Nothing indicates the stage of life you’re in as starkly as your plans for the weekend.
Pre-parenthood weekends are an empty slate, waiting to be filled with café dates and pub afternoons and BASE jumping and even more radical adventures! Like sleeping in without a small child wazzing you with a plastic dinosaur.
Post-child, your world immediately becomes smaller, even if it’s more meaningful. For stay-at-home parents in particular, the change of pace can feel claustrophobic. But it’s not forever.
By the time your toddler is two, your horizons are opening back up. Your not-so-little one has never been more involved in life, and your relationship is becoming richer by the day. And while they’re by no means independent, of course, there are now a bunch of new things you can do together that ramp up the fun for both of you.
The weekend is back. And while it’s different now—BASE jumping is probably still beyond them—there’s a whole new list of possibilities for daddy weekend dates with your daughter, little boy, or any combination thereof.
Here are a few ideas to get your Saturdays and Sundays moving.
1. Explore new playgrounds.
Many modern council playgrounds are light years away from the semi-abandoned, lonely park swing sets of your youth. And while you may be slightly nostalgic for sheet-metal slippery dips that you could fry bacon on in summer, today’s best, architecturally design playgrounds offer immersive activities for multiple ages, with features such as elaborate water play for hot days, extensive shade trees, and multi-slide, multi-level constructions.
Look, babycinos were invented for a reason, and that reason is to sell a small amount of milk foam and a pinch of choc dust for a dollar. But some even have little playgrounds attached, and a ritual weekend breakfast date can be a delight for both of you.
3. Feed the ducks.
Duck-feeding is fun for children, and while it’s prohibited in some places, such as National Parks, there are usually lots of options. (Googling ‘feed ducks’ and your location often provide a surprising list of places.) Just avoid feeding them bread, which is basically junk food for quackers—although a bag of frozen peas, corn, and carrot bits is fine.
4. The pool
A swim nappy is essential until your child is potty trained—one ‘accident’ and public pools must often be closed for cleaning—but weekend swim lessons enrolments are available from three months at many providers. Keep your Huggies Little Swimmers https://www.huggies.com.au/swim-nappies in the car with a towel and sunscreen for spontaneous dips in the pool.
5. The library
Time to update your library card. Libraries are full of cool stuff like brightly coloured childhood play areas and other kids and kindly staff who turn a semi-blind eye to junior rubbing his butt on the self-scanner. They’re warm in winter, the bathrooms are clean and there’s space for your pram. A parental paradise, and all you have to do is read Pig the Pug. Local council websites are a goldmine for further details, such as seeking out age-relevant classes and activities
6. The zoo
While zoos really becomes a more viable destination from around two years upwards, although weekend crowds can be overwhelming, and it can be an expensive outing if the kid is over, it after 30 minutes. But they will otherwise thrill to the larger animals in particular, especially if you’ve ramped up the anticipation beforehand. Consider an annual pass, and go as often as you like!
7. The beach
All beaches aren’t equal when it comes to kids. Apart from the obvious, like the distance you’ll have to walk from the car to the sand, there are a bunch of other factors to consider. The best places to take small children are usually sheltered corners (rather than the middle of long, sandy stretches), where apart from jumping over waves and making sandcastles you can explore rockpools and chase crabs into crevices. Depending on wind direction and strength, these spots are also often more sheltered, meaning you’re less likely to find yourself doing the father’s traditional 100-yard dash in pursuit of an uprooted beach umbrella. Keep your Huggies Little Swimmers in the car with a towel and sunscreen for spontaneous beach trips or in the pool.
8. Yum Cha
The ultimate restaurant outing for preschoolers. Start them with noodles and spring rolls then move onto the dumplings. Choose a massive place if you can; they’re loud (and thus cooler with occasional outbursts), and messiness isn’t too much of an issue.
Kids can begin riding balance bikes at about 18 months, and once they are confident enough, they can progress to pedal bikes without even going via training wheels (don’t forget your helmet and consider knee and elbow pads). In the meantime, riding with kids in a front-mounted seat on your own bike means it’s simply to keep them entertained, to point out the sights, and to engage with them (for example by singing).
10. The supermarket
An underrated dad outing. First, bub gets to ride in the trolly, which you can randomly do 360s with. There’s a million shiny packets and packages under bright strip lighting, for toddler sensory overload (just keep them centred in the aisle to avoid grabby hands yanking full bottles of passata onto the floor). And there’s always the shopping centre’s ride-on rides conveniently located by the entrance/exit to distract them in a pinch—although at $2 a spin, it can be a wise investment to pretend they’re broken… just like they were last trip. And the trip before that. Actually, it might pay to park strategically and plan your exit route.
Reviewed by Jane Barry, midwife and child health nurse Feb 2023.
Last Published* April, 2023
*Please note that the published date may not be the same as the date that the content was created and that information above may have changed since.