Monday 11 June 2012

Three under four?

A few weekends ago, we looked after Culturebaby's best buddies for the weekend. As our house is in no way toddler proofed yet (think antique glass fronted cabinets and precarious plant stands), we thought going out might be the best option.


First stop bowling. This was a treat for the four year old who had never been before. Other than the rather cool Bloomsbury Bowling Lanes, designed for adults and serving alcohol and diner food in 1950s style surroundings, I hadn't been to a normal bowling alley for a long time. It seems that they now resemble an unhappy marriage between an amusement arcade and a disco. I've never been very good at bowling. Shamefully, albeit with the help of side barriers, both the four year old and two year old beat me.

Zip Wire at Wrest Park
Success with the little ones? The four year old really enjoyed herself; the two year old seemed to enjoy her turn and spent the rest of the time looking vaguely confused; and Culturebaby got over excited and then promptly fell asleep. This only took an hour. We had to think harder. So we consulted the Culture Bible (our combined National Trust and English Heritage Guides).

Next stop, English Heritage's nearby Wrest Park. What a find. They have a fabulous cafe and adventure playground, which entertained all three children for hours. There was something for all of them - from swings for Culturebaby, through to a zip wire for the four year old. They had so much to occupy them that we didn't even make it into the gardens.

It was a bit drizzly, but we headed off to Whipsnade Tree Cathedral to explore. We had CultureUncle with us too. One child per adult: much easier! The site is made from trees, shrubs and plants and is roughly laid out like a cathedral, with chapels and cloisters to explore. It was created after the First World War in the spirit of 'faith, hope and reconciliation'. It's a fascinating place and in a moment of creative genius, Culturedad suggested we play hide and seek. This was the perfect game for this location and kept us occupied for ages. Everyone enjoyed it, including Culturebaby who giggled as she was carted around in her Baby Bjorn. Despite some seriously soaking feet (meaning kids had to be carried round in socks for the rest of the day), it was good old fashioned outdoorsy fun. And free. (Though I might not wear my bright red coat next time...)

Hide and Seek at Whipsnade Tree Cathedral
Next stop, the nearby Dunstable Downs. They have a great cafe, which amongst other things serves comfort food, and has spectacular views. There's also a shop with a selection of classic bargain books for kids. It seems to be rather a popular hang out with families, who come there to fly kites or walk across the downs. While it rained we snuggled up, got our feet dry, and the kids coloured in nature activity sheets provided by the National Trust. When it stopped raining we wandered, watched the kites and bounced on the bouncy castle.

With the help of our trusty friends EH and NT, three under four was not only manageable, it was great fun. We had a fabulous time, and it just shows that the classic (and often free) games are still in many ways the best.

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