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‘Park Life’ – re-discovering our local park (A guest post!)

The first guest post on the blog…so I will hand you over to Sarah, from One Mummy and her double buggy – a mum to two kids almost identical in age to Harrison and Alex!

‘Park Life – rediscovering our local park

So half-term is upon us and when you are Mum to 2 under 3s this presents a challenge.  All of your usual hang-outs are rammed and the other kids are much bigger so unless you don’t mind your babies getting trampled you need to find a new activity.  Whilst I am a massive fan of our local park, I must confess, with the weather the way it has been I have been avoiding it over recent months and favouring more inside activities.  Still with The Terrorists climbing the walls and a play date due with a good friend and her own Terrorist we decided it was time to re-find our ‘park life’!

My local park is Wandsworth Common.  It is a 5 minute walk (or 20 minutes if The Bear is walking!) so we packed up our things, bundled on our warm waterproofs and wellies and off we went.

First port of call were the paths around the edge where the Toddler Terrorists spent a fabulous 30 minutes re-discovering their love for their scooters (which have been much neglected over recent months).  As Bollie is still bum-shuffling we kept her entertained with The Bears’ ‘bucketful of dinosaurs’ (which absolutely had to come with us as Harry and the Bucketful of Dinosaurs is currently our top book)which she put in and out of the bucket and threw to passing dogs! 

 

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Next stop was the playground which was, oddly, quiet.  With a pair of waterproof trousers (the pair that Bollie is wearing are fleece lined and from Jo Jo Maman Bebe) Bollie gets to join in here and is thrilled with the swing and slide.  I have to say I sometimes forget how much young kids love the simple things (and how immune they are the cold and dirt)!

 

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We then take our buckets and spend the next 30 minutes collecting ‘treasures’ (i.e. any item on the floor which takes our fancy!).  This is an eclectic list including (a baby pine cone, some rotting leaves, a sticker which another child seems to have discarded and what looks like an eraser!  I have promised myself we will use these this weekend for an art project so they are now sat by my front door waiting for my moment of divine inspiration!

 We are starting to flag so we head to the ducks where we get rid of all of our stale pitta bread and ‘shoo shoo’ the mean goose who is big on stealing it all before the other ducks get a look in! 

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Final stop is the café for a baby chino and a brownie treat before we head home, playing hide and seek between the trees and jumping in every muddy puddle we can find (Peppa Pig has a lot to answer for!) on our way. 

 

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Suffice to say both Terrorists slept like the dead and I earned myself 2 quiet hours to do chores (mainly washing all of the muddy clothes we created!). 

 ‘Park’, I salute you, you’re free, you provide endless fun (or in our case about 3.5 hours) whatever the weather and I promise I won’t neglect to visit you for so long again!

 This blog was written by Sarah of onemummyandherdoublebuggy.com

 About Sarah

 

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Sarah is Mum to ‘The Bear’ (a hectic, and sometimes adorable, 2.5 year old boy) and ‘Bollie’ (a feisty, and sometimes gorgeous, 16 month old girl).

Living in South West London, and on the path to becoming a mumtrepreneur, Sarah is a typical Mum juggling work ( in her case the start up and running of 2 businesses Bouncy Jam (the sole UK distributor for Yumbox-UK.co.uk) and cheekyelephant.co.uk) with the demands of being “Mummy” to ‘The Terrorists’!

Sarah started blogging in Oct 2013 when she started out on her mumtrepreneur journey. It was her way of venting / sharing the ups and downs of her journey (and saving her husband ‘Long Suffering Husband’ (LSH) a few rants). If you wish to read this blog you will find it at entrepreneurmum.wordpress.com.
 
Finding the process of blogging oddly cathartic (and very addictive!) Sarah started OneMummyandherDoubleBuggy.com in response to several requests (via social media and good friends) for details of some of her favourite, kid friendly, places to go and things to do in and around London 

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Sea Life Centre Birmingham : a review

Today was the start of our ‘under the sea’ week, and to kick it off we went to the Birmingham Sea Life Centre, who had kindly put us on their guest list.
I’d been there years and years ago with friends and enjoyed it so was excited about taking the two little people there!

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It was incredibly busy when we got there at 11am. I’d forgotten that some schools don’t go back until tomorrow! We didn’t have to wait too long though.
The centre is connected by ramps and walkways, and if I’m honest they’re a little narrow, especially as there was lots of pushchairs, making it extremely hard to get past. It also meant Harrison and Alex were bumped into a lot by adults who don’t appear to watch they’re walking! We didn’t get very close to a lot of displays either. The windows to see things are quite high and in some parts there are a step for the kids to stand on but quite a lot didn’t, which meant we constantly had to pick the kids up so they could see.

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We enjoyed the interactive rockpool where you can touch and hold starfish and crabs. If you know me, you know I have a serious phobia of crabs, but I was really brave and managed to touch (albeit extremely quickly!) one. The lady who was looking after the area was really lovely and made me feel at ease and not at all stupid.
It’s a lovely place to walk through. There are areas that make you feel like you’re walking through rainforests, and areas that are very dark and atmospheric. The jellyfish (which were one of my favourite things – never realised how incredibly beautiful they are!) were bathed in neon lights making them look spectacular.

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I’m not sure Harrison felt entirely comfortable with the darkness but that’s an age thing. Alex loved it! We enjoyed the big tank of rays,especially Alex who kept waving at them and threw a wobbler when we left it!

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However, the absolute highlight of the visit was their famous 360 degree glass tunnel. It is amazing, watching huge rays and hammerhead sharks glide above you, watching tiny fish swim beneath your feet, but best of all seeing the truly incredible giant sea turtle swim past you.

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However, I do have a few moans. I remember the 4d cinema being fantastic, and was looking forward to visiting it. However the queuing area for it is in the same area as the otter feeding area so was chaotic and poorly organised. There were no staff to tell us how long it was to wait and no clear queue start/end point, with us and several families standing around feeling very confused. We eventually worked out that the next viewing was a 20 minute wait. The area is on a sort of balcony so is open, and was very cold. The centre is obviously very warm so we hadn’t got coats and was freezing, so had to leave the queue. By this point, all the other families waiting had also given up and moved on. I was really disappointed that we didn’t get that opportunity, but couldn’t stand in the freezing cold with two toddlers for that long. We also never got to see the otters either. A lot of the displays were either empty or covered with a sign saying they were being ‘spring cleaned’,
The centre has the obligatory gift shop, which was reasonably priced. We bought a lovely little pirate chest for our upcoming pirate week which was £3.50 and a shark grabber which was £3 so not horrendous!
All in all? Well, I think I would have been disappointed if we had paid the £30+ ticket price for me and Graham (kids under three are free). We enjoyed it but were only there just over an hour which I don’t think warrants the price. However, I think if you’d had older kids who could see into the tanks easily and were prepared to wait for a long time to see things and went when they’re not doing a big clean and building new exhibitions you would enjoy it.

Plan your visit on the Sea Life Centre website

*Disclosure: thank you to the Sea Life Centre who gave us two free adult tickets for the purpose of this review. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

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Jolly Mixture

Last year I was lucky enough to discover a fantastic playgroup. In my experience, many privately run playgroups (and government funded ones!) can be very cliquey and souless. Not this one!

Jolly Mixture is run by the lovely Emer who makes the group so much fun and something we return to week after week. It has become so popular that on top of the original group she now does an extra two.
There are two held on a Friday – one at 9.45am and the other straight after at 11.05am. These are at St Mary’s Church Hall, in Solihull. There is one held at Shelly Farm Community centre on a Tuesday at 10.30. We go to the second session usually on a Friday. It costs us £4 for Harrison and Alex (prices on the website!) which is great value for the amount of fun we all have!
There is unlimited tea, coffee, juice and biscuits included within the price.
There is usually a couple of craft tables where the kids can have a go at making something to take home. Today, at the Christmas special at Shelly Farm we made reindeer food and decorated cute little wooden ornaments for the tree with glitter paint.

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There are plenty of toys – role play toys, dressing up, cars, ride on toys, baby toys and soft play toys, and always books and puzzles to explore. Harrison and Alex always head straight for the crawling tunnel and ball tent! There are soft foam
Mats scattered around so it’s great for little babies – I took Alex when he was less than two weeks old!

After half an hour or so of free play and crafts, everyone sits in a circle
on the floor with singing and action songs. This is followed by parachute games and then every kids favourite – bubbles! It’s always finished with an energetic dance and sing along to the Hokey Cokey.

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After this, there is always a visit from either Jack the Pirate or Molly the Princess. My boys are a little unsure of Molly but love Jack and always run for high fives and hugs.

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There’s always such a lovely atmosphere at the group whether it’s a busy day or a quiet day. I’ve made some really good friends from there and I know the kids always have a great time.

Emer also does children’s parties with soft play, face paint, sand art, singing and dancing. I haven’t had one of these parties (yet!) but my friend had one for her sons 3rd birthday and said it was amazing!

If you’re a Brummie or Solihull mum, come along!

Visit the website here

And another review can be found here

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Coventry Transport Museum

Harrison and Alex are obsessed with vehicles. They love trains, diggers, bikes, cars, buses, tractors, trucks…anything with wheels! Could there be a more perfect day out than the Coventry Transport Museum? It’s a museum dedicated to British transport, as Coventry is renowned for being the transport capital of the Uk as it’s the birthplace of British cycling and motor industry.
It’s only about 30minutes in the car but the Coventry ring road is a nightmare to navigate and like all city centres, you need to take out a mortgage to afford the car parking. So, to make it a really special day out for two train mad boys, we gritted our teeth and used public transport!
We caught the train from Marston a green station and was pleasantly surprised – for the four of us it only cost £10 for a ticket which gave us unlimited trips on buses and trains in the West Midlands – much cheaper than taking the car!
The kids loved the train. I hate public transport having had to endure years of rush hour hell whilst at university, but I forget how much of a treat it is when you’re little.

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As we arrived at the museum I was amazed at the architecture. It’s a modern building that certainly stands out with a lovely big space out the front.
As always, we started our visit with a stop off at the coffee shop.
A lovely space with big windows to look out onto the town centre and a large variety of yummy drinks and cakes. We had honeycomb hot chocolates and orange hot chocolates which weren’t too badly priced.

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We then had a look at the first exhibition which was military vehicles. At this point I should tell you I have very little interest in vehicles and this visit was purely for the kids! Harrison loved the military tractor.

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Although the museum is free you do need to sign in and give them your postcode.
We then looked around all the various exhibits. Anyone with an interest in transport would be in seventh heaven! Understandably you can’t touch or climb on any if the vehicles especially as some are very old but there are plenty of places and opportunities for kids to get interactive.

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We loved the display of supercars!

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It took us about an hour to look round but with older kids I’d definitely say you would need a couple of hours for a visit.

At the end there is the obligatory gift shop which had loads of lovely items
In as well as the usual offerings of pencils, rubbers and key rings.

It’s a fab and free day out for the kids!

Visit the museums website here

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Hatton Country World & Adventure Farm

We were sent some family tickets to visit the adventure farm at Hatton Country World, with passes to see Santa. With only two weekends left until Christmas, and presents still to buy, we thought we better get going yesterday!
It was a cold but lovely sunny day so we wrapped the kids up and jumped in the car. It’s about 15 miles down some lovely roads to Hatton from where we live, so didn’t take us too long. When we got there just before 12pm, the car park (free parking, always a bonus!) was already filling up. We had a quick wander through the shopping village, which hasn’t changed much since I last went when I was a little girl – lovely little shops selling candles and soaps, garden ornaments, homewares, pretty furniture, toys and more.

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There was a small queue to get into the farm but it moved fairly quickly. To pay for our tickets would have cost us nearly £30 (and that’s with Alex being free as he’s under 2!) so not the cheapest day out.
The farm though, to be fair, is huge. Including a half hour stop for lunch it took us a good 4 hours to go round.
The first thing we did was visit the JCB track, a child sized ‘road mat’ with ramps, cones and tunnels with ride on JCB diggers. Having two digger mad boys, this was a great start to our day! There were plenty of toys to ride on even though it was busy – a nice surprise!

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When we finally dragged them away we saw the goats and pigs, which we had fun feeding. You can buy a cup of animal feed for 50p from the kiosk as you walk in.

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We then wandered down to look at the birds before coming to an attraction where you could pan for gold. Sounds fantastic but it was deserted and the water looked filthy, so we quickly moved on! Next to this was another attraction which looked to be some sort of duck race but again was deserted and looked like it had seen better days!

The leaflets and website advertises ‘festive fun fair rides’ but to be honest these were really disappointing. Three tiny little rides – a spinning teacup ride, a ladybird ride and flying caterpillars – not festive in the slightest. Not only that, the one wasn’t working. Still, the kids had fun.

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We then played on the climbing frame, had a bounce on the trampolines and played on the tractors. We especially loved the digger sandpit, which considering it’s a farm and the time of year was spotless and lovely. The kids really enjoyed using the buckets and spades and climbing on the equipment!

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We them went to my favourite bit – the animals! There was a lovely variety of animals including donkeys (in a nativity scene!) sheep, goats, pigs, alpacas, rabbits which were all really friendly and tame enough for the kids to stroke. Plenty of places to wash hands and lots of signs to remind you as well. We loves the guinea pig petting area. Harrison loved holding them!

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By this point it was almost 2pm and we were hungry! After a quick loo stop and nappy change (toilets ok but definitely room for improvement!) we went to the restaurant attached to the soft play centre – and immediately walked back out ! Absolutely full to the ceiling, noisy and no where to sit. We left the farm area (wristbands allow you to go in and out) and went to another restaurant/coffee shop which although lovely wasn’t really toddler-friendly. Limited food choices – cakes, soup, panini and one or two meal options and that was it. It cost us almost £18 for a bottle of pop, hot chocolate, a pot of tea, a scone and some fish and chips, which were all very nice.

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Then we paid a visit to Santa. Sadly at this point my phone went flat so I couldn’t take photos! We walked through the elves workshop and winter wonderland which was really magical and enchanting. There are little tables for kids to write letters to Santa. The queue was quite long but moved fairly quickly, but it was a lovely wait surrounded by trees, lights, penguins and polar bears!
When we got in to Santa the kids went a little shy (nothing unusual for toddlers!) and didn’t really speak. I have to admit, ‘Santa’ really annoyed me as he said that Harrison ‘should be speaking at his age’ – he’s 2, and quite rightly is weary of strangers. Was not impressed! The kids were given keys to choose a present from the toy shop, which was huge and had a massive choice of gifts suitable for
all ages, and we’re pretty decent gifts. Harrison chose a hairdressing play dough set and we chose some animal foam stickers for Alex.

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After coming out we fussed and stroked the reindeer and then decided it was time to head home as it was nearly 4pm. We hadn’t had chance to visit the kids disco or magic shows. It was starting to get dark and with the fairy lights around and the Christmas music playing through the speakers it was really pretty and festive. As we walked back towards the car we had our complimentary mince pie and delicious mulled fruit punch whilst listening to a kids choir singing Christmas songs.

We had a really lovely day out as a family but would we pay almost £30 to go again? Probably not. Parts of it are very tired and need some TLC to make it worth the entry cost.

For more information visit their website
Hatton Country World

*Disclosure
Thanks to Hatton Country World for the family tickets which we received free of charge for the purpose of this review. All opinions expressed are my own.