Free fun – Thursday and Saturday

Parents starting out on six weeks or so without nursery or school have no doubt spent months poring over a calendar, making and re-making arrangements to ensure their little ones are entertained and cared for. For anyone who still has room for a little spontaneity, you may be interested in the Open Days at Poplar Baths Leisure Centre this Thursday 27th and Saturday 29th July 2017, which are to celebrate 1 year since the reopening of this historic building.

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Blackberry marshes

Blackberry picking is no fun for kids, is it?

This was the comment from another mum, after her family stopped cycling to watch us getting covered in scratches and pink juice. I’d offered her a spare container for her kids to join in and she was rather taken aback. 

I suppose she’s right that it’s not the MOST kid friendly activity, what with the thorns, and the best berries inevitably out of reach. Though at least adults and children are on a fair footing as those grape-sized, glossy ones are often just beyond everyone‘s grasp…

But, I’ve been conditioned to blackberry picking as a late summer habit since before I could walk, and can’t imagine walking past a patch of brambles at this time of year without at least *trying* to stuff my face.

So last weekend we cycled up to Hackney Marshes and picked blackberries.

Here are the ways it WAS fun:

It makes a lovely purpose for a cycle ride, and Finn the 3-year-old loved being blackberry patch lookout as we ride along.

We rode through the Olympic Park and along the River Lea, all the way up Hackney Marshes and on to Walthamstow Marshes. 

The further you go up the Lea, the urban-wilder it gets, with a profusion of giant marsh plants along the riverbanks, shady woodland and a huge wide sky out over the Marsh football pitches. 

We passed the enormous, still-being-made Walthamstow Wetlands centre, which I hadn’t heard about until we cycled past signs to it – it’s opening in September and I can’t wait to visit.

The blackberry picking was fun for a bit too. It was! Really blackberry eating for the kids, and a parent doing a bit of quick surreptitious picking into a box while their mouths are full.

The toddler-on-shoulders trick to reach high up berries is good entertainment (obvs the berries never make it into the pot in this scenario) (we stopped and headed for Tumbling Bay playground when tipping the blackberries out of the pot onto the ground became the fun thing).

If you’re cycling back via the Olympic Park then the Timber Lodge cafe is a family-friendly stop for a snack, next to the fantastic Tumbling Bay playground.

And then of course there’s the reward: blackberry and apple crumble!See here for a sugar-free crumble recipe if that takes your fancy. 

Do you have a superhero?

Are you free on Wednesday or Thursday mornings, and are you somewhere near the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park? Do you have a small superhero (age 3-7) who needs a run about?

If so, you might be interested in the Our Parks Superhero Fitness session (it’s free). I’ve written about Our Parks ages and ages ago (here) but, briefly, there are a whole range of fitness classes on offer across several London boroughs. I’ve attended some myself locally and got a brilliant work out for free in the fresh air.

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It’s muddy puddles day!

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Just a quick post to make sure you don’t miss out on a truly important event of international – if not intergalactic – significance.

Tomorrow is International Mud Day or so the nice people at Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park tell me. They’re hosting a muddy play day, so get your welly boots on!

Here’s what you need to know…

Thursday 29 June 2017 – Muddy Play in the Woods, 4.30-5.15pm.

It’s muddy. It’s free. It’s tomorrow.

You’ll find a few more details here

Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park is the place to be this week. If you can’t make it tomorrow because you’ve already made arrangements for celebrating International Mud Day, make sure you’re there on Saturday (1st July) for the Summer Fair, 12 noon – 5pm.

What’s on offer? Face-painting, pond-dipping, food, music, walks – and more.

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Victory Park

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Victory Park, Stratford, E20

This is the second in an occasional series celebrating the smaller parks and playgrounds in our corner of East London (last time, it was Rounton Park). If you live near them, they’re a godsend – enabling you to nip out with your toddler for a change of air and, sometimes, a change of mood. If you don’t, you might never think to make a special trip out to explore them, but some – like Victory Park – are easily combined with another task (like shopping at Westfield) or indeed with a trip to another park (we popped to Victory Park on our way back from the QEOP) .

Victory Park is a small patch of green that’s now surrounded by flats for people lucky enough to live on the edge of the Olympic park. There are sometimes events held there as a local community starts to develop in London’s newest postcode (E20).

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Toddler take over…

Watch out! There’s a toddler take over at the Museum of London, Docklands this weekend (20 & 21 May, 2016). There are loads of great activities to entertain restless little ones, which will be especially welcome if the weekend is as rainy as it is right now.

I love the sound of Rise & Shine yoga for toddlers. There are two sessions at 10.45am and 11.20am on both Saturday and Sunday, although by that time most toddlers will have risen and been shining for a number of hours…

But that’s just one of a whole two days of activities aimed at under fives – from balloon modelling and baby jazz performances, to activity trails and the chance to try ballet.

Take a look at what’s happening here.

20 and 21 May, 10.30-4pm. All events are free and tickets are available on arrival.

Rounton Park, E3

The blog I read the most (apart from this one, of course) is Spitalfields Life. I love the way the Gentle Author finds inspiration in his/her home patch of London, uncovering story after story – which, in turn, inspires me to try and do the same. Because I’m a firm believer in the idea that if you keep exploring – wherever you are – you’re never bored.

And to let you in on a secret, I spent much of my childhood feeling very bored indeed. As a result, if there’s any one thing I want to equip my children with, it’s an enquiring mind, so they aren’t needlessly bored, and find interest and inspiration around them.

So when my three-year-old looked out from the bus and spotted a small park with a play area and said, “Mummy, one day can we go to that playground”, I was only too pleased to oblige. Not the same day, mind, I was in need of a sit-down and cuppa, but the next morning when we had an hour or two to fill, and needed a jaunt outdoors.

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