Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Baby, it's cold outside

Whenever I hear someone’s thinking of getting a puppy, I always ask if they’ve considered a toddler instead. There are similarities – boundless enthusiasm, weeing on the floor – but toddlers have the edge because they’re reluctant to go out in bad weather. They won’t stand by the door holding their reins and looking hopeful. They will resist vigorously, clinging grimly to inadequately earthed items such as crystal vases.

But though they object, pre-schoolers, like puppies, need to go out every day and romp off some energy. Where to, when it’s cold and wet?

Monkey Bizness. Massive cushioned aircraft hangar. Not dear in money terms, if you take just one toddler and stay all day. Costly, however, in terms of the toll on your sanity.

Lewes Castle. Marvellous dressing-up room in which to enact fantasies of being a thirteenth century toddler. Town model will hold pre-schoolers’ attention for just seventeen seconds.

Paradise Park. Unbeatable for indoor activities. Most toddlers are terrified of the implausible looking dinosaurs but the kind staff will let you bypass them.

Library. The children’s section is very good. Not free, as your child will force you to rent a Pingu DVD which you will fail to return, incurring enough fines to have bought the damn thing outright.

White Hart. I’ve never tried this but am told that toast costs about 50p and you can watch swimmers in the pool below. The White Hart does not market itself as a ‘toddler hang-out’, so use sparingly.

Ocean Adventure at the Leisure Centre. Tiny, low-rent Monkey Bizness. Has a crèche most mornings so you can have a grown-up swim/quick nap. Hot chocolate from the machine is better than the tea.

Toy Library at the All Saints. Toys, biccies, tea, company. Only open on Wednesday mornings, no point banging weepily on the door at other times.

Toddler groups. There are enough of these in drafty church halls that you could spend your whole week lurching from one to the other. Terrific if you find like-minded parents. Beyond depressing otherwise. (LDC keeps a list.)

Wyevales Garden Centre. Much missed is the unfenced koi carp pond, but there are lovely wooden playhouses (boring people call them ‘sheds’). There’s a café so you might have to spend money at some point.

Inside Outside. New ‘creative playgroup’. Their website hints they’ll be outside whatever the weather, before admitting they have a nice big warm tent. Untried but it looks good.

Toys R Us. Before your child realises this a shop, tell them it’s a toy museum. Don’t buy anything or the gig is up.

Booth Museum. Only if you can face explaining the principle of taxidermy. Thing Two set off an alarm last time.

Grange Gardens. Technically outdoors, but on cold sunny days before the café opens the benches near the hatch are bathed in warmth. Toddlers, sprinkled with Grange magic, will play happily for ages. Thing Two and I are often the only people there, so keep it to yourself.

Beth Miller. Published in VivaLewes.com

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