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...

Farmer Palmers

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.

Child at Moors Valley

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!

Soft Play

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.  

Soft Play Lemur Landings

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 heartwarming 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. Preschoolers 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!

Related

Farmer Palmer's Farm Park
Farm
Farmer Palmers Farm Park

Pre-booking admission is now essential. Please visit website for tickets. Designed for children 8 years and under. Meet the animals, take a tractor-trailer ride, explore acres of adventure! Farmer Palmer's is renowned for excellent customer service, and great value Membership Passes, which are highly recommended for local families. Activities vary throughout the year. Restaurant/take-away and gift shop on site. Please visit website for ppening times, and prices, these may vary throughout the year.

Weymouth Beach
Beach
Family fun, Weymouth Beach

Weymouth’s sheltered bay, gradual sloping seabed and exquisite waters offer swimmers, bathers and water sports enthusiast’s idyllic and safe conditions to enjoy. The internationally recognised beach is a frequent host to festivals, sporting championships and a wide range of events throughout the year. This sandy beach is overlooked by a magnificent Georgian seafront, located at the heart of the Jurassic Coast - a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Swanage Railway
Railway
Swanage Railway - photo taken by Andrew P.M. Wright

Enjoy a nostalgic steam-train ride on the Purbeck line. Trains run for most of the year - daily from April to October and most weekends throughout the year. Park at Norden then catch a train to travel 6 miles south to Swanage, passing through Corfe Castle village.

Moors Valley Country Park and Forest
Country Park/Nature Reserve
Enjoy a cycle ride at Moors Valley

Get active in the outdoors and have yourself a family adventure. Children will love the ‘Play Trail’ with its unique wooden play structures. Fans of Julia Donaldson can come face to face with a life-sized sculpture of The Gruffalo, Gruffalo’s Child and all the animal characters. For a different view of the Forest, thrill seekers can swing through the trees on the Go Ape Tree Top Challenge. But if you like to keep your feet on the ground why not explore the 1000 acres of Country Park and Forest along waymarked footpaths and cycle routes – you can hire a bike or bring your own. Dogs are welcome too. For a more leisurely journey take a trip along Moors Lake on the authentic narrow-gauge steam train.

Brownsea Island
Country Park/Nature Reserve
Red Squirrel on Brownsea Island

*LATEST UPDATE* Brownsea Island has now re-opened and tickets need to be booked in advance. You will need to purchase a separate ticket for the ferry from the kiosks on Poole Quay. A beautiful island with wonderful views, history & wildlife including rare red squirrels and birds, and is also the birthplace of Scouting and Guiding.

Lemur Landings
Adventure Park/Playground
Lemur Landings Soft Play Centre

Explore leap, run, climb and play to the max. Childrens play zone.

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