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A Beach that is worth paying for… at Frosts

Imagine this…it is the summer holidays, you are sat on a comfortable chair watching your children play nicely, they are playing party games, are listening to the child-care workers read them a story, they are digging, building, panning for gold and writing postcards and you haven’t lifted a finger…no this is not a joke…oh and even more importantly you are gorging on the most succulent brownie you have had in a long time, with cup of…dare I say it…HOT tea.

tea house afternoon tea

Yes I kid you not, hot tea and you get to finish drinking it, without re-heating it in the microwave twice…where is this mythical land of brownie-eating, tea-drinking, child-behaving paradise you opine? Oh it is Frosts of course! So off you go to book a ticket, because this beach is the beach worth paying for.

I love Frosts, but I am afraid to say not (just) because of their superior quality garden-wares, which are fabulous (I’m just not a gardener). It’s because of 2 main reasons:

1. The restaurant, and in particular the cakes, are fabulous, and

2. The kids events that take place through the year. We have been to visit Santa most years, we went to the Circus, had Halloween afternoon tea and made bird boxes.

This summer we will not be visiting the sea-side, because we had our family holiday back in March, and living over 2 hours away from the nearest beach means we will not be going on any day-trips either (as we have a 9 month old who will not cope with the long journey). How lucky we are to be living in the time where beaches are popping up all over, and you will not find a better indoor beach than the one at Frosts.

5 year old playing on beach

We went to the beach (at Frosts) last year, which was really nice, but this year they have outdone themselves. They have a Wild-West theme and because of that the beach is so much more than a beach and that is why it isn’t free and is very much worth paying for. This is what you gain for the £6.99 cost:

– A two hour session in the private wild-west themed beach area (numbers controlled so no over-crowding)
– A large beach
– Plenty of buckets, spades and beach paraphernalia
– Qualified childcare assistants to entertain your children (this is the best and most unique aspect I believe)

children playing games at frosts
– Panning for Gold (Children receive a gold coin on production of gold nuggets)

– Tin-can alley

tin can alley game at frosts
– Story tent (which is a beautiful and comfortable tee-pee)
– Craft area to decorate postcards (with a weekly competition)

post box
– Free juice, water and fruit

The beach is open from now until 3rd September, and they run 3x 2 hourly sessions a day at 9:30am, 12noon and 2:30pm (Sundays 11am and 2pm only). Tickets to be purchased in advance either online, phone: 0800 9549484 or in store.

There are alternative free beaches in the area, and I have been to those too, but what I love about Frosts is that you are given a rare moment of downtime! Since they have childcare workers, reading, playing games etc with the kids, you can actually sit with a cup of tea, a piece of delicious cake and enjoy some peaceful, gluttonous me-time. Let’s be honest, that does not happen often, especially when you have taken the kids for a day out – days out are all go, the last time I took my little one to another indoor beach I was shattered after, and we were only there for 2 hours and we ended up spending money anyway because though the beach is free (in Middleton Hall) they have so many rides and stalls just outside that it is near impossible to ignore your children’s plee’s. So what a lovely retreat Frosts is, and it is beautifully decorated, thus creating a calm atmosphere. I cannot wait to bring my son back there, and no doubt we will be back again at Halloween and to see Santa…

sheriff frostie and children

*My son and I were given free entry to the beach at Frosts, in return for an honest review.

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Water Wars at Hatton Adventure World

Recently we were invited to one of our favourite places for a family day out, Hatton Adventure World we went three times last year and was very happy to return to test their new water attractions – Water Wars and Water Battles.

We went not knowing what to expect, so we took a change clothes and a towel for our son, just in case. In the end we didn’t need it, but my husband did, and was not so happy to have gotten wet.

Water Wars

The water wars game is only run a couple of times throughout the day, so make sure you find out the timing so you don’t miss it. I have to admit that I was disappointed it wasn’t running all day, but once my son had a chance to play I didn’t mind anymore.

Water Wars is a big inflatable contraption where 4 teams of 4 people fire water balloons at each other using a big catapult. There is quite a lot of protection from the bunkers so you don’t get excessively wet, but wet enough for it to be fun.

water wars at hatton park

My son and husband teamed up with another father and son, who were very nice and they had great fun. Both young boys had trouble firing the water balloons at first so they kept bouncing back into their bunker and getting themselves wet, which they all found hilarious. I was sat on a bench right nearby and hearing my little boy laugh his little heart out – well there is nothing better than that -so I deem that a success!

water wars

I was impressed by the staff members who ran the attraction, they made it very fair, ensuring each team had a go each at firing before it was go, go, go. Since 16 people get to play all at once the queue was not too long, and they had benches all around for people watching to sit on – which as a heavily pregnant lady I really appreciated!

Water Battles

Unfortunately this activity needs a lot of work, especially if younger children are able to play it. In theory it looks and could be a lot of fun, the idea is to grab a water gun and run around hiding behind the defences shooting people at random.

water battles game

The problems we encountered were as follows:

  1. There were two types of water gun, there were about 3 of the easy type and about 10 of the harder type. The harder pump type water guns could not be used by my 4 year old, who is very strong. They were too stiff, and since there were only three of the easier guns he never really got a chance to shoot and was upset.
  2. The bales of hay for hiding behind and climbing on were mostly too big for younger children, but more importantly were wrapped in some sort of cellophane which became very hot in the sun.
  3. There was no supervision or attendants on this feature, which would have been helpful and would have ensured a fair distribution of the guns.

Aside from the few issues above they still enjoyed it, though my husband less so as he got very wet trying to protect our 4 year old who didn’t have a gun. The water wars, was definitely our favourite of the two, and if they make some tweaks, water battles could be great too.

Of course, Hatton is not just about water wars, there are so many things to do here, I could not even begin to list them. But I did try in my previous post “22 things I love about Hatton Adventure World“.

goat crossing a bridge

My son got such a kick out of watching the goat climb up and over the bridge!

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22 Things we LOVED about Hatton Adventure World

hatton park review

Hatton Country World in Warwickshire was the next stop on our 50 Counties Challenge. I did start writing a traditional review post, but there were so many activities, so many things to do big and small, and so many things we enjoyed that it made sense to do a list instead, so without further ado, this is our list of 20 things we loved about Hatton Park:

1. Getting there was easy, it was well sign-posted and my Apple maps sat nav actually got me to the front door (but of course they don’t have a door as such, being an adventure park but you know what I mean). If you read my recent post about Abbotsbury Swannery you will know that this is pretty rare, getting lost is usually part of any good British day out.

2. Slides, slides and more slides. When I saw the picture of the slides Hatton have in their indoor play structure, I practically ran inside, grabbed my 3 year old and plopped him on my lap. He definitely “needed” mummy to go on the slides with him, and I was completely self-less, of course. They were a lot of fun! Note: your child will need to be fully clothed to go on the slides to prevent friction burns, so don’t forget to pack socks, and long sleeved tops and trousers or leggings. They will not be allowed on the near vertical slide with uncovered legs and arms. Though they do have cardigans, leggings and socks that you can rent, which is a nice touch, and prevents upset children, the kind lady even went off and brought them back to our table – good service. They also had a fun outdoor twisty slide.

slides at hatton parktwisted slide hatton

3. Sheep racing – this was the one thing I was most looking forward to and it didn’t disappoint. The sheep are so cute, they have teddy bear sheep strapped to their backs – Nate totally loved that because his favourite bedtime comfort toy is ewan the sheep. It was very exciting and Nate got thoroughly into it.

4. Bouncy castles – I was amazed by how many different types of bouncy castles they had, for different ages. They had a standard bouncy castle, then they had one aimed at older children with a climbing pyramid in the middle. I have to say I felt nervous watching my 3 year old climb up that, but was also quietly proud. Finally they had a bouncy castle slide, I think Nate enjoyed this one most of all.

3 year old climbing up a pyramid3 year old on bouncy slide

5. Trampolines – again they had several trampolines dotted around the park, and they given age restrictions, which I think is good so that younger children don’t get trampled on and older children get to jump freely without reprisals.

6. Guinea Pig Village – oh my this was so cute. There was a village of houses and even a canal and lock where hundreds of guinea pigs lived, it was so sweet, and such a clever idea.

guinea pig village

7. Reptile house – it had an array of spiders, snakes, lizards, turtles and they even had allotted times where children could interact, hold and stroke some of the reptiles.

8. JCB zone – I have actually encountered quite a few similar ‘digger zones’ at various places and have to say this is the best I have seen. They are usually very unloved areas, which broken diggers and no children. This one was very busy, had tunnels, ramps and a petrol station. If only my three year old could pedal, we definitely need to work on that.

3 year old playing with diggersreview of hatton adventure world

9. Falconry – I personally loved see all the birds, falcons, hawks and the owls, there were a multitude of different owls with funny faces. I found them quite mesmerising. Nate did not like the ones that were out of their cages. Unfortunately we had just missed the falconry show.

10. Park – there were several pieces of play equipment dotted around, from slides, swings and roundabouts, to this rather whimsical pretend cow that you could milk.

11. Sandpits (including one with diggers) – we had a little respite as Nate played in the big sandpit for about 20 minutes, and even made “new friends” which two girls around his age. The sandpits had buckets, spades and other paraphernalia to play with, and there was a sandpit with diggers in.

3 year old in sandpit

12. Tractor rides – the tractor rides were approximately every 30 minutes, and would have been fun, but there was simply too much to fit in, which is a lovely problem to have. They also had donkey rides, but since they cost extra, I am not listing it as one of the things I loved.

13. Selection of food – as I said before we go on days out very regularly and Hatton had, probably the best selection of food, especially for children, that I think I have ever seen at similar venues. The main food area is in with the soft play, which is perfect when you have an antsy toddler or 3 year old who takes two bites then wants to go and play, at least you can eat your lunch whilst watching them play, I loved that. Going back to the food, they had these little pots which are simply perfect for fussy toddlers, it had chunks of cheese, fruit, sausages etc each in a little pot, a wonderful selection. The cakes were amazing too, and delicious, the only downside was the price of the cakes were a bit expensive.

hatton adventure world foodhatton park food review

14. Condiments! – I am aware this is a strange thing to love, but really look at this selection of free condiments, in a world where your local KFC now charges you 10p a satchet of sauce, it is so nice to have not just sauces but milk and butter and all the little extras that you are normally charged for, included. It was a nice touch.

15. Shops – they actually have a whole shopping village, full of little boutiques that I love to wander around dreamily. Whilst my boys queued up for icecream, which incidentally took way too long (30 minutes!) and is something Hatton could look at (the icecream stand near to the peacocks). I was actually able to do a spot of shopping, I found a birthday present, and treated hubby and me to some special belgian chocolates, and little man chose something too.

16. Covered seating areas – living in Britain and our random weather patterns, it is great to have these covered seating areas, individual family booths they were, which, because it was so intensely hot that day, we really needed for some respite from the sun, perfect for random showers too.

17. Panning for gold – Nate loved this as he is a big fan of water play, and he would have stayed there longer and got himself completely soaked, if we didn’t want to take part in the pirates treasure hunt. Alas we are none the richer, but it was fun.

family panning for goldpanning for gold

18. Llamas (and other farm animals) – it’s not completely commonplace to see Llama’s though I definitely see them more than when I was growing up. They are funny looking and when they have their big hair, they kind of remind me of surfer dudes! These ones were shaved though, but still cute.

19. 1 day old piglets – I know I mentioned the farm animals already but the one day old piglets were so darn cute, they kinda needed their own number.

piglets at hatton farm parkchildren interacting with piglets

20. Soft (indoor) play – I already mentioned the slides but the indoor play area was more than just amazing slides. They had three sections, one for everyone (that included the slides), one for 4 and under and then a baby sensory zone. I do love it when they have special zones for younger children and babies, because older children do not always realise how rough they play. The younger areas were closer to the food, meaning parents could keep a special eye on the toddlers.

21. Laser combat – my little one was not old enough, as it is for 6 years and upwards, however, it looked a lot of fun, and we will definitely going back in a few years so that he can try this.

22. Beautiful scenery – Hatton is in the middle of a large farm so it is naturally beautiful, not cultivated or manicured just English countryside at its best.

hatton country world prices

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*This is a sponsored post, we were given free tickets in return for an honest review, all views are honest and are my own.

21

A Sea-life Adventure (#Competition)

We spent a fantastic afternoon at Weymouth Sea-Life Centre Adventure Park. This is no ordinary sea-life centre, it is like an under-water mini-theme park. Look at the map it is pretty interesting:

sea life centre map

I have to admit that I was very excited as I have never been to an aquarium before! Most of the park is outdoors (but they do have a rainy day policy), unlike most sea-life centres, it is more like a zoo, with zones spread around with a few indoor aquariums.

You can expect to see the following: penguins, seals, turtles, sharks, otters, stingrays, crabs, urchins, seahorses, jellyfish, octopuses, starfish. In fact you can even touch the star-fish, which I did, though Nate did not feel brave enough to do that. The starfish actually come from Weymouth.

hands on at aquariumstarfish in tank from weymouth beachsea urchin and toddler looking

There are 5 rides, a splash zone and a Lego zone, though look at the opening hours for each zone because some of them open late or close early, such as the lego zone, which closed at 4pm, and therefore we missed out, which Nate was very sad about as he loves Lego.

3 year old inside a lego shark

Ensure that you take a towel and a spare set of clothes so your child can enjoy the water play. Nate loved this, and we stayed there for about half an hour. There is a little pool with a water slide and sprinklers to run through. The water slide is small but fast, so keep an eye on younger children as they may go under the water and not be able to re-emerge by themselves. The water depth in that zone is about 2 feet. So if you have a 2 year old or younger you may want to take a towel and shorts for yourself so you can take them on the waterslide.

3 year old at splash zone

What I loved most about the day was watching my 3 year old boy’s eyes light up as he screamed with glee:  “look mummy it’s a seahorse” as he ran from tank to tank, pointing and exclaiming. There is nothing better for a mother then seeing an excited  and happy boy.

I particularly enjoyed the jellyfish as they were colourful and made me feel very calm:

The stingrays and shark were pretty exciting too, and in that zone it is a traditional aquarium tunnel with water all around you.

stingrays in weymouth sea life

I liked the little touch of the passport which children can get stamped in each zone, my 3 year old really enjoyed stamping his passport, especially because each stamp was in the shape of the creature in that zone.

I would have liked us to try the water ride but we ran out of time, it was a traditional log flume and looked fun, though you would definitely get very wet.

Useful Information:

  • Postcode: DT4 7SX. The location was perfect as we were able to spend the morning on the beach, then crossover the road to the sea-life centre where we spent the afternoon. I don’t think it would take up an entire day, 3 hours was enough to cover the majority of the attractions.
  • Price: This was the major let down for us, it was very expensive to buy tickets on the day. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves so we don’t completely begrudge the cost, but I thought it was definitely on the expensive side, for the three of us it cost £60 this was after we used a money off voucher. The gate price is £23.50 per person over the age of 3 years old, although if we had purchased it on the website in advance it would have been reduced to £16.50 each, which is definitely more reasonable. This price does include a ticket to the sea-life tower, which is valid for 14 days, and we visited on a different day. If you are lucky enough to have a Merlin pass this is one of the attractions you can visit for free.

Competition

I have three tickets available for one lucky winner, this will allow entry into the park once their new ‘Rainforest Experience’ attraction is open, so it is only valid between the following dates: 5th September – 11th October 2015.

Terms and Conditions of entry:

  1. You must be a UK resident to enter.
  2. You must enter using the Rafflecopter widget below and perform the task(s) correctly (for example, if you enter your email address to subscribe, ensure when you receive the confirmation email that you accept the subscription too), for each task completed you will gain more entries into the competition.
  3. You must enter a valid email address into Rafflecopter so that you can be contacted if you are a winner.
  4. This is not a sponsored post, the tickets are in the form of free entry flyers and will be provided by myself and sent directly to the winner.
  5. The tickets are only valid at the Weymouth Sea-life Adventure Park and only during the following time period: 5th September – 11th October 2015.
  6. The winner will be chosen at random by Rafflecopter after the closing date (7th September 2015), and the winner will be contacted via email and announced soon thereafter. If the winner does not respond within 7 days another winner shall be chosen. Check back to this page to see the winner, it will also be announced on my social media.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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*This is NOT a sponsored post, and all thoughts and opinions are my own.

27

A 3 Year-Old at Dorset’s Dragon (Durdle) Door

lulworth cove beach and map

Durdle Door on the Jurassic Coast in Dorset is one of the most splendid natural beauties in England. When I was researching where to go on our family holiday this year, a post from another blogger extolling the virtues of Dorset made me fall in love, and it was a photo of Durdle Door that swung it for me, how stunning is this:

Continue reading

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7 Things Women need to know about Airshows

spitfires flying duxford airfield

Last weekend I took my boys to the Duxford VE Day Anniversary Airshow because my husband is a huge plane enthusiast (to be clear he isn’t a huge guy enthusiastic about planes, neither is he particularly enthusiastic about huge planes, he just really really loves planes).

Reporter: How do you feel about having a huge gay fan base? Joey: Wow, I don’t even know any huge gay people! (Friends)

My husband had an absolute ball, my 3 year old was entralled, though we had to adjourn to the car for a little while, and I was happy because my boys were happy.

Things you need to know:

1. Bring ear defenders, even for older children

The Jet almost made MY ears bleed, poor little man was scared by the noise because I didn’t bring our good ear defenders (mummy fail!), I purchased a pair there, but they were cheap and didn’t really get the job done. The jet went from screaming at you to just shouting at you – still pretty scary. My air defenders sitting comfortably on the couch at home would have made the jet almost whisper.

toddler at an airshow display3 year old airshow display                                               Red ones – cheap. Blue ones – good.

2. There is a lot of standing around in awe at airshows, so bring something to sit on.

Most people brought picnic chairs (the fold-able, carry-in-a-bag-on-your-shoulder kind). Again we had three of those snoring away in the garage, doing none of us any good. If you have a good back (unlike me) a lot of people simply sat on a picnic blanket.

picnic deck chairs airshow image

3. Be prepared for a lot of numbers and letters to come flying at you:

Husband: Look that’s the 56038-x!!!

Me: erm… is that the pilot’s extension number?

Husband: Don’t be silly it’s clearly last year’s model because this one is the ‘Super-Juicer-Phantom-Crank’!

Me: Ok now you are just shouting appliances at me. (What a good idea though, maybe I should suggest this to the home and garden show organisers as their big finale, flying juicers and exploding toasters, now that would be cool).

AH64-A Apache Helicopter

4. Food is crazy expensive

Just like at airports and theme parks, they know you have no alternatives.

In the words of Jerry Seinfeld “Tuna is very rare here.”

That being said, some airshows actually have very good food vans, with a nice variety on offer that makes it worth a little splurge. At the Sywell airshow a couple of years ago they had some awesome food. Duxford had little choice in food vans, unless they were hidden somewhere, so we paid £20 for two hot dogs, chips and drinks – perfectly reasonable right?! Actually it tasted very nice, and I am not a big fan of picnic food so I was moderately happy. If you wish to save your pennies and/or you have more than one child who eats more than a mouthful of food, then you should bring your own picnic, most people did and there is a lot of green space.

5. Get there early

The actual air display was due to start at 2pm at Duxford, but we arrived around 12, which gave us plenty of time to walk the 7 miles from our car to the venue (yes I am exaggerating – slightly), case the joint, have some food, go aboard some actual Boeing airliners (Nate loved this), check out the souvenirs, go into the Imperial War Museum (IWM) etc. before the show actually started. If you arrive on time you will be walking with your head sky-ward, bumping into people, tripping over dogs for like 2 hours.

2015-05-23 13.06.26airliner boing toddler preschool flying3 year old airliner boing jetpilot cockpit airplane

6. Ticket prices

Yes it costs the same as going to Legoland or Alton Towers for the day. Okay, maybe not quite as much, but yes these shows are around the £30 mark, per person, which as a plane-not-so-much enthusiast I did a big gulp! I was so glad that under 5s were free, phew! If you want to see the planes fly but are not rolling in tenners then you could always park down a country lane outside of the venue and watch from your car – no joking there was a huge line of cars doing that very thing as we left!

7. Bring an in-flight pillow

To stop neck ache. Okay, so I didn’t really do that, but I did consider it, and then I realised, I don’t actually have to look up at the 57th black-phantom-menace-spit-flamer.

In all serious-ness we did have a great day, the hubby was on-air (yep pun) for days and the little man had a great time, he really does love any transport and particularly planes, so he was amazed by the quieter airplanes, the somersaults and the ones that blow spoke out of their a***. Hubby was particularly excited to go aboard the Concorde in the Imperial War Museum (free entry was included as part of the air-show ticket). If you have a plane-crazy husband like me, there are air-shows all over the country all through the year. I found this list of British Air-shows website particularly useful. It’s a good day out for all the family, they have lots of entertainment, bouncy castles, toilet facilities etc.

Have you been to an air-show? Please share some tips with me below.

*This is NOT a sponsored post.

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What to do during your Maternity Leave

My maternity leave was a couple of years ago now, although I still have fond memories of most of it, though I believe I have blocked out the first few months for sanity’s sake.

maternity leave calendar image

 

Everyone will obviously choose to do different things, I remember how shocked I was when I was talking to another mum at a surestart centre, and she said that this was the first time she had left the house. Her baby was almost 6 months old! I shouldn’t have been shocked though, because if someone wants to stay at home the whole time, that’s fine, if it is your choice, however, I do worry about the people who stay at home because they have nowhere to go, no friends or family nearby, or any ideas of where to take their baby.

I was and still am one of those mums who likes to get out of the house. I don’t think I spent a single whole day at home during my maternity leave, but that’s because I like being around people, I would have felt very lonely at home.

Since I was always out and about, I was always on the look out for ideas of places that were baby friendly in Milton Keynes and the surrounding areas, and particularly for activities that were aimed at babies or new/first time mums, and this is what I found.

Ideas for things to do/activities for your baby

Surestart Centres

I’m starting with surestart/children’s centres because these should be the easiest for you to get to, are free and varied. In Milton Keynes there are over 100 Surestart centres, they have one on most estates, meaning they should be walking distance for most, classes are usually free and you can go to any centre you want, you are not limited to just your local centre, although some popular classes only allow those in their catchment to attend.

When your baby is very young you will likely use your centre to get your baby weighed as most health visitors run a weekly weigh-in clinic, and are also available to answer your questions, of which I always had loads! Some centres will also run breastfeeding clinics, which is especially useful if you are struggling, as they can check that the baby is latching on properly or help with the positioning or technique.

Some of the classes they have include:

  • Baby massage (Nate loved this and we did it every week in the heated sensory room at Hedgerows)
  • Messy play
  • Stay and play
  • Toddler time (music and dancing)
  • Cooking classes

baby massage benefits

Cinebabies at Cineworld

I wrote a post about Cinebabies whilst I was on maternity leave, because I thought it was such a fantastic idea. If you have read my blog before you will probably have noticed that I love movies, and have continued to go to the cinema a few times a month ever since Nate was born. This was made easier by Cinebabies which is: one morning a week Cineworld show a movie that is a 12A Certificate or lower, aimed at adults, but won’t upset the babies, the sound is turned down, the lights turned up. You get to watch a movie, for you, while your baby sleeps in the car-seat next to you (well that’s what Nate did). Odeon appear to do the same thing, called Newbies.

baby in a car seat at the cinema movies

NCT classes

NCT run useful courses for parents throughout the year such as – early days with your baby, baby massage, baby yoga, introducing solid foods, baby first aid. Most of their courses will involve a cost, but I am sure some of them are well worth it. I did their ante-natal classes and would highly recommend them, if only so you can make friends with like-minded parents who will all have a baby the same age as yours. NCT Course finder.

Play Centres

If you only have one child, you may want to wait until your baby can crawl before you take them to a play centre, that way, assuming there is a baby or toddler zone, they will gain some use from it, although it is vastly better when they can walk. If they are still young, bring your stamina too because those places are a major work out for the parent who runs around with their toddler. I’m surprised, actually, that no celebrity has yet to come out with the ‘play centre’ work-out! We took our son to one of our local play centres called 360 Play when he was 7 months for the first time, and he loved it. They have recently improved their outdoor area so they can be useful in the summer too. Recently he has been to Safari near me in MK, The Riverside Hub in Northampton and Snakes and Ladders in Dunstable. Our favourite is probably the Riverside, shame it is too far away to go there regularly. The best thing about that one is all of the play area is along one long back wall, so no matter where you sit, you can almost always see where your child is, which is perfect for older toddlers/children who are more independent. Play centres are also ideal as they have food and drink, so it is nice to sit and have a hot chocolate whilst watching your little one run around.

Gymnastics Centres

We have three gymnastics centres in Milton Keynes, they all run play sessions at different times of the day for babies and toddler to come along and play on the equipment. Again we took Nate when he could crawl, and since they also provide toys, and sometimes a music session this worked well, but again once they can walk, they are off. Our centre in Kingston is particularly huge so you could easily be running from one end of the room to the other every few minutes – another good work-out. The down side with these is that the sessions are time-limited, there is nowhere comfortable for parents to sit and no food or drinks there for adults.

baby gym sessions milton keynesplay sessions for baby

Library sing a long sessions

Most libraries that have a children’s section run rhyme time sessions with young children. In Milton Keynes we have 9 libraries and most of them run: baby song and rhymetime for under 2s and storytime for the under 5s. They run at different times between Tuesday and Saturday and they are free.

David Lloyd/Virgin Active – Creche

I joined David Lloyd for their 3 month membership when Nate was about 2 months old. They have a creche, so it meant I could try to lose a little baby weight in the gym, swimming pool or exercise classes whilst Nate was being taken care of for a short while. It was a real luxury to have a tiny bit of me time during my maternity leave, and when I was having a particularly bad day, like this one, I just sat in the sauna and hot tub, then had a hot chocolate and relaxed for a short while, trying to re-coup my energy from a particularly bad night. Virgin active, also had a creche and were much more affordable.

Waterbabies/Turtles classes

When Nate was 6 months old we started doing Water babies classes, and even though they were expensive, and quite hard at first with crying babies during the class and trying to get a baby and yourself changed afterwards, which is really tricky. It was worth it to see the change over the 12 week course. Nate became happier in the water, and even being submerged, and learned how to hold onto the side. Another bonus was that he always had a mammoth nap straight after the class. Waterbabies were the most expensive, though they used the best pools for their classes, with the warmest temperatures. Turtles classes were more cost-effective but in pools that were cooler and with less nice changing facilities, with an older baby or toddler I am sure that would be less of an issue.

baby swimming lessons

Buggy in the Park/Buggy Fit

Local parks trusts tend to run sessions for new mums and lots of family event through the year. The Parks Trust in Milton Keynes runs Buggy in the Park sessions and fun events through the year such as the Outdoor Cinema, Proms in the Park, World Picnic, Bark in the Park, MK Play Association fun days and more.

Classes run by private companies such as Baby Signing, Musical Monkeys, Rag Dolly Anna’s and more are also available.

12

Big Bones and Stuffed Animals

We have been trying to go here for several weekends, and we finally made it there on Saturday, after a rather tricky and unlucky journey, but ultimately we had a good time.

It seemed like nothing was going our way – some days you just find that every traffic light is red and everything that can go wrong – does, well it was one of those days – BUT we did persevere and had an overall great day.

The things that went wrong:

  1. Nate was in a grumpy mood, pretty much all day.
  2. When we arrived at the train station our train was just pulling away.
  3. We had a 30 minute wait for the next train.
  4. The next train left from a different platform than we were told and we missed it.
  5. We got on the next train, which was wrong and went past Tring so we ended up in London.
  6. When we finally arrived at Tring station we had missed the bus, which only comes every 2 hours.
  7. We had to walk (with a toddler) 40 minutes into town, which took us 1 hour 5 minutes, due to little legs.

Now for the good stuff…

The Natural History Museum in Tring is free, it is pretty big (on 3 floors) and full of every kind of animal you could imagine. The downside is they don’t have any dinosaurs, although they did have the skeleton of a giant sloth from the Pleistocene period so I fibbed and told Nate it was a dinosaur!

dinosaur bones

It’s looks like a dinosaur doesn’t it? He didn’t care anyway, he was in awe of all of the animals. He kept pointing and opening his eyes in wonder, it was lovely to see. He did speed past the animals pretty quickly though, I would have liked to have looked at them more closely. For older children they have dinosaur coloring pages and activity sheets for them to take round the museum.

I have to say though that I was both amazed and disconcerted at the same time. Some of the animals are actually stuffed, which (although amazing to look at), makes me feel a bit sad, it feels somewhat morbid, but then I am also fascinated so I am very torn. The dogs particularly made me feel uncomfortable. However, seeing an actual Anaconda, a giant armadillo and a Komodo dragon, without having to trespass in their habitat etc. is pretty darn amazing and there are no other times or situations where you could see them, they are not exactly in a zoo.

real anaconda

giant armadillo dinosaur

I’m going to reveal a ditsy moment I had. I wandered into the second floor and came across this huge armadillo and I thought “Wow! I didn’t know armadillo’s were this big, how cool is that? Maybe I should go to Mexico”. Then I read the card that said it was a giant Armadillo from the ice-age! Oh well I left it too late.

A 5-10 minute walk from the Museum, on the high street, is a fantastic coffee bar called the “Espresso Lounge”, which was recommended by a friend, who said it was the best coffee and brownies in the world. I don’t drink coffee so I cannot vouch for that but the hot chocolate was pretty good and the brownie was actually delicious, I also really enjoyed a bacon sandwich on wholemeal bread that was pretty special.

coffee and sugarhot chocolate with marshmallowstoddler eating brownie

Interesting Facts

The museum was a private museum created by Lionel Walter Rothschild. He bred hybrids of Zebras and Horses called Zebroids and he would use them to pull his horse-drawn carriage, pretty strange. The museum has had some thefts recently of their birds and rhino horns, the thieves sold them on ebay. The Dodo is a replica, but some of the real (stuffed) animals have become extinct since Rothschild collected the specimens.

walter lionel rothschild zebroid

7

Free Family-Friendly Forest of Fairies

Why visit Rushmere Country Park? Fantastic views, fairies, free entry and freedom.

We had planned a day out to the Natural History Museum in Tring today, however, since it was Bank Holiday the trains were not running as normal so we decided to do something more local, and since it was a beautiful day we decided to go to the park. The last time I went to Rushmere Park I was actually pregnant with my little man, I told this to Nate and he said:

“I remember mummy, but I couldn’t see”!

Well what a difference 3 years makes, they have certainly invested in Rushmere in Leighton Buzzard (aka Stockgrove Park) and it is a major improvement and is definitely more family friendly.

It costs £2 for parking (on exit) and is a beautiful forest, with the most magnificent views, so is more than worth it.

beautiful views of milton keynes

It now has a children’s park and sandpit, Nate really enjoyed the digger.

toddler playing with digger

Plus, for the first time, he went into the park by himself and made some friends, they asked him what his name was and pointed at his Turtles T-shirt, then they all played “Turtles” and played with the digger together, it was so sweet to watch.

It has a visitors centre and a new Tree Tops Cafe, overlooking the beautiful views.

Throughout the forest they have added some special little features such as Fairy/Goblin doors in the trees. Nate enjoyed finding the doors throughout the forest and knocking to see if any Goblins were home.

toddler knocking on tree doors

A Giant’s chair, which Nate flat-out refused to sit on, hubby loved it though!

rushmere park

Nate really loves “going exploring” as he calls it, he ran around, picked up sticks, looked for animals and bugs. It is so lovely to watch Nate interact with nature, to enjoy the sunshine and say things like “Mummy look at the blue sky, its so pretty”. He loved playing hide and seek, but still thinks that if he closes his eyes, you cannot see him!

toddler hiding in the woods

I have to admit, I am not very good at impromptu/unplanned days out, I am Mrs Organised, but my husband is the opposite, he is very go with the flow, and sometimes I am really glad that I give in to it and just see where the day takes us. We all had the most lovely day out, it costed us far less then the two trips I had planned, it was right on our door-step, and it was nature at its very best. I hope that I can relax and allow some of my days to be as beautifully unplanned as this one.