Tags: soft play
Once you have children, it becomes much more difficult to move house because we enter into routine based on our locality. Many couples choose to move house before starting a family so that they are in a home suitable to raise a family. If you are in that situation, then look out for features that make a new area 'family friendly'.
Many prospective parents check out schools in their area to ensure that they are in good catchments. Remember though that you are at least 5 years away from starting school and that catchments change frequently according to population changes. Be especially careful of school catchment areas that can shrink - local development may create new houses aimed at families nearer to schools, pulling the catchment boundary in. Buying a house that is just inside a known catchment today may fall outside in 5 years time.
Before school, you will be spending lots of time entertaining your little ones as they grow from babiest o toddlers. Make sure that you have good family facilities nearby, ideally within walking distance of your house. Amenities to look for include parks, soft play, a library and swimming pools. Other 'attractions' that you might want nearby but not necessarily on your doorstep might include farms, zoos or theme parks.
When you have your first baby, you will welcome support from local groups and networks. Look for active playgroups in an area, and approach the NCT for information about activities in an area that you are not familiar with.
From a practical level, a local shop within walking distance of your home can be a blessing. Small convenience stores often stock everything that you might need in an emergency, for you or your new family. Check out public transport links too, even if you have a car, as there might be times when you can't rely on a car and still being mobile will be important.
Although it is possible to move house once you have your family, it becomes more difficult once you become entrenched in the local community and settle into a routine that suits the family, not to mention the sheer cost of moving. Choose wisely now and hopefully you will find a lovely family home in a great location that will see you through for years to come!
One of the joys of having preschool children is that you needn't be confined to your home - there are plenty of places that you can take young children that allow you the freedom to be out, and that extend their understanding of the world around them. When you think of places to go out with your children, some of the obvious places are the local park, playgroups and soft play - these are obviously child-oriented.
But consider also other places that might not otherwise spring to mind. Take them on a bus or a train - you don't need to head anywhere special, just take them for a ride. Take them to shopping centres not simply to shop, but to explore the spaces. Sit and talk with your little ones about what you can see. Go to your local library and swimming pool, visit any local museums or galleries.
Although you may not consider many of these spaces to be 'child friendly', preschool children will find plenty to keep them stimulated in even, what might appear to you to be, the most ordinary environments. Remember that the world offers so many new experiences for babies and toddlers and just being out and about will stimulate them far more than you might imagine. They are constantly taking in new sights, smells and sounds, and everything that they experience is building up their knowledge and understanding of the world. Babies and young toddlers will go wherever you take them and every day presents new adventures for them.
People often feel pressured for their children's first birthday parties, especially for the oldest child; there's a feeling that they have to create an amazing spectacle that everyone will remember for years to come. The truth is that your baby will never remember their first few birthdays, so don't blow a hole in your family finances, do something sensible and make sure you enjoy yourself as much as you hope your little one does!
For the first couple of years, you'll probably want to celebrate surrounded by your wider family rather than having lots of babies over. The first birthday of your oldest child is a memorable milestone for you more than for your baby - you have survived your first year as a mother and no doubt achieved many new experiences along the way. Invite your family around and celebrate your achievements with them. Toast yourself with a few glasses of wine, and if you are still intent on blowing a hole in the family finances, lavish yourself with Champagne!
Eventually your little one will begin interacting with other children in playgroups and at nursery and you will want them to be able to share their birthday with a few of their own friends. If you don't want to spend a lot of money, you can invite friends round for a playdate and hold a birthday tea for everyone. If you have a budget and want to make a more memorable experience then there are all sorts of things you can do:-
- Hold a party at a local soft play centre, toddlers love clambering around play structures and soft play centres accommodate even the youngest party revellers
- Invite an entertainer into your home: look in the Yellow Pages or other local directories to find entertainers suitable for toddlers - clowns, magicians, face painters or balloon modelers may offer a show for your target age group
- Go to a restaurant: probably not suitable below the age of 4 because you need the children to sit still for the meal, and you won't find restaurants with high chairs for large numbers of babies, but a meal out can be a treat for little ones; some restaurants cater really well for children, for example Pizza Hut offer 'Make your own pizza' parties and the staff at TGI Friday are trained to keep young audiences amused with balloon modeling and just being generally fun!
- Go to the park: don't feel you need to hire a venue for a large party - if you have a 'summer' baby, organise a birthday tea picnic in a nearby park; organise a few games to play and invite all the other parents to stay to join in the fun
- Take everyone to a Saturday cinema club for children - although you may not get advanced warning of what will be showing and whether it will be suitable, so this may be difficult to commit to!
- There are several chains where you can hold 'make a bear' parties - each child chooses an empty teddy-bear template which can be stuffed and accessories added
- There are also many 'paint your own pottery' studios around - for really young children just putting handprints on a saucer or mug makes for a memorable gift that they can take back to their families; the only downside is that you can't leave your party with your art, you have to pick it up a couple of days later after it has been fired
We only offer a small selection of ideas for parties for children here, you'll find plenty more things to do in your local area. Post your own ideas and suggestions here and tell everyone what you've done for your early parties...?