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Moving your children to Shanghai

25 February 2014

Are you anxious about bringing your children to live in Shanghai? You are not alone.

People will tell you that there are no parks or green space, that Shanghai is dirty and polluted and that there is nothing for children and families to do.

The same could be said of moving to many a major city and some of what you hear is indeed true. Most families do find that the benefits do considerably outweigh the negatives.

As a parent, you will quickly notice that Shanghai is an extremely safe environment. Chinese people adore children and will go to great lengths to entertain and spoil your offspring at any given opportunity (this can be a little overwhelming and strange at first). With inexpensive household help, you will also find yourself, instead of being loaded down with chores, able to spend more quality time with your children, taking them swimming, or to the park, or to one of Shanghai's amazing museums, or to play with other children in your new neighbourhood.

Someone living in an expat community is much more open and friendly and willing to go places and try things. Living in this tight-knit community can be a truly positive experience, you will quickly make firm friends and find that there is always something going on in which you can get involved. Having an Ayi who babysits can also mean that parents get back a little bit of freedom that might have been harder to come by in your home country.

The lists of activities for children in Shanghai is growing daily and websites and magazines which advertise events are bursting at the seams with things to do.  There are some great, must-see city parks, museums and leisure facilities, as well as a whole host of adventure and water parks, day trips, arts and crafts groups, wildlife parks, children's theatre, cinema, a zoo and a safari park. Kids groups such as Shanghai Family Kids Club put on regular events such as storytelling and magicians, garden parties and cultural events for festivals such as Chinese New Year. 

Toys and clothes are easy to come by and very inexpensive. Almost everything you need will be sold in the large department stores, malls or Carrefour supermarkets. Children's shoes, made from real leather, can be harder to find, as can English children's books, so stock up before leaving home.

One of the best things about living in Shanghai as a parent is that you will never have to worry about eating out with your kids. Children are welcome absolutely everywhere, in even the smartest of restaurants. Many restaurants and some bars have child-friendly facilities and the staff are very accommodating, even entertaining the children themselves.

Contrary to what you might expect, the weather in Shanghai can take us all by surprise.  January to March can get so cold and windy that the parks are deserted. July, August and much of September the temperature can be so scorchingly hot and the humidity so high, that, other than a visit to the pool, your children will not want to go out. For this reason most expats leave Shanghai for July and August, returning to their home countries to see their families.