Merry Christmas 

Christmas above all is about being with those people you care about. As expats we often can find ourselves on the other side of the world, miles away from those very people. At this time of year that can be very hard. So here is hoping that everyone is with someone they love at this time of year, be it your children, your extended family, or your expat friends. Have a very Merry Christmas and “see” you in the New Year. 

Sanborns @ Multiplaza 

A few mums has mentioned that Sanborns at Multiplaza was a good place for lunch or a coffee with kids.  This week E and I met some new friends there.

Processed with MOLDIV
Sanborns can be found at the end of Multiplaza by Tiffanys, Carolina Herrera etc. If you are going at this time of year, right by the Swarovski tree. It is part store (selling everything from cakes and makeup to model sail boats) and part restaurant. They have ample seating, highchairs galore and a children’s menu. There is both indoor and outdoor seating. For the kids there is also a small play area comprising of a slide and crawling tunnel over artificial grass. The area is fenced in with a small entrance that doesn’t have a gate, and parents are responsible for their own children.

E managed to climb up the ramp and use the slide no problems but obviously needed to be spotted as her spacial awareness isn’t very good yet and she tends to get distracted then step off the edge of things. Older kids should be just fine playing in there with minimal supervision. The slide frame is taped up in places but this seemed like superficial repairs rather than a real structural issue.

The coffee was ok and service was good (although the restaurant was not busy at the time). I would say it is a good place to go with kids over 3 although how long the play area would keep them amused would very much depend on the child. It would also be fine with surefooted toddlers if you don’t mind spoting them when needed and you can get a table by the play area.

El Hombre de la Mancha Kids

This week E and I headed up to San Francisco to have a look around the new El Hombre de la Mancha Kids bookstore on Calle 71. Needless to say my wallet took a bashing.
Situated at the Via Israel end of Calle 71, in a small new strip mall called (I believe) The Plaza, El Hombre de la Mancha Kids is a welcome addition to the stores available for kids here in Panama. Situated across two floors, the lower floor seemed to focus on books and games for younger children and the first floor focused on older kids.

The upper floor had not only board games and books but a classroom that I assume is used for kids events. The lower floor has a cafe ($3 capuchino was good) with two tables and a great little childrens play area tucked under the stairs.  I actually managed to drink my coffee whilst hot as E happily played. There are a good selection of books in English, Spanish and I also saw Le Petit Prince in French/English. I noted many popular children’s titles. They seemed to have almost every Hape toy going, including their balance bike. There was a steady stream of customers making Christmas purchases. I have to admit I couldn’t resist and walked away with two toys and two books.

The kids area is small and not gated so your little one will need supervision, E did eventually tire of the toys and books on offer and began raiding the displays of toys and books for purchase, at which point I made a quick exit. It is not the cheapest place in Panama, but then new books always cost a little more here, a great place to find a special gift for your children. We will definitely be going back.

Aquatics Swim School

When E was 7 months old we decided to start some swimming classes. We discovered Aquatics Swim School with a quick search on Google, and on asking around the feedback was very positive. The school itself is in Costa del Este. Prices at the time were  $88 per month for one group class a week (6 students max). You can start classes from 4 months, for children of up to 2 years a parent or a teacher (at an additional fee) should accompany the child. The basic ethos is that kids learn to love water and subsequently swim through play.

My husband did the classes with E and I tagged along to help with changing and to take the obligatory photos! Briefly this is how it works, parking outside, cars are parked behind each other, it is a case of finding a spot and leaving your keys with the valet who will move it to allow others to get their cars out. You need to remove shoes to go into the pool area, there is a cafe down stairs where parents can wait and watch classes on screens, if you are not involved and don’t want to stand poolside. Babies and toddlers are required to wear approved swimwear and swim nappy. You can purchase approved swimsuits at the Aquatics shop on site.
Once upstairs there are two change rooms which are non gender specific. There is a large bench for changing babies and a large trough sink to rinse them in. For bigger kids and adults there are cubicles and showers. If you are a parent with a baby that cannot stand, you are faced with the problem of what to do with the baby whilst you yourself get dried and dressed. There is a bench but for kids that can roll it isn’t safe. Two people is helpful or at least go prepared to juggle baby and dressing.

Aquatics is incredibly organised and, unusually for Panama, very much runs to schedule, so get there with time to change into your swimsuit. A bell rings at the beginning and end of class and there is about five minutes between classes for kids to get in/out of the pool. It does feel somewhat like a conveyor belt but it is efficient. Kids seem to be very attentive and enjoying classes and there are instructors aplenty. E loved her class and the songs that they sing, and the change of activity every few minutes is great for a short attention span. It seems like the instructors are well trained and love their jobs. By the fourth class E could slide off the mat into the pool to be caught by her dad with no fear, and she was getting used to the sensation of having water on her face.

Obviously I can’t comment on the older classes, but I would recommend Aquatics to anyone who was thinking of swimming classes for their kids. It is well worth trying out to see if it is a fit for your little ones.