1. Short Meals – gone are the days of Chef Taster menus. Stick to one course and keep in mind that toddlers have record short attention spans. (Sometimes meals can take a while, but that’s where point 5 becomes important!)
2. Outdoor Spaces – it’s always great to get out near a large outdoor space where kids can run around a bit and burn off some energy. The three S’s are also great: Swings, Slides and Sand.
Make sure you are both dressed for all weather. It’s also wise to bring a change of clothes for them (specifically trousers and socks). I also bring a Monkey Feet wet bag with me at all times to throw the nearly inevitably dirty clothes into. A plastic bag works equally well.
I also have an Azuma folding picnic mat that has a water-resistant side – which is great for London as the ground is often wet from the previous day’s rain (thanks for the recommendation Nina).
3. SNACKS, SNACKS and WATER – giving frequent in between meal snacks flies in the face of my go-to parenting book – French Children Don’t Throw Food (or for you guys in North America, Bringing Up Bebe). But when you’re out and about, it is incredible how much fussiness can be averted with a few raisins and a banana.
4. PATIENCE! Manage Your Expectations – go armed with a repertoire of songs you can sing (in London we’re lucky to have Sing-a-Long sessions in most local libraries where we can learn some tried and true tunes. I also discuss some songs here).
Bring a favourite toy and book, a ball and keep a stash of emergency balloons in your bag (our toolbox is shown above – remember to add a balloon – even if you blow it up and let it deflate in either your, or their, face – it can be a hoot).
Be patient and know the pace will be slow – enjoy pointing things out to your toddler, they are so inquisitive at this age. A tree, a street lamp, a car, a brick… all are opportunities to touch, label and interact with your child.
5. Research Child Friendly Spaces – here are some of my favourite resources for London:
Day out with the Kids – if you want to explore a new area, this is a great way to find out what’s kid-friendly where you’re heading
The London Baby – puts out a brilliant recap of what’s happening around London on the weekend
Frommer’s London with Kids – for those of you who prefer a portable hard-copy version