Discovering Russia with Small Children

Salyut playground

Salyut playground

In this column for The HSE Look, Dr Attila Kertesz-Farkas talks about juggling working from home and childcare, Moscow playgrounds, and Russian dads.

Dr Attila Kertesz-Farkas

The lockdown in Moscow is terrible with small kids. It is probably true without kids too. And everywhere else. All tips and tricks on regular stretching how to stay mentally fresh in home-office is futile when a three-year-old warrior is breaking down in hysteria because he cannot fly like a bird (thanks, gravity), while you needed to teach by Zoom. A trick which worked for us – beside the obviously evil YouTube – is that one day one of the parents hides in the bedroom to work, the child is forbidden to enter, while the other parent is holding the child and the house.

Once you can get out, Moscow parks and playgrounds are pretty cool for kids and parents. I must admit, I enjoy some toys and the huge slides and monkey bars.  Perhaps, my personal favorite playground is the one at the corner of the Gorky Park, Salyut, another great one is at the VDNH near the Buran. Surprisingly, there are also many skateboard parks and bike ramps, such as Cherkizovsky Children’s Park, which I believe help develop the kids’ movement coordination skills. Unfortunately, Moscow is huge and it takes almost a one-day trip to visit these parks.

Salyut playground
Salyut playground

Another good option with kids is to go to some dacha in the Moscow suburbs for few days. There are many nicely organized cabins by a lake in the woods, where you can get there (and back) by taxi in 2-3 hours at a reasonable price. My son loves to dig in swamp, water the lake, sit by bonfire, observe the bugs and the nature in fresh air.

It is also interesting to observe parents at playgrounds. Perhaps, Russian families used to be considered as rather conservative compared to western Europe (men earn money, women cook and raise kids), but it seems to change slowly in Moscow. More fathers get involved in raising kids, pushing strollers, and I meet many men taking and picking up their kids from the kindergarten. Particularly, Saturdays seem to be fathers’ days too because mostly (sometimes only) fathers supervise their children at playgrounds. Some parents seem to be overly protective and forbids their kids to climb or slide alone (on the playground), while there are many fathers encouraging their kids and teach wall-climbing, skateboard flips to their kids.

Photo courtesy of Dr Attila Kertesz-Farkas

Perhaps, a setback in Russia is that public kindergartens accept kids from age of 3. Luckily, there are private kindergartens which accept kids usually from 1-1.5 years, albeit at a considerable price. Me, personally think, children are better off in kindergarten at earlier age so that they learn to socialize, to get friends, and to play with many interesting toys. This also lets mothers (and fathers) to be actively involved in the society and achieve a fulfilling life and career.

The HSE Look is restarting a column about life in Russia, what can be discovered in its various cities, and interesting venues at HSE University and beyond. If you have an interesting experience to share, please contact us at: