Before going on maternity I had dreams of doing every parenting group on record. I’d planned sensory classes, massage, swimming, stay and play… in fact I wrote a blog (point 3) about how that panned out here….
My biggest shock was the cost… by the time you’ve signed up to more than one, your maternity allowance has been eaten. I needed that money for nappies, formula and the never ending stream of wetwipes. To save you the job of reading the other blog post, it was the better-than-you-mums that turned me off the free options I’d planned… being socially awkward at a baby group is not the greatest combination!
So with my maternity leave coming to an end (yes I am extremely lucky to have been off with her this long, and extremely grateful my 5 weeks of annual leave money is adding some digits to my depleted bank account) I’m nervous and sad about leaving Lily for so many days a week. I’m also nervous that she’s not had much interaction with other children, and she loves it when she does.
So I decided to embark on a week of completely free activities to prove that it is possible to do so many things for free. Most of these we have done before, but it’s proof that it is possible to do something new every day, without costing a penny (ok, I did buy a cheeky coffee!)
Doing plenty of activities gives me some important Mummy-Lily time before heading back to work, while also giving Lily the opportunity to socialise with others her age.
We always go on walks at least 2 hours a day, and make sure we get some bike and trike time, as well as plenty of reading time, but this week I wanted to get in more peer social time for Lily. It was important these activities don’t cost anything, and that any group activities weren’t the awkward singing-in-a-circle-followed-by-awkward-chitchat groups that my awkward self can’t handle.
I found out on Twitter that our local theatre was running a free workshop for under 4s at the Curve theatre. It was a performing arts group doing a dress rehearsal for their upcoming show Sponge, who wanted to learn from babies and children how they move and interact with sponges. We did some fun warmup exercises, dancing with the babies, rolling around the floor, and playing with buckets and sponges. Within minutes of arriving, Lily was off to be nosy with the other children, and I think we both enjoyed it, and she slept very well afterwards!! If you get a chance to see the show, run by Turned on its Head, they’ll be touring the UK from October. It’ll be a fun interactive show for the little ones.
We decided today to stay a little nearer to home and go on a picnic lunch at the park.
We went on a lovely long bike ride, a long trike ride, and then the standard summer weather destroyed our picnic plans, so we spent the afternoon sorting her toys (a long overdue activity!) – which seemed as much fun to her as it did to me to get things organised!
I’d picked up a load of plastic tubs, making her a music tub, a colouring tub, a sensory tub, an animals tub, a building blocks tub, and a few more tubs with various uses. She seemed to enjoy exploring what was in each tub, and seeing what she actually had, rather than everything being in one jumble. It also means her toys and activities are easier to add to a rotation, so putting them into hibernation for a while means she’s excited when she sees them again! The tubs still seem to be a hit a week later as she explores what’s in each one!
Today was Bookbus day. We are lucky the Leicester Libraries do a free children’s bookbus each week, stopping for 20-30mins around the neighbourhood. Up to 4 books can be borrowed for as long as you like with no fines. And being only 10mins Trike ride away from us means it’s easy to pop along to change the books. Lily really enjoys the book bus because despite her extensive library at home, she can find some new reads to explore. This week she filled her trike with some musical books and animal books. She really didn’t want to leave the bus!!
We had a busy day today, and again were walking into town. It takes just over an hour anyway, so she usually takes a nap in that time. First up we visited the New Walk Museum, one of my favourite places in Leicester. Not only is it free, but there are plenty of interactive activities for children, a sensory area, dinosaurs and Egyptian mummies. It’s also a beautiful walk down New Walk too. We really are lucky to have this free incredible resource on our doorstep.
Today we hit up the Toddler Time at the central library (after another visit to the New Walk Museum as it is only a short walk away!). As soon as we arrived, Lily wanted to jump out of my arms to get to the books and toys. Over 30 toddlers and their parents were there, with plenty of toys, books, and a free crafts table too. Lily loved making pretend cups of tea and playing duplo and trains with the other children… even if she did throw a plastic garlic at a little boy!! I still claim self-defence! We haven’t been barred so will definitely be back again.
Five minute fun
Thanks to @lovedbyparents, we were linked to Five Minute Fun, where you’re emailed a 5 minute activity to do each day that’s age-appropriate to your child. Some of them are things you would normally do on a day-to-day basis, but it was a nice reminder that you are stimulating the little ones in the process. It also provided me with some new ideas to do with her, especially as she gets older.
This week we organised the recycling, used the contents of the recycling bin as musical instruments, danced, talked about colours of things we saw on the bus, and built a ‘treasure chest’ from an egg box. I did avoid the painting one due to lack of paints (and I’m sure it’d be more than 5 minutes to clear that up!) but I know when I’m back at work it’ll be even more important to get that time in, even if it’s sneaking in 5 minutes between getting through the door and putting her to bed.
It’s sad that it’ll come down to ‘squeezing in’ time with her having spent every minute of every day with her, but I know I just need to cherish every minute I do get with her, and activities like this can help inspire so many more ideas too.
For more on 5 Minute Fun, check out the website here.