On Friday mornings we generally stick to a pattern. It is my only full week day off with the kids and since JJ was about 11 months old we have been regulars at one of the local toddler groups. I have made some good friends there and got to know our childminder and her husband, who I also consider to be friends (the group is run by the town’s Childminders Association, and they are a lovely bunch of people to hang out with).
Its very much a ‘free play’ kind of group – the toys and activities are rotated weekly, although I think we tend to miss out on the crafting as that seems to happen on Wednesdays (when my mum takes EJ along).
The only problem we have at present is that JJ has grown out of this group now at four and a half, just as EJ is getting into the swing of it. This is an unforeseen side effect of having a September born child – its lovely to have that extra year of playing and opportunities for out of school activities, and if he was an only child I’m sure we would be exploring a lot more fun places and activities, but win a toddler in tow that’s just not possible, and balancing their needs and abilities can be such hard work!
Last Friday, even though the weather was mixed at best, I decided to skip the group and instead take the munchkins down to our local park and playground. I knew that this would mean that I would miss out on my tea and biscuit, chat and adult company, but I thought it would benefit JJ to do something different and the fresh air would be good for all of us. So they donned their wellies I grabbed a bunch of kitchen towels (for drying off the play equipment!) and off we went.
JJ has been asking to visit the playground frequently in recent weeks as he has become a much more proficient climber since last summer and is really loving the big pyramid rope climbing structure complete with rope bridge to the top of a big slide.
It can be really difficult to keep tabs on both children at busy times when I’m on my own and my priority is always to shadow EJ as I know he could so easily wander off and as no trouble whatsoever opening the little gates into the toddler area. There is a big fishing pond right next to the play area (bad planning?) so I am doubly vigilant. This did lead to a panicked moment recently when I lost sight of JJ on a busy day and he had clearly lost sight of us too as eventually he came running twards me in tears saying “I thought I’d lost you Mummy!”. We then made a plan whereby he would go and stand near the ice cream van if this ever happened again and it would be our rendezvous point. I think I might have to reassess this though as the ice cream van isn’t always there!
Last Friday morning though, we didn’t have to worry about this as we were one of only 3 or 4 people at the park, a couple of grandparents with preschoolers and another mum. The boys confound me sometimes as they can be surrounded by toys or play equipment and just completely ignore it all and do their own thing. In this case, it was a giggly chase round and round the park’s occasional ‘cafe’ – a little portacabin in effect, run by the local group supporting people with learning difficulties and mental health issues. They encourage their members to dabble in a little volunteer work at the counter (always with a staff member to help out) and its a great way of helping those who may otherwise never integrate with wider society to get involved, whilst also offering the locals a heavily subsidised selection of drinks and snacks (a can of drink is £1 from the ice cream van, 50p from the cafe!). The only drawback being that the opening hours are sporadic at best.
However I digress, the morning’s most fun activity allowed me to appreciate one of my very favourite sounds – the sound of my children laughing. EJ in particular has a laught which is so full of joy and excitement and giddiness that it cn’t help but prove infectious!
It was lovely to have a change of scene and I think we will probably opt for a few more ‘different’ Friday mornings now that the summer is approaching. Come September EJ will have me all to himself on Fridays and regular toddler group will be back on the cards for those cold and rainy days.