As much as I absolutely love travelling with the kids and cannot imagine a day when I won’t say YES to an adventure, there is also something undeniably lovely about just enjoying the normal, everyday, entirely simple, often free and even-kind-of-boring-sounding pleasures of life together (anyway – boring is good!). Dawdling in the aisles of our local supermarket and leaving the house with nowhere to go are two of my absolute favourite things to do with the kids. Below are some other ideas beyond just the normal park visits and baby groups (both of which I actually *dislike* which I’ll explain in another post!) Some are specifically London based but many of course can be done all over the world:
Farm life – aside from Whipsnade Zoo which holds a special place in my heart, zoos aren’t really my thing. Farms however, especially small, free range ones absolutely are. We love Kentish Town City Farm which is a real slice of urban nature where goats perch high above the train life and hens roam free at your feet. It’s free to enter and when combined with a visit to the gorgeous Arbour Cafe down the road, makes for the perfect simple day out.
Flower or fruit picking – is there anything better than watching your little one tear through fields when said fields are full of juicy strawberries or stunning dahlias? Not really, in my humble opinion, if only because you’ll return with a basket full of the most beautiful, freshly cut goodies at far lower prices than anything you’ll find in a shop. Just don’t let them out of your sight… In the Summer we love to go dahlia picking here where there is also a lovely farm shop and a super cute cafe where you can grab a coffee and piece of cake at afterwards. Prices start from 25p!
Hanging out in allotments – so long as you don’t let your kids trample over someone’s courgettes, this has to be one of the nicest way to spend an afternoon not to mention free and educative as kids can learn that no, carrots do not grow in the supermarket. Just stay away from any over zealous allotment folk – we once got a hefty telling off and had to pretend we owned an allotment (which would actually be amazing!) Just keep a low profile, and you’ll be fine.
Climbing – as soon as Jack turns 5, this is our first stop. Climbing is an amazing way to grow your kids’ self-confidence, trust and strength and when it’s all taking place in an epic Victorian former water pumping station that looks like a castle with the most gorgeous garden and cafe, you cannot go wrong. Londoners, this is where it’s at if you’re at all interested in reaching new heights with your little ones.
Supermarket shopping – one of my personal favourite as well as super useful things to do with the kids is the weekly food shop. Not only does it tick off one of the chores, it’s also educational – I’m sure Jack is learning a fair amount about the world as he helps me weigh the vegetables and talk to the man at the cheese counter about the fact that they still don’t sell enough vegan cheese.
Coffee shops – for better or for worse, hanging out in coffee shops has to probably be my all time favourite thing to do with the kids. I think it’s the combination of the caffeine hit for mama and the look on Jack’s face as he discovers that it’s possible for a croissant to contain chocolate that does it for me. Oh, and the overarching possibility of a kid going to sleep in the buggy and the sight of a lone discarded Guardian newspaper just waiting to be picked up. Cafes with play areas for kids are basically the equivalent of an amazing club these days and if the owners are nice too, I’ll pretty much move in. Some of my favourites include Bear + Wolf Cafe, The Slate cafe, The Wilds Cafe (all these have play areas) and Bluebelles just ‘cos it’s my local and their pastries are BOOM.
Garden centre – our local garden centre is like a second home to us. We just seem to end up there time and time again wandering in and out of the greenhouses and resisting buying another mini cactus. It helps that it’s walking distance from our home but seriously, if you’ve not taken your little ones on a garden centre jaunt, you really must. They are especially magical at Christmas time when all the trees are displayed and you might find Santa hanging out there too.
Library – this one is of course perfect for a rainy day when you need to get out the house but you still want to be indoors. Bring a flask of coffee, have a good exit strategy if someone starts making too much noise, stay off your phone and you’re all set. It’s also super to support your local community and introduce your child to the idea that you don’t have to own a book to enjoy it.
And here’s what we tend to do when we just want to stay in our PJs all day.,.
Yoga – I try to practice yoga with and without the children a few times a week. Here’s some tips on how I (attempt to) make that work!
Gardening – even just getting Jack to water the plants is a fun way to fill 20 minutes. We inevitably always also end up doodling on the patio…
Cooking – Jack can now help me measure out some flour etc to make a super simple cake, in fact he helped me make this one which is a family favourite
Loading the dishwasher – babies and toddlers seem to LOVE dishwashers so why not make them work and get them helping to unload and pass you the plates too. Just maybe keep them away from your best Anthropologie bowl..
Sorting clothes washing – despite being distinctly unhelpful, Jack loves sorting the clothes into different piles of colours
Rearranging my cupboards – when I get in the mood to sort my cupboards – whether food or clothes – Jack always manages to entertain himself with an oxo cube or old scarf and it’s a great way to while away an hour or so and end up with a (just about) tidier home in the process
Playing…. in the bath – you know when 5pm hits but it feels like bedtime is a lifetime away? Often we switch things up and have a long bath before bed and sometimes I even jump in too.
I hope you enjoyed this article describing some of the simple, slow things in life that I love doing with our kids. What’s your favourite “ordinary” thing to do with your little one, and why? I’d love to hear some more ideas…
As ever, thanks so much for reading and have an awesome day.
Emma Ross is mum to Jack and Sonny and runs Mamalina, a blog and vlog discussing motherhood, travel, zero waste, vegetarianism, yoga and more. She is running a month long campaign around challenging parents to reduce their use of plastic kicking off June 4th – join the movement at #plasticfreeparent. www.mamalina.co