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Five-hour layover with small children?
No problem!

Hyperbole? Not a bit. Not if you're traveling through Zurich or any of the other airports with a wonderful nursery like I found at Zurich's international airport.

I happened on it quite by accident, while looking for a place to bring my newly potty-trained two-year old to the bathroom. I saw the usual symbol for a changing room and nursing station, but to my surprise, saw signage that seemed to indicate something more. I think the English word was "nursery" but the German was "Spielraum," meaning "playroom".

When I opened the door, my jaw dropped. Spacious, well-lit, with lots of windows, cheery, quiet, an absolute haven from a busy airport. There were pictures on the wall, plants, even an orchid plant.

Here's a list of what the Zurich Airport nursery has:

  • two play rooms
  • four or five changing stations
  • separate room with four cribs and two chairs, one reclining, for nursing
  • large, round table for families to eat their food, plus two highchairs
  • several bottle warmers
  • a sink to wash dishes, etc.
  • children's books in several languages, including English
  • two play tables with small chairs
  • blank paper and colored pencils
  • table just for playing with Lego blocks – and a huge supply of Lego blocks in all three sizes, standard, Duplo and Baby
  • stuffed animals of every shape and size, some utterly huge, perhaps two dozen in all
  • six or more animal and vehicle rockers, including a car and an airplane (see photo)
  • two play strollers – with dolls
  • lots of chairs for adults to sit on
  • a large toyhouse with play elements
  • a computer with a touch screen and lots of games of various types, both for readers and non-readers (see photo)
  • a huge, stratety game for older children (see photo)
  • large cubby holes where you can store baggage and coats during your visit to the nursery
  • attendant (German and English were the main languages of the one I met)
  • bathroom facilities, including a child-sized toilet (such as one finds in a nursery school)
  • And, as though this weren't enough, the attendant had a computer terminal and could check on your flight, tell you your gate number and give you directions on how to get there.

    Advertising & marketing bloopers
    Anything but design
    Chef's corner
    German-American cooking glossary
    Parents' corner
    Raising a bilingual child
    Traveling with a small child
    Potty training in a day
     Zurich Airport nursery, main playroom
    To give you an idea of the size of this main room, this photo was taken from just beyond the middle of the room. The changing stations are behind me. The smaller playroom is in the background. At the very left edge of the photo is the door to the room with the cribs and chairs for nursing. That's a clock over the entrance to the other room.
    Zurich airport nursery, small playroom
    This shows the computer touch screen (set in a yellow house-like box), the standing strategy game and in the foreground, the dollhouse (also visible in the photo above).
    © 2007
    All rights reserved.

    There are children's facilities all over.

    I plan on making it a habit to search out these nurseries in every airport I vist from now on. I was going to compile a list of airports with children's facilities, but a search on Google turned up 6,710 hits! In other words, Zurich is hardly the exception.

    But I should mention that when I did a search for airport "children's play" (meaning I entered in all three words, but put quotes around the last two to search for them as a phrase), I got significantly more hits than when I did a search for airport "children's facilities", so you may have to fiddle with your search string a bit when you look.

    Of the parents I met at the nursery in Zurich, everyone had found the place by chance. My son and I spent about four hours in that nursery. Rather than have a long, boring, exhausting layover, he was happy and cheerful, singing to himself while waiting at the gate, even though at that point, he'd been up about eight hours. And I was relaxed and happy, too!