Top 10 free things to do with under fives - Barry's List

1. Portobello beach

I was visiting my mother in Newcastle with my 3 year old daughter, I suggested we go to the beach because it was such a nice sunny day. To my amazement she said 'What can you do there?'. What? Sandcastles, drawing massive cartoon characters in the sand, throwing stones in the sea, splashing around in the sea, playing with balls/hoops/frisbee.....Along the prom it is brilliant for learning to ride a bike or scooter, balance walking along the sea wall, jumping onto the sand. The beach at Portobello has so much to do.....and there are two play parks too. Even when the weather is bad a beach is still a load of fun if you have your hat and coat.

See more here: Portie

2. Leith Links

We live right next to Leith links. One Sunday we were in the play park not long after 7am, thankfully that is not the norm, but having a park so close to home is brilliant. Yes there is the play park but there is also wide open space which is great for playing with balls/hoops/frisbee and just running around and jumping about. There is an all-weather cricket pitch which is an almost endless source of games for us. My daughter is at the stage of wanting to invent her own games, well she is always telling me to 'do this, no like this' so I have to copy her, and the cricket pitch is the place for that.

Tucked away at the far end is the orchard, a funny little area with the feel of a walled garden. It is like having your own garden. Lots of little trees to run around, and also a good spot for seeing birds up close....you just have to learn how to keep still and quiet for a while.

See more here: Leith Links

3. Victoria park

Not exactly on our doorstep, so this is a treat when we have already been somewhere else in the car. It is such a good play park with a fab variety of slides and things to clamber around on. There is always plenty of other kids to play with there too without it being crowded.  The rest of the park is really nice too, for a picnic or general run around on a nice day.

See more here: Victoria Park

4. The National Museum of Scotland

On a damp dull day the Museum is a splash of light and colour. My daughter loves animals so the 'animal hall' is just the job for half an hour or so, then there is the kids zone up on the third floor with the geology sand pit and other interactive stuff, and finally the funny mirror room is a smash hit too, with its musical floor pads, puzzles and costumes. One of her early words was ‘motorbike’, no idea how that came about. There is a lovely old motorbike hanging on the wall in the main hall.

See more here: Museum

5. Arthur's Seat - Royal Park

When I first came to Edinburgh I was amazed by Arthur's seat. Every city needs to have a half size mountain. Now I find that we love to go to the less well used parts of the park, where there are still great views, blasts of wind and little tracks running all over the hillside. It is a top place for chasing each other around. So bring some snacks and a bunch of pals.

See more here: Arthur's Seat

6. Restalrig old railway path

When my daughter was very little I would take her out in her pram around the Restalrig railway path. It is a nice calm, tranquil place without traffic or noise. At the end of the summer it is also good for picking blackberries which we like to blend together with ice cream and yoghurt to make a lovely treat.

Being away from any traffic the old railway tracks around Edinburgh are great safe places for learning to ride a bike or scooter. Here is a link to some ideas for old lines around Edinburgh:

See more here: Railway path

7. Piriefield play park

Tucked away behind some houses and just at the top of the stairs leading up from Restalrig railway path is 'The Secret Play park'. It is a tiny wee play park that we very often have had completely to ourselves. Early on I made a video with my phone of her playing on the slide, and watching that when we got home became a big part of the fun. So making videos there is an essential activity. We now have hours and hours of footage playing there.

I’m not going to tell you where it is, it is a secret.

8. Water of Leith

It was Granny who started to take her down to the Water of Leith when she was still very young. There is a fabulous if slightly scary video clip of a greedy swan snatching some bread from my daughters hand. It always makes me thing of the often recited "a swan can break a mans arm....". Anyway. The pathways along the Water of Leith are great for scooters and bikes, chasing squirrels, and pigeons any time of year. In the autumn the fallen leaves build up in vast banks, and I can not resist ploughing through them.

9. Leith Library

There should be libraries for all sorts of things not just books......but I won't get started on that. Leith library is our closest and it is far more than just a place to borrow free books, if that is not enough! It is also a shelter from the storm, a change of scenery when you need to get out of the house, where there are toys, and it is a place to meet up with friends. If you need some ideas there are CDs and a load of other resources. All libraries host Bookbug sessions.....oh yeah and Dads Rock also do some of those.

For info on Edinburgh Libraries: http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/libraries/

For the Scottish book trust: http://www.scottishbooktrust.com/

For bookbug: http://www.scottishbooktrust.com/bookbug

10. Gustav’s house

Gustav is a small grey soft toy dog. His house is made by pushing the furniture around, piling up cushions, draping blankets over the top to make dens. It is very easily made, pulled down, changed, added to, loaded up with toys and becomes the centre of many games. It is a completely free place to go to. You will find that he has a house near you too. I hope to meet you there soon.

For ideas of things to do in Gustav’s house: play talk read

Thomas Lynch