Finding things to keep an active toddler entertained, occupied and out of trouble can be pretty challenging, not to mention bloody expensive. If I look at what Toddler L and I do on a daily basis, it’s quite boring if I’m honest. I’m sure the sprog gets plenty out of it as her daily development continues to astound me, but I guess I’m a little stuck in a rut when it comes to where to go and what to do.
We have Water Babies swimming on a Thursday and Tumble Tots on a Friday, but apart from that, our week is made up of walking the dog, visiting somewhere like the zoo, park or soft play and spending a lot of time playing / watching TV in the house. We could and probably should do more, but as the sprog still has two naps a day, I don’t want to venture too far in case this messes with her routine. Plus, from a selfish perspective, I don’t want her to drop a nap just yet!
In my quest to find stuff for us to do, I think I’ve stumbled upon three, let’s call them, alternative days out. They may not be traditional or sound that fun on the face of it, but I can guarantee that your toddler will get as much out of them as a visit to somewhere more ‘normal’. Even better, they won’t cost you a penny and they’re all around the country so you’ll be never too far away from popping in.
Have I got your attention? Then check out these awesome toddler-friendly alternative days out suggestions:
Pets At Home (or equivalent pet shop)
All toddlers like animals. What’s not to love about watching them move, mimicking their noises or attempting to grab them? For clarity, I mean animals, not toddlers. But to see these different species – again, animals not toddlers – you usually have to pay some extortionate fee to go to a zoo, farm or aquarium.
Unless, that is, you make use of your local, friendly neighbourhood pet store. With more than 370 stores dotted around the country and home to animals like rabbits, guinea pigs and hamsters, your toddler will be able to spend hours interacting with these fury creatures that you have no intention of buying.
But that’s not all. Many stores have vets or animal grooming services available. This means that your kid not only gets to see those animals for sale, but is also bound to encounter real-life dogs and cats as they walk around the shop – just a word of warning, avoid those animals that look sick or dying. This makes a pet shop the perfect combination of zoo, petting zoo and safari park at zero cost. Who needs Woburn or Longleat?
Homebase / B&Q (or equivalent DIY shop)
The most straightforward of tasks can keep a toddler entertained for longer than you’d envisage. For instance, the simple act of putting items in, then out, then in, then out, then in, then out (I could continue, but I won’t) of a container keeps Toddler L out of trouble for a surprisingly lengthy amount of time.
A DIY store is therefore the perfect place to keep a toddler mentally stimulated and physically exhausted. Take the ‘doors and door furniture’ aisle in one of the 600 or so Homebase and B&Q stores in the country. Just think of the fun a toddler could have pushing items through letter boxes, turning keys in keyholes, sliding the chain backwards and forwards on a door chain, flicking doorstops and making noises with a door knocker.
But that’s not all. Consider other ‘alternative toys’ present in a DIY store – turning light switches on and off, lifting toilet seats up and down, grouping and sorting screws, playing hide and seek in sheds and using lawn mowers as walkers. It becomes very easy to see how you could lose an entire day in this Handy Andy inspired toddler heaven.
IKEA / DFS (or equivalent furniture shop)
I’ve recently written a post about how to turn your home into soft play. The basic premise being that soft play is pretty hellish, so instead of going there and being with all of the scabby kids and their parents, just use what you’ve got in your house instead – stairs, sofas, chairs, windowsills etc.
The same goes for stores like IKEA or DFS. These places have loads of sofas, beds, futons, footstools, mirrors, paintings and other home stuff – all perfect for your little explorer to look at, climb up or jump on. The thing that makes this even better than doing it in your own home though is that none of the furniture is yours, meaning that you don’t have to worry about muddy footprints, sticky hands or snotty noses ruining your expensive furnishings. Leave that for someone else to deal with.
With around 20 IKEA stores and 100 DFS stores in the UK, you’re never going to be too far away from a venue where you can let your kid go wild, safe in the knowledge that it will be more hygienic and have a higher standard of clientèle than your typical soft play. From a selfish perspective, the number of empty sofas and beds provide the added bonus of providing a comfy place to sit down or have a cheeky nap as your toddler does their thing.
So those are 3 of my alternative days out which can entertain your little one for hours but not cost you a penny. Genius, or what?! Do you have any more that you’d add to the list? Let me know below!
Enjoyed this? Then check out 3 more alternative days out with your toddler.