When Clocks Stop, Fun Starts

I have to admit to being ever so slightly controlling when it comes to time. Much as I would love to be an instinctive, child-led, responsive parent, I tend to have half an eye on the clock throughout the day. And, though I think that a daily routine is important in helping both children and adults feel more secure, eat better, sleep better, and manage change better, I do find that our routine has a tendency to err a bit too much towards the strict schedule side of things, which I am less comfortable with.

This week though, everything has been different. This is because my watch battery has run flat and I have been too disorganised busy to sort out a replacement. I would have thought that I would be lost without the constant reassurance of knowing what time it is, but in fact it has been rather freeing. It’s not as though I don’t have access to other clocks – there’s one on my phone, one in our living room, one in our bedroom, and one on any computer I happen to be sat at. There’s even one in Tom’s room. So I still have a vague idea what time it is, but am less able to check every minute and plan our day down to the last second. Which means we are operating much more to a nice gentle routine, and less to a military-style schedule.

Tom and I spent a lovely day together last Wednesday. It’s usually our family day, but Mr Techno has been busy with the opening of the new restaurant and has been around less during the week than usual (we did get him over the weekend instead though, which was both unusual and lovely). So I really wanted to make it a fun day for just the two of us, which are far and few between now I’m up to four days of work.

I put Tom in the sling and we headed to the playground in Millfield Park, which has the most amazing sandpit. Or I thought it was amazing at least. Tom was more interested in the ramp up to it – he was so proud of himself for being able to manage the slope and went up and down it over and over again. Then we played hide and seek around the little house for a bit and he had a go on the swings.

We left the playground and walked up the path back into the main park. Which caused a bit of an argument. Tom was absolutely adamant that he wanted to go play with the cars. No, not toys ones, the fast, dangerous, very big ones on the road. Unsurprisingly, I was not up for this plan, so a few minutes were spent picking him up, carrying him away, having him scream in anger, and then chasing him as he ran back towards the road.

Usually our day out would have ended at this point, with me checking my watch and deciding we had spent long enough outside. But with no watch to give me an excuse, I stuck it out longer than I would normally. And I am so glad I did. Because the running-chasing-and-carrying-away turned from a tantrum-causing event to an amazing game. I’m not entirely sure how it happened – one minute Tom was arching his back and having a shout every time I picked him up, and the next he was running away giggling and waiting for me to shout ‘I’m coming to get you’. Which was his signal to stop dead still and wait for me to come grab him and spin him round in circles. We played for at least an hour, until we were both exhausted. It was lovely.

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Finding Time for Outdoor Play

On the days I don’t work, making time to play outdoors is no issue. We have a park around the corner, the Marshes nearby, and lots of other green spaces that we can easily access. Tom still naps twice a day, and we do have to find time for meals, chores, bath time and bed, but that still leaves us with a good chunk of time in both the morning and the afternoon to get out.

Work days are more challenging though. Tuesdays, Mr Techno has off so he and Tom can enjoy being outdoors together (though Mr Techno is rather more weather shy and prefers not to go out when it’s wet). But on Thursdays and Fridays both of us work and Tom goes to a lovely little nursery about half-an-hour’s walk away. The nursery have a great outdoor play area, with a separate bit just for the baby room, and their policy is to get out as much as possible, even when it’s cold. But it is very much a playground – they have that rubberised tarmac stuff on the ground – and I prefer that Tom have some time each day in a more natural environment.

So how do we find time for outdoor play on work/nursery days? Well, one of the unexpected blessings of the nursery being a bit further away is that we can walk in. In fact, because of the way the bus routes work, it only takes about 10 minutes longer to walk than it would to get the bus. We have a cosy footmuff on the buggy, and the rain cover lives permanently in the bottom of it, meaning we can walk in all weathers. I get a bit wet sometimes, but have taken to keeping a ‘kag in the bag’ in the buggy too, so I always have a waterproof to hand. Even better, the route takes us via our local park, so we get to see some greenery on our way.

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We aim to leave the house at 7.30 am. We actually leave the house at around 7.40 am. That gets us to nursery for drop off at roughly 8.10. The tube is close by, so I am generally at my desk by 8.45 at the latest. And I get in having had a bit of exercise, some fresh air, and a bit of quality time with my boy, all of which makes the working day a bit more pleasant.

We have a bit more time at the other end of the day. Unless snack time is running especially late, we generally leave nursery by about 5.30 pm. Tom has his bath at 6.30, so that gives us an hour free. Half-an-hour walking, and half-an-hour’s play in the park.

We are definitely missing the lighter, warmer evenings. Before the clocks went back, we had a good amount of daytime left when we got to the park. Tom could explore, point out doggies, and examine leaves to his heart’s content.

Baby in grass

The dark evenings have been a bit of an issue. But not as much of an issue as I thought they might be. Once I had gotten over my initial ‘I can’t let the baby toddle round the park in the dark’ panic, I realised that this was another case of exaggerating the risk. What, exactly, was I so worried about? Yes, it is a bit harder for bikes to see him, but the park is floodlit, I’m always close, and I plan to buy him a hi-vis jacket (many thanks to Tammy Twinkle for this suggestion!) So why shouldn’t he explore?

And he has had a great time. He’s discovered shadows, and is busy working on the idea that dark patches on the ground are sometimes shadows and sometimes puddles (in the name of science, he has to walk through each one several times to make sure which it is). We have occasional battles over which way to walk, but otherwise outdoor play in the dark is a lot of fun and a great way for us to bond after a day apart.

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Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall