Step Outside this Summer
I’ve just got my hands on a box of books that I am certain is going to make our next family trip into London a wholly different experience to the last few. Let me tell you how it usually goes….
I like just wandering around, people-watching, seeing where I end up, stopping for coffee now and again, popping into a museum when it starts raining, sitting in the park when it’s sunny. The rest of my family likes going somewhere, doing or seeing what there is to do or see – except they don’t all like doing the same things – then scoffing a pizza for lunch and going home.
So, books are going to help with that? Well yes, they are. Herts-based Step Outside Guides have produced six brilliant guidebooks that should keep everyone – even in my fractious family – happy and occupied.
The guidebooks are designed by a family team right here in Herts. Margie Skinner brings a whole heap of experience in children’s publishing; Francesa Fenn has worked producing primary education programmes; and Sam Fenn is an illustrator. And with two mums who well-practised at herding lots of small children round London, you know you’re in safe hands.
There are 6 books so far, each one focused on a different area of London or a particular theme. There’s one that goes along the river, one that looks round Kensington Gardens – and there’s one that looks for lions (not real ones, obviously), and another that has you hunting down statues (one for each letter of the alphabet). And there’s an ‘Adventure Box’ with all sorts of extra bits in that you can use for birthdays.
And the books have these neat little characters who talk you – walk you? – through the day. They’ll let you know where the nearest loos are, too, whether you can get a pushchair or wheelchair where you’re going, and where might be good to stop for a picnic.
The best thing, though, is that the guides only take you to places that are free. The only exception to that is the statues guide that takes you into Westminster Abbey. However, there’s a voucher right there in the book that will get 4 of you in for free, and it’s only part of the trail anyway so you could always miss it out. (Although if you’re my youngest, the thought of ‘not doing it properly, Mummy’ is probably not a suggestion worth making…)
The idea, I think, is that the books are straightforward enough that the children will be able to be the ‘tour guides’ for the day – and there are definitely lots of little details, often at their eye level, to keep them interested. Both my eldest and my youngest (and there’s quite a big gap) would have plenty to look at. And that’s quite unusual.
So, I’m sorted for the holidays. I get to wander round, watching the world go by. They get to focus on something that they have to figure out from themselves. We’ll still end up with pizza for lunch, but that’s just fine.