I wrote this post less than a month ago when the snow was JUST melting. Now we’re on the verge of sunshine and 20 degree temperatures I’ve revisited it to remind myself what we’re planning for the warm weather. Read on for ideas and hopefully a bit of summer adventuring inspiration…
I don’t know about you but I’m READY. Ready for longer days, fewer layers, not having to spend 3 hours trying to get my toddler’s fingers into her gloves every time we go out (what kind of idiot buys proper gloves rather than mittens for a two year old anyway?), ready for getting outside and doing stuff.
All that’s left of the snow as I write this is the dirty, melting torso of our snowman (who, incidentally, seems to be tinged with a slight smell and colouring of fox wee) and it’s got me thinking about what I’d like to do with the children now the weather is improving. I find the days go so much more quickly and with far fewer shouts of the word “NO!” (from both me and my toddler) when we get out, and baby W is a little older now, so can handle being awake a bit longer before needing to nap.
Here’s a photo of some crocuses (croci?) growing through the snow because nobody wants to see a photo of our frozen fox wee man:
Beating my own indecisiveness
I don’t know about anyone else but unless I have a list of options put in front of me (told you I can’t live without lists) or I’ve pre-planned what I’m going to do in advance, I do sometimes find myself getting into a bit of a procrastination rut, which usually means by the time I’ve actually decided on some grand plan for the day, it’s getting too close to someone’s naptime or feeding time and we end up traipsing to the local park to have a look at the ducks or to the swings for some air before heading home again. This is not what maternity leave is supposed to be about, surely (does it still count as maternity leave if you actually no longer have a job? More on that another time, perhaps…).
So, this list is my ultimate spring/summer 2018 plan of all the things I want to do (more than once in most cases) before the nights start drawing in again. For anyone who isn’t based in Surrey or the South East I apologise for anything a little too location-specific, but hopefully there will be a few ideas for everyone in here, regardless of where you live.
My absolute favourite thing about doing baby and toddler mealtimes away from home is the lack of cleanup afterwards. Yes, it takes a bit of organisation to pack up all the bits I need before I head out, but the absolute satisfaction of being able to come home with fully-fed children, pop them into bed (I make naptimes sound so simple don’t I?) and then NOT HAVE TO CLEAR UP is reason enough to have a picnic every time the ground is dry enough to sit on. In fact, if you’ve got one of those picnic blankets with the waterproof bottom, it doesn’t even need to be that dry.
2. BOAT TRIPS
I have always gravitated towards water. I grew up by the sea and spent some of the happiest days of my childhood on the beach, or failing that, by the river in the New Forest. So when I moved away from the coast nearly 14 years ago (HOW has that happened?) I lived by the river in London and now I don’t live within 10 minutes of any water I’m partial to an extra-long shower. Seriously though, there’s something about being in or near water that just calms me the eff down. And who doesn’t need calming down at times on their parenting journey?
Last summer, we did a brilliant boat trip along the Thames near Runnymede. It was only an hour or so long, perfect for easily-bored youngsters – seriously, don’t pick a long trip if you value your sanity and there’s even the slightest chance your child might want to get off after 5 minutes – make sure you pick the length of the trip based on your child’s attention span. We had the opportunity to hop off for a bit mid-trip to stretch our legs, and The Little Food Critic absolutely loved sitting on the seats like a big girl and watching the wildlife, waving to the other boats and eating snacks (OK, mainly the snacks). So I fully intend to do much more of this now I have two little people to entertain.
3. PLANE SPOTTING
We live about 20 minutes from Heathrow and even closer to our tiny little local airport so there are always planes of some description flying high over our house. This means that The Little Food Critic has always been a big fan (“plane” was one of her first words). So this summer I’m definitely planning on heading out to get a closer look – i think this will go down a treat, especially if combined with food. Can anyone see a theme emerging here?
4. RHS GARDEN WISLEY
The Little Food Critic isn’t much of a fan of dogs at the moment – in fact if anyone has any tips to help ease a terrified toddler’s fear of any animal coming near her then I’m all ears. I’m guessing just constant, gentle exposure and reassurance is best? So whenever we go for a walk I’m always delighted to find somewhere that doesn’t have loads of dogs running around because it means she can roam around free of fear (until a duck starts getting out of the pond and approaching her of course). RHS Wisley is 15 minutes from us and is absolutely beautiful. It gets super busy in the summer but it’s so worth it. Lots to see, plenty of space to run around, gorgeous picnic spots and I’ve been there loads of times but I still feel like I’ve not even explored half of it. The RHS have other gardens around the country too so even if you’re not local to Surrey, chances are there’s somewhere a little more local to you that will be comparable.
All the wandering around beautifully kept gardens is bound to make me think I can recreate some of it in our little suburban garden. Last year, at the beginning of the summer, we went to a local garden centre and bought The Little Food Critic three brightly coloured pots, and filled them with flowers, herbs and some tomato plants. She’s got her own little watering can and frankly, even at age 1 and a half, she was better at remembering to keep her plants alive than we were. Her tomato plants gave us a bumper crop too – and home grown tastes SO much nicer than shop-bought. So I’ll definitely be doing this again this year. i think we’ll go for tomatoes again, and I quite fancy having a go at garden cress too. My parents have just started eating it and since looking up its nutritional benefits I see it’s loaded with all kinds of good stuff (see here for details)
Herb-wise, rosemary is a really good one as it’s pretty hardy and versatile too, I’ve found this CBeebies guide to gardening with kids, which is a really good resource if you want some more ideas and tips.
6. THE LIDO
I only discovered our local lido at the tail-end of last summer but it was just brilliant. As well as the main pool, it has two huge paddling pools and lots of lovely shady areas to sit and eat lunch or, if you have children that actually nap outside of their own beds (I don’t), have a sleep, before resuming the fun. There are loads of lidos around the country so hopefully you’ll be able to find one near you. My tip is to go outside of school holidays if you can, and also if it’s a hot day, arrive early! These places understandably get busy quickly, especially in inland areas where there are no beaches within easy travelling distance.
9 THE SEASIDE
Speaking of beaches, I’ve been toying with the idea for ages now of doing a day trip to the beach, but because I’ve always been fairly rigid with my two napping properly at home (see “won’t nap anywhere else” above), it’s always made me a bit nervous. Well, NO MORE. The Little Food Critic keeps asking to go to the seaside again so this year I’m getting them both in the car and heading to West Wittering or somewhere else that’s not too far from us for a day. They’ll nap in the car, right?
10. WHO AM I KIDDING? IT’S GOING TO RAIN, A LOT.
I know what you’re thinking, in order to actually enjoy all of the above activities the weather needs to be relatively warm and dry, and if there’s something even less predictable than my children letting me have 4 or more uninterrupted hours of sleep, it’s the British weather.
My rainy day plans include baking (my banana bread recipe is ideal for young kids), painting (you can also do this in the garden if the weather is working in your favour to save on the cleanup operation), den-building (who doesn’t like snacking under a duvet draped over all your dining room chairs?), an indoor obstacle course (loads of ideas on Pinterest for this), watching a Disney film, a teddy bear tea party, Play Doh, and my current favourite “helping Mummy make dinner” which is basically The Little Food Critic standing on a chair in the kitchen trying to grab everything that’s dangerous and eating all the raw ingredients before I actually get them into the recipe – sounds fun right? At least the lack of meat in the house means she’s only eating raw veggies.
One final tip – on a dreary day, one of our favourite things to do out of the house is to go to the local library for story and rhyme time. Most libraries offer this as a free service and my two LOVE it. Have a look at your council or library website for details.
Oh, and synchronised naps, because both children napping at the same time truly is the holy grail of parenting.