Living with Children in Shanghai



Growing up between worlds: expatriate children in Shanghai
Bringing children to live in Shanghai can create lots of anxieties. People will tell you that there are no parks or green space, that it's dirty and polluted and that there is nothing for children to do.

To be honest, some of this is true, but the same can be said for all major cities and there are few who would disagree that the benefits of raising children here far, far outweigh the negatives.

Photo:Microsoft Office Clipart

The first thing parents notice is that Shanghai is an extremely safe environment. Chinese people adore children and will go to great lengths to entertain and spoil your offspring at any given opportunity (this can be a little overwhelming and strange at first). With inexpensive household help, you will also find yourself, instead of being loaded down with chores, able to spend more quality time with your children, taking them swimming, or to the park, or to one of Shanghai's amazing museums, or to play with other children in the neighbourhood.

See also Schools and Kindergarten > Education

You will find fellow expat parents much more open and friendly and willing to go places and try things than the folks back home. Living in this tight-knit community can be a truly positive experience, especially with children able to play in and out of each other's homes and parents not having to worry about tidying up afterwards! Inexpensive babysitting is a real benefit too. More often than not it is ayis who babysit, allowing parents a little bit of freedom that might have been harder to come by in their own country.

There is an endless advertise of activities for children in Shanghai. - the one-child policy has made Chinese parents very child-focused, and a plethora of child-friendly entertainment is the result. On top of the countless city parks (see parks section), museums and leisure facilities, there is a whole host of adventure and water parks, day trips, arts and crafts groups, wildlife parks, children's theatre and cinema and a zoo. Plus, there are ad-hoc events, like storytelling and magicians, put on by expat family groups. For more details check the weekly and monthly advertiseings magazines available in most restaurants, bars and supermarkets.

Toys and clothes are easy to come by and very inexpensive. Almost everything you need will be sold in the large department stores, malls or Carrefour supermarkets. Children's shoes, made from real leather, can be hard to come by, as can English children's books, so stock up before leaving home.

One of the best things about living in Shanghai as a parent is that you will never have to worry about eating out with your kids. Children are welcome absolutely everywhere, in even the smartest of restaurants. This is so refreshing for western parents used to being sidelined to low-grade pizza joints or having to endure icy stares from stuffy patrons of even stuffier restaurants. Many restaurants and some bars have child-friendly facilities and, even if there isn't, the staff will be more than happy to play with your child while you enjoy your meal.

On the downside, the weather can be cruel in Shanghai, making it hard to get around and do things with your children. In February and March, it is so cold andwindy that the parks are deserted. And, in July, August and much of September the temperature can be so scorchingly hot and the humidity so high, that, other than a visit to the pool, your children will not want to go out. For this reason most expats leave Shanghai for July and August, returning to their home countries to see their families.


There is not doubt that your children will get to experience new cultures, see new and exciting things, go to beautiful places and make new friends with children from all over the world. These experiences will make an invaluable contribution to their education and to their relationship with the world. But, it's important to be aware that when you move to Shanghai, particularly if it is your first overseas move, it will change your child's life forever. They will lose touch with their own culture, making them "third culture kids" - children who grow up "between worlds". Overall, it's a positive experience, but they will also have to deal with issues of rootlessness, identity, and having to say too many goodbyes. See also e-relocation Shanghai Step 1 and Step 6

See also Teenager's Life in Shanghai , Third Culture Kids (TCKs)

Activities for Children


Creativity Classes (4-16 years)





Costumes (Rent + Buy)

Tailor in ShanghaiThere are costumes available in Shanghai, but with tailors and fabric so inexpensive and creative here, many expats instead opt to buy fabric and have their tailor sew it up into the costume of their dreams.

Photo:enterAsia Art

Kids' Clubs/Summer Schools/Camps

Kids' Sport


See also Sports


The combination of the one-child policy and a preference for boys has given China's orphanages an oversupply of baby girls, making it one of the most popular places in the world from which to adopt.

To adopt a child in China, you will have to liaise with the China Center for Adoption Affairs (CCAA), who will deal with you via a representative in your home country (an adoption agency, for example). It is a complex process, with reams of paperwork and takes on average 10-12 months before you get your baby.


Note: Registration of births can be done at your Consulate.