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CHILDREN

The best ways to entertain kids in Stockholm, whatever the weather

The Local contributor Miriam Bade rounds up the best ways to keep your kids entertained in Stockholm throughout each of the seasons, with the help of a few experts.

The best ways to entertain kids in Stockholm, whatever the weather
Stockholm has an almost endless amount of things to do with kids. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

Going on trips with kids can be challenging, and planning is definitely everything, but Stockholm makes things fairly easy. Most buses are free for people with strollers, while kids under seven also travel for free on the metro, and most restaurants offer child friendly seats and baby changing areas.

To make planning even easier still, we've rounded up Stockholm's must-dos with kids throughout the year. And don't forget to check out some of the great playgrounds all around the city too. 

Spring

Photo: Henrik Montgomery / TT

The weather isn't so steady in spring – Swedish spring can be quite cold – but if you make sure to enjoy the sunnier days you will fall in love with the season. Thanks to a couple of national holidays there is a lot of time to spend outdoors with your kids, too.

It's no secret that children love animals. Jill Leckie, blogger at littlebearabroad recommends the youth organisation 4H gårdar, which runs several farms in and around Stockholm. There, kids learn how to care for animals from rabbits to horses, always keeping in mind the four Hs: head, heart, hand and health. They offer several free activities, and more details can be found at yourlivingcity.com.

At this time of the year the brown bears have woken up, so it's the perfect season to visit Stockholm's open-air museum Skansen. At Easter you can combine your visit with the yearly “påskmarknad”. The park offers several activities such as glass blowing, face painting or making a broom for Maundy Thursday: in Sweden it's a children's tradition to dress up like witches and knock on doors in the neighbourhood to ask for goodies on this particular day.

Another weird spring tradition is the so called “Kosläpp“: the time of the year when farmers release their cows on the fields again after winter. Happy cows running and jumping are sure to keep kids entertained, but make sure to snap tickets up early as they sell out pretty fast.

Fussier kids who don't like cows but do enjoy horses might like to have a peak at the Royal Stables, which opens its doors on Easter, as well as on a handful of other days through the year.

After a long and cold winter, it's a relief to see nature blooming again, and while walking around the city make sure to stop at Kungsträdgården to have a look at the beautiful cherry blossom trees which normally flower at the beginning of or mid April.

Strandvägen is close by too – a nice area to have a walk in the sun near the water. Why not take a boat from Strandvägen to Djurgården? Exploring the city from the water is usually a hit among the kids.

The Outdoor Association (Frilufts Främjandet) offer more of blogger Leckie's favourite activities. Located at Huddinge, south of Stockholm, children of any age can join in learning about how to deal with the great outdoors, and they also offer one family event in English.

A key date during spring is Walpurgis Night (Valborg) on April 30th, celebrated with a huge fire at several spots in and around Stockholm. Find the nearest place online and celebrate the banishing of winter and welcoming of spring with music and dance.

Summer

Photo: Hasse Holmberg / TT

Sweden's prettiest season, Stockholm thrives in the summer. People spend most of their free time outdoors, the sun barely sets, and there is a lot to do whether it's day or night.

One thing you should definitely try with your kids is Långholmen beach between Hornstull and Kungsholmen. Emma, a mother of four children in Stockholm, recommends the little beach at Blockhusudden meanwhile, on the east coast of Djurgården, as well as further away Erstaviksbadet, one hour from Slussen by train. There are loads of other bathing places all around Stockholm.

As there is water everywhere, you can also explore the city by renting a kayak or canoe – a genuinely special adventure. At Sjöcaféet on Djurgården you can rent canoes as well as kayaks, pedalos and bicycles for a maximum of 400 kronor per day. Another great option for outdoor addicts is to go fishing – make sure to check if you need a permit first, though.

Leaving the waterside and moving to the city's green areas: every summer Kulturhuset and Stadsteatern offer several park theatre performances, with some aimed at children. Entrance is always free, and it's a good excuse to have a picnic and a barbecue.

There are also near endless strolls around Djurgården to be had. When smaller feet get tired, jump aboard Cafévagnen's tram, where you can have some fika and watch the landscape pass by. Also try a walk in Rosendals Trädgård, a wonderful garden and greenhouse right in the middle of the island which is a great place to have either lunch or coffee.

READ ALSO: Five things to do in Stockholm when it empties for summer

A whole summer day can easily be spent with the kids at Blå Lagunen on the island of Ekerö, which is around one hour from Stockholm. The former quarry is filled up with clear, blue water – giving it an exotic feel despite not being far from Stockholm.

Better known of course is Stockholm's archipelago which is also worth exploring. On Birke island in the Mälaren lake meanwhile you can discover Viking history in one of Sweden's oldest towns.

There are plenty of dates to put in your diary for the summer. During Midsummer, many Swedes leave the city to spend the longest day of the year at their summer houses or out on the archipelago. Whether you decide to leave or to stay, make sure to plan ahead and find a nice place to celebrate – a maypole and some music and dancing are a must.

On your way home, you can tell your kids to pick seven different sorts of flowers, which must then be put under their pillow in order to make that dream of a future loved one come true…

Arguably the best part of the summer comes in August with the crayfish party. Swedes love crayfish and children love to make a mess while eating them with their bare hands – fortunately that's perfectly allowed during this particular meal.

Autumn

Photo: Sergei Grits

On a lucky year, Stockholm's September and October can be quite beautiful, with the warmth just hanging on in the water and in the ground. Djurgården's colourful trees are not to be missed, and you should definitely have a walk at Monteliusvägen to appreciate a stunning view on the city of Stockholm.

A nearby playground, Ivar Los park, makes this the perfect spot to enjoy an early sunset over the skyline of Stockholm. Other places to enjoy a view of the city are Fåfängan, a café with a view on Södermalm, and Kaknästornet, the TV and radio tower that at 155 meters tall was once Sweden's highest building.

Make sure not to miss the bakery and chocolate festival which takes place every October at Stockholmsmässan. Every child has a sweet tooth, and the beauty and precision of chocolate art on show will surely astonish you too.

This is also the right time to visit one of Stockholm's best known children's spots, Junibacken. There, kids can get engrossed in the magical worlds from Astrid Lindgren's classic books, like Pippi Longstocking.

READ ALSO: Six of the best things to do in Stockholm in Autumn

Another world to get lost in is Bokslukaren near Mariatorget on Södermalm. It's a mini culture centre for children and offers books as well as baked goods. Bookworms will also love Stockholm's  City Library (Stadsbibliotek), which has a great children's area. Their “Fredagsmys för hela familjen” (cosy Fridays for all the family) invite children and their parents to lay back and listen to stories while having popcorn every Friday afternoon.

Like in the rest of the Western world, Sweden celebrates Halloween in the Americna style these days with carved pumpkins and creepy costumes. Skrikfabriken (The Scream Factory), presented by the Stockholm Transport Museum run a fun day of ghoulish activities for children like costume contests, face painting, special-effects make up and magic shows. Also make sure to see Shockholm – the biggest Scandinavian Halloween parade – if your children are brave enough.

Winter

Photo: Peter Komka

Winter in Sweden: dark and cold, right? Once you've clothed your children like little astronauts in the Swedish way, you may find there's a lot of fun to be had once the snow starts falling. Lots of public squares turn into ice rinks, including the big ones at Kungsträdgården or Vasaparken near Odenplan. And if you want to train for your first family skiing holiday, there's a beginner's slope in the middle of the city at Hammarbybacken – not to mention skiing lessons available.

Strömgatan is worth a walk all year round, but in winter, it's even better for kids as a large bird's feeding ground takes place near Strömbron. Keep an eye out for ducks, swans and geese.

As Christmas approaches things really start to pick up, with markets taking place all over the city, and Skansen's version perhaps the best of the bunch. Also try Ladan Christmas market, where children can participate in crafts and try pony riding. IOn the 13th of December you will find Lucia processions in churches and popular places all around the city which are both beautiful and touching.

A simple way of enjoying the snow is to do so with a sled, and there are suitable hills all around the city, with Humlegården one of the most child-friendly. Faster hills can be found at Vasaparken, Observatorielunden and Kronobergsparken.

READ ALSO: Eight ways to survive November in Sweden

If the weather's really bad, a great indoor day is to visit Södertälje and Tom Tits Experiment, an interactive science museum for children, or why not let the kids burn off energy at “Bounce Sweden”, which as the name suggests is filled with trampolines.

The Swedish Museum of Natural History meanwhile offers a range of activities for children, as does the Museum of Ethnography. Entrance to both is free for the whole family, while special activities may cost small admission fees.

Before visiting the capital's museums make sure to check guides like Gratis I Stockholm, where you can find info about opening hours, fees, and hints on activities that are off the beaten tourist track.

For members

FAMILY

How to use all your parental leave in Sweden before it expires

The parents of fully 70 percent of children in Sweden fail to take all the parental leave available to them before it expires. But there are some tricks to make sure you use it all.

two parents and two children in a car
You could save some parental leave days to use for a long holiday – but be careful so that they don't expire. Photo: Simon Paulin/imagebank.sweden.se

“The Swedish Social Insurance Agency has decided that you will not receive child benefit for Finn from December 24th to January 8th,” read the letter that dropped into my secure digital mailbox over Christmas. 

My son turned eight on December 23rd, and as he was born just a week before a new more generous policy became valid in Sweden, that marked the end of our eligibility for child leave.

And just as had happened with his elder sister, we had let his leave expire with more than a month of leave yet to claim.

It turns out, we are far from alone.

The parents of fully 72 percent of the children born in Sweden in 2010 failed to claim all of their shared 480 days of parental leave by the time they expired in 2018, according to the latest statistics from the Social Insurance Agency. On average, parents in Sweden failed to claim about a month, but 21 percent of parents had, like us, failed to claim more than 60 days.

In total, that amounted to 1.4 billion kronor ($154.4 million) in unclaimed benefits, and according to an analysis by the agency, it was those with the lowest incomes who had the most days left over.

A graph showing how many days of parental leave was not claimed for children born in 2010, divided up by (from left) low-income, mid-income and high-income families. The dark green shows days paid at 80 percent of the salary (sjukpenningnivå) and the light green the lowest-paid days (lägstanivå, 180 kronor a day). Photo: Försäkringskassan

A change in the rules since my son was born has made using your days quite a bit easier. Parents of children born after January 1st in 2014 (a week after my son), can now continue to take out leave until their children’s 12th birthday.

But be aware that all but 96 of these days expire when the child turns four, so the race is still on.

If you want to understand how parental leave in Sweden works, here’s The Local’s detailed guide to how the system works

But to avoid other foreigners in Sweden suffering the same disappointment as I did, keep scrolling for some tips for how to make sure you use all that leave.

Take leave together 

Swedish rules allow both parents to take leave at the same time. In the first few months, this can really take the pressure off the mother, allowing her partner to take over while she makes up for lost sleep, or takes a precious hour or so to herself. 

The rules allow each couple to claim a maximum of 30 of these so-called dubbeldagar or “double days”, which taken together will use up 60 days of leave. 

These days cannot be taken from the 90 reservdagar, or “reserve days”, which are tied to each parent to prevent fathers from taking out days at the same time as leaving the mother to do all the actual childcare. They also can only be taken before the child is one year old. 

Claim leave for ordinary holidays 

My mistake was to see parental leave as something to take only when I was off work specifically to look after my children. In fact, you can take it out any time you are not actually working: when you take time off over Christmas, Easter, during the sportlov or höstlov school holidays, or over the long Swedish summer. 

“My husband takes all of the school holidays and the summers off so we can travel and all be together,” says Martha Moore in Malmö. “I’m a teacher, so I will probably give all of my days to him, since I get to be off when my kids are off anyway.”

You can even claim for days which you are also claiming as holiday from your work, or days which are public holidays in Sweden, but you can only claim parental leave for these days at the so-called lägstanivå, or base level of 180 kronor a day.  

You can claim some days at the same time as the other parent. Photo: Magnus Liam Karlsson/imagebank.sweden.se

Take a very long holiday 

One Australian living in Stockholm said she was off to Thailand for two and a half months this February in order to use up some of the days from her second child, which are due to expire when she turns four later in the year.

She recommends planning one long holiday to use up any of the 384 days that will expire when your child turns four, and then saving up the other 96 days for a second long holiday before they turn 12. 

She is putting her eldest child into a Swedish school in Thailand while they are there, using one of the chain of Swedish schools set up in Thailand, primarily for parents holidaying on their parental leave.  

She deliberately didn’t use as many days as she could have in the first 12 months, so that she and her husband could do this. “My tip is to not use many days at all paid that first 12 months, and to burn your savings instead,” she says. 

As her child is more than one year old, she and her husband cannot take leave simultaneously, however, so he is using holiday time he has saved up. 

Take leave before the birth 

The pregnant parent can start taking parental leave and collecting benefits up to 60 days before the due date. It’s actually compulsory for the mother to take two weeks of leave in connection with the birth, which can either be before or after. New fathers or secondary caregivers can also start taking leave up to ten days before the birth. 

This could be a waste of days, however, as if a difficult (or, let’s face it, even fairly normal) pregnancy makes it impossible to do your job, you can claim sickness benefits instead of parental leave, and get the same level of benefits without using up any of your 480 days. 

This does not apply, however, to “normal pregnancy difficulties such as back pain and fatigue”, so to claim sickness benefits, you will have to convince your doctor to certify that you have pregnancy difficulties that are “unusually severe”. 

A father carrying his child in a Baby Björn in Sweden. Photo: Melker Dahlstrand/imagebank.sweden.se

Take a chunk out to do private projects 

People less good at forward planning sometimes take a chunk of leave just before their child turns four or twelve (or eight if they were born before January 1st, 2014), even if they don’t have anything planned in particular.  

You can use this time to do the sort of home chores that it is so hard to find time to do once you have children. 

“I had a colleague who took two months’ maternity leave when her daughter was seven years old,” says one woman in Malmö. “She took it as a vacation in the summer to fix her apartment.” 

Use parental leave to work a short week 

Once the child is in preschool (dagis or förskola) many people, including Moore’s husband, use parental leave to take Friday and/or Monday off work for six months or more, allowing them to spend more time with their child.

This is obviously something you have to square with your employer, but in Sweden most employers are more than willing to put employees on 80 percent. 

You can either use this time to take some of the pressure off your partner during their parental leave, or to reduce the amount of time your child spends in preschool.

A parent walking their child in a pram through a snowy Stockholm. Photo: Jann Lipka/imagebank.sweden.se

Use parental leave to work short days 

You don’t need to take each allotted day as a full day, you can also reduce your working day by three quarters, a half, one quarter or one eighth, and receive proportional parental benefit for the time not worked.

Parents of a child under the age of eight can reduce their working hours by up to 25 percent, whether or not they decide to take parental benefit for the remaining 25 percent.

This can be extremely helpful in making combining childcare and work a little less stressful.

Claim leave for weekends 

You can claim parental leave on weekends as well as on normal weekdays, but unless you normally work on the weekend, you can only claim these at the lowest base level of 180 kronor. 

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