Monthly Archives: August 2015

Raising Kids in Denmark: Things that have Surprised Me

Our son turned 6 months recently and this has led me to think a bit about things that have surprised me since his birth. Some of these may be the result of my lack of experience of babies, but some of them I think are more related to Danish culture.

Temperature taking

In Malta body temperatures are normally taken under the arm or in the mouth. However, I was very surprised to find out that body temperatures are taken rectally! Any other temperature taking is very suspiciously looked upon. And this is not only for babies! If calling the hospital they will ask you for a rectal temperature…and wait for you on the phone till you give them one! Isn’t this a bit intrusive and traumatic to do to a child who is already feeling unwell? I have also been wondering if this is only Danish or also done elsewhere.

Traditional vs Latest Research

The WHO issued recommendations in the early 2000s (I think?) that babies should be on an exclusive breastmilk/formula diet for 6 months. However, Denmark still used the 4 month cut off when our son was born, and this seems to be a very popular thing to do. This year in March, however, new regulations were issued by the health department. These regulations are now on board with other recommendations, such as no cow milk before 1 year old.

So maybe late, but the recommendations are changing slowly. I would say that I have found that Danish society is very traditional rather than necessarily going with the latest research in other areas as well such as the benefits of bilingualism (have had a lot of negative comments on this!), and the boy/girl divide (boy/girl clothes and toys and playing with others of the same gender). Does anyone else get this impression?

Mother groups

Mother groups are quite a big thing in Denmark. When having a child some of the common questions are: do you have a mother group? Do you like your mother group? I can answer yes and yes to those! Which is good, as people seem to expect my mother group friends to turn into ‘friends for life’!

The way mother groups work out has been quite surprising to me though! A mother group is a self-organised group of 4-6 mothers with kids born around the same time. The groups are put together by the health worker. We host group meetings at our own houses and we offer food to the other mothers when they come to ours. First time I was up for hosting a mother group meeting I worried a lot about offering food that can be eaten one handed. However this does not worry Danish mothers it seems. Food is invariably Danish bread with toppings. The child is often just put down so the mother can eat. I tend to put in one-handed eating practice!

Luckily an English-speaking mother group has also been started, where I can relax a bit more and there is more one-handed food eating :D. Also, this group has children of a much wider range of ages, meaning that I could get advice from older-children mothers (and feel useful for the younger ones). If you are a new English-speaking mum in town and would like to meet others do request to join on this facebook group.

Baby Activities in Sønderborg

Unless you have friends who have babies at similar times as you, parental leave can end up being a bit lonely. I have tried to keep myself busy by doing some baby classes. This has made sure that I got out of the house and met some other adults, while entertaining the little one without having to think too much myself. These are some of the baby activities I have tried and what I think about them

Babysalmesang – Sct Marie Kirke

Babysalmesang, literally baby psalm singing(!), seems to be a very popular baby activity, with most churches offering this possibility. I was a bit sceptical about this, but decide to try it out anyways (what I do in the name of research for this blog!). I first tried Christianskirken as it is closest, but the group was already full (word of warning: if interested don’t leave it till late to sign up as groups do get booked up), so the choice fell on Sct Marie Kirke.

Organist Pia leads the babysalmesang at Sct Marie Kirke. The class consisted of around 10 mothers and their babies meeting every Wednesday for an hour in the church. As the name implies what happens during that hour is that we sing psalms, but I was surprised to see that it was also so much more than that! Pia was always very organised. Equipped with a glockenspiel, rattles, bubbles, a piano, cloths and a swing (amongst others) we were kept constantly on the go (and babies entertained).

I was very impressed with this class, not least because it is all free! A new group is starting in September (as well as a group at Christianskirken that I will be checking out for yours truly) so if you are home with a baby I really do recommend trying to join one of these groups if you need the push to get out of the house. And no, don’t worry too much if you’re not Danish Protestant! I was made welcome with open arms. And if you do, say hi to Pia for me!

Babyrytmik – Sonderborg Musikskole

Babyrytmik is another baby music class, this time organised by the music school in Sonderborg. Again this was a one hour activity consisting of singing, movement and rattles. It was pretty similar to babysalmesang, with the main difference being the topic of the songs we were singing (church songs vs children’s popular songs)

Again this class was very well organised, and when I asked the teacher if he could share some Danish songs with me so I could learn them before class (Danish parents already knew them as grew up with them) he obliged very happily. However, when thinking that babysalmesang is all free, while this costs around 45 DKK, I started to doubt whether it was value for money.

Baby Tju-Hej – Sonderborg Bibliotek

This is another music/singing activity for children, this time happening at the library in Sonderborg (as well as other branches) around once a month for 30 minutes. Surprisingly, the library has no story-telling or similar activities for young children, though the songs used here have more of a story-telling nature and are more action-songs than at the other two activities. The selection of action songs is potentially as the event is aimed at children up to 3 years.

Unlike the other two activities, there is no limit here on group number, so this was by far the activity with most children (around 40 at a quick guess when I went), and both parents and ‘dagpleje’ mothers (childminders) bringing their charges to the event. This made the activity more of a show rather than a class, but was just as well organised. Again, there were rattles, soft toys, and this time a guitar.

Other Activities

There are, of course, other activities going on. We have already written about Baby Swimming. There is also part 2 to this post about our experience of this, together with the babysalmesang at Christianskirken and a Baby Stimulastik class I am also doing.