Baby is mobile. This is a time of great excitement. They've taken their first toddling steps. They can get about, and you feel rather proud. This is a huge achievement.
The thing is, what they want to do now is walk everywhere. Get back in that pushchair? Are you mad woman?! And a toddler has their own agenda when it comes to getting anywhere. In fact, getting anywhere at all seems to be pretty optional for them.
Activities at this stage are generally best if they offer a mix of stuff to do, which includes the ability to run, fast, in any direction they want.
So what do other parents recommend? I drew on the collective experience of our PlayPennies parents, scoured the internet, and asked every parent I know. These are the five that people mentioned the most often.
These are my number one favourite too. You can't really go wrong, apart from picking a popular museum on a weekend or bank holiday afternoon, when it will be at its most crowded.
There's three reasons everyone I talked to liked museums. There's vast areas of space where toddlers can toddle to their hearts content with lots of flashy colours and lighting around, but nothing they can knock over or destroy. Everything is out of reach, out of grasp, and firmly fixed in cabinets, the glass of which is usually over their head height.
Some museums, especially the smaller ones, have play areas and/or mini soft plays. Often there's activity rooms, and special events put on for the under 5s for free. Working parents may be less pleased to hear these usually happen on weekedays, but it is always worth getting on the mailing list of all your local museums.
This is not the case with art galleries. Velvet ropes mean nothing to toddlers, nor do 'do not touch' signs on paintings hung enticingly low. Unless toddler likes their stroller, or are asleep, avoid these places.
Unless you've got a really poor library - and few can afford to be in these days of budget cuts they need to get as many punters in the door as possible - your library is going to save your sanity.
The children's library will have little nooks and crannies for you and the toddler to snuggle up and read books together. Great on colder, wet days. Plus there are all the activities that (hopefully) take place. Like sing a longs, story activities, arts and crafts. These may not be entirely free but the most I've ever paid is £1 and that was for an older child. For a group aimed at 2 year olds it cost 40p per child.
These are a new one to me! I don't think they were around so much 5 years ago when son was a toddler. Now they seem to be all over the place, and the smaller ones have free entry. We went to one at the weekend. Food prices were extortionate, and there were stalls looking to entice you to spend your money all over the place, but there was simply stacks for those '3 foot and under' to do for free and you could take a picnic. I really felt though for the chaps in the Mr Men costumes doing a song and dance routine given how hot it was on Saturday!
If you're in London this bank holiday weekend, the family day at the Notting Hill Carnival is on Sunday.
This was our most popular activity when son was a toddler. We would go somewhere like a park or nature reserve and I would just walk along with him until he'd run out of steam. Nothing tuckers a little one out more than just spending time examining every leaf and twig in the path. You might not get very far, but you'll exhaust them and if you time it right, you'll be near that pub serving a great carvery just as the little one, or ones, collapse in the stroller for a nap.
The Woodland Trust does a great deal of work in this area, coming up with all sorts of great activity ideas and free downloads. You can check this out on their website HERE.
Now I'm in a city so am really restricted to city farms. Which are all free. And there's just nothing better than the look on a toddlers face when they see a cow, or a chicken, for the first time.
We tried to go when they had activities on, like petting the rabbits, or collecting eggs.
A friend of mine who lives out in a rural area says that some local farms have open days for families, where you can go and do much the same thing. The ones she's been to are free, with things like pop up cafes, and farmer's stalls where the landowner will make their money. Others charge for entry and/or for parking.
If you know about these and have some tips on how to find out when they happen, please do let me know! Leave a comment below - I'd be very grateful. Especially for around the South East.