Obviously this is somewhat dependent on where you live – but regardless of location: days spent with the under-5s are often better when they include some time outdoors.
There are (many) days when the task of getting yourself and everyone else dressed and out of the door feels slightly overwhelming, but even at the most difficult of times, you normally feel like things are improved once you have ventured outside.
Happier outdoors even in semi-bleak conditions
Apart from the odd occasion, like when you venture out after a vomiting bug has swept through the entire family – bar your husband who is abroad for work – and you trap your baby’s finger in the buggy/stroller buckle and a dog knocks your toddler over...on those occasions, you would have been well advised to stay at home.
First rule: adequate outdoor kit
Anyway, assuming no errant dog, vomiting bugs, dubious buggy skills – outside, a good idea. But what to do on the days that you don’t have a toddler group or coffee with friends planned? At the risk of telling you something you already know…
1. Avoid central London sample sales
My lovely NCT friend and I decided we would hit up a Reiss sample sale off Bond Street with our then weeks-old babies. Let’s just say it wasn’t our finest moment. Avoid sample sales.
Libraries are always a good place to start. Even the smallest library feels like a bit of an outing for a toddler – or older child. Choosing books; queueing at a desk; using the card, what an adventure.
Not to mention the joy of taking those books home to lose and pay a fine on. Actually one of the first things I do when moving to a new area with toddlers is register at the library. Sometimes they have excellent story times. Sometimes, less so – but always worth a shot.
3. Feeding the ducks
Keep your child in the buggy if you must / if you are a paranoid parent (me) but we fed the ducks at least once a week for a long time and my then-3 year old never tired of it. The classic outing.
4. Nature walks
And when I say nature walk, I mean go for a walk somewhere pretty but with some kind of purpose – this is useful because as anyone who has walked with toddlers know, sometimes the pace is infuuuuriatingly slow.
Warmer times but too cute not to share (cute and unimaginably slow).
But give them a dolls pram to push or a basket to fill with pine cones / acorns / leaves / sticks and you can potentially turn this into something resembling a slow leisurely stroll instead of just feeling like you are stood, still, at the side of the street while your toddler looks down a drain.
Another excellent idea that captures our children’s imagination is a matchbox hunt – when you supply your child with a small matchbox and see how many tiny things they can find to fit in it.
Not the most obvious of essential childhood accessories but hey ho
5. Art walks
After some inspiration from this very useful website / this Facebook group I often take the children out to hunt for art materials – leaves for a collage, pine cones to glitter up for Christmas, branches to paint, etc. This means you double up and have an activity when you return home.
Recently we’ve had trips to the beach, now that we live so close to the water, with buckets ready to collect pebbles or driftwood to paint.
6. Avoid empty wet playgrounds
Is there anything less joyful than standing in a freezing wet playground – either with toddlers getting soaking wet or older children complaining about wet climbing frames. This may make me a mean spirited parent but I will admit to – you know, on occasion – finding playgrounds in winter pretty soul destroying (marginally better if you have a hot chocolate and a friend to kvetch with whilst pushing swings)
There we have it. The best outdoor activities for preschoolers in winter. In summary: go somewhere nice and avoid climbing frames in the rain.
PS. Looking for more toddler activities? Search for “smug and lazy toddler” or try these: