Like many aspects of your expat life in Paris, you will probably encounter a number of differences between the French school system and education in other countries. One major departure is that most schools in France are only open for four (or four and a half) days per week, with Wednesdays being either a half-day or completely free. As such, the French curriculum revolves around more educational subjects, with little time dedicated to athletics and the arts.
But, with Wendesdays open, there's more free time available for the children of expat parents to participate in extracurriculars. These activities are generally provided not by the schools, but by the local mairie (or town hall) which often has a deal with the centres de loisirs to offer sports practices and other classes. Your child can be enrolled in these activities either during the school term, or over the holidays.
So if your kid has taken an interest in sports, art or music, and their school is lacking the resources, fear not! Paris is a treasure trove of activities for children of all ages to explore, grow and deepen their passions. One thing to note is that most classes are taught in French - we've tried to include as many activities taught in English as possible below, but if your particular course only comes in French, try viewing it as a playful and practical learning activity!
For more information on specific activities available to children in Paris, keep reading!
(Please note that all information provided below is accurate and up-to-date at the time of publication, but may be subject to change. Always check with the institution or establishment offering the course for any updates!)
CENTRES DE LOISIRS
As incredible a city Paris can be to live in, it's never easy on the wallet. If you're looking for budget-friendly extracurricular activities for your children, the city offers a number of taxpayer-funded options that aren't completely free, but highly subsidized. From leisure centers (centres de loisirs) to public swimming pools, there are plenty of activities available to school-age children on afternoons, weekends, and over the holidays.
Highly popular with busy expat parents, centres de loisirs are provided by all public kindergartens and elementary schools across the city. Offering supervised, low-cost activities to children between the ages of 3 and 14 on Wednesdays and school holidays, the fees you pay are on a sliding scale depending on household income. During the school year, kids are led through a diverse range of activities like drawing, painting, drama, and singing. Over school breaks, some centers may take the children out on field trips around Paris.
If your child is enrolled in public school, you'll receive registration forms in June of each year. If they're not, the French bureaucracy can be notoriously difficult to navigate. But any child living or studying in Paris is entitled to these programs, so it's worth a shot.
ARTS & CULTURE
Throughout history, Paris has inspired some of the world's greatest writers and artists. With its rich arts and culture background, public museums, galleries and monuments can be found on almost any street. So if your children are looking to learn or develop their artistic talents, Paris is a marvelous place to start.
Museum-led Workshops & Activities
How better to learn the techniques of Van Gogh than to do it in front of his many works on display in Parisian museums? A majority of the city's incredible museums offer quality, affordable workshops to people of all ages. They often fall on Wednesdays and weekends throughout the year.
Some of our favorite museums for workshops and activities include: the Louvre, Musée du Quai Branly, Centre Pompidou, Musee D’Orsay, Musee Guimet, Palais de Tokyo, and the Musée des Arts Decoratifs. For more interactive, science-driven activities, be sure to check out the Palais de la Decouverte, Cité des Sciences, and the Cité des Enfants.
For booking details, check with the museums directly and make sure to book in advance!
SPORTS & FITNESS
If your child's taken an interest in athletics, there are numerous options available to help them hone their passion. One popular multi-sports club is the Energy Academy, which provides exclusive, private lessons in tennis, golf, soccer and more. Courses are taught on Wednesdays and weekends, with camps offered over the holidays. Available to children aged 3 to 14, you can register your children to any available classes on a weekly or a la carte basis via their online registration system.
Club Atheon is another option offering a huge variety of classes. From dance and martial arts to rock climbing and roller blading, there's truly something for everyone. Registrations are open mid-September for their kids holiday camps, and you can call to check on the availability of their seasonal offerings. Available to children aged 4 to 15 as well as adults, the Club is a place for the whole family.
As with sports classes, many Fall performing arts courses need to be booked in Spring. But if you've missed the deadline, it's always worth calling and checking if they still offer any availability. For budding child actors, the American Children's Theater (ACT) is a fun theater company offering acting, dancing, and singing classes to children aged 3 to 16 during the academic year, along with holiday camps. Gymboree is a great option for toddlers, aged 0-6, where parents and kids can have fun together in their padded play area.
For music, the Jack 'n Jill Music Club is a great option for young children, aged 0-6, to discover music, rhythm, dance, and even puppetry. Classes are run in English and limited to small group sizes. KidJam is another music and singing option, with classes taught in a fun and bilingual environment. And if your kids want to start a rock band, RockU is the perfect place - budding musicians in grades 3 though 12 can join and develop their talents in a fun and supportive environment.
If your child's a video game fanatic, why not encourage them to create their own games by learning simple coding skills? They'll be able to play while developing an incredibly useful skill. For that, there's Magic Makers, which offers classes to kids aged 8 and up at 10 different spots located in Paris and its surrounding areas. From October to June, workshops are offered Wednesdays, Saturdays and after school, with intensive one-week courses provided during holidays. Most workshops are in French, but several locations offer English classes over school vacations.
Documents to Provide
Once you've settled on an activity for your child, you'll have to gather certain documents to provide during the registration process. These may include, but are not limited to:
- Passport photos of your child
- Proof of address demonstrating you live in Paris (such as a utility bill or rent payment)
- Family register or birth certificate
- Up-to-date medical records on your child, including vaccination dates
- Student insurance (obligatory for children attending extracurricular activities in Paris)
- Social security number
- Tax return or pay slip (some activity fees are determined by household income)