Five tips for a ‘perfect’ family outing

My husband quite often works on Saturday mornings, meaning T and I are left to our own devices. This week I decided we would go for a walk in the woods. This is one of my favourite things to do in almost any weather. I just love woodland – the smell of the damp earth underfoot, the dappled sunshine making its way through the trees, the rustling of wildlife in the undergrowth. I find them so relaxing. We used to live right on the edge of this particular patch of woodland, and we have a photo of me on my due date in the woods a short walk from our flat. My husband wouldn’t let me go any further, in case he ended up delivering the baby there! We went back to the same spot every month until she was a year old, to take a picture, and we’re hoping to do so for every birthday, too.

1. Make sure the entire family is enthused about the outing.

We still don’t live far away at all – about half a mile – but we just don’t get there as often. So this week, off we go, ready with a large matchbox to collect treasures. T says she wants to play in the garden instead, but she’s not totally averse to the woods. I’m sure we’ll have a lovely time, and it’s so nice now that she’s is old enough to have a bit more stamina for the walk. We drive there (to save her legs for the actual walk) and go on our way. T is still a little reluctant but I know she’ll soon perk up once we are through the subway and in the woods. She always enjoys going through the subway – she’s loved echoes since she was about 9 months old! So if we’re ever going through a tunnel, bridge or similar, she’ll shout at the top of her voice until we are through! And this occasion is no exception. We begin our outing and within a minute or two, T tells me she would like to go home now, please.  I am sure she’ll change her mind soon. “Let’s keep going,” I tell her. “Let’s see if we can find something for your treasure box.”

This keeps her occupied for the next five minutes or so, and we collect a couple of different leaves, some twigs and some sycamore seeds for the box, having spent some time throwing them and watching them twirl their way back to earth. “Now can we go home?” she asks. Huh. I really thought she’d warm up quicker than this. “No, lets press on,” I tell her. I sound just like my Dad. “We’ll be at the duck pond soon.”

Another thirty seconds, and she wants a carry. OK, I suppose a short carry won’t hurt. And you have had a little bit of a cold this week. I carry her for a minute or two and then place her down again. “Come on, nearly there! Let’s go and see the ducks! It’s just around this corner!” OK, that’s stretching the truth. It’s around this corner, along the path a bit, and then over to the left.  But it got her to the corner at least.

Picture of lake with swan. Caption reads, "Look how close the swan got! They terrify me but I'm trying not to let it show."
Look how close the swan got! They terrify me but I’m trying not to let it show.
2. Bring some things for the kids to use while you’re out.

Ah good, a puddle! This spurs her on a little further. Once out of the puddle, we find a dried up stream which is still very muddy, and walk along that until it becomes overgrown with brambles. Finally we get to the pond. “Can I feed the ducks?” I forgot food for the birds. Again. T tries feeding them grass and sticks. They seem less than enthusiastic. We search the edges for tadpoles (is this even the right time of year now?) T requests her net. Nope, we don’t have that either. We do see some swans though. And a dog. And we throw some sticks in the water. We also find a swan feather and some sort of tiny pine cone for her box.

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3. Plan your route carefully.

“Can we go back to the car now?” OK. Guess I’ll just have to chalk this walk up to one of our less successful trips. Maybe she’s feeling more poorly than I realised. We turn back. T suddenly points to another path, nearby our usual one. “Can we go this way?” Sure, why not. At least she’s showing some enthusiasm at last. Its roughly the same direction as our normal path, I’m sure it’ll join up. We start on our way and find some more treasures.

We walk for five minutes or so, finding a few more treasures along the way, and I’m becoming slightly uncertain that this path will join up after all. There’s a path off to my left. Hmm, maybe down there? No, better not. Press on. T wants carrying again. Can’t be too far now. The whinging has started. Argh. Come ON. Ok, I am totally lost now. Alright, I’ll carry you for a bit. Shh, look, mice! Two sweet little mice running round in the brambles! You have to be quiet. No, stop crying. Oh, forget it. Come on.

4. Bring plenty of money for food.

Another five minutes or so, and the woodland gets lighter. Ah, we must be reaching the edge! And suddenly, we emerge…by the windmill. ARGH. We are now a half hour walk from the car. T is in full grizzle mode. I really don’t think she is too well. This was a bad idea. I’m prettying sure I have a few quid in my purse. We will grab a couple of  ice creams before we make our way home. Sure we’ll both feel a bit better then.

We sit down, T with an ice lolly full of all sorts of colourings and sugars, because after rooting through my purse, it turns out I didn’t have quite enough for ice cream. It starts to melt annoyingly quickly, covering her in a sticky syrup. Turns out I forgot wipes, or any tissues for her nose. I find one very old, slightly used tissue in the bottom of my handbag. And the one napkin from the cafe. Should have picked up a handful. Have to make do I guess. This walk is turning into a disaster.

5. Plan to get home in time for lunch, or bring a picnic with you.

We finish our ice creams. T is complaining that she is hungry, which is fair enough, because it is lunch time, and all the other children are, understandably, eating their lunch. She has absolutely no walking left in her. It’s going to have to be a shoulder ride, and it’s quite hot, and I don’t have a drink. The walk back involves a small hill, but it doesn’t seem quite so small with a grizzly toddler on your shoulders. Why does this hill have a big dip right in the middle? They should fill this in. Now I’m having to climb it twice. J rings. He has finished work. How are you doing? NOT GOOD. He listens to my tale of woe, and agrees to drive to where I left the car, and then begin the walk to meet us. He’s a keeper, that one.

T requests to get down. Oh good, she has some energy, I think. Turns out she just wants a carry. Back up on the shoulders it is then. They are KILLING me. We find the path where we used to take our photos. Not too far now. Find a log and sit down for a bit. Suddenly we spot J! “DADDY!” She runs along the path to meet him. Excuse me, where did this energy come from?! Thank goodness he’s here. Come on, let’s go home.

Ok, so this wasn’t one of our greatest Saturday morning outings. Lesson 1: If she says she wants to play in the garden, play in the garden. Lesson 2: Do not enter the woods without copious amounts of tissues, at least £5, a fishing net, and preferably some form of all-terrain trailer for transporting small children around (J is quite good for this). Lesson 3: Next Saturday morning, lets do something else.

Picture of a lake surrounded by woodland.

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