My daughter Lian is now 18 months. We live here since she was 3 months old. First I thought: what can I do with a baby here in Bocas del Toro, this is the party and beach destination of Panama – surely not a good destination for a baby. But I was wrong =)
I am Swiss and my husband is Panamanian... our daughter is the ultimate mix. I as a Swiss person had to learn to relax, calm down and take everything very slow and easy here in Panama.
Life by the sea is definitively slower anywhere in the world, but I believe more even so in Latin America. I'm glad that my baby is growing up in this place completely free from the everyday stress of modern life... it doesn't hurt to have a bunch of beaches to our own either!
In Switzerland everything is organized for you and your baby: you have different playgroups, you have consultants that you can visit every week to ask them all kind of questions about your day-to-day life with your baby, as well as measure and weigh them. First I felt a bit lost here and missed the "consultants". But I slowly learned to listen to my instincts, not needing a consultant to ask. Here I learned to look at my baby and try to understand her needs whereas in more developed countries everything is taken care of for you. The challenge has definitively been refreshing and I feel I know my baby a lot better and have been able to bond more closely with her.
When we first got here, my husband and I often took her to the beach. She was in her little comfortable chair in the shade, listening to the sound of the ocean, watching her dad surf. On the beach she did not need her toys, she was just observing everything around her. Now as she is older she loves to play in the sand and get completely full of it (and also eat it unfortunately!!!). Yes, my beach days are much more sandy these days.
Baby can play, mommy can have drinks with the girls and daddy can surf (if you look hard you can see a tiny dot in the surf, that is my husband)... how great is that?!
Which beaches in Bocas del Toro are great for families with kids? Starfish Beach is perfect for little kids because the water is shallow and they can just sit there and play. Also we often go to Carenero beach because it is so close to town (only a 5 min boat ride) and you can just go for a quick dip in the water without all the fuss of a long journey.
When Lian was about 4 months old we went to baby swimming class every week. This was great because she was with other babies and quickly got accustomed to being in the water. The sooner a baby gets in the water the better, because they still have the instinct of holding their breath under-water from the time in the womb. So Lian learned very early to dive and to use her floaters and float on her back.
The baby swimming classes were a great way to get to know other moms as well
As soon as Lian could sit by herself, we started a new adventure - I took her on my bike and she loved it from the first day! Everyday we cruise along the beaches, sometimes into the jungle. We stop somewhere and watch the waves and surfers while drinking a delicious fruit smoothie. If my daughter has a very grumpy day, I just put her on the bike and her world is fine again.
Baby crying? I just put her on my bike, go out for a ride and she is suddenly a little angel again!
In the late afternoon we often go to the park, which has a playground and is surrounded by beautiful trees and is located in the center of Bocas town. There she meets a lot of her friends and I meet a lot of my friends as well. We just hang out there for a while.
When Lian was smaller and lighter I just put her into the baby backpack and walked everywhere with her. I did some hikes on Isla Basimentos, visited Up in the Hill Organic Chocolate Farm and had a delicious brownie up there, or I visited Finca Los Monoso Botanical Garden and discovered the beautiful nature I am surrounded of, while my baby was sleeping.
Luckily there are a lot of babies in Bocas of same age, so Lian has a lot of friends around her. The moms often meet and do fun things together, like play dates at home or we go to the beach and on weekends we have BBQs all together. Also there are several birthday parties, which are always a lot of fun too. We even have a Bocas Moms & Babies Club on Facebook. There we post several things such as: what we do today, or any other tips.
Social skills for kids are so important. It makes me so happy that Bocas has a good group of babies like my own
Sometimes I miss the organized Swiss world but when I am on my bike with Lian, riding along the ocean, passing palm trees, beaches and jungle I am so happy and I feel it’s the right place for her. She can discover another totally different world and can grow up in paradise!
It took some convincing, but Bocas is certainly an amazing place for a young family. Here's my husband doing his part...