Why I Love My Stomach Rolls

Last week at yoga, I was effectively forced to stare at pools of sweat gathering in my stomach rolls.

The pose had me sitting down, folded over, head hanging into my lap, looking at my belly. I don’t what this yoga pose is actually called. Probably Folded Moon or Curled Up Squirrel or something like that.

It was pretty gross.

Exercise – or “sportsing” as I like to call it – has never really been my jam. I’ve had my gym contract cancelled twice for not using it often enough, despite the free parking ticket you get when you do. I felt no shame walking into the gym, swiping that card and walking straight out. Honestly, gyms are like nightclubs except the lights are on and everyone is sober. When I actually went to gym, it was just to use the sauna. I like the sauna.

I’ve tried running, but I’ve realised that the only thing that can make me run is if someone is chasing me. When I used to try jogging around the neighbourhood, I would only run if I saw a car. Not because I thought someone would chase me, but because it might be someone who knew me, so I would step it up and prance along sprightly so it would look like I’m a super fresh runner lady. I’m not a super fresh runner lady.

My husband on the other hand is one of those kettle-belling, cross-fitting, trail-running types. He has more shoes than I do, because all of the above require different footwear. He also likes to eat kale and chia seeds, which I’m still convinced is not-real-food. To give him some credit, he does make a killer smoothie that tastes so good I don’t even know that the afore-mentioned not-real-food is in it. He also has a smoking hot body, which personally I don’t have any objections to.

The problem with my non sportsing life is that after two little kids and too many rusks, I don’t like the way my body feels anymore. I don’t like how breathless I get after playing three minutes of soccer with my boys. I don’t like how my four year old can outrun me on the beach, which is problematic when he’s running away from you stark naked, throwing his head back laughing and won’t come back no matter how much you shout. True story.

I especially don’t like it when I’m waving at another mom in the school parking lot and all I can feel is my chicken-wing arm-flab flapping around.

I need to exercise.

And so, I’ve started doing yoga. I LOVE yoga. There is no pumping dance music telling me to put my hands in the hair or push, push, push. Instead there is a strong, beautiful woman telling me to breathe, and who never shouts at me when I randomly fall over. I love not wearing exercise footwear that costs more than my kids’ school fees. I love that it’s a class so you have actually go at specific times and people watch you so you don’t just lie in the corner and have a nap which is what I would rather do (although I do think there’s a market there for some entrepreneur – a napping centre disguised as a gym). I love that there is always someone in the class who is more bendier than me, and also someone who falls over before me. I am not the worst, which is a refreshing change from the other sportsing I’ve done.


Because you know, mindfulness.

But there is something else yoga has given me that I love even more. As I bent over into the Wilted Flower pose or whatever that was that had me navel-gazing, I looked at my folded, wrinkled body, squishing over itself and dripping sweat, and do you know what I realized?


My belly made those babies.

I love my squishy belly. This belly held the two most beautiful gifts in my life. It brought both of my gorgeous, energetic, hilarious boys into the world. This belly isn’t hard, flat or ripped but you know what? I’ve eaten a lot of really, really good food. I’ve done more than just survive life. I have relished delicious meals with fantastic people. I’ve laughed until my stomach aches in kitchens, around dinner tables, and over braais.

Yoga has given me gratitude. I’m grateful for exercise and my health. I’m grateful for food and family. Yoga even made me grateful for my sweaty stomach.

I’m basically a yogi now, guys.



50 Fun Things For Kids To Do In Durban

Whether you’re on holiday in Durban, or a born-and-bred local, this chilled out East Coast city has a lot to offer kids. From the balmy beaches to the hilly hinterland, from the playgrounds to the pools, you can’t help but enjoy our warm weather and laid-back lifestyle. For example, in summertime the sun rises at 4.30am.
How fun is that?
Kids all over the city have 3 hours of extra play time before normal people like to wake up – what a win for parents everywhere!

Seriously though, other than our devastatingly early starts to the day, Durban is full of fun stuff for the little ones. Hopefully, this list of 50 Fun Things For Kids to Do in Durban will help you fill the daylight hours, especially during the long school holidays.

Before you go on, here’s how it works.

  • The list is has 5 categories: Free Activities, Activities Under R35, Activities Over R35, Coffee Shops with Playgrounds, and Markets. It’s a long list, but keep scrolling until you find what you’re looking for.
  • Because summer is rainy season in Durban, you will see this symbol *** which indicates venues that are undercover. 
  • Other than my personal experience, all of the information was collected from websites, Facebook, and friends’ recommendations so I haven’t personally done everything on the list. 
  • My kids are both toddlers, so the list leans a little to stuff for younger kids but I think you’ll find something for everyone who likes to play.
  • And finally…

Disclaimer: All the times, prices, locations, dates etc. are subject to change. I highly recommend you check websites, or phone before you go. Obviously, I can’t be responsible for any of the following: incorrect information, inaccurate directions, bad coffee, bad traffic, load-shedding, pants-wetting, tantrum related-injuries, anything-related injuries, lost property, lost marbles, or any permanent psychological damage. Have fun!


  1. Moses Mabhida Stadium
    You seriously cannot go wrong here. The People’s Park Playground on the south side of the stadium is really top-notch with four different jungle gyms areas for different ages. Bring a picnic and everything with wheels. The People’s Park Cafe is nearby – huge portions, slow service. Optional paid outings like the SkyWalk, Cable Car, tours etc. HOT in summer although they recently added some umbrellas to the grassy areas. Website: http://www.mmstadium.com
  2. Paddling Pools at Laguna Beach
    Just past Blue Lagoon are the Laguna Beach paddling pools which at the time of posting this have literally JUST finished being revamped. There are different sized slides, pools and shaded areas right on the beach. For free!
  3. Promenade and Pier at Umhlanga Beach
    One of our favourite outings is to the promenade at Umhlanga. The best spot is where you can sit on the sand under the shade of the pier. There isn’t a bathing area here, but the rock pools are great fun. Alternatively, at the far south parking lot where the promenade begins is a super wooden jungle gym and loads of shady picnicking areas. We love to ride bikes and play in the park on days that aren’t great for swimming and sand.
  4. Ushaka Beach
    People love Ushaka Beach for its long, flat sandy section and easy swimming area. There are loads of shops nearby for refreshments, and beach stuff for rent like surfboards, paddleboards, bikes etc. It’s a nice combo of beach and mall, even if it’s just for some window shopping.
  5. Umhlanga Fire Station
    That’s right. There is an emergency services location mentioned on this list. This is more of a special outing then a go-to play area but its worth mentioning because most people don’t know about it. I simply phoned them (031 361 0000 – ask for Umhlanga Fire Station reception) and asked if they do demonstrations. They told me if I could get a bunch of kids – more than 12 – they do them on Wednesday at 10am. It was AWESOME. The firemen get dressed up and show the kids all the stuff on the truck. They can climb into the driver’s area. The highlight is when a fire engine comes in sirens blaring and sprays millions of foam bubbles and the kids go bananas running through it. Have your kids in their swimming costumes when you arrive, bring towels, and you’re all set.
  6. Botanical Gardens
    Exploring the Botancial Gardens. Yes, it looks like the statue is peeing on my child.

    Exploring the Botancial Gardens. Yes, it looks like the statue is peeing on my child.

    You really can’t go wrong with Botanical Gardens. Whether you’re riding or walking through, kicking a ball, having a picnic, it’s just great. Check out the massive baobab tree, and see if you can find the sunken garden. If it’s open, a walk through the orchid house is beautiful but mostly the Gardens are a great spot to run the kids ragged so they go to bed early.

    “We love feeding ducks and riding bikes at the Botanical Gardens, then flap jacks in their tea garden”
    – Suzannah
    Website: http://www.durbanbotanicgardens.org.za/

  7. Breakers Hotel Slides
    Apparently open to the public, not only hotel guests, I’ve heard from a number of people that this is a fun, free outing for the kids. Their website says that in addition to the regular swimming pool there is a kiddies pool and slides. Sounds awesome for those humid, hot Durban days. Website: http://www.breakersresort.co.za/index.asp
  8. La Lucia Mall Golf Shop Driving Range ***
    This is one of my husband’s favourite outings with our three old son. They head off to the mall and play golf. I haven’t been there myself, but Tom and Will love it. Worth a shot! (Golf pun!)
  9. Maritime Museum
    I remember going here on school outings and loving it, and I’ve heard recently from two people that it is still a great outing for the kids with a number of historical boats and displays to explore. If your kids are as into engines and transport as mine are, I have a feeling this could be a hit. There is no entry fee, only donations. Website: http://www.durban-history.co.za/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=50&Itemid=65
  10. Beachwood Mangroves Nature Reserve
    Crabs, sand, mud, secret passages and pirate treasure – why not have a pirate expedition to the Mangroves? Open from 8am – 1pm on the third Saturday of the month, it’s a great way to spend a morning. Website: http://www.southafrica.net/za/en/articles/entry/article-southafrica.net-beachwood-mangrove-nature-reserve

    “Beachwood Mangroves Nature Reserve on the third Saturday of each month… especially in the summer as feeding the yellowed black mangrove leaves to the red claw crabs never fails to delight and it’s a calming time walking round the 1km boardwalk and up onto the beach.” – Amanda


  11. Durban North Pools
    Whether you have a pool or not, a trip to these public pools is a fun change of scenery. Pack water guns, pool noodles and all your fun games and have a water wars afternoon. It’s clean, organised and outside of school holidays – FREE ENTRY! In season, it’s a nominal fee of R7 each (I think!)
  12. Wild Adventure: The Lost World Edition ***
    Open from September 2014 to January 2015, this indoor Dinosaur entertainment arena is well worth a visit. There is a huge inflated T-Rex for the kids to walk through, moving animatronic dinosaurs, and other fun climbing, running, playing activities. Located next to the restaurants on the north side of the Moses Mabhida stadium, you can go grab yourself one of Jacksonville’s brilliant coffees while you’re there. Cost: R30 per person. Website: http://www.mmstadium.com/stadium-attractions/moses-mabhida-stadium-lost-world-edition/
  13. Flag Farm Animal Farm, Salt Rock
    Feeding the cows at Flag Farm Animal Farm.

    Feeding the cows at Flag Farm Animal Farm.

    Flag Farm really is the best animal outing for kids. They have an incredibly diverse range of things to see and do – from the farm animals, to pony rides, to milking cows and feeding baby pigs. Recents upgrades include an undercover playground and sandpit for smaller kids, train rides, and fantastic climbing apparatus. There is a small restaurant but you can bring your own braai stuff and picnic – its easy to spend many hours here and the kids will love it. Worth the drive! Cost: R35 per person – Under 18 months free. Website: http://www.flaganimalfarm.co.za/

  14. Lucky Bean, Assegay ***
    We LOVE this spot, even though its a drive from Durban North and the roadworks are a pain. For a great feel of the place check out their lovely website, but our highlights are the indoor swings, soft play toys and ball pits. The bike track is great with loads of riding options and our sons love the various huts with different themes and dress up stuff. And for the adults – the food is DELICIOUS. Honestly, the menu will blow you away and it’s fresh, healthy, tasty food. Cost: Adults – Free. Kids 0-6 years, R20 for first child and R15 for each child from same family. Website: http://www.luckybean.co/
  15. Mini Town, Durban Beach Front
    The working trains and boats are a marvel to the little ones, although the temptation to play with the models is a tough one to resist. It is quite exposed on a hot day, but is a fun, quick outing for the whole family that you can squeeze into an afternoon after playing on the beach. It’s not expensive, and all funds go the Quadriplegic Association of South Africa. Cost: R10 for kids 2-12, R15 for adults. Website: http://www.durban-tourism.com/Mini-Town.html
  16. Mitchell Park Zoo
    This timeless Durban gem has a lot to do. The restaurant, Blue Zoo, is excellent – the menu is diverse, delicious and has great service. Plus, in the outdoor seating area is a really nice jungle gym, and there are tables with play dough, sand art, colouring in and a staff member to help. The “zoo” itself is kind of outdated, but there are amazing birds and rare monkeys to see. A short walk around is enough but its cheap to get in, so its worth going just to keep the kids busy. The jungle gym area outside the zoo, however, is awesome. Bit big for tinies (but they have the restaurant one), and loads of cool features. I haven’t even mentioned the actual park. Loads of space for kicking balls, running around, riding bikes. You can float from one area to another, and before you know you’ll have killed a few hours. Cost: Zoo is R10 for adults, R7 for over two years old. Website: http://www.durban.gov.za/City_Services/ParksRecreation/pnature/Pages/mitchell.aspx
  17. Umhlanga Lagoon Nature Reserve
    Another great idea for a family day trip is to head to the Umhlanga Lagoon Nature Reserve and to stroll through the coastal dune forest and across the Ohlange River towards the Umhlanga Lagoon. The guided walk is half an hour long so it shouldn’t be too strenuous for little hikers. The Reserve is brimming with well over 60 species. Keep your eyes open for vervet monkeys and blue and red duiker. The route is well-marked but walking through the reserve alone is at your own risk. Cost: R30 an adult for the guided walk and R15 for children under 12. Contact Umhlanga Tourism – 031 561 4257, info@umhlangatourism.co.za, www.umhlangatourism.co.za
  18. Giba Gorge Mountain Bike Park, Pinetown
    The bike & lifestyle park has its hub based around the picnic area, restaurant and BMX track, with single track trails that lead off in various directions. From what I can gather, kids on bikes of all sizes can enjoy the tracks while the cafe provides a chilled spot for spectators. Adults Riders (12yrs +): R40, Child Riders (under 12yrs): R20, Non Riders: R10  (Fri-Sun, School Holidays & public Holidays) http://www.gibagorge.co.za/


  19. Kids World at Ushaka

    Shooting water cannons at uShaka Kids World.

    Shooting water cannons at uShaka Kids World.

    The Kids World at uShaka has the largest jungle gym in Africa. Seriously. It makes me want to me a kid. There is Lego and Duplo Activity Area. There is a Sprinkler play area which is fantastic, and you can shoot massive water cannons. There is a sand pit with a dinosaur hidden in it. There is an indoor toddler play area with soft toys – next to a coffee shop where they offer FOOT MASSAGES! So great. The best plan is to bring in picnics or your own food because unless you want to grab fast food from the uShaka mall, there are no food vendors in the play area itself. This place is awesome and its open until 6pm:  R60 for kids over 3, and R15 for adults. Website: http://www.ushakamarineworld.co.za/kids-world

  20. Funky Monkey, Umhlanga ***
    Previously known as Jimmy Jungle’s, this fantastic indoor play centre is a firm favourite for rainy day treats. Under the same management but free from it’s previous franchise restrictions, there really isn’t anywhere that compares to the jungle gyms, toys, ball pits, super slides, trampolines and childcare at Funky Monkey. If your kids don’t mind being supervised by the child minders, its a dream spot where you can enjoy a cappuccino and a magazine and get some work done. In fact, they now offer a 2 hour child minding service where you can actually leave your kids there and go get some work (or fun!) done. Cost: R45 flat rate. R75 per hour for leaving your child there. Website: http://www.kznkids.co.za/listing/funky-monkey-umhlanga
  21. Umgeni River Bird Park
    This is SUCH a gem. First of all, its massive. There is so much to see and a lot of space for running around. There are the talking parrots, the jungle gyms, the endless aviaries and ponds, and bird displays, and an interesting bird show every day at 11am. You can easy spend 2-3 hours here, and there’s a very very average food place, too. Secondly, its all pretty much shaded and when its baking in Durban, the Bird Park really is cool (pun!). Plus, these guys are doing awesome work in rehabilitating birds caught up in the illegal pet trade, as well as breeding rare species and releasing them back into the wild. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Cost: Adults R50, Kids 4-12 R30. Website:  http://www.umgeniriverbirdpark.co.za
  22. Gateway***
    For those of us who live in Durban, I think we take Gateway for granted. Yes, its gets busy and the surrounding traffic over holidays is a nightmare, but no matter how much you have to spend you have somewhere to go. Sometimes, we go before all the shops open and just play on the Funtubbles rides – no tokens, just use your imagination. But if you’ve got some money to spend, the options are endless. Highlights for kids include: the water slides, flowrider, bumper cars, arcade, Funtubbles (arcade and rides for littlies), movies, adventure golf, ten-pin bowling. Cost: You decide. Parking upwards of R9 an hour. Website: http://gatewayworld.co.za/
  23. Model Train Rides at Virginia Circle
    We’ve never been here other than for birthday parties so I’m not sure what its like on a Sunday, but the kids LOVE the train rides. In addition to the rides, there are some mediocre jungle gyms and space for playing. Cost: Call 082 569 1383. Other details: Kelleway Hall, 10 Hinton Grove, Virginia, Durban (opposite Checkers). 2nd and 4th Sunday from 11am to 4pm.


  24. Hingham Nursery, Glen Anil
    What we love about Hingham is not only the jungle gym and small play area, but just exploring the nursery. The plants, pathways, and statues provide endless interest for little ones, and if you’re lucky you’ll catch sight of the monkeys feasting in the trees above or the families of mongooses that scurry around near the tea garden. The food isn’t amazing, but it’s cool and peaceful. Website: http://hinghamnursery.co.za/site/default.asp
  25. Coffee Corner At Tap
    A little coffee shop behind the Durban North Baptist Church in Beachway, this is a real favourite amongst Durban North families. Lots of shade, astro turf grass, a bike track, a couple of jungle gyms, a little house to play in, swings and space, and a kid friendly restaurant.  Opens 9am-4pm weekdays, 8.30am-1pm Saturdays. Usually closed on Mondays, but open for December 2014 holidays. Website: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Coffee-Corner/228784147240366
  26. Circus Circus, Durban Beach Front
    A real Saturday morning favourite, Circus Circus not only has the sea views and the promenade out front, but a shady outdoor eating area and jungle gym in the back. Our kids love to play in the sandy play area, and it makes it a relaxing spot to watch them as they can’t run off. We usually head next door to the skate park to watch the “big kids”, and if its quiet scoot around the skate park a bit ourselves.
  27. Makaranga, Kloof
    Makaranga Garden Lodge is a real treat. The Botanical Gardens are magical, with loads of paths to explore and nooks to discover. You can book a picnic or eat in their amazing restaurant which has a natural timbered play area and rock garden within sight of you. But its more than food, its great for kids – check out their website: http://www.makaranga.com/things-to-do/children
  28. Heatherbelles Cafe
    Heatherbelles Cafe is a sweet, unassuming little spot on Broadway in Durban North. Set under a big shady tree, there is a trampoline, jungle gym, play houses and dress up clothes. It feels a little rustic but the food is lovely – I had the BEST scone there. If you’re looking for something peaceful and quiet, this is the spot.
    Website: http://www.heatherbellescafe.co.za/
  29. Apache Spur – Riverside***
    Alongside the usual Spur Restaurant, (which has to be one the weirdest, most politically-incorrect themed chain restaurants IN THE WHOLE WORLD), is large undercover play area with a jungle gym area, a huge airplane that has slides coming out of it, a climbing wall, three age-specific trampolines, and quite a bit of running-amock space. This area is roofed in, but if its cold outside, its cold inside. There is a very small but very well-equipped toddlers play room thats completely inside – jumping castle, soft play toys and slides. The play area is supervised – they will label your kids with your phone number and table number, and will most definitely call you if your brood are terrorising the neighbourhood. Opens at 9am weekdays, 8.30am weekends. Website: http://www.spur.co.za/restaurant/family/durban-north/apache-river
  30. Miami Spur – Umhlanga Sands Resort***
    Much smaller than it’s Durban North counterpart, the Spur at Sands is still pretty good for an indoor afternoon. What makes it quite fun is that the hotel arcade is also there, although you will have to trek out the restaurant to get to the arcade. One of our favourite “oh-my-gosh-they’re-driving-us-nuts” tricks for a Saturday afternoon is to head over there around 4pm, play, all eat dinner and then go home with half the madness of a typical evening over. Or do the beach and promenade for the morning and finish there with lunch. It basically sets them up for a nap – which is fantastic.
  31. Burnedale, Salt Rock

    Spiderman at Burnedale.

    Spiderman at Burnedale.

    We LOVE Burnedale. There’s a sweet, shady play area for small kids, and a small but interesting collection of farm animals to check out. The new treehouse/jungle gym and rope swings are so cool, and take you back to your own childhood before everything was plastic and padded. The restaurant is nice enough, and browsing through the shops will keep parents occupied. Lovely spot. Website: http://www.burnedale.co.za/

  32. Sage, Salt Rock
    One of the first of the restaurant/spa/decor/playground collectives which are so popular, Sage has lovely food and a fun wooden castle for kids, and sand art is available too. Over the years it has felt like its moved more towards the food and shopping vibe than kids, but there is still enough to keep them entertained. Website: http://www.sagecafe.co.za/
  33. Karibu Nursery, Salt Rock
    Yes. Another spot in Salt Rock. My theory is that the traffic in the greater Ballito area is so heinous, the locals need to stay away from home for as long as possible. But Karibu does sound lovely, and most of what you find about them online has to do with their awesome pastries and bakery – TOTALLY FINE WITH ME.“There is a divine new spot in Salt Rock…Karibu Nursery. Very cool undercover kids play area, wonderful staff that play with the kids, such good breakfasts and lunches, even better pastries. You could spend ages there.” – Jenna

    Unfortunately, they don’t have a great Facebook page or website, but you can find their address and contact details here: http://www.africanadvice.com/1170760/Nurseries/Kwazulu_Natal/Karibu_Nursery/

  34. The Waterberry Coffee Shoppe, Ballito
    Earlier this year, the Waterberry Coffee Shoppe, famous for its amazing cheesecake and forest trails, shockingly burnt down. But it has been rebuilt and revamped and is finally reopened. You can see some of the great developments on their Facebook page, and it will for sure be a firm favourite once again. Website: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Waterberry-Coffee-Shoppe/143593909051098
  35. Savior Coffee Company at The Rock Church, Sunningdale
    What started as a trendy, handmade leather brand, expanded to a coffee shop in Morningside and has now grown to have premises at The Rock Church in Umhlanga. These coffee-lovers have included a kids playground in their new spot just off Umhlanga Rocks Drive near Sunningdale, so check them out for a catch up with friends and their kids. Website: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Savior-Coffee-Company/673207779394931

  36. Kloof SPCA
    This quaint tea garden and playground is a lovely outing, and their market on Saturdays and the last Sunday of the month is worth a mention, too – especially if you enjoy thrift shopping and second-hand goods. For the kids, the playgrounds have been revamped so go support this awesome cause. Open Mondays – Saturdays, and last Sunday of the month. 8am – 3pm.

    “Kloof SPCA is also awesome now. Have a whole new kid’s area. Cheap food and drinks and it goes to a good cause…” – Sandra

    Website: http://www.kloofspca.co.za/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=82&Itemid=207

    Durban loves markets – and so do our kids! Good food, good shopping, and great support for local entrepreneurs and artisans is what makes a visit to a market worthwhile. Each of them are quite unique in setting, but generally have similar traders and stalls. Why not take a month to follow the Market Trail from weekend to weekend and find your favourite?

  37. Shongweni Farmers Market
    Every Saturday at 1 Fraser Road, Hillcrest
    6.30am – 10.3am
  38. I Heart Market
    First Saturday of each month at Moses Mabhida Stadium
    Every Saturday in December
    9am – 2pm
  39. Wonder Market, Umhlanga 
    Usually last Sunday of every month at Chris Saunders Park opposite Gateway
    9am – 2pm
  40. Golden Hours Market, Durban North
    Every Sunday at Golden Hours School near Pick ‘n Pay Hyper
    10.00 am – 3.30pm
  41. Play Market
    Giba Gorge Mountain Bike Park, near Mariannhill Plaza on N3
    Upcoming Dates:

    • Sunday 23rd November Christmas Market
    • Sunday 15th February 2015
    • Sunday 8th March 2015
    • Sunday 12th April 2015

    Please check their website for dates: http://www.gibagorge.co.za/play-market/

  42. Come on, people.
  43. Do I have to do EVERYTHING for you? 
  44. Honestly, why did you even have kids?
  45. Fine. I know. I get desperate, too.
  46. Maybe ask the kids what they want to do?
  47. Ok.
  48. One last tip…

50.  If you are completely at a loss, a good friend of mine contributed this absolute pearler. She really knows her stuff, so I saved the best for last…

“Take them for a quick espresso at Jacksonville (you can just leave them in the car while you run in) then take them to the Oyster Box curry buffet. Kids love buffets. And there is an unfenced pool. Rad!” – Christie

Question: How do you keep your kids busy during the holidays?
Share your tips in the comments below so we can all learn a thing or two

Thanks for visiting, and feel free to join my mailing list to receive a monthly blog from me – Jess

Our Top 10 Children’s Shows…On YouTube.

Obviously, my children don’t ACTUALLY watch YouTube. They’ve also never eaten Flings, they always greet strangers warmly and bring me tea in bed when I ring a bell.

Like most pre-parenthood-know-it-alls, my kids were never going to even look at devices with screens. But until I can sit on the loo without a small child trying to climb on my lap, my computer is going to help me raise them. (Hint: if you are freaking out right now, the rest of this blog is going to make you hyperventilate and maybe my brand of humour is not for you.) 

Will and Big Monkey, enjoying the show.

Will and Big Monkey gazing into the distance while they eat their dinner.

In defense of my idealistic former self, we don’t actually have “TV”. No satellite or MNET or even regular old SABC. Our TV is hooked up to the internet, and we grown-ups watch stuff off a hard drive. So when it comes to entertaining our children or distracting them while we shovel veggies into their mouths, we rely on YouTube.

Now. If you search “Wheels on the Bus” on YouTube, you will discover there are a lot of people making kids’ stuff out there. And a lot of it is so horrifiying it could work as contraception for the unparenting population. For example:



WHAT THE WHAT? That was THIRD on the search results. So clearly, we need some guidance in finding kids’ stuff that doesn’t make you gag. Being the discerning Internet-surfer that you are, you probably know about all these and then some. Feel free to share your quality viewing with the rest of us by posting comments!

Before you do ANYTHING – download AdBlock. It blocks all the ads that YouTube insist on showing so your  kids don’t see ads for men’s cologne in the middle of a Barney episode. Click here for it.

Disclaimer: Most of these are aimed at under 4’s, and my boys are quite into trains, cars, airplanes, etc. Also, I’m not in charge of enforcing copyright etc. My theory is if it’s on YouTube, its fair viewing game. 

And finally. Here are our favourites (if you click on the titles, it will take you to the vidoes):

1. Baby Einstein – educational themes, puppets, words etc. for babies.

These actually are really good, and while aimed at babies, my three year old still likes to watch. They cover all kinds of themes like Animals, Numbers, etc, and each episode is about 25 minutes – perfect for occupying toddler while you’re putting baby to sleep. But the best part of Baby Einstein is the puppets. My 9 month old laughs out loud at the sheep. Cutesies. Someone – who deserves a medal – compiled ALL THE PUPPETS into one video clip, and judging from the 9 million views it has, I’m not the only one who thinks this is brilliant.

2. HooplaKidz – nursery rhymes and songs.

You know all those nursery rhymes you learnt as a kid but forgot? These guys found a girl with a throaty, hipster voice and a little acoustic guitar, and made simple but sweet animations to them. They’ve actually redone the melodies and tunes, and listening to them won’t make you want to bang your head on the table. Some of the older songs are a bit cheesy and annoying, but they’re pretty decent. My favourite is My Dog Ben.

3. Tayo the Little Bus – cars, buses, trains and safety messages.

Tayo is a cute little bus that teaches kids about being friends and not speeding. Only 11 min long, we like watching these during snack time. If your kid is into cars and buses etc, they will love Tayo. It’s wholesome and sweet – you can safely leave the room and make a cup of tea.

4. Pocoyo – mostly just entertainment with topics relevant to preschoolers (bedtime, birthdays, sharing, being kind etc.)

Aimed at pre-schoolers, Pocoyo is an inquisitive little boy with a blue suit and occasionally a yellow dummy (pacifier for non-South Africans). It’s refreshingly simple – no over-busy, over-active screen with sound blasting. It’s not particularly educational or anything, but it’s narrated by Stephen Fry so I feel like my kids are getting smarter just by hearing his voice. He says “whom” and “I should think” and stuff like that. It’s very soothing and English. Truthfully, its a bit arbitrary and random but its quality and innocent and William LOVES it. So I can deal.

5. Shawn the Train short, very educational and a little annoying.

Shawn is not my favourite. The voices are WEIRD and the animation is super basic. But for some reason, Will loves Shawn and to be honest when I heard him call out “Rhombus!” on the Shapes episode, I was kind of impressed. These are really short, but they some get the message across. Even I learn stuff (who knew there was a shape called “cuboid”?).

6. Roary the Racing CarBritish show about a racing car and his friends.

I don’t know why I think British stuff is smarter. But this does seem to have a slower pace compared to a lot of the American-Disney style cartoons out there. For South Africans with DSTV, its more along the CeeBeebies line than the Disney Junior line. Anyway, its just a race car and other race cars and they race and stuff. But its cute. And we’ve had some pretty cool dance parties to the theme song.

7. Little Einsteins for older kids, covering real works of art and famous composers in a mystery-themed hunt by four kids in a rocket. Sheesh.

If you want to con yourself that TV is educational, this is the show for it. It was the first “big kid” show I let Will watch, and so far there have been no signs of artistic genius or symphony composing. He also does NOT interact with it the way the people who made it try to get him to do. But he did pretend to play a violin the other day. So there.

8. Peppa Pig – a little pig and her family learning important things.

I really like this one. Its definitely for preschoolers, I think some of it goes over Will’s head, but it’s great. Its one of the ONLY kids’ shows I’ve come across where its not just about a child and his friends. So many of these shows are devoid of adults, parents or even siblings. This is a real family. Well, not actually. They’re animated pigs who both speak and snort. But you know what I mean. It’s definitely a thoughtful, helpful little show and we’ve referenced it a few times when talking about new experiences (going to the library, or the dentist, or losing something etc.) Again, its British and its lovely.

9. Andy’s Airplanesa once-off show about F-18 Hornet fighter jets.

I know A LOT about F-18 Hornets. And carrier ships. And its all thanks to this much-watched (and only) episode of Andy’s Airplanes. Its a combination of animation and then a real section where two kids explore a carrier ship. I don’t know how we stumbled on it, but Will is nuts about this. I wish they’d made more in the series, but alas, just this one. When I need to keep Will occupied for 30 mins, I use this. It works every time and I’ve downloaded it and used it on long car trips.

10. Praise Baby a frighteningly effective show for small babies with Christian music set to very random montages of shapes, animals and people.

After typing that description, you’re probably getting the heebie-jeebies. But this is AMAZING. The graphics they’ve put together somehow really get little babies’ attention. And I found watching it with them, saying all the words, and talking about it, SO helpful. William basically ate every meal from 9- 18 months watching this. If the Christian music puts you off, you can just mute it and it still works. But honestly, its actually quite relaxing and I love the hymns. There is only this one full episode on YouTube, but they are worth buying. Kids love Praise Baby. It’s weird. But it works.

There you have it. I have watched the entire Internet and these are the best ones. Not really. So let us know what you watch with your little ones and we can all pretend to not watch screens together!