dioramas of stuffed animals in their habitats – the museum is divided into continents – and the scenes were filled with animals. There was a school group when I was there of a class around 6/7 year olds and they seemed to love the place. There is also have a section on the geologic history of the Geneva region (back to the glacial ages) and also a room on minerals and rocks. So lots of cool things for kids with different interests. There was even a special exhibit on the investigation of animal poo. This exhibition was made up of a few small rooms dedicated to how animals live with their poo – either as a calling card, or a means to get rid of waste, or as a way to spread seeds – along with a little crime scene that shows the science of animals who eat other animals and determining which animal actually killed a sheep. Yet it was done in a way that wasn’t gruesome but scientific.
I really enjoyed the museum. Little Man fell asleep soon after we arrived, so it’s tough to say if he enjoyed it or not (he currently finds the white noise of museums calming although this one was pretty empty when we were there). I’d allow about two hours for the whole thing. There’s a cafeteria/restaurant, so you can enjoy a snack in case you get hungry. Oh, and it’s free…except for some special exhibitions (the poo exhibit was free).
Now, onto these ludotèques…the Geneva city website has a section dedicated to them (warning: the site is in French). I found the one closest to our hotel and headed there for an hour. I had no idea what to expect, but it was great! We walked in, hung up our jackets and found the baby play area. There were a couple of staff members there making sure things were safe and also checking toys in and out for the families. You did need to enter with at least one child in tow, but the one we went to didn’t have a sign in or anything like that.
Walking in seemed a bit overwhelming at first. Not intimidating or scary, but overwhelming in the noise and frenzy that children often bring with them when playing.
There wasn’t a soft play area like some children’s centres but there was a corner of the big open room that was blocked off by a few benches with a rug and some blankets down so the non-mobile ones could play safely without being run over by the older kids. Little Man was definitely the youngest at 10 months and the oldest kids were around 7 or 8. The toddlers were pushing carts, buggies or cars around or playing in the little house scene and the bigger kids were playing board games or dressing up or just chasing each other around. The parents and nannies let the kids be kids and left them to it, which was wonderful to see.
Little Man spent the first ten minutes or so just absorbing everything. He found his little space – just on the outside of the “safe” area so he could watch all the kids running around – and he had his few toys he could chew on and throw and know no one would nick them.
Would I go back to another one of these ludos? Absolutely! I can see how Little Man will love it even more next time as he will that much more mobile. Will he learn French? Maybe in a couple of years time…
I thoroughly enjoyed Geneva this time around. It was very different from most of the times I’ve been there as I wasn’t dashing across town to and from meetings but instead, wandering around and exploring. We were there this summer when Little Man was around 5 months, and I enjoyed it then but I think I was more adventurous this time around. I’m looking forward to exploring more of the city the next time I’m there. Hopefully it will be with Little Man in tow and I won’t be back to zipping around to business meetings.
What do you look to do with your little one when travelling? Do you opt for the museums or do you find play groups and soft play areas?