Tag Archives : Momblog

Momblog: Winter Hiking with Kids 1

hiking-winter-5“Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…” seems to be constantly going through my head these last few weeks as my shovel and I have been spending more and more time together. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not complaining. I’m one of those annoying French-Canadians who can’t get enough snow! But I do understand that if this is one of your first winters in Switzerland you may be, at this point, considering hibernation.

That being said, it seems to have a totally different impact on children which may be described as magnetic: all they want to do is get into it! Well, I’ve got good news for you. You can enjoy the snow with your kids even if you’re not an adept skier or snowboarder. There is way more you can do and winter hiking is one of them. Here are a few tips & trick to help you head out safely this winter for a hike:

“Onion” fashion: Dressing properly is an essential step for a winter hike with your kids. They are particularly sensitive to hypothermia caused by rapid loss of body heat so dress them (and yourselves!) in layers and make sure their garments are not too big as they won’t be able to heat them. Start with a close-fitting wicking synthetic for the base (underwear) layer; wool or synthetic fleece or pile middle (pants and torso) layer; and a breathable, wind- and water-repellent outer shell. You’ll top off each outfit with a warm hat and add mittens—not gloves—for hands (finger-to-finger contact keeps hands warmer), warm socks and boots for feet.

Babies & Toddler gear: Unless you will be baby-wearing, you should dress your little ones in “Onion” fashion as well. A rule of thumb, one more layer than you. This is particularly important for your kids who won’t be walking as they won’t be creating extra body heat the same way you do.

hiking-winter-1If you’ll be pulling your babies in sleds, use ones with a seat and strap to keep them stable. Place an insulating layer (an exercise or camping mat works well) on the seat. If you have a stroller sleeping bag, use this as the next layer and pass the sled’s strap in the slits made for the stroller straps to attach it to your baby.  Same goes with a baby backpack carrier: dress baby in layers and add a weatherproof mitten and bootie to protect them well.

For those of you using baby carriers or slings, follow the advice from the ASPB: share your body warmth and add protective gear over both of you which will keep your little one warm and weatherproofed.

Watch the weather: Before you leave home, check the weather forecast. Keep a special eye on the wind in the winter. The temperature may be a balmy 5°C, but a mere 15 kmh wind can effectively turn that into a frigid -5°C on exposed skin.

Time slows down in the snow: In winter, and especially in snow, everything takes longer. It takes more time and energy to hike a similar distance in the snow than on a summer trail. Keep this in mind when planning your routes and look for special features during the hike to entertain the kids rather than make it about the end destination you might not reach.

Keep to the trail: Luckily, in Switzerland trails are very well marked. However, you should carry a map and/or compass if you are going off a marked trail. Take the time to contact the local information centre and enquire about route and weather conditions before setting off. Your intended trail may be fully or partially closed, depending on the time of year and weather conditions.

Fire for safety: Always take some matches or a lighter with you to start an emergency fire. Better yet, put a full-blown commercial survival kit in your day pack just in case.


Keeping kids entertained: The snow tends to take care of that! Take some time to check out the icicles dangling from the roofs; create snow angel families; build a snow couch to have a break; try to identify animal tracks you might come across; take some sleds along and have fun on the hills; pack some food-die and create an ephemeral masterpiece…

A few suggestions of places to go to give it a try:

Schwarzsee, 4 km
The Schwarzsee (black lake) does indeed shimmer darkly in summer. However, in winter it changes colour and is now clothed in thick, bright, glittering white ice. The lake forms the centre of a vast area surrounded by snowy peaks and has a particularly attractive winter trail around the lake with reeds on the banks, covered by hoarfrost and sparkling in the sun. Start out at the Schwarzsee/Bad bus stop. At first, the route crosses mainly flat riverside areas to Seeweid before forming a wide arc to Gypsera and then returning to Schwarzsee/Bad. As you leave the valley, see works of art of a quite different nature at Lichtena – here an ice artist erects magical ice palaces that you can even walk through and climb up.

Vallon de They, Morgins, 6 km
In the Vallon de They a magical wintry silence reigns and all you hear is the Vièze Morgins stream murmuring gently between the snowy rocks. The cleared winter trail runs beside the water and into the valley. The trail repeatedly crosses small bridges and along the way you will pass a spring known as the “Eau Rouge” because of the iron coloured water that flows out of the mountain. Start your hike at the Morgins/poste bus stop and end up in En Tey, where you will find the Cantine de They mountain restaurant. From there, return by the same route back to Morgins.

Les Rasses-Les Cluds-Les Rasses, 5 km
Les Rasses sits on an elevated terrace near Saint-Croix overlooking the Swiss Mittelland. These two villages in the Vaud Jura lie at the southern foot of the Chasseron mountains. On a clear day you can enjoy a panoramic view that stretches from Säntis to Mont Blanc. The winter hiking trail begins near the bus stop (yellow “Car Postal” signs) in the village of Les Rousses. With a slight gradient, this route takes you across snowy Jura pastures to the hamlet of Les Cluds and then back to Les Rasses.

And for a bit closer to “home” try:
La Givrine-La Genolière-La Givrine, 2 KM
Easily accessible especially for a half-day outing. The walk is mostly uphill to La Genolière, a small refuge where you can enjoy a fondue or a nice hot chocolate. Fantastic views over Lake Leman and the Alpine peaks great you at the door of La Genolière. I suggest you take your sleds up as you can have a fun ride down back to La Givrine. You can download a detailed map with various winter walk options from the Saint-Cergue tourist office webpage.

Happy winter hiking!

Hiking with Kids 1 & 2 contributed by Charlaine, Canadian mother of two, MiV member, and founder of SHEzone, sports activities FOR women BY women.  Watch this space for Part 3: “Keeping Kids entertained on the Trail” coming later this winter season!

Momblog: Childcare Part 1 (Care at home – Aupairs & Nannies) 3

5734633-nanny-with-baby-at-the-park-with-strollerWhen it comes to our children, no matter our parenting style, we all want the best for them.   As expatriates, without close family to turn to for support, the question of childcare, for those days you must go out, or for when you return to work outside the home, invariably comes up.   So, what’s the best option?

Like for everything with regards to parenting, there is no one-size-fits-all answer.   And, what works for your firstborn might not be the best for your second or subsequent.   And what works at one time might not work later.   Not only that, situations change, our parenting matures.   But what ARE the options?

Essentially help can divided into two categories:  At Home or Outside the Home.   And for these two categories there are sub-divisions!    For “At Home” there are Nannies (live-in or live-out), Au pairs, and/or babysitters (and for immediately after birth, maternity nurses or postpartum doulas, the latter however takes care of you, not your baby).   For outside the home there are even more options:  A day mother (maman de jour), a creche (daycare), a jardin d’enfants (nursery), a preschool, and for school-aged children there are also programmes for before school, at lunch hour, and after school (programmes d’accueil)!

Where is someone to start?!   And what about the Swiss context?  Let’s start with Au pairs and Nannies.  Put it simply:

Au pairs are ideal if your children are school age or in regular childcare and you need help either in the morning, at lunch hour, and/or after school.  Nannies, on the other hand, are likely a more appropriate in-home option if you work full time or irregular hours and/or if you need additional domestic assistance (cleaning/ironing) while you are out.

Legal Implications of Hiring an Au pair:

As with EVERYTHING in Switzerland, the laws vary from canton to canton.  And the situation in neighbouring France is different again.   For Switzerland the essentials are:

  • You must obtain a work permit and a residence permit for your au pair.   Note that residence permits are most easily given to European citizens, specifically the 25 EU countries, plus Iceland, Norway and Lichtenstein (European Economic Area).   Citizens from Canada, USA, Australia and New Zealand may also be admitted (but this varies canton-to-canton, it’s not usually possible in Canton Vaud, for example)
  • The primary language of the host family and the language of the region where the host family lives must be different from the language of the au pair (in other words, in Geneva and Vaud, the au pair cannot be a native French speaker, nor can his/her first language be the same as the family-language).
  • You generally can only employ an au pair for 12 months or less, with one possible prolongation  (up to a max of 18-24 months, varies canton-to-canton)
  • The au pair must between 17 and 30 years of age
  • You must write up a contract outlining the rights and responsibilities of both the au pair AND the host family
  • You must pay the au pair’s health insurance
  • You must pay the au pair a salary and provide the au pair with lodging (either in-house or out).  Whether it’s in your home or a separate premises, the au pair must have her own independent space (preferably with a lockable door).
  • Generally the au pair should work only 25-30 hours per week, or 5 hours per day (so as mentioned above, if you work an 8-hour day, and your kids are not yet in school, an au pair likely isn’t the right solution).  Au pairs are not domestic employees, but they are expected to participate in regular household duties.
  • The au pair needs to be allocated time to pursue language courses, which are to be paid by the employer.  The host family must ensure that the au pair’s schedule allows for these courses

There is a lot of paperwork, which you can do it yourself, hire someone to help you (e.g. a tax advisor or notary), or use the agency chèque-emploi, which specialises in handling the taxes, AVS and accident insurance of cleaners, nannies, gardeners, etc. (there is a membership fee and a processing fee though).

Legal Implications of Hiring a Nanny/Child Minder:

  • If the nanny does not already have work & residence permits, you must obtain these for her.   Like with au pairs, residence permits are most easily given to European citizens.  Before you hire a non-documented nanny, talk to your Contrôle des Habitants to see which country nationals are accepted.
  • There are no language restrictions.
  • You must write up a contract.  The contract must include the names of the employer and employee; the date when the contract takes effect; the function of the employee, the salary and any benefits; and the length of the working week.
  • There is no maximum contract length and in Vaud there is no minimum wage.  Paid Leave and a notice period apply.  See Employees on Vaud International.

Like with an au pair, hiring someone to work for you means that there is a lot of paperwork.  The same options apply: you can do it yourself, hire someone to help you (e.g. a tax advisor), or use the agency chèque-emploi.

AVS Brochure – Domestic Help (French).

Have a story to share about the choice between an au pair and a nanny?  Comment below.

Childcare Part 2: Outside the home Options