As any parent of young children will know, days out with 1 - 3 year olds can take quite a bit of planning!
That's why Jess from the Visit Dorset team has listed her top picks for a fun, toddler-friendly day out in Dorset. Whilst we can't guarantee they'll be completely tantrum free, we hope it will help take some of the stress away...
Few Dorset attractions have as much to offer the preschool family as Farmer Palmers. You’re guaranteed to have hours upon hours of fun here with a packed timetable of activities such as guinea pig petting and tractor rides and plenty of toddler-tastic play areas like soft play, sand pits and bouncy castles. Bonus parent-points go to all the child friendly facilities such as buggy parks, low sinks, bottle warming and over 25 high chairs in the Hen House restaurant! No more searching for that one elusive seat...
Muddy Puddle Walk/Fruit Picking
In true Peppa Pig fashion, what could be more fun on a rainy day in Dorset than seeking out some muddy puddles to jump in? Thankfully, here in Dorset we have plenty of countryside and plenty of mud, all you need are your little one's wellies and puddlesuit! In the drier, summer months, fruit picking at a PYO Farm is a great alternative, and another firm Peppa favourite!
Day at the beach
You don’t have to fork out the big bucks to entertain a toddler and a simple day out at the beach will keep them happy until the sun goes down. Weymouth is at the top of my list for its sandy beach and safe, shallow waters, brand new beachfront toilet facilities (handy for those quick potty training dashes!), donkey rides, ice cream kiosks and seaside amusements all within close proximity.
Ride a steam train
All aboard the Swanage Railway! What toddler wouldn’t giggle with glee at the thought of riding on a real life Thomas the Tank Engine? From hearing the whistle blow to playing eye spy as you chuff and chug through the Dorset countryside, it’s a fun day out for the whole family and makes memories to cherish.
Moors Valley Country Park
Another family favourite, you’ll have plenty of choice with how to spend your day at Moors Valley. Out in the Forest, little adventurers can explore the pushchair friendly Play Trail with its unique pieces of wooden play equipment. Watch as your explorers wriggle through giant snakes in the ‘Snake Pit’, attempt the ‘Crocodile Crossing’ and balance on the fallen forest of ‘Timber’. Tots will delight with a ride on the miniature railway and Spot the Gruffalo plus if you fancy a family cycle ride, there’s plenty of bikes for hire with child seats and gentle, flat trails to discover.
Pack a picnic
Again, simplicity is key here – a basket full to the brim with yummy treats and a ball game or two will create the very best memories, even at your local park!
If you want to make a day trip of it, Brownsea Island is an excellent choice with plenty of open space for picnics, shady forest trails and hidden beaches. The short boat trip across the harbour is an adventure in itself and your pre-schoolers can imagine they are travelling to a magic, far-away land!
Whilst it may not be the most riveting of afternoons for Mums and Dads, your toddler will think it's the best place ever! Lemur Landings is one of my top picks in Dorset as there are so many different zones to explore. Young tots will love dressing up as fireman and policeman in the role play village, little monkeys can develop their balancing skills on Sky-Tykes or DigiWall and of course, Lemur Landings boasts one of the very best multi level soft play frames in Dorset, plus a smaller, more manageable version for the little ones.
Explore a Museum
Exploring a museum is always great fun and if your little pre-schooler is dinosaur mad, their eyes will pop out of their heads at the Dinosaur Museum in Dorchester. A great rainy day option, the dinosaur museum is catered to younger visitors with fun hands on activities and life size replicas to marvel at. The Teddy Bear Museum also makes for a memorable trip – mums, dads and grandparents can enjoy reading the heart-warming story of Edward Bear and as the children discover the different rooms.
Play princes and princesses at a castle
What could be more exciting than pretending to be a prince or princess of your very own castle?! The National Trust’s Corfe Castle is a top pick of mine for little legs to explore with their year round programme of fun events for children and adults including zipwires for your bravest teddy bear, medieval encampments, battles between Saxons and Vikings, archery and dressing up in medieval costume.
Sing and dance at a family festival
Here in Dorset, we are lucky enough to host one of the very best family festivals in the UK – Camp Bestival! It’s a weekend full of crazy, camping fun with all your children’s favourite TV entertainers from Dick & Dom to Mr Tumble and plenty to see and do for all ages. Pre-schoolers will love the kids disco tents, mud kitchens, face painting, water slides and the world’s biggest bouncy castle and there’s plenty on offer for Mum, Dad and older siblings too! Not to be missed!