baby and toddler activities, Parenting

5 Free Activities for Toddlers

At this time of year, the weather can be unpredictable, so it’s important to have a mix of indoor and outdoor activities on-hand to keep your toddler amused and learning. The list of things you can pay to take your kids to, or things you could buy to amuse them is much vaster than this. However, unless you’re a millionaire it’s just not practical or possible to fork out every time your kid is bored or needs some stimulation.

Here are 5 go-to activities that cost nowt, but will keep your child amused, active and learning.

Feed-the-ducks-toddler-activity1 Feed the ducks

Maybe I’m showing my age, as maybe it was something to do with Rosie & Jim, but I always loved going to feed the ducks as a child. Watching all the ducks come up for bread, sometimes getting a glimpse of little baby ducks and feeling a bonus thrill if swans or geese dropped by was often enough to make it fun. However if you feel like making it more of an educational experience, why not count the number of ducks and swans with your child, or point out the different types of birds that are feeding.

2 Playpark

Failsafe option every time. Playparks are always a winner, as kids never seem to get bored of swings or slides! Plus, playparks these days seem to be getting more and more impressive by the minute – flying foxes are all the rage in my neck of the woods! That’s not to mention the elaborate climbing frames, sandpits and trampolines that have become more commonplace in playparks. Usually there will be other kids around in the park too, meaning your toddler can enjoy playing with other kiddos too.

Playdate-toddler-activities3 Playdate

If there’s no other kids at the park, why not get in touch with a mum friend and arrange a playdate? I’ve already written about how much of a saviour playdates are, but don’t just take my word for it, experience it for yourself! Whether you go to their house, they come to you, or you meet in the playpark (weather permitting!), there are loads of benefits for mums and toddlers.

Messy-play-crafts-toddler-activitied4 Messy play/crafts

The same toys and the same cartoons in the house can get boring and repetitive after a while, and your little one might need some more stimulation after a while. If the weather is putting a dampener on any outdoor activities, why not get the crafts out or make some messy play? This doesn’t have to involve buying loads of craft material in – I bet you have plenty of items in the house that could be used. From basic colouring and drawing, to experiencing shaving foam, soapy bubbles and other interesting textures, your household items could become a great hub of crafting and messy play for an afternoon!

5 Bookbug

Another activity which I think is great for babies and toddlers is Bookbug. Run in Scotland in local libraries, Bookbug classes last around 45 minutes and consist of story time, rhymes and play. The aim is that parents and children will also check out books for their child and encourage reading from an early age. Classes are suitable from birth until around three years old, and take place weekly throughout term time. You can find out more about this great free activity in my Bookbug Week 2018 post.

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Baby M's firsts, Mum time

June Firsts

Who can believe another month has come and gone again? The heat has made May, June and now July roll into one, so it’s taken some real thought to remember what actually happened in each month, and what date it was actually a first! I’m blaming this partly on going back to work, so things have been even more hectic than usual, but in reality I should probably just keep better note of things when they happen! However we still managed to get up to plenty of new activities together as a family.

First weekend without mum

So, I braved it. At the beginning of June, I had a girls weekend planned. This is an annual trip we take to Dunoon to celebrate birthdays, catch up and generally have a great stress-free girlie weekend. Most of the girls who go are mums too, so they feel the pain of the double-edged sword that is much-needed me-time and missing your kid(s). We usually go on the Friday and come back on the Monday, but I decided I wasn’t quite ready to leave Trav for that long, so opted to come home on Sunday, with Trav and dad coming to get me. It was a great weekend for me, with some much needed adult-only company, but it has to be said that I did miss the wee man, and facetimed him before we went out on the Saturday night. It was a weird feeling, going back to being my old self for a weekend, not being responsible for anyone else, but knowing that he was at home with his dad didn’t fill me with the dread that I thought it might. Although Travis has spent a night at grandparent’s here and there, I’d never been away from him for longer than that. It’s not something I’d look to repeat in a hurry, but I do think that the break from mum was probably a good thing for him, especially as he would have to get used to going to nursery and being away from mum for most of the day, all week.

First trip to the farm

Making the most of mum’s final few days off, we decided to do and see as much as we could – especially with the weather being so good. One place none of us had ever been to was Ardardan Farm. It’s in Cardross, which is really local to us, and has lots to see and do, so it was a no brainer to head along on 8th June. There are trail walks (some of which weren’t so buggy friendly), a farm shop, cafe, garden centre, and most importantly – there are animals! Travis got to see some wee lambs, some hens and some Clydesdale ponies for the first time. Unfortunately the main attraction, the pigs, had moved on to pastures new, and the farmers were awaiting new pigs in their place. Ardardan Farm also offers loads of activities for kids, families, and even has its own private space to rent for functions and gatherings, so it’s somewhere we will definitely be visiting again!

Mum first: First day back at work

Who can believe the last 9 months have flown by in the blink of an eye?! On Monday 11th June I returned to work with a bang. Craig was off, so the first day wasn’t as hectic as it could have been, and could rest somewhat easy knowing that Travis would be fine with his dad. The first couple of days seemed really long; things didn’t revolve around feeding and napping (boo to the latter!) and I could make tea and coffee, use the bathroom and even check email in peace! After the first few days passed, and the adrenalin wore off, I definitely needed to be fuelled by caffeine. It almost felt like back in the early days when Travis would be up 10 times a night and we were still trying to decipher night from day. But we’re getting there, and although I miss seeing the little fella all day, every day, it’s nice to get back into the swing of things and be around adult company and stimulation during the day.

First Hartbeeps with dad

So as mum went back to work, dad took on the responsibility of taking Travis to his classes, including Hartbeeps. I was unsure how Craig would get on, especially since the class is usually all mums, with the exception of a granny or a dad on haydays and bank holidays. I shouldn’t have worried though, as both of them loved it! The sun was shining so Laura decided to take the class outside for sports day. Travis got a wee photo with his medal (not sure what for, mind you. Maybe doing the most roly polys rather than crawling?)

First day with Auntie Kristen and his bestie

On Day 2 of mum’s return to work, Travis went to spend the day with his Auntie Kristen, and his bestie, Evan. Dad was working and he wasn’t due to start nursery until the following week so Auntie Kristen saved the day and even took the wee man to Bookbug so he wasn’t missing out! They got up to all sorts together – trips to the shop, a ride on the bus, playtime and even feeding too. There’s no denying, Auntie Kristen is a hero and superwoman managing to take care of and amuse 2 kiddos under 2.

First trip in mum’s new car

So my old car was a total treasure and I loved it. I mean it was 12 years old, had 3 doors and had so many ‘quirks’ to it that it wasn’t even funny, but I loved it nonetheless. So it was a real shame to have to get rid of it, but it was getting to the point that there would be something wrong with it every other week. Apart from the fact it was costing so much (and on a maternity wage!) to repair, it wasn’t practical for Travis with only 3 doors, and it certainly wasn’t convenient getting stuck with him anywhere if we broke down! I also drive a 50 mile a day round trip for work, so I need something reliable. So mum opted for a newer version of the same model (I’m a creature of habit), and with 5 doors this time, which meant Travis could get upgraded to a big boy car seat that fits comfortably in the car and is easy to get the wee fella in and out of.

First Father’s day

Last year, I wondered if dads-to-be should get Father’s Day presents, but this year there was no ‘to-be’ and dad got to celebrate his first Father’s Day as a parent! The way it worked out, Travis was actually staying at his grandparents on the Saturday night before Father’s Day, in a bid to let mum and dad get a sleep after mum’s long first week back at work. What that meant was that Travis didn’t actually see his dad till later than usual on Father’s Day, so he managed to get out of making breakfast in bed! We had a good but quiet day, but I’m pretty sure dad enjoyed it.

First full week of nursery

Travis was due to properly start nursery in the last week of June, something which I was quietly nervous about. He had a few settling in visits, and didn’t seem to be coping well with being left at nursery. The first week was definitely a struggle in terms of tears and snotters – not to mention him teething – but the girls at the nursery are absolutely lovely and so reassuring. Travis gets a diary filled in every day, telling me what he got up to, what he’d eaten/drank that day, which is comforting now that I don’t get to share all those moments with him every day.

First illness

With a first full wee of nursery came something we were dreading, but inevitably knew would happen – his first illness! We had noticed a runny eye near the end of his first week, but just put it down to the weather and made sure we kept it clean. However by the weekend it was clear that it was something more serious – conjunctivitis. Luckily we managed to get a doctors appointment and some prescribed antibiotics fairly quickly, but for the few days he suffered, along with teething and the unusual heat, nobody got much sleep!

And here was me thinking we didn’t get up to much in June!

Baby M's firsts, Mother and Baby classes

Bookbug week 2018

Bookbug is one of the new things we tried this year (in our January firsts) and something which Travis completely loves going to each week. It’s also free (bonus) and something I mentioned in the top free things to do on maternity leave. It’s something I can’t advocate enough as something new parents should try, so I was delighted to learn that this week is Bookbug Week.

What is bookbug?
Bookbug is essentially a story and rhyme time class for babies and toddlers, usually held in the local library. It’s an initiative organised by the Scottish Book Trust, so I’m not sure if there are similar programs or events available elsewhere in the UK. The sessions are 45 minutes long and usually run in tandem with school term times. Each week parents and kids sing nursery rhymes, play some games with lycra on the floor and of course have one dedicated story read aloud. Travis particularly loves the “what’s in my bag” section and the nursery rhymes which follow.

Bookbug Week 2018
Bookbug Week runs from 14th to 20th May, and the theme this year is “Bookbug friends”. This involves bookbug bringing a friend to class, stories involving friends and spreading the word about bookbug to your friends.
Highlights for this year include a live online broadcast, where illustrator and writer Ross Collins talks through his latest book and illustrations, printable bookbug colouring sheets, special bookbug week books and more.

Bookbug-week-2018-scottish-book-trustIn our class on Tuesday, Bookbug brought along his teddy friend Alfie, and they read a story about a colourful elephant with lots of different lively animal friends. There were finger puppets and bookbug colouring sheets to play with in the library or take home, and there were special bookbug postcards which kids were encouraged to write about what they love about bookbug before sending the postcard to a relative or friend. Our bookbug teacher (not sure if that’s the right term?) also brought us in some yummy snacks for the kids (I didn’t eat any I swear…) so they could feel like they were having a little party, while the adults could get to chat a bit more to each other.

I think Bookbug is such a great concept and something which I think we are really lucky to have in Scotland for free. Bookbug Week is just one of the many reasons it’s great for both children and adults alike. Personally, I’ve learned nursery rhymes I never knew existed, and have rejoined a library – something I never thought I’d do after the maze of uni libraries! I’ve also met some great people and have enjoyed watching Travis grow while at bookbug; being able to sit up for story time, knowing what bit comes next, and getting excited for specific nursery rhymes he has learned at bookbug. I really can’t recommend it enough, and if you’re too early to book onto the next block in your area, I’d definitely give the Scottish Book Trust website a browse for great ideas and resources in the meantime.

Baby M's firsts, Mother and Baby classes

January Roundup: So Many Firsts!

So starting the year we didn’t really have any resolutions in our household, but we did anticipate an exciting year of firsts ahead. With baby M only a couple of months old at the turn of the year, we knew we had loads of new and exciting things to expect in 2018.

It’s only the beginning of February, and already he has accomplished (not sure that’s the right word. Learned probably?) so much in the past month. From first tastes to first rolls, here’s how our January went:

First food
I know all the guidelines say not to wean your child until at least 4 months, with the official government line being 6 months and not a minute before. However I’m pretty sure the government officials deciding that didn’t have a 17lb, 3 month old baby who was gubbing 40oz of milk a day with his belly physically rumbling at every feed. And that was him on hungry baby milk! So around 15 weeks we started introducing first tastes – fruit purees and spoonfuls of baby rice here and there. It’s been a fun and mixed journey (more poo chat for another day!) but it’s safe to say he’s been far more content and satisfied since he’s started the slow and steady journey to solids.

First massage
Baby massage was always something I was keen to sign baby M up for, as I’d heard that it’s meant to work wonders for colicky babies. Unfortunately, I was unable to book onto the free massage block at the local library (if you’re not fast you’re very much last in these situations!) but I didn’t let that deter me. So I went in search of some other classes around the area, and came across Teddy’s Baby Massage, which was advertised in my local Costa. After speaking to Michelle who runs the classes, we were able to secure the last spot in the Helensburgh block for January. Our first class was on 10th January and we haven’t looked back since. I’ll be sad when these classes come to an end next week, but with a handy massage guide and plenty of oil, the wee man will feel the benefit long after thanks to plenty of home massages.

First hartbeeps
I’ve already written about Hartbeeps, the baby play and development classes, and it’s something that the wee fella absolutely loves. With songs, nursery rhymes, toys and dress up, it keeps him totally entertained and stimulated for the full hour so he’s ready for a much needed rest afterwards! I’m looking forward to Baby M progressing through other Hartbeeps classes, Baby Beeps and Happy House, as he grows.

First yoga
We ran into the same issue with the local, free, Baby yoga classes as we did with massage – block of classes were fully booked on the day they went online for registration. In this instance, I decided to add our names to the waiting list, to see if anything would come of it. I wasn’t as fussed about yoga as I was for massage, though I’d heard there were some great benefits for development of bones and motor skills, as well as moves that would help ease the dreaded wind pains. Luckily, we got a notification near the end of the month to say that there was now a space for us. We missed the first half of the block but still had our first class in January with one more left to go. Since we started, I noticed a great difference in the wee man’s movements and am pretty convinced that baby yoga helped us achieve the next first!

First roll
Ok so it happened just last week on the 31st, but that’s still January! We were at our weekly baby massage class when the wee surprise occurred. It was time for the back massage section of the class, which usually pains Baby M as he hates tummy time if it lasts any longer than 20 seconds. However, much to my delight, he seemed quite happy on his tummy. No screams, no rigid body. And then it happened. He just rolled right back over onto his back. Convinced it was a fluke, I tried not to make a big deal out of it, and carefully placed the little wriggler back on his tummy. As I attempted to continue the back massage he did it again! So far he’s refused to do it when any of his family are watching, and if he’s on his back he can only get as far as rolling onto his side before he gets stuck, but we’re getting there!

First bookbug
Bookbug is yet another local, free service in the area for which spaces are like gold dust. As you can imagine, this early bird was not early enough and so didn’t quite catch the worm. Though yet again, a few weeks into the current block, we were notified to say that we were top of the waiting list and a space had opened up. Bookbug is exactly as the name suggests, a class that encourages your little ones to become book bugs. As far as I know it seems to be a government initiative, with sessions held at libraries up and down the country. For 45 minutes nursery rhymes are sung, babies and toddlers play games and of course sit down for some story time. It turns out the wee man’s big cousin, who’s just turned one, is also at the same bookbug class, so there’s a familiar face for mum and baby!

I can’t believe we’ve accomplished so many firsts in January, it means I’ll need to reevaluate the “firsts list” for the rest of the year already!