Apart from Christmas, winter is a bleak time in the UK. It’s cold, it’s wet, it’s windy and generally pretty unappealing – what do you mean I couldn’t get a job with Visit Britain?! Due to the harsh conditions outside, it’s easy to take cover and stay inside. When it’s barely above freezing out there, making excuses to remain in the warm house come pretty easily.
This isn’t always possible with a toddler though. Not only is it a little unfair to keep them cooped up in the house, but the incessant yammering, extra energy and reruns of The Gruffalo is likely to send you a little cray cray. As such, it’s time to put on the wellies, get your winter coat on and begrudgingly traipse outside with toddler in tow.
I’d say that Toddler L has a pretty active life. Like most things, I could do more, but a combination of nursery, toddler classes, playing at home and getting out and about – bike, trike, scooter, dog, park etc – keeps her suitably entertained. I’ve written before about keeping your toddler active, but as outlined above, the weather does make a difference. Going for a walk in the country appeals much more in June than January.
Something we’ve been doing more often is playing in the garden. We’ve not been able to continue doing everything we did during the warmer periods. For instance, her sand and water table is off limits, as is the majority of things which involve being on our muddy grass. Instead, we’ve discovered a range of sports activity kits from Decathlon’s Twenty For £20 range (20 different activity kits for £20 or less) which has given us something to play with in the garden.
The widget on their website allows you to answer a few simple questions – who’s playing, where you’ll be playing etc – before it recommends activities and kits to try out. After having a nosey, I noticed that there were plenty of different sports available, including things like football, boxing, fishing, basketball and ballet. As such, Decathlon agreed to send us three of the more toddler-friendly kits, which we’ve been playing with over the last few months.
From left to right, we have (1) the Penalty Shoot Out Kit which comprises of a Kipsta Kage pop up football goal and a size 5 football, (2) the Slamdunk Stars Kit made up of Kipsta The Hoop basketball backboad and Kipsta Tarmak size 7 basketball, and (3) the Competitive Crew Kit including the Geologic Javball set, Tribord soft flying disk and Geologic plastip dartboard (note that the photo shows a proper dartboard which was sent by mistake – we received the Geologic dartboard a few days afterwards).
Although I didn’t expect Toddler L to be hitting a 180 or slam dunking from 10 feet in the air, I thought that these would be a great mixture of outdoor activities we could play during the winter months. And I’ve been right. We’ve been able to use them in the garden, take them to the park and even play inside – shhh, don’t tell the missus. Even better, the older she gets, the more skilled she’ll become as things like her hand-eye coordination improve.
Penalty Shoot Out Kit
For twenty quid, you can get yourself a pop up goal and football. Toddler L has previously done Little Kickers football classes which used pretty similar equipment so she was familiar with what to do – i.e. put the ball in the goal. The cool thing about the goal is that it is really compact. It comes in its own carry bag which means that it’s easy to transport and can be pitched anywhere by simply unfolding it (and secured with the pegs if needs be). When you’re done, you just fold it back up and put it in the bag.
Our garden isn’t that big, so at 120cm x 80cm, the Kipsta Kage is the perfect size for our garden. Due to the weather, we’ve been using it on the top level of our decking, however during the summer months, I expect it’ll migrate down to the grass. Both the goal and football appear to be durable and well made, so I expect we’ll be playing with them both for a good few years yet.
Slamdunk Stars Kit
Growing up, I used to have a hoop on the side of the house. Although I was never that good, I spent so many hours as a kid playing basketball. With nostalgia in mind, I thought Toddler L would like basketball – after all, everyone knows that a toddler’s favourite game is putting items within larger items. For £20, the Decathlon kit gets you a decent quality, full-size basketball and a portable backboard, both by Kipsta.
The backboard is surprisingly lightweight and can be attached to numerous things. Unlike a fixed net which requires drilling, this one comes with two straps which go through the backboard and allow you to attach it securely to things like posts or trees. Because of this, you can take it with you and set it up in just a few minutes wherever you are. We currently have it attached to a low post in our garden so that Toddler L can reach.
Competitive Crew Kit
Whereas the other two kits are related to particular sports, this kit relates to ‘throwing’ activities. So, for twenty quid, you get a soft flying disc, a Javball set and a plastic dartboard. Personally, I think that’s a great deal.
Let’s start with the latter first. Although I’m not in the habit of giving sharp things to Toddler L, a plastic dartboard seemed like a good idea. Unlike ‘real’ dartboards, this one is covered in loads of little holes which the plastic dart lands in. It has two sets of darts and two holes on the back so it can be fixed to the wall, however we’ve just stood it up against the wall so Toddler L can reach. It also has an electronic scoring system which requires batteries, but as Toddler L can only count up to 12, I’ve not felt this is necessary yet!
We’ve used this a few times – both inside and outside – but it’s a little old for the sprog if I’m honest. She’s attempted to throw the darts, but as she doesn’t have the superior throwing ability of her dad, she’s been happy to watch and cheer as the dart hits the board!
Next, we have the Tribord D Soft Flying Disk, which is basically a foam frisbee. This makes it ideal for children – both in terms of ease of catching and throwing, plus the all important not getting hurt when it smacks them in the face. We’ve tried to use this a few times as it’s designed for, but Toddler L is a little too old to get the hang of throwing it in a flat, straight line – she tends to just throw it up in the air!
Finally, we have the Javball Set which is kind of like a mix between throwing sports like javelin and target sports like bowls. The set comes with five Javballs in total – two green, two orange and one blue. These are arrow shaped, made of foam and have a harder tip on them so that they balance downwards.
There are no rules as such, which gives you the ability to decide how you want to play. So you could do things like use the blue one as a target and see which person gets closest to it with their Javballs, or just see how far you can throw them. Toddler L has created her own game where she posts the Javballs and Flying Disk through the windows of her playhouse, then makes me get them and put them back through the window. I expect it to be in the next Olympics!
We’ve found that the Decathlon Twenty for £20 kits have really helped during the winter months. Not only have they got us outside and doing something active, but they’ve been activities we’ve both enjoyed. At 2.5 years old, some of the stuff is a little old for her to use as designed, however we’ve still had fun playing with them. I’ve been impressed with the quality and durability of each of the items, plus really like the concept of being able to buy a number of items which make up a kit for twenty quid or less. These will definitely be things which we continue to play with as Toddler L gets older, both in winter and summer.
N.B. The sports kits were sent to me by Decathlon with the purpose of writing an honest review in exchange for the products. You can check out the full range of Decathlon Twenty For £20 kits here.