The joy of running

Finding great outdoor spaces for racing and chasing in the spring sunshine…

The joy of running

There are a number of things that Little Miss A does that seem to be an ingrained part of her personality. One is her love of running. It started pretty much as soon as she was walking and she’s been a speedy little thing ever since.

We’ve had lots of running around the living room, more often than not kitted out in a special ‘costpume’ consisting of running shoes (could be her slippers, could be her jelly shoes), a pink winter hat with flaps over the ears and sometimes goggles.

There’s only so much sprinting you can do in the house, of course. Better still is when we can find a big wide space outdoors and let her run free. The look of pure happiness on her face never fails to make me smile. It’s running for the sheer joy of running and the exhilaration and sense of freedom she feels is infectious.

We found two brilliant places for running this month.

The first was at a nearby National Trust property. As we wandered around, we came across a huge circular croquet lawn enclosed by tall hedges which made a perfect running track. This proved irresistible for Little Miss A, who ran all the way round a couple of times before challenging Mummy to a race. We both giggled madly as I chased after her. Puffed out after a few laps, I realised a) how unfit I am! and b) how much fun running can be, understanding some of the appeal to Little Miss A.

The second location is in our local park, at her current favourite play area there, the mud mounds. I’ve written about these before: small hills of compacted mud, that make an ‘offroad’ track for older kids to scoot or ride bikes around. We love them simply as an interesting place to explore. They were great when Little Miss A was mastering walking, challenging her balance as she navigated up and down the inclines. Now she has discovered that they are brilliant for running on!

The space is large enough to have a good sprint around and contained enough to be able to do laps…

Running track

There are gentle slopes alongside slightly steeper ‘hills’ to be scrambled up…

Running up hills

And enough mud and dirt to please my little messy monster girl, perfect for poking a stick in when in need of a break from racing…

Digging in mud

We had so much fun here on a beautiful spring day this week. Little Miss A incorporated some pretend play into her running, telling me that the mounds were her houses and I was the big bad wolf chasing her and blowing them down. She’s been doing the story of the Three Little Pigs at preschool and is fascinated by it. She loved turning this into a game of chase, hiding behind a slope until I had huffed and puffed and blown the house down, at which point she ran to find a new abode. She enjoyed it so much that some details from the original story were amended slightly: “This house is made of brick, Mummy, but the bricks aren’t stuck together so you can blow them really hardly…”

I’m sure Baby E wondered what on earth we were up to, as I pushed her up and down the mounds in her pushchair, running after her sister doing my best wolf growls. (Not to mention the other park users passing by!)

Chase

After a good play, we headed home for a snack, eyes shining and cheeks flushed from all the running around. I’m sure we’ll be making our way back there again soon…

Mud Mud Marvellous Mud - Outdoor Play Party

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall


Making muddy marks in the park

I love our local park. It has been a brilliant space to have on our doorstep since I had ToddlerGirl. When one or both of us are climbing the walls after an uneventful day at home, it is a real sanity saver to pop over for a play!

Muddy marks at the park

We made good use of it one afternoon this week. With BabyGirl tucked up napping in the sling, I could give my attention to ToddlerGirl, who skipped around trying all the equipment.

Her current favourite is a roundabout type thing that she spins around on like some kind of whirling dervish! It was so funny to watch her with her hair flying, giggling like mad.

Roundabout spins

Once this started to wear thin, we wandered over to what I call the ‘mud mounds’. This is a good-sized area of concrete and several mounds of compacted mud, great for scooting or riding bikes over or simply running around on! They are even better at the moment with piles of huge leaves on the ground, perfect for shuffling through and kicking up into the air.

Armed with nothing more than a big stick and our imaginations, we managed to while away nearly an hour there. The stick proved useful for swishing in the leaves and some very vigorous stirring of muddy puddles, or ‘puddle soup’ as ToddlerGirl called them. (Actually, the stirring was undertaken a little too enthusiastically and she ended up a tad wet… Luckily I had a change of trousers so we didn’t have to cut short the fun!)

Puddles at the park

After that, I decided it was time to tone down the puddle stirring (although I still caught her trying to dip her toe in!) and we discovered that the layer of mud on the ground made a lovely blank canvas for some mark making with the stick.

ToddlerGirl dragged it through the mud to make long lines, then carefully drew circles and, with a little more difficulty, triangles. She also pretended to do some writing, making a series of marks that she said were her name. She then asked me to write her name for her and we decorated it with hearts and stars (me) and wavy lines and circles (her).

Making marks in the mud

We thought about some creatures that we might find at the park. ToddlerGirl drew a number of wiggly worms and requested I draw an elephant. We had a little giggle at the idea of finding an elephant there one day as I attempted to make a reasonable likeness! I’m no artist and it proved quite hard to draw one with the stick, but ToddlerGirl was kind enough to tell me that it did indeed look like an elephant! I’m not so sure…

Elephant

As the light started to fade and thoughts turned to teatime, we headed home – with our big stick, of course, which was added to the growing pile outside our front door.

It just goes to show that you don’t always have to go far or to anywhere special to have an outdoor adventure. Our quick trip to get us out of the house turned into so much more as we explored and had fun together.

I love our park!

Mud Mud Marvellous Mud - Outdoor Play Party

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall


Searching for signs of spring…

Alright winter, I’m giving you your marching orders!

It’s around this time of the year that I start to get more than a little impatient for the arrival of spring. Unless I’m very much mistaken – or it’s being a big tease – the new season feels like it is just around the corner.

Searching for signs of spring

So, with blue skies and sunshine making a welcome change from the usual rainy days we’ve been experiencing lately, ToddlerGirl and I set off to look for signs that spring is indeed on its way.

We headed over to our local park and were immediately rewarded by finding patches of daffodils dotted around some trees, their tips poking out of the grass. ToddlerGirl went over to investigate further, which gave me a good opportunity to talk about the growing plants (and to be careful not to step on them – or pull them out of the ground in a moment of over-enthusiastic exploration!). I love daffodils, so we will definitely have to check up on their progress over the next couple of weeks.

Hidden amongst the daffodil shoots were a few beautiful purple crocuses. We stopped to examine them and comment on their lovely colour and the delicate lines on the petals before having a quick game of hide and seek behind the trees. There was a LOT of ooey gooey mud to squelch in and ToddlerGirl found some good sticks to poke around with.

Spring montage

Making our way further into the park, a splash of bright yellow underneath a group of bare trees caught our attention. We moved closer and found more crocuses, looking very cheerful in the sunshine. They marked the way to one of ToddlerGirl’s favourite areas in the park, the skateboard ramp. She spent half an hour or so amusing herself by running up the ramps, down the ramps and then up the ramps again, a look of pure joy on her face. “I love running, Mummy!” she called to me, giggling infectiously. The ramps became pretend slides and a skate bar was used as a balance beam.

Spring montage

We could see the playground, with the real slides and balance bars and climbing frames, but the skate ramp provided more than enough entertainment for our morning trip. When the inevitable rain started to fall, we turned towards home, spotting flashes of green amongst the brown, with several plants and trees starting to bud.

Spring montage

I’ve been talking quite a lot about spring to ToddlerGirl lately. I’m not sure she fully understands the concept of seasons of the year (in fact, I’m quite sure she doesn’t!) but she is beginning to grasp the idea that soon winter will be over and we will enjoy something new, with warmer weather and trees and flowers growing. Time to bring out our spring books to help her along with this!

In the meantime, we had a lot of fun on our ‘spring hunt’. The wind may still be cold but the sun was warm. And, best of all, we found many signs that spring isn’t too far off – hooray!


Going on a puddle hunt

Outdoor play for a rainy day! Turn splashing in puddles into a great afternoon’s activity for toddlers with our puddle hunting rhyme – then continue the fun at home with our indoor puddle jumping game and book choice.

We're going on a puddle hunt

There is nothing that pleases ToddlerGirl more at the moment than splashing in puddles. It is the perfect rainy day activity, if you don’t mind the chance of getting a little bit wet! Even with wellie boots and an all in one waterproof suit, ToddlerGirl invariably gets damp feet due to her incredibly enthusiastic jumping causing the water to get in over the top of the boots…

Of course, there are some days when we just don’t have the time or the appropriate clothing to go splashing in puddles. Having had a few of those recently, plus a very rainy morning stuck indoors, I decided that our afternoon activity would be given over to pure puddle jumping fun. We were going on a puddle hunt!

ToddlerGirl was more than a little bit excited when I told her my plans. To get us into the mood (as if this was needed…) we first of all read our library book, Peppa Pig and the Biggest Muddy Puddle in the World. In the book, it rains so much that everyone needs to get around by boat, which is quite fun. But it is even more fun when the flood water recedes leaving a giant muddy puddle! ToddlerGirl loves Peppa Pig and I do hold her partially responsible for the obsession with puddles. This book was an absolutely perfect find for us, therefore, and a great prelude to finding our own giant muddy puddle.

Wellie boots and waterproofs on, we then headed over to our local park to begin our search. With the amount of rain we’d had, I didn’t think it would take too long but the puddles were nowhere to be found. Uh oh. ToddlerGirl started getting a tad grumpy, reminding me of the dangers of promising your little one something that may be out of your control! Luckily, just as the toddler grumps were threatening to ruin our lovely afternoon in the park, I spied our local tennis courts glistening with the sheen of several large puddles. Phew!

I quickly pointed them out to ToddlerGirl and we marched towards the courts. I made up a little rhyme as we went that she joined in with enthusiastically:

We’re going on a puddle hunt
We’re going to find a big one
It’s been a rainy day
But we’re not wet

(You may recognise my inspiration for this!)

ToddlerGirl let out a whoop of sheer delight when we made it into the tennis courts:

Uh oh, a puddle
A deep, wet puddle
We can’t go over it
We can’t go under it
We’ll have to go through it…
Splish splash, splish splash, splish splash

She spent a very happy hour sloshing, jumping, splishing and splashing her way through them all, pausing only to examine her reflection every now and then. It was chilly but beautiful, with some unexpected late afternoon sunshine turning the puddles into mirrors reflecting the clouds and bare branches of trees.

I end up pulling ToddlerGirl away from puddles so many times, either because I don’t have the time to spend standing there while she splashes away or because I don’t want her to get all wet and muddy. This time, the whole purpose of our trip was to find puddles and enjoy them and it was very liberating for both of us. I loved watching ToddlerGirl revelling in the freedom of being able to do exactly what she wanted. Her pure joy was infectious. I hung back and let her go wild for a little while, then I joined in and discovered that puddle jumping is a lot of fun as an adult too. We giggled and splashed and tested out every single puddle we could find on the tennis courts until the light started fading from the sky and it was time to head home.

Once we were back and in dry clothes, we snuggled on the sofa with a snack and read The Biggest Muddy Puddle in the World again. I then set up a quick indoor puddle jumping game using some brown towels of various sizes. ToddlerGirl had to jump from one ‘puddle’ to the next, which she really enjoyed. Soon, a number of her soft toys had been drafted in and it turned into a lovely pretend play session, giving me a chance to sneak off to make dinner.

All in all, it was a pretty perfect afternoon and one I will definitely look to repeat.

Tips for puddle jumping with toddlers:

  • Wear appropriate clothing (wellies are essential; waterproof trousers or all in one suit are a good idea)
  • Have a change of clothes to hand for afterwards or be within an easy walk home – even with waterproofs on, ‘serious’ puddle jumping is likely to result in wet feet!
  • Be clear about your puddle ‘rules’ – we only splash in puddles when we have our wellies on, for example, which helps me to keep ToddlerGirl dry when she is in her normal shoes!