The start of a new year never fails to motivate us to plan ahead, does it? Whether it’s decluttering the house to make room for all the new toys, resolving to get outdoors with the kids more, or booking a family holiday, there’s something about the clean slate of January that gets us all fired up about focussing on family life and looking forward to the coming months.
We’ve been having fun this month creating our bucket list of family days out for the year. We’re going to combine a return to some favourites with some new ideas that we’re keen to try for the first time. Here are our top picks for days out with the kids in 2016.
National Space Centre – I’ve always been fascinated by space and astronomy, and the Space Centre is pretty much on our doorstep, but we’ve never been. Space is such a fantastic topic for kids to explore, it’s been brilliant watching mine get fired-up by it at school and I know we’ll have a great day out. I’m not sure who’s more excited about going, me or the kids – they have a real rocket!!!
Chatsworth House – experience has taught us that family days out at historic houses must include plenty to keep the kids interested. In addition to the fabulous house, Chatsworth has a farmyard and adventure playground, so there’s lots to do and see. I can’t wait to visit the gardens, I always come away full of ideas to try in our little plot at home.
Exploring a nature reserve – nature has never failed to provide us with great days out. Nature reserves are wonderful places to take the kids; they can get really close to the natural world, exploring birds, flowers, minibeasts and plants at their own pace. It’s well worth checking if your local reserve runs any family events, these are usually hosted by the rangers and a brilliant way for children to really get hands-on. We’ve done den building, pond dipping, minibeast collecting and made journey sticks – all of which have been brilliant fun. The RSPB and Wildlife Trusts websites both have search facilities to help you find your local nature reserve.
Tamworth Snowdome – it hardly ever snows where we live, so this year we’re off to the nearest available guaranteed snow day. It sounds really well-suited to families: there’s a dedicated children’s snowplay area which will be great for our youngest, plus loads for older kids and adults, including real snow slopes, tubing, tobogganning and ice skating. Sounds like we’ll be pretty tired by the end of the day…
A day at the County Show – it doesn’t get much more British than this, does it? We’ve been to a few of these in the past, and we’ll keep going back because they offer such a variety of things to do and see for a very reasonable cost. Dog agility, horse displays, flower arranging, dancing diggers, bake-offs, farm animals, stunt bikes, fairground rides – it’s all a bit bonkers, but it works! We’ll pack a picnic and cross our fingers for dry weather, but even if it rains there’s something rather nice about huddling together with our sandwiches and cake tent goodies.
Go Ape – a day spent whizzing down zip slides, swinging through the trees like Tarzan and clambering around rope bridges high up in the air; family fun doesn’t get much more extreme than this. Our eldest has been making a strong case for this day out, and our youngest is old enough now for the Junior version (four years old minimum), so we’re planning this one in for 2016. I bet the kids will totally out-brave us on this one!
The local country park – while there’s definitely a place for ‘wow factor’ family days out, some of our best days out with the kids have been spent at our local country park. It’s so quick and easy to pack a picnic and jump in the car (or onto scooters and bikes if you’re lucky enough to live really close) – which makes us far more likely to head there at short notice. Country parks usually have everything you need for a great day outdoors, and plenty to keep all ages of kids busy. Our local park has acres of grass, woodland walks, a sensory trail, a lake and an adventure playground, plus a fantastic skate park for older kids to practice their scooter stunts. It’s a brilliant, low-cost way for the whole family to get some fresh air and exercise, we’ll definitely be heading to ours more than once this year.
Natural History Museum – I bet this is on a lot of lists! We went to the Natural History Museum last year for a very brief visit and vowed we’d return, because we didn’t even scratch the surface. As well as being completely mind-blowing in terms of the artefacts and exhibitions, it’s such an amazing building too. It does get incredibly busy in school holidays (it’s free to enter, although donations are encouraged), so we’re going to try and go on an INSET day to cut down on queueing.
Family Camping – now this is more than a day out, but it’s top of our list of family things to do this year. We’re total camping novices, but the idea of being able to chuck everything in the car on a sunny Saturday and head off for a last-minute weekend break sounds like a brilliant way to grab some quality time together. We’re going to start small, with campsites close to home, until we get the hang of things and build up our equipment. I love the idea of getting away from technology and learning a new hobby as a family – preferably without any rain, of course!
We could go on forever with this list, and it will no doubt be added to as the year progresses. Planning some days out with the kids is in itself a lovely way to spend time together, and the end result is lots of fun activities to look forward to. I hope our bucket list has inspired you to create your own, what do you recommend we add to our list?