This post is sponsored by Fantastic for Families – a brilliant website for families to discover affordable and relevant quality arts and cultural activities in their area.
Need some interesting, fun ideas for things to do with your toddler this May half-term? Mummy’s Gin Fund joins forces with Fantastic for Families to provide some helpful tips.
“School’s Out!” is a phrase that brings delight to most schoolchildren but strikes fear into the parents of many a pre-schooler.
Not only do you have to contend with the holiday crowds but a majority of the playgroups and classes you regularly frequent decide to take a break too.
You don’t want to spend your whole week inside – too much CBeebies can wear you down – but you’ve been to the local park about 6,458 times already this year and don’t really want to go again.
Don’t panic! We’ve got it covered. Here are 13 things to do with your toddler – most of them are parent-pleasers too!
“Dance the Night Away”
If your dance moves are a bit ‘flailing octopus’ but you want to cut a rug with your little one nonetheless, why not join a class? The fabulous Diddidance are holding stand-alone drop-in sessions at their usual locations – it’s a great sample activity to try before signing up for a whole term. For May Day you could try some Morris Dancing with lots of bells, handkerchiefs and skipping!
You could also pop in to London’s Sadler’s Wells Theatre for “Family Fridays” – monthly afternoon workshops (including May 31st) for 2-4 year-olds and their carers. Have lots of fun dancing together in a variety of styles at this inspiring prestigious venue. Time to start pointing those toes and pirouetting!
“Tell Me a Story, Jackanory!”
Stories are fantastic. Snuggled up on the sofa with a favourite read on a rainy afternoon, or sprawled across the floor of your local library with a pile of books, is always a great way to pass the time.
If you want to develop your toddlers’ imaginative play you might join them in role-playing as doctors, café-owners, Superheroes or Paw Patrol in your own front-room of course.
Or, this bank holiday Monday you can join Play On, Mini Actors – a new toddler group starting at Erith Theatre for Under 4s, complete with dressing up, messy play and storytelling!
“Go to the Theatre! (Dahling)”
Your child’s first theatre trips are defining experiences, so you won’t want to choose a show that’s too long or too frightening for them, otherwise they may not want to return. Here are some that should be just right:
ChickenShed are running half-term additions to their “Tales from the Shed” summer season, including: interactive puppet shows for under 6s on Thursday 30th/Friday 31stMay to complement their usual Saturday shows.
Meanwhile, Islington’s Little Angel Theatre has a show called “Inside” on 26th and 27thMay, which is aimed at younger toddlers of 1 to 2 ½ years old!
The Arts Depot in North London has a run of The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show for 2 to 12 years, and the The Ugly Duckling family ballet (for the same age group), is on tour, stopping at Canterbury and London’s Leicester Square Theatre during the holidays.
“Join in a Sing Song”
If you want to sing with your child, a warble in the car on your way to somewhere else might be enough. Alternatively, if you want someone else to take the lead, why not find a “Library Rhymetime”.
Alternatively, you could head to the regular “Storytelling and Music Sessions for 0 – 4 Year olds” that the Royal Albert Hall runs on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
“Listen to the Music Play”
What if singing isn’t enough, and you want to introduce your toddler to a wealth of musical instruments?
How about the Bach to Baby classical music concerts? These are performed at numerous pretty London locations throughout the holidays. Toddlers are free to move about while the ensemble plays on.
Look out for Baby Broadway and Baby Gospel concerts too.
Whether your toddler’s vehicle of choice has wheels or sails, you can have a fabulous time investigating them. Grab an I-spy book of vehicles and see how many modes of transport you can spot on the way to the shops. Or why not visit a dedicated museum like the National Maritime Museum or Transport Museum?
At the Transport Museum, you can drop in at the STEM “Travelling with Thameslink” activities (making trains and listening to stories), and explore the “All Aboard Playzone” for under 7s, where you can dress up and run the lost property office, fix a tube train or take turns to make ‘Mind the Gap’ announcements. There’s also a chance to drive buses and DLR trains, sit in old railway carriages and stroke the horses – and there’s the very addictive “Stamper Trail”.
“Reach for the Skies”
Space is awesome! While our toddlers are far too young to travel to the International Space Station, they aren’t too young for a visit to the Royal Observatory in Greenwich!
On weekends and during the holidays from 11am, there’s a very special show at the Planetarium for children aged 3 to 7 called “Ted’s Space Adventure”. Your little one will get the double whammy of a cinema experience and an awe-inspiring view of our universe, before touching ancient meteorites in the Observatory itself! Afterwards they can zoom off to the playground in Greenwich Park.
“Capture a Castle”
Castles are great but when you’ve got little legs you don’t need to tour a massive one, just a place with stairs to climb up and down, views to gaze over, and grounds for some swashbuckling. Places like Severndroog Castle on Shooters Hill surrounded by Oxleas Wood, or Upnor Castle on the edge of the River Medway are perfect castles for beginners!
Get creative in your own home; use coloured shaving foam in the bath, wrapping paint-splats on paper in cling-film to reduce the mess. Make models out of household rubbish, or get finger painting!
If you want to see the work of others, or don’t want to tidy up, head to a gallery! Choose a few objects or animals with your toddler and write a treasure hunt list for tracking them down.
At Tate Britain on 25thMay, the “Playing Up” workshop is a family game where props and materials are used around the gallery as an introduction to live art. On the same day there’s a “Storytelling and Making with Lisa Stickley” workshop, and on bank holiday Monday there’s the “Fox on the Swing” collage workshop.
“Talk to the Animals and Go for a Walk on the Wild Side”
Introducing your toddler to all creatures great and small is a fantastic way to get them to engage with and begin to respect nature.
The Horniman Museum and Gardens with its small accessible farm, butterfly house, aquarium, mouse-house and bee-hives, is a great place for your toddler to meet animals without feeling overwhelmed. During half-term the museum offers craft activities for children aged 3+, such as making a bee mask as part of The Great British Bee Count, as well as a “Big Wednesday”full of bee-related activities. There will also be a “Minibeast Safari” in the museum grounds (3+) and pond dipping (5+) for children to explore the natural world.
All of which, will be great practice for 30 Days Wild taking place in June. It’s an initiative set up by The Wildlife Trust to do a wild activity everyday. We’ve had great fun doing it the last 3 years and I highly recommend it.
“Delve into the Past, Investigate Artefacts and Explore Historic London”
You could create a treasure box at home, filling it with interesting objects that you can explore together – see if your toddler can work out what these objects do, or how to use them. Let them explore ‘really old things’ as Mini says, especially if they look totally magnificent or alternatively slightly different to what they’re used to.
A trip to a museum can be a fun, interesting and interactive – and a free museum is a cheap day out! And you don’t have to see the whole museum to have an enjoyable experience.
The Museum of London and the Museum of London Docklands offer loads of opportunities for even the smallest children to explore the past. The Museum of London is holding an amazing “Beasts of London” drop-in family festival over the weekend of 25thand 26thMay – the exhibition is aimed at children aged 7 and older. There are other interactive and crafty drop-ins for families throughout the week, including a “Beautiful Birds Sensory Room” for children 2 and under. These workshops are additional to the under 5s museum explorers backpack, which can be used to help your toddler get the most out of the museum galleries, including the “Playtime” gallery that was developed specifically with Early Years in mind, and lots of other visual, tactile and wow-inducing interactive galleries.
“Running, Jumping, Climbing trees”
There are so many great parks that give you opportunities for exercise, breathing fresh air and using up all that energy before bedtime: Kensington Gardens with the Princess Diana Playground, Dulwich Park, Danson Park, Greenwich Park, Beckenham Place Park, Charlton Park, Swanley Park, Hyde Park, Battersea Park, Ladywell Fields to name just ten. All have a variety of playground equipment suitable for toddlers and varied landscapes to march over like the Grand Old Duke of York. Collect sticks, hunt for hide-painted rocks and don’t forget your oats to feed the ducks.
“A spot of lunch or bake some cakes?”
Have your little one join a cooking class and see what kind of chef they are. Do they stick their fingers in everything and nibble all the ingredients, or are they Masterchef material already? Roll up your sleeves, wash your hands and find some recipes from I Can Cook. Whichever level they (or you) are, cooking together is always a fun and messy way to create something delicious together. And scraping the bowl after is always the most fun bit whatever your age!
So these are our half term suggestions. What are your best toddler locations and ideas? Please share your secrets.
This post is sponsored by Fantastic for Families – a brilliant website for families to discover affordable and relevant quality arts and cultural activities from trusted organisers in their local area. Fantastic for Families is run by the Family Arts Campaign, a national collaborative programme funded by Arts Council England.