Week 16 Photo 2016 – Play House

wooden playhouse

This has been happening this week!

When I returned from my Dad’s house last weekend after visiting for a week or so, THIS was in our back garden!

My OH had knocked this up in a couple of days!

To say the kids were ecstatic would be an understatement! They’ve wanted a climbing frame/playhouse for ages and even though they’ve got a plastic playhouse, it’s a bit babyish for them now. We have a trampoline and other garden toys but climbing frames are so expensive for the lovely wooden ones, and usually quite small…. so as my kids are getting a bit older now, it hasn’t seemed worth it.

I am over the moon with this…. I think it’s amazing and I’m very proud of the OH for building it and surprising us (he’s rubbish at keeping surprises usually!). It even has a little balcony on the first floor! It’s not finished…. it’s really just the beginning. The top section will be enclosed and insulated :) Then we will add to it as we go along. Our garden is quite big so we have the room to be as creative as we want. The kids have put in a request for a bridge, climbing wall and a slide!

You can see my little H on the top there, giving you an idea of the scale… and his twin is underneath, just about visible in this shot!

My children absolutely love playing in the garden, they spend most of their time there for at least one half of the year so they will get so much pleasure from this! We’ve already had the neighbours’ kids round to climb on it and I’m sure there’ll be plenty more…. I can’t wait to see how it evolves over the coming months!

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Eureka! Childrens Museum – A Review

Last week during the holidays, I decided to take the children along to Eureka! in Halifax, Yorkshire. It’s a museum just for kids and even though I’ve been once before with Teen when he was small, I haven’t been for many years. I always mean to go whenever I’m up North because from what I remember, it was a great place, but so far I have never returned.

My three youngest kids are at a perfect age to appreciate it too now. Eureka! The National Childrens Museum is the only fully interactive museum aimed solely for kids aged 0-11. It prides itself on having ‘nothing behind glass cabinets’ and ‘works hard to provide the answers to questions that kids ask’.

With over 400 hands-on exhibits which will inspire and help children understand themselves and the world around them… it certainly sounds like a fun, yet educational day out!

On arrival at Eureka! the children made a beeline for the little, unusual animal area where at various intervals throughout the day, you can hold one of them. Creatures like spiders, snakes, tortoise and others are on offer!

eureka

eureka tarantulaMy daughter held a Tarantula and a Rat!

The museum is split up into various areas to explore. Each one as interesting as the next. Lots of experiments to do within each area which intrigued young inquisitive minds.

What I  liked about it was that children could mooch around at their own pace, jumping from one thing to the next. There are so many things to do that if one station is busy, there’s always another one to try. Children were positively encouraged to touch and play around with everything! What’s not to love about that? Even the adults just HAVE to try everything out, you literally can’t help yourself!

The sound and space area was fascinating.

Can you see sound?

eurekaOr feel sound?

The kids had to push/pull the giant spring to show how a sound wave travels through air. They could also feel the sound by putting their hands on the giant speaker! Because the activities are aimed at children they were easy to carry out and more importantly, lots of FUN!

My daughter loved adding all the overlays to her face on this camera experiment…

An area of Eureka! that I thought was brilliant was the Home and Work section. An interactive house that showed children all the behind the scenes mechanics of how a house works…

A clear bath, shower and toilet showed how they worked!

Flushing was great fun!

The twins enjoyed sorting out these soft cubes to make a bed beneath what looked liked a bed from the story Princess and the Pea!

This model of a house (below) asks children to turn off electricity in the home that will save money and help the environment. There are tiny little light bulbs that shows them which items actually use the power to make them work!

Other rooms such as the kitchen and lounge provided more interactive fun, especially for younger children. There was dressing up, role play and water experiments to try if they wanted!

My twins absolutely loved the Garage! I couldn’t get them out of here. It was a place of work.. a petrol station, car wash, garage and tyre shop. The children could carry out all kinds of tasks.

eureka

eureka

Then there was a cut out in the (fake) road to show children what kinds of things happen under our feet. All the pipes that you don’t usually see that carry gas, water and whatever else into our homes.

The details are astounding. Exact replicas of the real thing, installed by the actual people that would work on this type of thing in the real world. What I loved though was the excavation game that children could follow if they wanted to… whereby they had to find artifacts in the walls of this dug out section from different era’s from the past. It was brilliant. At different levels in the earth there were pieces from the Victorian era right back to the Roman times!

Under the ground!

At Eureka!, children can do as little or as much as they like. There are no set tours or certain directions you have to walk round in. You can spend the day wandering wherever you like. It’s actually very relaxed in that way.  I also liked the fact that the information by each of the experiment/activity stations was short and to the point. The letters were large and worded specifically for children to understand easily and quickly. I thought this was very important because kids don’t want to spend their time reading when there’s so much else to do!

Next stop was the Post Office! As you can see there is an M&S next door where you can be a shopkeeper or buy (pretend) food! The Post Office provided lots of fun as the kids sorted parcels into pigeon holes, then into the bays ready for delivering to the various addresses in this section.. e.g the garage, the home, the shop etc… Genius!

We headed to the bank….

My daughter in the vault with all the gold!

Working the CCTV :)

A chair filled with £1 million in five pound notes!

Our favourite section I think was the ‘All About Me’ one. I cannot express how much there is to see and do. I think we were lucky on the day we visited because some schools had gone back after the holidays so it probably wasn’t anywhere near as busy as it could’ve been. This meant my children didn’t have to wait to do anything. The website states that the museum is busiest when the weather is bad and in the mornings. So an afternoon visit when the sun is shining is recommended :) There’s also a large sandpit and sensory garden outside which you can make the most of too when the weather is nice.

There were activities to check how tall you are, how wide is your arm span, how far you can jump among other things. There are special screens where you can see what you’ll look like when you’re old and even how you got your eye colour!

My twins were fascinated by this cabinet filled with models of all our body organs (which incidentally was the only closed glass cabinet in the whole place!) . They’ve never seen anything like this before and enjoyed finding out what everything did.

Teeth!

This (fake) body scanner was brilliant. It x-rayed your body then a photo came up on the screen. My daughter realised it wasn’t real because the person on the x-ray had their arms down, while hers were on her hips! Ha! But my twins really thought it was their body which was very cute!

The thermal image camera provided lots of fun!

Learning all about digestion!

The model above was my kids’ favourite and one they giggled at a lot! There’s a ‘poo’ at the end of the intestines that looks as though it’s just about to go into the toilet.. apparently hilarious! This whole section was amazing though because it taught the kids so much and of course it’s much more fun learning this way than at home with a book. No stone was left un-turned, there were even tables that children could sit at and sort food into different categories, learning as they go about which foods are healthiest.

O finding out which part of the brain does what!

H with a nose. Complete with hair and if you looked up inside it, a bogey! Of course, lots of giggles about this too!

Eureka! is incredibly spacious. Not at all stuffy like many museums.

The Global Garden is a wonderful area that teaches children about the different outside living conditions in the world, as well as closer to home conditions in our own back gardens!

Learning about Global Warming from a Polar Bear with a cute little animated film

So many touchy feely things!

eurakaCan you get water in the Desert?

We visited most parts of the Museum but there was still more to see. There’s a number of areas just for the under 5’s which are closed off. This is a great idea and means that the very young visitors can play without being bulldozed by older kids! It also gives parents a little respite as there’s always somewhere to sit :)

There are plenty of areas to eat if you bring packed lunch. They do get very busy but they have overflow areas too. The cafe has a good menu and was reasonably priced. We ate in here, although it WAS very busy and the queue was long but it did move quickly.

Eureka! is a truly awesome place. It has won numerous awards and I can see why. My children loved it.

We had an amazing time and can’t recommend the place highly enough.

Disclaimer: We were given some complimentary tickets to Eureka! in exchange for an honest review. All words, photo’s and opinions are my own and completely honest.

Week 15 Photo 2016 – Blackpool 

Blackpool at high tide sea

I love this photo. It was taken in Blackpool this week after a fantastic day in the Blackpool Tower.

The sun came out late in the day and we spent an hour or so down on the seafront here before we went home.

The tide was high and at this particular spot the beach had literally disappeared.. all that was visible were these steps going down to the sea where the children played. The steps are part of a regeneration project that’s taken place at this part of the seafront and I think it looks great.

We’ve had a fantastic little break over the school holidays at my Dad’s. I’m driving home today, back to Hertfordshire ready for the kids going back to school on Tuesday.

Hope you’ve all had a great week x

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Robinson Crusoe – A Review

Robinson Crusoe movie

Last Sunday we headed into Leicester Square to watch a special preview of soon to be released kids movie Robinson Crusoe!

Normally I hear of films that are coming out, my children love a good animated feature film, but I didn’t hear of this as I don’t think it had been advertised yet!

It looked great thought when I checked it out online and we couldn’t wait to see it. I took my three kiddo’s along with my daughters’ friend who was incredibly excited!  She knows that we’ve been to a number of previews and premieres in the past so she was absolutely thrilled to be coming along with us this time… believe it or not, the two girls ARE in the same year at school!

We jumped on the train early so we could arrive in plenty of time to make the most of the fun in the foyer! It’s great that these events really do cater for kids well… it makes the occasion of being at the cinema feel special, and builds the excitement for the film itself.

In the foyer were all sorts of activities including face painting, balloon swords (or whatever you liked), arts and crafts.. as well as a real life parrot to see!

robinson crusoe

robinson crusoe movie

robinson crusoe movie

My twins modelling some of the funny masks of the characters of the movie…

robinson crusoe movie

There were a few celebrities in the foyer too who were there to see the film. I didn’t want to look like a groupie by asking for pics but suddenly my daughter’s friend went crazy when she spotted Linda Robson! She’s a huge fan of Birds of a Feather and was beside herself… completely starstruck! Of course I had to do the right thing and ask Linda Robson if she minded me taking a photo….. she was absolutely lovely and was more than willing…..

robinson crusoe linda robson

It really did make my daughter’s friends day! She was thrilled to bits! And doesn’t Linda Robson look amazing?

After some refreshments it was time to take our seats! The film was in 3D so we donned our glasses and settled down to watch!

The Verdict:

The first thing I just have to say about this film is…. the animation! I was literally blown away by it. I know animated films are brilliant these days, but this one…. well it was on another level. The sea looked REAL. I mean, it looked incredibly, amazingly real… to the point of me wanting to actually dive into it!

I’m sure most adults have heard of the Robinson Crusoe story (did you know the original story was written in 1719? I had no idea it was THAT old!) so you could probably guess that the film relates to a shipwreck and a Desert Island somewhere! And you’d be right. This one though has a parrot as one of the main characters… his name is Tuesday and he wants to know more about the world after only ever living on the Island where no humans had ever been. Cue Robinson Crusoe who finds himself shipwrecked on the Island and the two become friends… along with Tuesdays’ other adorable, quirky animal friends! But Robinson wasn’t the only one who survived…. two nasty, evil cats also managed to save themselves and soon they causing absolute havoc! Of course there’s the odd pirate too…

robinson crusoe review

robinson crusoe review

We loved this film! Crusoe is a gangly figure who is very awkward at first as he struggles to work out how to survive on the Island. But he’s ever so loveable and it’s wonderful to watch the friendship forming between him and the animals, especially Tuesday. The Cats are deliciously menacing. There’s lots of laugh out loud moments as you’d expect in a kids film. It also picks up a very fast pace as it drives towards the finish!

The music is great, there’s lots of stunning scenery and if you’re longing for a beach holiday somewhere beautiful this year (as I am) then this will just intensify that feeling!

Take a look at the trailer…

If you can’t wait for the film to be released… check out the new cutting edge Robsinson Crusoe website which offers a unique and interactive 360º experience immersing you in this colourful world, as you meet the characters, discover the island’s secrets, and interact with your environment. You can download character wallpapers, Facebook cover photos and colouring sheets, and head to the Apple or Android app store to get an exciting game that puts you in Robinson’s shoes as you build a home and negotiate survival in an exotic island paradise.

Robinson Crusoe is an absolute must see and opens in cinemas across the UK on 6th May 2016.

Week 14 Photo 2016 – Easter Holidays


I’ve been here at my Dad’s this week. I drove up here on Wednesday, which was a nightmare as there was an accident on the M6 and the huge build up traffic (including us) was shunted off the motorway by the Police! That’s the first time in all the squillions of times I’ve driven up here, I’ve ever been forced off the motorway and it’s a little worrying when you have no clue where you are! Thank goodness for google maps that’s all I can say!

So it’s our first week of the ‘Easter’ holidays…. although Easter seems like a distant memory now, and we’re having a nice relaxing time!

This is how my kids are spending their mornings here in Lancashire. Playing on their devices! I must admit I don’t mind them doing this now because they’ve been on a bit of a tablet ban recently. I decided to hide them for a couple of weeks because I was sick of seeing my children consumed by them. Completely and utterly absorbed and not wanting to do anything else. To be honest, after the initial couple of days without them, the boys didn’t ask for them. I did allow my daughter her iPad at varying intervals so she could keep in touch with her friends etc but the boys can be over obsessive, not even coming up for food (or the toilet) when they’re on theirs. I think it did them the world of good to be without them for a while. It was nice to see them finding other things to do… and just ‘playing’.

But being as we’re here I’ve given them back (for limited periods only) for a treat and I’m allowing them to be immersed!

We’ve been out and about a little around Lancashire though, enjoying the Spring weather that’s trying to present itself. I do absolutely love the countryside here, the huge rolling hills are beautiful and we plan to see more of them next week.

Hope you’ve had a great week and enjoyed the holidays x

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Regional swimming qualifier once again!

swimming competition

I have mentioned once or twice here on the blog about Teen’s swimming achievements.

How he became a National Swimmer and was a member of the England Talent Squad.

That was when he was 13 though.

At 14 he was forced to quit due to an elbow injury causing him a lot of pain. He took up running then rugby, both of which he excelled in but due to two broken wrists in one year of playing rugby (he never does anything by halves) I pulled him off the team. I didn’t want to see something worse happen to him. Running fell by the wayside and last year he had a bit of a sporting break, to concentrate on his GCSE’s but decided to go back to his beloved swimming when they finished last Summer.

He joined a different club. Smaller than his previous one and a club which allowed him to practically come and go as he pleased. He wasn’t planning to make any sort of come back, he just wanted to swim again for fun, fitness and to maybe do the odd competition.

A few months after going back, the club were doing a league gala and they asked him to take part. This is where the kids compete against other clubs, as a team. He’s done many of these in the past and they ARE lots of fun.. so he agreed. But when the day of the gala came around he wasn’t so sure. He said he didn’t feel ‘fit’ enough.

I believe he was worried about not living up to expectations.

Not that anyone expected anything at all. His club knew he hardly trained these days so they were in no way expecting him to pull out an Olympic qualifying time! They just wanted him to be part of the gala for his own enjoyment, but also because they needed him. They didn’t have many swimmers in his age group. He would be swimming in the ‘open’ age group category for the first time, because he was 16 now. This would be tough.

Of course, he didn’t want to let the team down, so off we went to the Gala.

It felt strange in a way for ME, because when he gave up swimming, I didn’t expect him to go back. I hoped he would. He did miss it. I missed it. But as time passed, I didn’t for one minute expect to be taking him to a competition again. It felt surreal to be poolside… the hot, bustling, manic atmosphere of a league event. It was like I’d never been away! It felt almost… comforting in a weird way.

Teen was down to do the relays of course but the main event for him was the 100m Breaststroke. This was HIS race. But he was nervous. Excited, but worried too.

Teen stepped up on the blocks and looked around at his competitors. So did I. They looked huge. Like MEN. Like proper adult swimmers! Here was Teen, although tall, just a BOY in this category. I was worried. I didn’t care what the outcome was in the race, but I had my fingers crossed that he didn’t finish last. That would really knock Teen’s confidence.

But then something unbelievable happened.

Teen dived in and swam brilliantly. We needn’t have worried because he won – by miles! It was almost funny the way he looked around in disbelief that he was the only one at the finish!

Everyone from our club was going crazy and one Mum turned around to me and summed it up with her comment…. “He’s still got it!”

Yes!

Yes he has!

Bless him! How on earth did he just do that? I guess it’s just the skill of the stroke… something that’s always going to be with him now.

He pulled out a great time too… considering he hardly trains. It really was a special moment and I was so pleased for him!

It was the spark that reignited his passion.

Since that night (last October) Teen has astounded everyone by managing to not only compete at Counties, but to qualify for the Regional Championships next month in TWO races! Because even though his love for the sport has returned…. he still only trains now and then which makes it even more incredible. Imagine what he could achieve if he DID train fully?!

I’m ever so proud of him. He still only wants to swim for ‘fun’ and doesn’t want to put any pressure on himself, but it’s amazing that he’s managed to achieve these two qualifying times and it’s reignited his passion for the sport.

It reminded him how much he still loves it and proved to him that he’s actually still very good at it!

(The photo above is from a recent gala, not the one I mention in this post!)

My First Ballet – Sleeping Beauty

My First Ballet Sleeping Beauty

Last week I took my daughter to see the English National Ballet’s production of Sleeping Beauty.

This wasn’t just any ballet though, it was My First Ballet… created especially for children!

Adapted to an hour in length and with a narrator to help young audiences follow the story, it’s the perfect way to introduce children as young as three to the magic of ballet.

I took my daughter to see The Nutcracker at Christmas time 2014, and although she loved it, it WAS rather long and there were parts when her interest waned. That’s why I think the My First Ballet production is perfect!

When we arrived at The Peacock Theatre in London, the first thing that I noticed was the amount of children! The auditorium was packed, a sell out, and the majority of it were kids! This immediately puts you at ease as a parent…. lots of children means you’re not panicking about your own child making too much noise, or fidgeting in their seats, as kids often do! Not that I worried about that with my own daughter, she’s 10 and can pretty much sit quietly if she needs to. But she did want to talk to me the odd time throughout the ballet, even if it was just say “Wow Mummy look at her!”

The Story: Sleeping Beauty My First Ballet tells the story of Princess Aurora, who as a baby is cursed by the evil Carabosse: on her 16th birthday, she will prick her finger on a spinning wheel and die. Fortunately, her godmother the Lilac Fairy alters the spell so Aurora will not die but will sleep for 100 years, only to be awoken by true love’s kiss.

As soon as the ballet started we were totally drawn in. Everything was completely beautiful. The narrator made it incredibly easy to follow and the story moved along at a good pace. The Narrator also blended seamlessly into the production and she was invaluable to the audience of mainly children… who knew exactly what was happening at all times because of her. There was also help to understand in the way of drama… the dancers used more gestures and expressions to portray what was going on and how they felt.

Another thing my daughter and I both loved was the fact that throughout the ballet, most of the girls wore actual tutu’s! I think children want to see tutu’s or ‘real ballet dresses’ as my daughter would say, as that’s what they expect the dancers to be wearing! It also makes for great viewing of the dancers legs and feet!

My first ballet sleeping beauty

All the dancers, I noticed, looked young. But that’s because they are! The My First Ballet productions are performed by second year students of English National Ballet School. This provides them with valuable rehearsal and performance experience within a touring company. It forms part of the high quality training the English National Ballet School has sought to provide to talented young dancers. This is a great idea because even though the dancers are truly brilliant, I believe it was easier for the little people in the audience to connect with them.

my first ballet

We loved the girl who played Aurora. She was rather small and looked like a normal teenage girl. Again I think this was a perfect way to engage youngsters…. the girls in the audience could envisage being her!

The set was stunning and the ballet kept us enthralled from start to finish. My daughter absolutely loved it and having given up ballet a couple of years ago now, mentioned returning. It left her feeling inspired!

My First Ballet is a great introduction to the world of ballet on stage to children. Girls and boys alike will be mesmerised by this beautiful experience.

Sleeping beauty is touring until July. To find your nearest theatre and book tickets, visit the English National Ballet’s website.

my first ballet