It’s that little bit colder and every fibre of my being wants to stay inside, but come rain or shine, the kids need entertaining. And you know what? It’s just that little bit easier outside. Whether it’s the fresh air, or the fact that when they’re shouting and running outdoors it’s swallowed up by nature (rather than echoed inside my head over and over), there’s nothing better than getting the kids out and about. In fact, there is… that moment when you pile back in; with red noses and tingly hands and toes from the cold, settle down and just relax. Peace, for the smallest of moments, and safe in the knowledge that they’ve had their hit of fresh air for the day!
But when the weather’s horrid, how do you manage it? As tempting as it is to lock the doors and batten down the hatches for the colder months, you can have just as much fun (if not more) in the Autumn/Winter than you can in the summer heat. Here are some of my favourite ways to get toddlers and pre-schoolers out and about, whatever the weather. Just remember to pile on the hats and coats and reward with plenty of hot chocolate upon your return!
Let’s start with puddle jumping. If there’s one thing that toddlers love to do it’s a good old splash. Hell, if it’s good enough for Peppa, it’s good enough for me. Waterproofs and wellies on, head for the nearest puddle-filled place (country lanes and parks are particularly good for them) and let them splash to their hearts content. As a word of warning, any puddle jumping walk will take approximately 50 billion times longer than a regular one so you don’t need to go far… even the garden is fine! No puddles? Head for leaves. As adults we don’t tend to do it but I’ve spent hours watching my smalls play with piles of leaves. See who can kick them the best, have a ‘leaf’ (snowball) fight or simply throw them up in the air like confetti… simple but perfect!
Whilst the mud kitchen is great in the sunshine, it’s just as good, if not better at this time of year. Why? Because there’s more mud! Send them on a hunt first of all to find sticks, stones and fallen leaves before brewing up ‘soups’ for you to enjoy. If you don’t have a mud kitchen per se, don’t let that put you off. A washing up bowl, some wooden spoons and an old pot or pan will do the trick! We use the Ikea play kitchen pot and pan set which works perfectly but anything will do. It’s only going to get dirty after all!
Take a piece of paper and draw out some of the things you want your kids to find; a stick shaped like a certain letter? A big leaf? Three small stones? The cap of an acorn? (Our son calls this a fairy cup which is very cute!) Draw each one and put a big tick box next to it so that your little one can tick it off as they go. For more excitement, add a time limit and make it a race against each other or the clock. As we’re all about starting to recognised words at the moment, I like to write the word next to it but I’d always recommend drawing as well – just for ease! Choose how tricky you want it (do you just want a leaf or a red one?), draw it up and set them off. We’ve done these both in the garden and out on walks, both ways work well!
Visit The Park
It’s raining and the park seems like a complete nightmare but, as they say, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing! Stick on the layers, pop them in their waterproofs (waterproof trousers are definitely your friend here!) and head to the park. Bonus points if you remember to take a hot drink for yourself whilst you stand and watch. Short of torrential rain, I can almost guarantee that your little one won’t be put off by bad weather so make the most of the easy entertainment!
One of my favourites and an easy way to do two pieces of entertainment at once – hello mother of the year! Combine aspects of your scavenger hunt with making artwork. In the Autumn this is particularly easy; collect all different sorts of interesting leaves before bringing them home to arrange into pictures with glue. Make pictures of trees, peacock tails or even leafy crowns with them… Try stick collecting and then using wool to make them into wands or dreamcatchers. The best bit is, whatever you make from them, your kids will love! And like I said, double the entertainment value!
A Treasure Map
For budding adventurers, a treasure map is ideal. Use it to draw a basic map to get to the shops, a cafe or the park. Or make it more simple and send them around the garden. For your treasure, either hide something in advance or make the treasure a place with a treat! We tend to use this when we have to go on dog walks and the pre-schooler doesn’t want to go. I draw out a (very VERY basic) map with a couple of key landmarks on such as ‘the big tree’ or ‘the yellow house’ and then he gets to feel like he’s telling us where to go. The treasure is mostly our house when I dig a reward out of the cupboard. It’s cheesy but he blooming loves it.