Planning a day out with your children on your own can be daunting, especially if it’s the first time you’ve done it without the support of someone else. Here are some useful tips for days out that both you and your little one will enjoy
A day out is the perfect opportunity to spend some quality time as a family. Here are some tips that will help when you’re taking the kids out on your own.
1. Preparation is key
Prepping for a day out starts much earlier than just the night before – you’ll need to plan for the best deal on tickets too. Some attractions don’t offer a one-parent option for their family tickets, so do your research first and be on the look-out for discounts and money-off vouchers on big-name attractions. If you’re travelling by train, remember that one parent can travel with children on a family railcard.
2. Plan your journey
From colouring books, toys and comics to iPads and DVD players, it’ll be a much more peaceful trip if the kids are happy. If your kids like listening to stories, one trick is to download an audiobook for your iPad – two kids can listen with one headphone each or you might like a headphone splitter.
When you’re the only driver on a long journey, it’s even more important to take regular breaks at service stations so you can recharge – the bonus is you can take them to the toilet too. Sometimes service stations have a small play area where little ones can run around to stretch their legs.
Don’t forget to stash away some snacks, drinks and activities for the journey home when the children are feeling tired and grumpy.
3. Keep tabs on the kids
Whether you’re in the park, on the beach or at a theme park, it’s important to stay alert when you’re the only responsible adult in your group – and that can often be pretty challenging when it’s busy. Make it easier for yourself by bringing a baby carrier or sling for your baby, leaving your hands free for your older child, or you could put your toddler on a harness or reins. If you are taking a pushchair, you may find a buggy board helpful.
4. Prevent theme park arguments
Wondering what to do if one of your kids wants to go on one ride, and the other wants to do something completely different? Katharine Hill, director at Care for the Family and author of The Really Really Busy Person’s Book on Parenting, suggests letting your children know ahead of time that they will take it in turns to choose the rides – and there will be no arguments. And if your toddler or preschooler has to go on a ride alone because you have a baby, that’s fine – just queue with them and wave at them while they’re on it. Remember, if they’re over the height restriction, they’re okay to go on by themselves.
5. Cope with feeding time
Your baby needs feeding, but your older child doesn’t want to stop what they’re doing so you can sit down. One trick is to keep a special activity in your bag – like a really awesome sticker book – that your child can only do during your baby’s feeds when you’re out and about. And at the end of the feed, put the gift away, promising that they can have another play with it at baby’s next feed. “Chat to your little one through the feed so they feel of what’s going on,” says Katharine. “Give them plenty of your attention.”
6. Dealing with toilet trips
When one child needs the toilet, it’s time for everyone to go! And prioritise each child in order of urgency – so if your preschooler is bursting for the loo and your baby or toddler’s nappy isn’t a poo-gate, deal with your older child first.
7. Take friends when possible
An extra pair of hands definitely comes in handy on day trips. “Enlist all the help you can get,” says Katharine. If you want to meet other single parents in your area for day trips, join your local single parent support group – it’s a great opportunity for you and your child to meet new people. They often organise days out where larger groups can receive discounted entry prices. Single parents’ charity Gingerbread has friendship groups across the UK.
8. Give yourself a pat on the back
And last but certainly not least, it’s your day out too, so enjoy yourself. Your little ones won’t be little forever so cherish the moment and always end the day on a positive note, even if there were tough moments, and have a well-earned cuppa in the evening. You should feel proud!