As the days grow shorter, colder and wetter it’s easy to feel as though all you want to do is sit on the sofa, drink lots of hot chocolate and hide away until the summer makes a comeback. Then you remember that you now own a tiny person and this far from their idea of how a day should go!
The beautiful day’s out to country parks, the beach, going for picnics or playing in the garden are now out of the question and you have to try and come up with new activities to fill your week. This change in weather can also really affect our moods and having less to do and feeling trapped inside the house can add to this low feeling. I have decided to put together a helpful list to help you re-discover the fun activities that you can still do with your little one(s) during the winter months.
Soft Play (sorry)
You most probably already know how I feel about soft play after I gave you tips on how to survive these noisy hell’s in another post. Unfortunately when the weather is really crap and you need to get out of the house, even if it’s just for an hour, this will often be your best answer. At least your child can let off some steam, wear themselves out and, if they are old enough to be trusted in the ball pit for a while, you may even manage to get a hot cup of tea.
P.S. I know they aren’t all that dreadful and if you can drive you can get to some pretty fab (plus clean) ones.
We try to make time once a week to go somewhere for a swim. Jake absolutely loves it and asks most days if we can go! As with soft play, it is great if you can drive because it means you can get to some of the bigger and more interesting centres- ones with large slides, rapids or wave machines always go down well with us. Our favourites are Coral Reef in Bracknell (currently closed for a huge refurb and we cannot wait to get back!), Romsey Rapids in Romsey and The Spectrum in Guildford.
We are lucky living in Hampshire because we can easily drive or take a train to several Aquariums near us. Southsea, Bournemouth and London all have fantastic facilities and there is also plenty more to do once you have been around the aquarium. Some also provide you with a hand stamp which allows you to return throughout the day. You can find out more about Blue Reef Aquariums here or Sea Life Centres here.
The Living Rainforest
This is an indoor rainforest in Thatcham near Newbury, Berkshire. It is an ecological and educational centre which attracts many school visits throughout the week. It provides a tropical environment in which you can discover wonderful plants, insects and animals all of which are becoming endangered in our rainforests today.
They provide worksheets for different age groups, information throughout the walk and staff are on hand to answer any questions. The entry price covers you for a whole year which means you can return time and time again. They do advise that if visiting on a weekday during term time, that you do so in the afternoon due to the high volume of school trips they take in.
We have been three times with Jake and we all love it there (pictures above from each visit). It’s perfect for the winter because of the warm climate but if you do also choose to go in the summer you can then make good use of their outside picnic and play areas too. To find out more you can visit their website.
Of course, if you are lucky enough to live down in Cornwall you will have the even bigger and marvellous option of being able to visit The Eden Project, which I can also highly recommend.
You may see the word science and think that your child wouldn’t be interested or that they are too young to take it all in, but when we took Jake to our nearby centre he absolutely loved it. These centres provide so many stimulating activities which make the learning loads of fun. Some also have planetariums which are an added bonus. Last time we went, Jake was kicking and screaming because he didn’t want to leave!
You can read more about our local centre in one of my posts from our Easter Days’ out.
Our local ice rink offers a session for under 5’s to learn how to skate with the ‘penguin’. When I enquired about this previously, Jake was only 16 months and they did have the policy that he had to be 18 months to start, so always check the age restrictions with your local centre.
There will, of course, also be outdoor ice rinks set up across the country in the run-up to Christmas. A great opportunity to get out to with all the family and enjoy some festive fun together.
I have heard parents rave about this activity centre but I am yet to experience it for myself… *runs off to book tickets!
This is literally a street which has been shrunk down to child size and allows them to play how they wish. They can shop, build, go in the theatre, drive around the tiny streets and use their imaginations to their heart’s content. It has been designed with input from early years practitioners and is an educational, as well as a fun, attraction to visit. You need to book online as all slots have time allocations with number restrictions.
This centre is located in Frimley, Surrey and you can find out more here.
UPDATE: You can read about our visit here.
Depending on the age of your child will depend on how this will go! Jake is almost three and we haven’t yet taken him. I know of other parents who have taken their younger ones but Jake is still quite active during a film at home so I’m not too sure how he would do in a cinema for a whole hour and a half. Most cinemas now offer a baby/toddler-friendly screening during the day. These tend to be a little bit lighter and noise is allowed. Everyone will be in the same boat as you at these screenings so you don’t need to worry about your little one kicking off, becoming restless or needing to leave.
Jump on a Train
Or any form of public transport for that matter. What is it with children and wanting to get on trains and buses? You don’t even have to go far, just a quick trip around town on the bus or a trip to the next town/city on a train and they are happy. Jake obviously loves trains which you saw in my post Wherever The Train Takes Us… Sometimes a quick trip on a train can lead to a great day out.
Now I’m not encouraging early gambling but we recently took Jake down to Southsea for the day to have a go in the arcades and go on the fairground rides and he loved it!
Take all your saved up 2p’s and 10p’s and just let them go crazy on the slot machines. He was on winning streak that day too and we went home with 3 prizes! If the weather isn’t too bad you could also grab some fish and chips on the beach and even watch the ferries coming and going.
Don’t forget to also check your local websites for details on playgroups, messy play sessions, Children’s Centre’s timetables, music sessions, dancing groups and much more.
I hope these have given you a few new ideas for getting out and about during these colder months. Is there anything near you that needs shouting about? Why not share them with me?
If you are looking for more winter activities I have listed outdoor ideas for those of you who love to be out in all in weather in this post here.