My children have all flown the nest now but I still remember what it was like the first time I took them to a holiday park.
It was Hopton Holiday Village in Norfolk in 1996, I remember when they first met Bradley Bear, their first experience of the toddler area of the indoor pool, their first time down a slide into the pool… they’ve never let me forget that one as I didn’t catch Madi when she plopped into the water and her little face as she emerged “you said you’d catch me” and their fascination for the empty cupboards in the caravan has never waned even now!
Every moment of your holiday with little ones is precious, but it can be hardwork too… well certainly for me, as I was a working mum and not used to having to fill a whole week of activities for two children under five!
Since my children were little there are more characters and even more activities for the little ones, the caravans have central heating and the food has got a whole lot better you can now get baby-deli meals and for toddlers a pick and mix menu with all their favourites.
Choosing a baby-friendly holiday park is easy
I know I’m biased but you really can’t go wrong with Haven. Every park is packed with fun things to do with the baby and toddlers
But some of our places on the coast come with a little extra for the little ones.
Let’s take a closer look…
For me, this is the BIG one. The pool is always the centre stage of our holidays.
And if it’s easy for the kids to safely get soaked every day, then I’m more than happy.
When taking toddlers, the three main things I’d look out for are:
- Both indoor and outdoor pools
- Shallow areas or splash zones
- Extra pool activities they can get involved in
Every Haven park is toddler-friendly and most pools have a shallow bit.So, if your little one is a fan of splash time, or if you want to get them more familiar with water (and they’ve had all their jabs), then-here’s a list of 16 parks that have specially adapted toddler pools:
The swim teachers on-park are all fully qualified and there’s nothing they love more than introducing the pools to brand new swimmers.
There are two classes at Haven:
Water confidence (FREE)
You get into the pool with your baby (or babies). And everybody’s encouraged by a professional tutor to splash about, paddle about and mess about. It’s one big group effort to enjoy the pool experience.
The session’s designed for kids aged between 6 months and 4 years. It’s available throughout the entire holiday season (March to the end of October).
If you want to get involved, speak to any of the Haven team when you arrive and reserve your place (the spots can fill up pretty quick).
Learn2Swim (price: £6)
This one’s for all kids aged 4 and above. I know, it’s not so much a ‘toddler’ age group but I wanted to mention it because so many kids come away from the classes with loads of new skills and stories and you may be bringing bigger kids with you.
All the basic strokes are taught in a way that’s easy for anybody, of any skill level, to understand.
As it’s a more advanced teaching session, it costs £6 per kid to pay the instructor. If you’ve got one of the prepaid sports and splash activity pass packs, all Learn2Swim lessons are included on that. You can book there in advance with the booking system via ‘My Haven Holiday’.
There’s toddler-friendly activities
If the pool facilities are the #1 priority for an amazing holiday with babies, then the ‘land-based’ activities are definitely a close second.
After 23 years with Haven, here’s a list of my favourite holiday activities for toddlers…
- Messy Morning
Sit down with your little one and mess about with paint, glue, stickers and sand. Aprons are provided by Haven.
- Character Breakfasts
Check out your entertainment guide and take the kids along for breakfast to meet the characters for hugs and photo opportunitiesand take home a collectable recipe card on a lanyard
- Anxious the Elephant’s ‘Sensory Morning’
This is a professionally-designed sensory session for even the newest of babies. With things that light up, sparkle and make a noise all with a large cuddly pink elephant! It can get a bit messy so take a long some baby wipes!
- Polly’s Swim-a-Song
Kids can put on some armbands but they don’t actually get into any water – it’s a learning session taught with small paddling pools and bowls of water so they learn how to have fun before they get in the pool .
- Tots Disco
This happens every night about six o’clock and gives the kids a chance to rock out. Now and then, it’s coupled with a more relaxed story time session too.
The following sports are scaled down to give the little ones a taste, a chance to practice their skills and learn how to use some of the equipment. There’s no competitiveness involved, it’s all just to give them a try and it’s totally safe:
– Mini football
– Mini archery
– Mini fencing
– Mini tennis
– Mini tag rugby
These days, when you get to the park, you’re given a fold-out mini-booklet as part of your welcome pack.
It has a map of the park, some ideas for games to play, some puzzles for the kids and, sometimes, a checklist of simple (but brilliant) things for toddlers to do during the holiday (like count the bird boxes dotted around the caravans).
There’s baby-friendly holiday entertainment
Back at the entertainment complex, there’s something different happening every night – after the Tots Disco.
Depending on the park and its team of FunStars, the entertainment varies from place to place.
Parks either have a Live Lounge or a ShowBar, where you’re treated to live performances from talented members of the team, Haven character shows and special guests (like Gareth Gates!).
The entertainment is suitable for all ages. And so if the little ones are staying up past eight o’clock, they’re not going to see or hear anything they shouldn’t (the FunStars have a knack for making grownups laugh at grownup stuff, without breaking any rules… and the kids are none the wiser).
As the performance goes on, kids usually end up grouping together on the dance floor in front of the stage – where there’s always an extra FunStar or three keeping the party going and making sure everybody’s safe.
Even parents with brand new babies can sit back and enjoy the night’s entertainment… as long as the little ones can sleep through it (mine used to sleep through anything!). You see plenty of buggies being rocked at the tableside around this time of night in the entertainment complex.
And you don’t even need to pack all your baby stuff…
Before you head to the suitcase, I need to let you know that you can hire these larger bits and bobs from us while you’re on-park (so don’t worry about squeezing them into the boot):
- Bed guards
There’s a store on every single park too, where you can pick up things like branded baby food, milk, nappies and bottles (for all baby ages).
You might just want to bring a portable steriliser with you – other than that, you can usually get hold of everything you need for babies on the holiday park.
Tip: If you need something specific during your stay that you can’t pick up from the store, then you can always order a supermarket delivery online. The vans are allowed on-park, so you get your things delivered straight to the frontdoor of where you’re staying. Some holidaymakers time their delivery to arrive about an hour after check-in – so they’re set up for the entire stay, from day one.
All our holiday homes are built for families… and we know what real families are like (we bring a lot of stuff). So, there’s plenty of room for you to bring whatever you like, plenty of room for playmats and more than enough room for a cot.