Founders of Atelier Choux, Daniella and Nicolas, live and work in the city of light with their two children. Mini Magazine asked the founders all about parenting in Paris and they told what makes French families tick to the challenges of raising kids in the city.
What do you love most about living in Paris with kids?
We love taking in the beauty of Paris everyday with our children, every walk is an adventure and a “visual feast” for both parents and kids. We try not to take this beauty for granted and point out the sculptural elements on buildings, bridges and ordinary objects like water fountains and public benches to our children. We are sure this develops their appreciation for art and design early on!
Paris is also quite a baby and kid friendly city, with big parks full of attractions for like carousels, old-style puppet shows (called “guignol” in French) and elaborate playgrounds. Children are also immersed in cultural activities from a very young age, with school excursions to Monet’s Garden in Giverny and even the Louvre.
What do you think are some of the challenges of living in Paris with kids?
Not many, but if you are walking on a narrow sidewalk with a stroller or child, you will unfortunately have to dodge many unapologetic smokers.
Where are your favorite places to take kids in Paris?
In good weather we love going to the Jardin d’Acclimatation (the oldest “leisure” park in France, inaugurated in 1860) and it’s even better in August when the city isn’t crowded. It’s a “fancy” amusement park with charismatic rides for very young children, a handful of rollercoasters and free-roaming peacocks. The park underwent a major renovation by LVMH in 2018 when they built the Fondation Louis Vuitton on the same grounds. It’s a truly historic place and an absolute “must-do” with kids!
We also love Parc Monceau in the 8th arrondisement which was one of the inspirations behind Atelier Choux. It was the site of the first parachute jump from a hot air balloon in 1797 (marked with a nice plaque) and has elaborate mansions around it. There is a lovely carousel, a modern playground, pony rides, cotton candy, fresh crêpes and good quality coffee. On Wednesdays and during the weekends treat yourself to an old-style puppet show (“guignol”). In Spring and into Summer, groups of friends and families settle on the park’s big lawns to have long picnic lunches and dinners, accompanied by guitar, games and singing.
The Palais-Royal garden, a lesser known spot behind the Louvre, is wonderful to stroll in, bordered by beautiful arcade shops and restaurants. Next door, through the columns, kids can run around and jump off the modern, black and white striped Colonnes de Buren, for a perfect picture opportunity. Check out #palaisroyal to see examples.
The Luxembourg and Tuileries gardens also have great playgrounds and attractions (e.g. trampoline mats) for kids. The Grande Galerie de l’Évolution at the Jardin de Plantes is educational and also an absolute must-see.
There is honestly SO much for kids in Paris, here are a few more examples for older children: ice skating in front of the Hôtel de Ville in winter, climbing the Arc de Triomphe or Eiffel Tower, visiting the stables of the “Police Montée” (policemen and women on horses), visiting the Musée de la Magie (Museum of magic) on Rue Saint Paul, and amazing science experiments for all ages at La Villette.
As small business owners, how do you navigate raising children and growing a business? What helps you to juggle the two?
Our children inspire our products and we test everything together. For example, we are working on gold-foil temporary tattoos which were inspired by our 3 year old daughter’s fascination with “maquillage” (make-up) and face-painting.
Our children love coming to our boutique on the occasional weekend and we try to pass our entrepreneurial spirit to them organically. This is all a juggling act, it can be really difficult to “turn-off” so we try to limit our screen-time during the weekend and be present, for our children and for each other.
What is your advice for families wanting to visit Paris with their children?
Plan your list of destinations in advance but keep your plans flexible with the weather. Identify the parks in each neighborhood so if the kids get cranky you will know where to take them for a crêpe or some fun. It’s also worth typing “jour férié” and the year you are visiting in Google to double check if your visit falls on a public holiday, in which case things will be closed.
Resist the urge to jam-pack your day with sights and take time to stroll around.
What aspects of Parisian life/Parisian characteristics do you hope your children continue to follow or maintain as they grow up?
French families can spend up to 5 hours lingering “à table” on the weekend, a long lunch that extends into coffee and couch time. Limited shopping on the weekends (in accordance with store closures on Sunday) in favor of “slow” personal and family time follows the same theme. We hope our children will view the weekend as a sacred moment “en famille.”
Let’s talk French style. What is your idea of the perfect French children’s ensemble?
Frilly socks and beautiful (yet comfortable) shoes on young children can give an ensemble an instant “French” look. A lovely outfit on a child is adorable but then a bib is a must! Especially if they are feeding themselves per French standards.
We personally enjoy a bit of rule breaking when it comes to the typical “French style” – favoring bold prints and unique cuts.
How do you think French parenting differs from other styles of parenting?
Hard to answer objectively since we are one American parent and one French. We feel that French parenting is generally a bit stricter with a greater emphasis on discipline and respect. French children definitely seem to have more respect for adults. Hearing a 3-year-old say “Bonjour Madame, Bonjour Monsieur” is too adorable.
You’ve just opened your first boutique. Where do you plan to take Atelier Choux in the future?
We would love to open our second boutique in New York, in an “atelier” (workshop) style space where we can fully articulate our brand’s links to art and illustration. Ideally it would be a lifestyle space with 3D and digital printers for “on-the-spot” personalization. We are dreamers and are hoping to build France’s next luxury “Maison” in accordance with the new values of millennial families – whimsy, play, transparency and a sense of humor!
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