When little days are the best days

Ah, the summer holidays. Sometimes we get so obsessed with planning ever more elaborate and expensive days out that we forget that bigger isn’t always better. (Unless it’s a treat for me, in which case bigger is always better!)

With Kara still in preschool for the duration, I’m taking a day a week off over the summer to spend with Isaac and Toby. Last week’s grand day out saw us venturing no more than 1½ miles from our house but we all agreed at the end of it that it had been one of our favourite days ever.

There are apparently 15 outdoor play areas in Thatcham. The boys hatched a plan for us to visit as many of these as possible in a single day, carefully plotting out the optimum route to take in some of their favourite playgrounds. Jokingly, we called it the Tour de Thatcham.

And so the three of us set off mid-morning on Friday: the boys on their bikes and me on foot carrying a backpack laden with a picnic lunch, drinks and enough snacks to keep two bottomless pits well fed on an energetic day out.

Like the Tour de France, only not at all
Like the Tour de France, only not at all

We didn’t come close to managing all 15 but over the course of an 8km circuit we did visit five (not too shabby, I think), stopping for a quick play and a nibble at each one.

It’s interesting how much variation you get from one play area to another. A couple were fairly basic slide/swings/random-climbing-thingy affairs, but the two where we spent the longest are genuinely excellent. One has a big variety of play equipment as well as a selection of gym-style machines that kids can experiment with.

Toby pumping ironThe boys’ favourite, however, has a load of stuff that’s suitable for older kids too, including a small zip-line and a funky see-saw that rotates through 360 degrees as well as going up and down.

In total we were out for nearly five hours on a sunny and warm (but not too warm) day. The boys had the opportunity to go out on a long bike ride and to dictate the flow of events. While we’re often out at various play areas at weekends, it’s rare for us to have an open-ended day such as this where there’s no time limit and no other tasks to complete while we’re out and about. It makes a big difference.

All three of us had a wonderfully relaxed and fun day, even though we didn’t go anywhere new and didn’t spend a penny (other than a bag of cookies I bought the boys as a treat).

It just goes to show, doesn’t it? Sometimes all we need to give our children is the gift of time. It may seem like a small thing but it’s often the only thing that really matters.

Do you have any particular favourite local days out?


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