20 free (or very nearly free) things to do with your toddler in South Africa
Here are the top 20 things you like to do with your children in South Africa.

There are so many activities on offer for toddlers these days but most cost an arm and a leg. So we asked you, our readers, to send us the things you like to do with your toddler that are free – or very nearly. 

1. Beaches

Mix a beach with a bucket, spade and toddler and you usually have a winning combination. Topping the list are Nature’s Valley on the garden route, KZN’s Zinkwazi beach, and Port Alfred’s kiddie beach as they all boast golden sands and calm, wave-free lagoons. Don’t forget those with toddler-friendly play areas such as Fish Hoek beach in Cape Town. Click here for more Cape Town beaches.

2. Tidal pools

Great tidal pools for toddlers to splash around in are Granny’s and Thompson’s Bay pools in Salt Rock, as well as the ones at St James and Glencairn in Cape Town – don’t forget your fishing net!

3. Boardwalks

Walk, push or bike along Cape Town’s Boulders walkway and Sea Point Boulevard, East London’s Nahoon Corner boardwalk and Ballito’s boardwalk for great sea vistas. You may even get a glimpse of a whale or dolphin along the way! [Note: if you want to go onto the Boulders beach itself you will need to pay an entry fee, but the short walk on the boardwalk is free – you can go right past penguins on this walk too.]

4. Easy hikes/strolls

Hike around Silvermine Dam, or explore some of the walking trails in Hout Bay and the Constantia Greenbelt – all in Cape Town; or pick a section of the Braamfontein hiking trail through Johannesburg to explore.

5 Bikes, trikes & push-trucks

A World Cup 2010 legacy, The Green Point Park and Biodiversity Garden, James Pearce Park in East London and Joburg’s Delta park are all great places to test out your toddler’s budding biking skills (and have a picnic).

6. Gardens

Nurseries, garden centres or botanical gardens are great places to while away the time with a toddler and many have play areas, such as Ferndale or the Cape Garden Centre in Cape Town and Lifestyle Nursery in Johannesburg, which also has a pet shop with snakes, parrots and other small and furries that little ones love.

7. Parks, picnics and small animals

Feed the ducks at Emmarentia Park (Johannesburg) or Wynberg Park in Cape Town; pet a cow or sheep at Irene Dairy Farm in Pretoria or watch the birds and squirrels in The Gardens in downtown Cape Town – all good spots to picnic.

8. Parks with jungle gyms

Delta Park and Zoo Lake in Johannesburg boast toddler-safe jungle gyms; as does Green Point Park and Biodiversity Garden in Cape Town and Mushroom park in Sandton. Other favourites are Johannesburg’s George Hay and James and Ethel Gray Parks, James Pearce in East London and Deer Park in Cape Town.

9. Libraries and book shops

Many local libraries offer toddler book readings, so check yours out. Also top on the list was Love Books in Melville, Johannesburg with readings every Saturday at 10am.

10. Coffee shops with play areas

Many coffee shops have enclosed play areas. Topping this list are Noordhoek Farm Village in Cape Town, Feastt, Panetonne at the Zoo Lake, and Bambanani’s in Johannesburg, and The Litchi Orchard (with tractor and market) in Ballito.

11. Saturday morning markets

For food, fun, jumping castles and some interesting toys take your tot to Cape Town’s Tokai Forest Market (formerly Porters Market) and Johannesburg’s Jozi and Neighbourgoods markets – all open on Saturday mornings.

12. Planetarium

The Iziko Planetarium in Cape Town charges R10 for a children’s show, and Johannesburg’s Planetarium (for a bit more) offers an afternoon session with the stars.

13. Ships and boats

Check out the ships and boats (and feed the seals and seagulls) at Hout Bay – with a real pirate ship – Kalk Bay, or Waterfront harbours in Cape Town; or watch freighters and cargo ships in action at Durban and Richard’s Bay harbours.

14. Fruit-picking

Visit Helderberg farm outside of Somerset West and spend a morning picking and tasting berries, or ride a tractor through Camdeboo peach farm (Johannesburg) and pick fresh fruit and veggies as you go.

15. Forest walks

Hug a tree in the Tokai Forest, Cape Town, the arboretum on Kirstenbosch Road (behind the stone church) or do the forest walk at Ballito's Waterberry Cafe.

16. Art galleries

Send your older toddler in search of knights and horses in the Johannesburg Art Gallery; for flowers and trees at The Cape Gallery or for their favourite painting, pot or sculpture at Artists Under the Sun (held on the first weekend of every month at Zoo Lake in Johannesburg).

17. Tea gardens

For the cost of a cup of tea, your toddler can explore the fairy garden at Makaranga Lodge in Kloof, climb the lion statues at Rhodes Memorial Tea Garden in Cape Town, or watch the weavers in action over the pond at the Waterberry Coffee Shoppe in Ballito.

18. Picnics

Your top choices to have your picnics are Cape Town’s Silvermine dam; Green Point Park in Cape Town; Free State National Botanical Gardens in Bloemfontein; and Emmarentia Dam and Delta Park (with its bird hides, jungle gyms and big hill perfect for sliding down on a cardboard box) in Johannesburg.

19. Science centres

While not free (R10 for children), Johannesburg’s Sci-bono Discovery Centre is a must for any enquiring mind.

20. Planes, trains and tanks

The SA Steam and Railway Museum in Krugersdorp charges R5 entrance for children and has real steam engines. For R15, let your child climb on tanks, planes and even a submarine at The Ditsong National Museum of Military History (Jozi), or let them ride on mini steam engine at the Rand Society of Model Engineers’ (Florida Park) twice monthly open days.

*Many of the places mentioned are open, public spaces and do not have direct website links or contact details – so some of the links listed here are tourism websites or even a blog that describe the area.

For directions on how to get to the park or beaches mentioned visit Google Maps.

Do you have any suggestions to add to our list? Forward them to chatback@parent24.com and we may add it to the collection!

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