We’ve just returned from a few days at Center Parcs, Whinfell Forest. We had an absolutely amazing time and if you want our full review, you’ll find it here.
But I’m going to specifically share our view of the activities we did with our 2 year old here.
Booking Activities for 2 Year Olds
I downloaded the Center Parcs app before travelling and, to be honest, my initial thought was that there wasn’t much to do for 2 year olds. Most of the activities at Whinfell Forest for younger guests seemed to be from 3 upwards. So I initially wondered what we’d do!
In the end, we booked these in advance:
- Fun Pots with Tots
- Teddy Bear’s Picnic
And then having seen the activity in action while we were there, we added the following:
- Mini Trek
We also stumbled upon a big activity area for younger children in the sports complex. While not a formal activity, it was a paid extra we did so I’ve included that too.
So by no means have we done all the activities available to 2 year olds at Whinfell Forest, but here’s our take on the ones we did do.
Fun Pots with Tots
We did this on a Tuesday morning and it was a one hour long activity. My initial worry was whether or not our son would sit still and paint for an hour. We were pleasantly surprised! He sat still concentrating on his painting for the whole duration of the activity.
When you go in, you can choose one of the included items to paint. The choice includes mugs, plates and small ornaments. We chose a mug – but later on in the session we also purchased a car shaped money box for our son to paint as he is absolutely obsessed with cars!
It’s a really casual, laid back atmosphere, not overly structured and really suitable for children of all ages. Our 2 year old really got a lot out of it and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Just a note – although our son isn’t wearing an apron on the photos, they do hand them out. He just does not, it seems, appreciate aprons! Not to worry – the paints all wash off.
Once the painting is done, you hand your pieces in and the professionals glaze them, kiln fire them and let them cool for you to collect the following day. We went back to collect his “masterpieces.” Psychedelic, to say the least:
We booked Mini Trek for 9am on our penultimate day at Center Parcs. It was a busy session, but it didn’t feel too busy.
It is advertised as suitable for children from 2 years of age up to a maximum height of 1.2m. We wondered whether our son, having only turned 2 a couple of months prior, would enjoy it as much as older children.
While he needed a little more help from Daddy than the older children, he really did enjoy it a lot. He didn’t last the full half hour. Instead, he decided he’d had enough after about 20 minutes, but still got his free red squirrel soft toy! Our 2 year old really did love this and I think its something we’d do again with him in a heartbeat.
The course wasn’t overly complicated, but complicated enough to keep older ones interested too. There were children there of 5 and 6 who seemed to be genuinely enjoying it. The instructor also introduces a game a few minutes into the activity for the children who’d like to participate. The game involves navigating the course and looking for jigsaw pieces in pockets located around the course. Our son wasn’t interested in that – he just wanted to climb around! But lots of children seemed to be really enjoying the game element.
The course itself isn’t huge but a perfect size for the little ones. Here it is:
Teddy Bear’s Picnic
So, there’s a big caveat that comes with our review of the Teddy Bear’s Picnic at Whinfell Forest. Our son generally naps around lunch time and this activity was scheduled from 12 – 1pm. Our lad lasted until about 12:30 and then we had to take him back to the lodge for a sleep.
However, from what we did see of the activity, it’s well put together and very enjoyable for the little ones. We were really lucky with the weather during our stay at Whinfell Forest, so the picnic was in the sunshine. The giant bear turned up, of course! The children were treated to an enthusiastic “Going on a Bear Hunt,” march to the picnic site and a story before their sandwiches. All the children were also given a good sized teddy bear! Most of the children loved this. Our son, on the other hand, would much rather have a car than a teddy bear and pretty much ignored it! Typical!
We had to leave before the singing, dancing and games unfortunately. But it’s one we would do again on a future visit.
Toddler Play Area
So, this wasn’t an activity, per se, but we stumbled across a play area inside the Sports Plaza at Whinfell Forest. You could access it for 2 hours for £4.25, which we paid. That said, nobody was policing entry or checking receipts/tickets. And actually, you could very easily miss the sign that said it was a paid activity, so I wouldn’t be surprised if people were just using it freely.
It was basically an indoor sports court converted for use as a tots play zone with soft play bricks, building bricks, tunnels, little bikes and basketball hoops. Our toddler loved this. We spent an hour or so here while he built giant towers and repeatedly knocked them down!!
Are the Activities Expensive?
I heard a lot of people say that activities at Center Parcs are really expensive. Maybe if we had a 16 year old who wanted to go quad biking, rock climbing and go karting then it might have been pricier. But our toddler’s activities weren’t particularly pricey, I don’t think.
- Fun Pots with Tots was £14.50 and that included a choice of a mug, plate or some other little ornaments to paint. We chose to buy an additional piece of pottery (a large car piggy bank) for £17.50, which was quite pricey. But we didn’t have to do that at all – there were no pressure sales or anything. My husband simply spied the car and thought our boy would love it
- The Teddy Bear’s Picnic was £11, which actually seems like less value than some of the other activities when you consider what’s included. Nonetheless, it’s not too expensive
- Mini Trek was £12. Again, I think it’s reasonable value when you consider the insurance cost, the harness equipment hire and the fact that group sizes are restricted. Our little one certainly got value out of it!
Some activities are, of course, more expensive. But for the 3 activities we did, we think it represented reasonable value for the fun our son had out of it.
Do you need to do activities at Center Parcs?
As much as our 2 year old son absolutely loved his activities, he definitely got just as much joy from wandering around the forest (or “our holiday garden,” as he called it). He spent hours upon hours just walking out around the forest, hiding behind trees and exploring. And even if it had been colder or a bit wet we would have done exactly that too. It’s one of his absolute favourite things to do. Every single day we’d go for forest walks/runs/bike rides and I can’t imagine he would ever tire of doing it.
He enjoyed the swimming pools and the play areas too. Though, in all honesty, probably not as much as he enjoyed exploring the forest! I wonder if he’ll be easily pleased when he’s 3 or 4! (I do hope so)!
One of his favourite things of our whole holiday was sitting on the little lakeside beach area and building sandcastles. It was a stunning little lakeside beach. There are two of them next to one another but one is more for launching boats. We bought a bucket and spade from the little shop there (about £3.60 or so) and got hours of entertainment out of it. The little beaches are small so I imagine it would only take a few people to be on them before they felt crowded. But during our stay they were never busy. We enjoyed sitting with him just looking over the lake as well!
We had sunshine for our entire stay. Perhaps it would have been different if the weather hadn’t been so good and maybe we would have wanted more planned activities. But based on the break we just had, we could definitely have gotten by without booking a single activity and I’m sure our son would have just as great a time. But the activities we did were fantastic and he is still talking about them now!
Is Whinfell Forest Good for Toddlers?
I can’t speak about any of the other Center Parcs as I haven’t been! But Whinfell Forest was a cracking option for our two year old. There are activities for them, of course. But there is a huge area to explore here and it was one big adventure for our son. It was the perfect break for our toddler and we look forward to taking him back when his baby brother is big enough to run around with him!