A Day in the Life

Miko is now at his second Finnish daycare (not expelled, just moved house) and based on our short time here there are a few things I’ve noticed that are quite different to New Zealand daycare.

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Daycares are in high-rise buildings
Miko’s first daycare was on the fourth floor of a large modern building and his new one is five floors up in a building that is probably 100 years old. Each daycare has a playground nearby they head out to each day, where they store outdoor toys in large, lockable boxes.

They go out in all weather
Rain or shine, Finnish children play outdoor every day. I believe the cut-off point is when the temperature drops below -20. Miko’s daycare recently headed out to the zoo on a drizzly day with a high of 10 degrees celcius. The only times they won’t go out is if there is thunder and lightening. If it’s raining, the kids just put rubber pants and jackets on over their clothes and jump about in all the puddles.

Carts like this are used to transport smaller children to the playground

Carts like this are used to transport smaller children to the playground

More outfit changes than Beyonce 
Because of the all-weather outdoor play, I have had to buy Miko quite a few new clothes. He heads out in regular clothes plus over-pants for the dusty playground. In his backpack he has: sunhat, warm hat, gumboots, rubber overalls, rubber jacket, gloves, and a change of clothes for inside. And we’ve yet to hit winter!

Opposite of NZ
In NZ it’s not unusual to play outside in bare feet. And at daycare we would always wear shoes inside. Here, shoes are always worn outside and removed indoors. This goes for all visitors to daycare too. So once inside, Miko changes into his slippers. Even Jonathan wears slippers at work and it’s not unusual to see a rack of slippers in many Helsinki offices.

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Meals are provided
Lunch is provided in daycare and every day, right up to the last year at school. It might be made in-house or delivered by a company. Regular menu items include: soup and rye bread, lasagne, fish bake and peas, sausages and rice. For kids like Miko, vegetarian options are also provided. Miko is not yet three and expected to serve himself, scrape his plate and stack his dirty dishes. He also pours himself a glass of milk or water from the drinks stand.

Amazingly, lunch is still provided for children through-out the holidays in city parks. You just turn up at the city playgrounds on the right days, bring your plate and spoon and line up for your meal.  There’s no stigma attached, the lunches are part of life and for all children. It’s like a modern day Oliver Twist – we went to a playground one day and there must have been 100 kids and parents lining up for lunch.

And for dessert…
After lunch at daycare, all the children help themselves to a piece of chewing gum from a large dispenser. Finland is very proud of xylitol you know! Not only did they discover its benefits for dental health, but also that chewing can reduce middle-ear infections in young children. I love all the self-reliance Miko is being taught but honestly, if he’s being cheeky, there’s nothing more annoying than being spoken back to by a three-year old chewing gum!

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Tar lollies and patriotic gum

Cut in half? Relax! The Finns have a panacea that is said to cure “even those cut in twain through their midriff”. Wood tar has been used in traditional Finnish medicine for years because of its ability to fight viruses and bacteria and is also used to flavour alcohol and sweets (Terve Leijona).

Tar lollies

Tar lollies

And how does it taste? Kind of like the road in New Zealand smells on a hot summer’s day. Or like the old Throaties we used to get from the chemist. But it’s not offensive, we actually have a wood tar fragrance we use in our sauna. Apparently the Finns say, “if sauna, vodka and tar won’t help, the disease is fatal.” 

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Chewing xylitol gum seems to be a patriotic act in Finland. Discovered by French and German scientists, it was the Finns who discovered its health benefits. A sweetener that can be tapped from birch trees, xylitol is safe for diabetics and proven to be beneficial for dental health. The flavour range of Jenkki gum includes spearmint, sweetmint, peppermint and polka mint, orange-cranberry, lemon sorbet, smooth salmiac and smooth lemongrass.

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Special wheat flour & whole wheat flour

Turns out ‘plain’ flour is a very subjective term. In NZ it refers to white wheat flour, the main alternative being brown wheat flour. Here in Finland there are so many kinds of flour, what we call ‘plain’ is hidden within a huge range of alternatives and called vehna (wheat) to differentiate it from grains such as rye, or graham.

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Rye flour & Fine wholegrain rye flour

Hartwall Jaffa is an iconic drink in Finland and can be found in most supermarkets and corner stores. Apparently it is ‘Finland’s most loved drink’ and is the third-most bought soft drink in the land. And just to confuse us, appelsiini is the Finnish word for orange, not apple.

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Finns seem to love their porridge for breakfast and it is sometimes made with oats as we are used to. There’s also a large range of Manna at our supermarket –  a milk-based mannapuuro (semolina-milk porridge).

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 And if you prefer toast for breakfast but don’t want the crust? No problem, this brand of bread seems to have taken care of that problem for you. Is that why most Finns have straight hair?

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Tar

Xylitol

Jaffa