What is ‘good’ for children? Should children learn or play? The answers to these questions vary depending on where the questions are asked. Focusing on a Danish company producing playgrounds the study reflects the relationship between culture and consumption, and outlines culture-specific perceptions of childhood and ideals for the upbringing of children in France, Germany and the Netherlands. These ideals are examined through an interdisciplinary analysis of family patterns, school systems and advertisements for products for children. Starting with a brief examination of the spare-time activities of 6 to 12 year-old children, the author outlines the adults’ view on what is ‘good’ for children during their spare time. This study aims to demonstrate what ideals for upbringing are characteristic of three European societies. It will be of special interest to practitioners, scholars and students working with children in a cross-cultural perspective.