My four-year-old twins have reached their last year of preschool, which means they’ll be focusing on getting ready for school next year. Gulp. Just one more year with my little guys before school snaps them up and they become actual Big Kids.
With two other children in primary school, I’ve learnt that everything changes once they start school. Suddenly they’re out of your life for hours every day, and they’re under the care of someone else who becomes a huge influence on them.
But with a full year ahead of us before school arrives for them, I am going to make this year really count – and I’m excited. Now that they’re four, there is so much more for them to enjoy and be really interested in, plus I’ll be equally entertained. Because let’s face it, there’s only so much excitement us adults can get from the same old playground or play centre. Rather than watch them enjoy themselves, we can be part of some great experiences that will make for quality time and awesome memories.
Here is my bucket list for things to do with my kids before they start school.
1. Bus ride
Buses are super exciting for little kids, from the seat selection to pressing the button to get off. It doesn’t have to be a long trip – you can simply get off for an ice cream somewhere and then hop back on one to go home again.
2. Go to the museum
Museums have kids in mind with a lot of their exhibitions, plus there’s always a kids bit for them to let it all hang out and be noisy. It makes sense to enjoy this experience together before they’re at school and having to go along in the holidays with all the other kids.
3. City exploring
The big town is full of wonder for small children – all those tall buildings and busy roads. There’s also usually some cool historic buildings and monuments to take in.
Preschoolers are old enough to select and even help prepare the food for a picnic, which you can choose to have anywhere you like. Most of us are spoiled for choices when it comes to outdoor grassy areas, so take your pick.
5. Fruit picking
Research where you can take your little one for a fruit picking experience, where they can learn about where fruit comes from and be really involved in the process.
6. Water play
Kids love the water and the beach is free – plus it’s so easy to do when all the big kids are at school. I’m talking loads of parking and plenty of room. Get your time in before you’re restricted to school holiday beach visits!
7. Nature walk
You can take your child to a national park or just walk around your streets to explore nature. Collect autumn leaves together and talk about the different trees you find. You might even bump into some wildlife.
8. Bug hunting
Most preschoolers are fascinated by creepy crawlies, but you can take it one step up from the cockroaches and ants that are typically found around the house. Draw up a checklist and see what you can find if you really look around. Snails, grasshoppers, butterflies and centipedes are usually found if you look hard enough. Tick off your discoveries together as you spot them.
Spend the afternoon reading books together in the library. Not only is it great school prep due to all those words and language development, but spending time reading with your kids has to be up there with true quality time that they’ll remember forever.
10. Catch the ferry
This one’s easy to forget all about if you don’t live near the water or have no need to use the ferry. But it’s such an easy and cheap way to cruise across the harbour and be near the ocean. If this is the first time your child has been on a boat, just watch how big their eyes get as the soak up the experience.
When kids start school, they’re stuck wearing a uniform every day, which can be dull. Why not make the most of this year by having dress-up days where the two of you can try on crazy outfits and take lots of selfies to capture the time together.
12. Hand and footprints
Memorialise this precious time in their life by using loads of paint and getting a hand and footprint set that you can keep forever. As long as you can handle the messiness, your child will love the freedom of all that glorious paint.
13. Grow a garden
Even if you don’t have a big garden space, you can use a garden box to grow some veggies and let your child be involved in the experience from start to finish.
14. Spend the afternoon drawing
Not only is drawing and colouring hugely relaxing for us adults, but kids love having us with them to help and watch them draw. Create some masterpieces together and create an art gallery to display your work.
15. Visit the aquarium
This is another one to get in before they’re at school and you can only go during school holidays when it will be insanely busy. Preschoolers will love seeing what lives under the see up close when they’ve only heard about such wonders.
16. Fancy lunch
Find a cafe or restaurant that’s kid friendly and take your little person out for a proper meal, where they can select what they want and practice their manners with the wait staff. Sushi train is always a winner for kids.
17. Stay up late
Bedtime is important but once in a while it can’t hurt to let your kids stay up late with you, which will be massively exciting for them. Make the most of their experince by taking them for a moonlit walk where you can star gaze and look for nightlife. Cap the evening off with a hot chocolate before bed.
18. Visit a show
There are lots of theatre shows designed for preschoolers, and this is a great opportunity to give them a live show experience that is so different from the screens they’re used to.
19. Ride a carousel
Take your child to a fair or theme park that is designed for little people so they can enjoy the classic carousel ride. The Ferris wheel is another lovely option for both of you to do together.
20. Build a sandcastle
Next time you’re at the beach, bring everything you need to build a massive sandcastle with your child. Make it a true work of pride and be sure to take lots of photos!
21. Play a board game
Lots of board games are created with little people in mind and some are even educational. The first board game you play with your child is a wonderful experience.
22. Puzzle time
If your child is a puzzle fan, spend the afternoon on a huge puzzle that takes ages and requires teamwork. Puzzles are great for concentration for kids and a very relaxing way to pass the time for us!
23. Build a photo book
Take a stack of photos of all your experiences during the year, and include things like ticket stubs to remember your adventures. Then collate the whole lot in a photo book that you can look at for years to come.