Friday, 17 February 2012

Out and about with children

This post seems a bit defunct as I'm actually trying to stay home as much as possible to save money this year, even petrol will be juduciously used. But I'll share some of my ideas for outings out with small children, in different categories, because I love making lists. Obviously these are suited to our family, with a baby and a preschooler, and what's available in our area, but they may remind you of somewhere you would enjoy going with your family. Go with your kids, meet a friend there, or bring the whole family if everyone's available. Bring a picnic or throw a biscuit and an apple into your pocket, it all counts. Always have a few euro in each jacket pocket, a quick walk around the block might turn into a spontaneous bus ride, and you don't want to be the killjoy who's forgotten her wallet.

Use the camera on your phone to record the mundane bus journeys; the pigeon-chasing toddler will soon be a schoolchild, and you will value these more than the "blowing out the birthday candles" shots. Do your child a favour and leave your phone on silent, don't be checking Facebook on these outings. Think of it as a mini-holiday with your little love and give them all your attention. They'll remember it longer than you think. Major Mommy points.

Free outings:

  • Walk around the block, theme the walk such as a nature walk, a Spring walk, a Halloween walk. Collect grimy leaves and sticks, whatever your child deems interesting. Bring a plastic bag for them or you'll ruin your parka.
  • Watch the Sunday footballers in your local park. Join in the cheers for Macker, nobody knows who he is either.
  • Visit the local churches, see the artworks, the furniture, the pews. Be prepared for some very deep questions.
  • Local parks: feed the ducks, catch a brass band, playground, kick a ball around, chase birds, climb trees. Remember to let your child have some fun too.
  • Festivals - summer has seen lots of smaller festivals crop up in towns like Dun Laoghaire, Bray
  • Visit local library, they usually have a parent and toddler group / colouring. Storytime seems to have been cut out of the budget. They rent out DVDS too, which are handy if you know Thomas the Tank Engine will only be a phase. You can renew books over the phone / online, so how come I still go overdue everytime and always owe money?
  • Museum - IMMA in Kilmainham, Dublin has a nice cafe with play area for kids
  • Playdate with friends (always bring a packet of biscuits)
  • Visit a relative (ditto the biscuits - but choose wisely, the older they get the fussier they get)
  • Cycle somewhere - bring a picnic and cycle to a park. Perfect picnic food is sandwiches, a punnet of blueberries, juice boxes and a bar of chocolate to share. Beer / mini bottle of wine for you if you feel you've earned it. I've always earned it. Back when I had the luxury of only one child I cycled to a park a couple of miles away, Charlie singing away in the seat behind me, we picnicked on black bean brownies, crackers, boobs (him) and beer (me). I did cartwheels (?!) on the grass, and we played aeroplanes. It was a perfect afternoon. 
  • Art Gallery - you're never too young to discuss art. Charlie saw Frida Kahlo and Calder at IMMA in the last few years. Spectacularly unimpressed, as all good critics should be.
  • Beach- bring a frisbee, skim stones, collect shells, look for dead crabs, avoid tampons.
  • Archaeological dig in the garden / beach - (prepare by burying a bone/ "treasure map" first) 
  • Go camping in your back garden. Pitch a decent tent, sleeping bags, torches, marshmallows cooked over the oven hob, the works. Retire to real bed once cold and bored.
  • Tour your local fire station (ring in advance, not on Halloween)
  • Send a message in a bottle / picture in a bottle out to sea. Probably deemed littering so make sure no-one's watching.
  • Go to a music shop and test out the pianos / drums etc. They sometimes run workshops / free gigs

Cheap outings: (small expenditure - under a fiver)

  • Local cafe - coffee, cake to share and a Capri Sun for under a fiver.
  • Get the bus somewhere, a great excitement for the younger kids especially if you usually drive everywhere. Be warned: It will take four times as long as driving. Call it a mystery bus ride. Get on a bus you've never ridden, get off, buy a lolly, go home.
  • Get on the Dart or Luas and ride it to the terminus, then return home. Eat your picnic on the train. (The Dart between Killiney - Bray is amazing on a sunny day, like the Amalfi coast, only not so Italian)
  • Plane spotting at Dublin airport / Train spotting / Bus or Boat spotting. Bring a notebook so they can scrawl a sketch of their prey once spotted. Anoraks essential.
  • Historic sites of Dublin / wherever you are - cathedrals / Viking walls / old houses. Google them first and pick a couple close to each other. Charlie loves hearing about "the old days, like before mobile phones"

More expensive outings:

  • Cinema - some have kids clubs on weekday mornings for parents to watch decent films with babies in tow. Until Charlie was about a year old I'd bring him on a weekday afternoon to see whatever I wanted to see. It was always quiet and nobody minded him being there. 
  • An indoor play zone / play cafe - review to come of our fave place, if you follow me on Twitter you'll already know!
  • A creative workshop for kids - Art / Music / Dance, sometimes organised in theatres / arts centres / estate houses like Farmleigh (Phoenix Park), Airfield (Dundrum), Kilruddery (Bray)
  • A trip to a theatre / pantomime / stage show / something-on-ice
  • A meal out. Pick a quiet time of the week and get a lunch special in a friendly Italian restaurant, all kids love pizza and ice-cream.
  • Amusement arcades: once or twice a year we empty candle-holders, mugs and drawers of loose change and have a great day out on all the coppers. Win teddies, go on the kiddy rides, get sticker photos taken.
  • Artisan cakes in a fancy cafe
  • Visit a working farm
  • The zoo
  • An aquarium


  1. Hughes and Hughes bookshop in Dundrum do a story time on Saturday morning :)
    Must check out the local library in Dundrum too- I know they used to do a story time but I haven't been there in years!
    Love the playground in Mount Merrion park as well, looks lovely.

  2. Thanks Lisa, never knew about the storytime in Dundrum, will definitely check it out! I love the Mount Merrion playground too, loads of unusual equipment!


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