The Consultatiebureau (Child healthcare)

Children under 18 receive free health and dental care in the Netherlands but you still have to register them under one of the parents healthcare insurance, however you will not pay for the child but they will receive a healthcare number.

The consultatiebureau is a doctors clinic responsible for providing routine healthcare,check ups  and immunizations of children from birth until they start primary school at the age of 4. Once your child is 4,you get signed off after an extensive check-upAfter children start school, they continue having regular health checks but these are carried out by the municipal health office (Gemeentelijke Gezondheidsdienst).


The midwife who works at the consultatiebureau visits your home during the first days after a baby is born,  and if you arrive in the Netherlands with an older child, they also visit you at home for the first visit.

You are given a huge fat book of information on health and development. About 50 pages that I never read! It also has  spaces to record your child’s life, you know like one of those Baby books you never get round to do! It also contains appointment details at the clinic along with weight and measurements at each visit.  Apparently it also available in English, maybe round the Amsterdam, Den Hague area (but not in my sleepy town of Rijen) and is called Het Groeiboek or Growth Book.

At each consultation docotrs surgery, there is a walk-in consultation hour at certain stages of your child’s development or “inloopspreekuur“.You will receive a letter through the post. Here  you can get more information or advice on your child’s growth, answers to questions and weigh them. You can choose whether you want to attend a walk in time with other parents or have a private consultation at another time.

The Consultatiebureau is only for routine checkups and walk in sessions with small babies. If a child is ill or needs an appointment outside of these set developmental sessions, then they must see the normal family doctor (Upon arriving in Holland each family should register with a doctor)

Most Consultatiebureaus in Brabant are hosted by TheBe 

The expat mystery of Pakjesavond.

Once upon a time two little girls arrived in the Netherlands. They were from England and had moved to the Netherlands with their parents. The oldest girl had blond hair and blue eyes and was called Freya. She loved singing and dancing and could spend every day, dancing to beautiful music. Her little sister was called Sophie, Sophie liked running and climbing and also had blond hair and blue eyes like her sister

On one of the first days that the two girls arrived in the Netherlands, it was a grey afternoon and the sun was trying to peek through the clouds. The girls were playing in the street in front of their new house. They both had new blue bicycles and were racing up and down on them, when suddenly Freya stopped by a window. In the window were colourful flags and dolls. One doll looked a bit like Father Christmas, the other dolls had colourful clothes on and black brown faces.
Freya stood and stared so long at the dolls that eventually an old man came out of the house and said to Freya, “Mooi hoor? ” Freya who understood a bit of Dutch nodded.
The man asked her if she knew who they were and what they were for. Freya shook her head.
The old man went inside and came back out with a book.

In the book there was a story about a man dressed in red who came from Spain and he brought with him his helpers. He rode a beautiful white horse called Amerigo. The old man in the book was a very nice man and he wanted to give gifts to all the children in the Netherlands who were good.
He arrived always from Spain on his big boat called Pakjesboot 12. With him, he bought sweets, presents and little spiced.biscuits called pepernoten. He would arrive in the middle of November and he would always choose one town in the Netherlands to arrive in first, and then during that weekend he would travel around the Netherlands visiting all the other towns and cities.

Freya began to get excited, she asked the old man if this Sinterklaas would visit her town. The old man assured her that he would and that she should watch the television channel number 3 next Tuesday.Tuesday came round very slowly and at 6 o clock Freya and her sister sat down to watch the television. There was a show on with a lovely lady who could contact the Sinterklaas boat and speak to everyone on board and she told them that the boat was on its way.
The next day they watched the programme again but there was bad news, the lady said there were some problems and that maybe Sinterklaas would not be able to come.
Freya and Sophie ran to the old mans house to tell him. He told them not to worry as Sinterklaas always comes.

Finally the day of Sinterklaas’ arrival arrived and Freya and Sophie dressed up in Piet costumes that their Mummy had bought from the Hema. They went down to the harbour where there were lots and lots of children also wearing colourful costumes. There was music playing and everyone looked very excited.At last a loud toot from a fog horn was heard and a boat sailed into the harbour followed by lots of little boats. Sinterklaas and the Pieten were waving at the children from the boats. Freya and Sophie waved back excitedly.

Sinterklaas came off the boat and got onto his beautiful white horse Amerigo and together with the Pieten they walked round the town. The Pieten had lots of the lovely spiced biscuits and sweets with them. Freya and Sophie filled up their pockets and raced back to their house to show the old man.

The old man told them that now that Sinterklaas had arrived, they could put out their shoe by the fireplace and that in the night the Pieten would sneak in through the chimney if they had one and if not then they would use a magic key. They would fill up the shoes with the pepernoten, the spiced biscuits and sweets

The old man told them that sometimes they would bring biscuits with people on them called Tai Tais and sometimes he would bring them a small present like some crayons or finger puppets.
The two girls were so excited to put out their shoes that they went to bed especially early, they put out their shoes and also left Sinterklaas a picture and a carrot for Amerigo the horse.
Freya and Sophie hardly slept that night and they woke early the next morning. They rushed downstairs and the pictures and carrot had gone from their shoes. In their place were pepernoten and two small presents, a Colouring book each.

Freya and Sophie were so pleased that, that night they put out their shoes again but they were very disappointed the next morning to find nothing in their shoes. They ran round to the old man’s house to ask him what was wrong.He explained the Pieten couldn’t come every night as there were so many children in the Netherlands. The old man told them that on the Internet on the Sinterklaasjournaal website there was a special picture with boots on and a calendar. He told them that if they printed it out and left it in their shoes that night, the Pieten would colour in the shoes on the days they would visit. Now Freya and Sophie knew when they could put out their shoes.

Every so often until the 5th December Freya and Sophie put out their shoes according to the calendar. The pieten always came sometimes leaving pepernoten and sometimes a small present.
One day somebody told the Sinterklaasjournaal that the Pieten had spelt their name in Pepernoten the next day, Sophie and Freya came downstairs and found their names were also written in Pepernoten too.Freya was a little disappointed because her name wasn’t as long as Sophies.
Strange things happened on other nights too, and stories kept appearing on the Sinterklaas journaal, like the horse went missing so Sinterklaas couldn’t deliver the bigger presents later on pakjesavond. Freya, Sophie and their parents kept a close eye on what was happening.
Pieter appeared everywhere the girls went, they came to school, they were in the supermarket and they were even at Freya’s dance school and Sinterklaas visited their mother’s work.

Finally everything had been sorted in the Piet house and the evening of the 5th December came round. Freya and Sophie went to school as normal, they were so excited because at school they had been practicing songs for weeks. Finally tonight was pakjesavond.

Freya and Sophie’s dad picked them up after school and they went to the market to buy nice things for for dinner that evening. They were going to have dinner with the old man in his house. When they arrived the old man had bowls of pepernoten and tai tais on the table. They sat round the piano and sang songs for Sinterklaas. Suddenly there was a loud bang at the door, the girls rushed to see who it was, they opened the door but nobody was there. Then Freya spotted two brown sacks on the path, they ran over to them and dragged them in. Excitedly they opened them and found they were full of presents both big and small, with chocolate coins and mandarins.

Once they had opened every present and nearly eaten every chocolate coin, the old man said they ought to sing thank you and good bye to Sinterklaas so together they sang, thinking about the lovely first weeks they had had in the Netherlands. The next day was just another normal day and the girls would be going to school and share their present tales with their friends. Sinterklaas would be going back to Spain with his Pieter until the next year.

Global name choosing for a new arrival

So choosing a name for your new arrival is a tricky thing for any parents. Both mother and father usually have their favourites and when one suggests one name, the other doesn’t agree. So for many months the names go backwards and forwards. And if you mention them to anyone, they give you their penny’s worth, normally putting you off any name you did have.

Being both teachers in this household we also have the joy of certain names being banned as they remind us of a certain child or student and normally not in a good way.

However, the name choosing process is even harder when you have to make it work in 3 or more languages. Baby Monkey needed a name that would work both here in the Netherlands, in English and in Spanish.

So calling our daughter Flor, a popular name here in the Netherlands, works in Spanish too, just wouldn’t work in English would it? I mean we might as well call her Door.

The beautiful Spanish name Ainoha doesn’t either, (literally pronounced I know Her). Then you have names such as Eva pronounced “EEEEVA” in English but “AVA” in Dutch, highly confusing for both the child and the family concerned.

Megan, a lovely name in English takes on the connotation of a car to both the Dutch and Spanish, aka the Renault Megane.

The moral of the story: If you plan to live globally, try to choose a name that’s easy to pronounce and spell by people in various cultures; just don’t be too disappointed if some of them still don’t get it right.

Multicultural and Multilingual ideas

Sharing ideas, activities and resources that can help our children with their language and cultural learning.

There are plenty of games. Here the most important for the development of language learning:

Games of perception: The objective of these games is to describe what one sees, hears, feels or tastes. For example, smelling different things with your eyes closed, to describe different objects without seeing them. One game that we love playing is the old game of Kim’s game where you have a tray with objects on and you have to guess which object has gone. Feely bags and discovery boxes are also great too.

Role plays and scenarios: The objective of these games is to use imagination and speech. Through theater, puppets or by small figures children can practice conversations relating to the market, post office, school, work, family and stories. We love acting out Goldilocks and the 3 bears. And at the moment one corner of our house has been converted into a Halloween Witches cavern.

Games of Knowledge: The objective of these games is fun learning. Interesting, are the questions and answer games (like trivial pursuit) or formation of words (like scrabble) among others. We borrow a game every 3 weeks from the Speelotheek (toy library) and play as a family in several languages, as we are counting etc.

Interactive games: The main objective of these games is the interaction. Electronic games are interesting applications in several languages ​​and computer games and online to encourage the use of language or assist in their teaching. There are many games and websites that are a great tool for learning languages and cultures.
Books are obviously a great way to ehance language learning, a while ago I did a guest post over at Glottogon, a great company that sells foreign language books. I must take a look for Funky Monkey for Christmas.
Skipping stones: a multicultural magazine
It doesn’t matter how far away they are, they can still be part of your child’s life. Funky Monkey and Granmum and Grumps exchange postcards everytime they go somewhere different and sometimes just from where we live. We keep them in a box and read them every so often.
Send the granchildren a book along with a video or a cd of them reading it.
Readeo is a company that offers online books that are perfect for grandchildren and grandparents to share. A video chat feature allows either party to be heard by the other party, so that either a grandparent or grandchild can read the book, or they can take turns.

Hallmark Recordable Books

Hallmark’s recordable storybooks allow grandchildren to hear a grandparent reading a book without the use of a computer.

A Story Before Bed

The unique service called A Story Before Bed is a kind of hybrid of on-line books and recordable books. The grandparent accesses the book online and uses a webcam to record it.


The video calling function of Skype makes it a natural for reading books. A basic Skype set-up with webcam and microphone is all that is needed.


If you know how to shoot video and post it on YouTube, that’s a natural way to share books or anything with your grandchildren.

I would love to hear your ideas and resources that you use with your children.