With autumn on the way it’s all too easy to get stuck inside with your kids, so here are 7 simple ways to get toddlers outdoors.
Get on your bike
So long as you’re both bundled up warm, even a chilly autumn autumn breeze isn’t going to stop you enjoying a bike ride with your little explorer. Since Sonny’s started walking his pram and trike can sometimes induce tantrums because he’s so desperate to travel on his own two feet, but when I stick him in his bike seat his little face always lights up with happiness. My favourite thing about cycling with Sonny is that we can cover proper distances in a short space of time by racing through our local towns and villages, woodlands and countryside – usually with a warm cozy pub factored in for some refreshments along the way.
Head for the park
No excuses not to do this. You’ve probably got one right near your house and I’m yet to meet a toddler who doesn’t love the park. Whether it’s swinging on swings, climbing on climb frames, sliding down slides, spinning round roundabouts or just chewing the railings – it’s a place where kids can let loose and try new things that may seem insignificant to you, but feel like gigantic adventures to them.
Explore your garden
It’s easy to look at your garden and just see a massive maintenance hassle, but to your little adventurer it’s a vast adventure playground. Whether you’ve got a small yard or multiple acres of land, gardens are places toddlers can charge around, get muddy, pick up worms, point at aeroplanes, smell flowers, kick footballs, climb on benches, feed the birds, and much much more. I watch Sonny sometimes just staring out of the window at our little garden, fascinated by the world outside, and feel bad I don’t let him spend every minute of every day out there. Don’t worry about them getting dirty – just open the door and let them enjoy themselves!
Find a farm shop
OK I know this sounds pretentious, but hear me out. You’re bound to have a few farm shops local to you, and a lot of them have turned into fantastic family days out. As well as selling organic veg and expensive sausages, it’s now pretty common to find playgrounds, cafes and, of course, lots of farm animals. We live in a little town called St Ives in Cambridgeshire and our local farm shop Johnsons of Old Hurst is absolutely amazing. There’s a tea room, steak house, outdoor play area, nature walks, petting zoo, and even live crocodiles to stare at (that’s right, CROCODILES). Entry is free, and we all bloody love it.
Have a picnic
The oldest trick in the book. Whether it’s in your garden, the local park, the beach, some fancy National Trust property, or just a few sandwiches in the boot of your car, an outdoor picnic is a great way to score some outside time with your kids. Picnics are a great excuse to tuck into the kind of messy finger food everyone loves – like sausage rolls, crisps, Scotch eggs and cake – and best of all you can make a massive mess while you’re doing it. Plus it’s mega cheap and guaranteed to be great fun!
Go for a walk
Someone told me recently that more than one in nine children haven’t set foot in a park, forest or beach for at least 12 months, and it broke my heart. None of those things are expensive, or hard to do, and absolutely every single one of us as parents has local access to at least one of them. As well as the physical and mental health benefits of being active outdoors, you only need to look at a child’s face when they’re outside in an exciting place to see why it’s such a great use of time. You don’t need to have grand plans or spend weeks planning a big outdoor trip – just open your door and walk. It’s an amazing thing to do.
Get a football
I think ‘ball’ might be the first word Sonny learned. He sees me kick them, he sees the dog chase them, and as a massive footy fan I’m pretty proud to say he already seems obsessed. All I need to do is open the back door and roll a ball across the grass and he’s off, dribbling it with both feet. He’s no Leo Messi just yet (in fact he spends more time picking it up and throwing it than practising stepovers) but just seeing him out there enjoying himself is good enough for me. So long as he never swaps it for a rugby ball…