0

Paddling Pool Fun

Having a couple of weekends, or at least a few days here or there of hot weather we decided to upgrade Nate’s paddling pool. For the last couple of years he has been content with the bog-standard/cheap paddling pool that also doubled as his ball-pit, which incidentally was his favourite toy up until about 16 months. Now that he is an older toddler (2.5 years), I thought a more fun/interactive pool would engage him more, and would last for a year or two, therefore I did some research to see what was out there. So here are my top picks for paddling pools based on different criteria:

1. Most expensive/splashing out (excuse the pun)/longer-lasting:  It actually looks too fun, like I might ‘accidentally’ spend a whole day playing on this myself! So if you have come into some money, or are eloping to a part of the world where it is sunny every day, what a perfect paddling pool/bouncy castle for your large garden!

giant bouncy castle

 

2. The cheapest: This is the standard 3-ring paddling pool that you can usually pick up from most places for less than £5. We bought ours from Asda, in store for about £3 last year.

three ring swimming

 

3. The one we almost bought: I liked the idea of the slide, especially when one reviewer said that she (the mum) would lay on the slide as it was great back-support! We almost bought this one from Tesco, but were disappointed by the fact that you cannot collect the same day with Tesco-Direct.

octopus swimming pool

 

4. The one for a baby/younger toddler: I like this one for babies because it has a sun-shade which is perfect for protecting a baby’s skin.

baby crab ball pit

5. The one we did buy:   This one just seemed perfect for my toddler who loves all things transport, and after a happy afternoon with him sliding in and out, running around, splashing and laughing I would say our money was well spent on this one. It did take some time to blow up without a pump, so don’t forget to purchase one of those too. There is also a useful enclosed section that would benefit from some balls, luckily we already had some. We now call it the hot tub (because it does look like a mini hot-tub), which when filled with much warmer water is perfect for mummy to sit in with legs dangling over the side. The upside of purchasing this one from Argos is that we could collect it the same day, so when we awoke on a Saturday morning to brilliant sunshine we popped straight over to Argos to buy it, and Nate was playing in it later that morning. It comes with the addition of pool toys and floats including: a hoopla game, a blow up car, stop-sign and traffic lights and you can attach your hose to it and sprinklers come out of the side. (The blue slide in the picture is ours and does not come with the paddling pool).

toddler sliding into poolhot tub splashing

2

Peppa Pig World – with a toddler!

On our last day of our Butlins (Bognor Regis) holiday, we decided that we would stop off at Peppa Pig World for the day, on our way home.

This was our first trip to a proper theme park with our 2.5 year old toddler, so we were uncertain as to what to expect.

Firstly, Peppa Pig World is a clean and pretty little part of a larger theme park called Paultons Family Theme Park. There are only about 8/9 Peppa Pig themed rides, however, I feel that is sufficient for a day of activity. Unfortunately we did not get to try all of the rides, because either the queues were too long, or Nate decided he didn’t want to go on them.

Parking was easy enough, but it was quite a trek from parking to the entrance (where you pay), fairly long queue’s to get in and then you have to walk through the whole of Paultons Park to get to Peppa Pig World, so if you have a young child, you may want to take a buggy or baby carrier. There is ample space for pushchairs to be left at every ride, so I am glad we decided to take it in. Please note that there are not baby changing facilities in Peppa Pig World, but there is one outside to the left, and it was pretty good and spacious.

peppa pig land paultons park

I felt the price was too high if you only intend to go to the Peppa pig section of the park (like we did), I think they should have a separate and lower price for Peppa Pig users only (although I understand how they are very unlikely to do this, financially). I am glad that Nate was under 100cm (just) and therefore didn’t have to pay the £27 full price ticket that each of myself and my husband had to pay. They do sometimes have special offers and is worth checking the website before you go, it is also cheaper if you book online.

Being completely honest, I think Nate was too young to really enjoy the park, or perhaps it is just his personality, but the idea of queuing for a 2 year old, is just not something he can comprehend. I am sure if we went with friends and their kids, he would have been more entertained, but he really did not like queuing and was not shy about letting us know it – several tantrums ensued. What further irritated him was that he was not allowed to stay on the ride for more than one go (which is obvious to us adults, but try explaining that to a 2 year old).

He went on Grandpa Pigs train ride, Daddy Pigs car ride, Grandpa pigs boat trip (shortest queue) and George’s Rocket – indoor play zone (no queuing required). He enjoyed all of them, and really wanted to try the helicopter ride, but the queues for that were 35 minutes long all day and I knew he would not stand through that. There was also a peppa pig playground that he enjoyed and a muddy puddles wet play at the back of that, but he was too tired by that point to try it.

toddler driving car

All in all, we enjoyed our day and may try taking him back again next year when he is more queue-friendly.

 

3

A Day out with Thomas (the tank engine)

Over the Easter weekend Buckinghamshire Railway Centre ran their ‘Day out with Thomas‘, which they do about 3 weekends a year. The last time they did this was in September so we have waited a long time for this. The cost was £41 for 2 adults and 1 child over the age of 2, so it wasn’t a cheap day out, but I have to say it was worth it to see the look on my son’s face when he saw Thomas for the first time! He loved it! The journey from Milton Keynes was not too bad, it took 50 minutes (it is near to Aylesbury).

We went on Bank Holiday Monday and arrived at 10:30am, exactly when it opened, which was a good time because there was no queuing for tickets and we didn’t have to queue to ride on the Thomas train (there was a long queue for the rest of the day). So the first thing we did, of course, was to ‘meet’ Thomas and ride on the Thomas train, which Nate loved! I was surprised by how very comfortable old steam trains are, I would love to try it on a longer journey. Be aware that the train ride is very short. The ride goes in one direction for 2 1/2 minutes, goes back and then repeats so the entire journey lasts for 10 minutes in total. It’s a shame that you don’t get to see much of the countryside, as the train turns back as soon as you start to see fields, but we all enjoyed it anyway, the steam and the chugging was all very authentic, plus how often do you get to ride on a real steam train?

toddler pointint to toby

After riding on the Thomas train, and spotting Toby on the way, we headed towards the miniature railway, and after about 10 minutes of queuing we had a ride, which we all enjoyed, perhaps even more than Thomas. This was because it was open air, it was a longer journey, it was pretty and was full of little characters all along the journey such as Winnie the Pooh, Noddy, Fireman Sam, Bob the Builder and more we also got to go through a tunnel. We stopped here for a picnic and and Nate watched the trains go round on the model railway.

buckinghamshire railway centre

There were various other activities going on through the day, there was an open top train ride, face painting, a balloon show, colouring activities, a mini cinema on board a train showing Thomas, meet the Fat Controller, some toy train sets to play with and more. There was a restaurant inside selling food, which we didn’t try because it was too busy, there was also a chip van and several picnic areas. We stayed until about 2pm, so there were enough activities for a half-day visit, probably not enough to keep you out all day. Nate was so tuckered out he fell asleep straight away and slept the whole journey home.

The next ‘Day out with Thomas’ is in early July and then again in early September. There is also a ‘Postman Pat’ day in May and a ‘Peppa Pig’ day in June.

0

Cheaper Cinema Trips

After reading a couple of blog posts recently about how expensive the cinema is, I was inspired to write a post about ways of keeping cinema costs down. If you go out with the whole family on a Saturday night to see the latest blockbuster you are likely to be spending £30 plus, and that is just for tickets, let alone snacks on top of that. However, if you are a little more selective on the days you go, the venue, the movies you choose, or simply make the effort to collect a few vouchers/print something off online, then you could get your cinema trips for free, or at a much lower cost.

So here are my top 10 tips:

1. Unlimited card – this is what me and the hubby do, because we are regular cinema go-ers. The unlimited card at Cineworld costs £15.90 outside of London but it is only really worthwhile if you go more than once per month. I love it for several reasons: not only do we go to the cinema without having to think about it, we get to see movies we might not otherwise try. If you don’t like the movie, you can just go out and get another ticket for a different one, so the risk is less. If you have the unlimited card for over a year you get upgraded to premium, which gets you the added benefit of being able to see 3D movies for free (you don’t have to pay extra) and 25% off all food and drink. You also get special advance screenings of movies on occasion. I absolutely LOVE the unlimited card, and have had it for about 5 years!

2. Movies for Juniors – at Cineworld they have movies for Juniors on saturday and sunday mornings. They screen fairly recent kids movies and it only costs £1 per person! This week my cinema showed “Monsters University” and “The Croods” (very funny). Vue call it KidsAM and it costs £1.75 per tickets.

3. 2 for 1 on Wednesdays – It used to be called “Orange Wednesdays” (which was a much better name, but who am I to judge) however it is exactly the same. If you are an EE mobile customer, text the word “film” to the phone number: 241. They will text back with a code that when you buy your ticket gets you another ticket for free. This also works with the unlimited card, so I often take a friend out on a Wednesday and neither of us have to pay anything. As a bonus you can also get a 2 for 1 on pizza’s and dough balls at pizza express using the same code that they send you for the cinema.

4. Cheap night – most cinema’s have special cheaper nights. At Cineworld and Odeon it is called Bargain Tuesdays, Vue call it Super Tuesday where you get about 1/3 off the price. Currently around £6 per ticket, although less if you book online (you save 10% when you book online).

5. Outdoor cinemas – in Milton Keynes every year the Parks Trust have an Open Air Cinema weekend event. It it completely free, is in our lovely campbell park and is my favourite annual event. I have seen them in London too, so I am sure other towns must do it too, have a look in your local papers or local parks trust websites.

6. Sky Movies customers – one of the Sky Rewards scheme is that if you are a sky movies customer you can get free cinema tickets to advance previews of films at the cinema. For example they were offering up to 4 free tickets to see “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2″.

7. Collect sweet wrappers e.g M&Ms for Sweety Sunday

8. If you are a student you can use your NUS card to get a big reduction in the price, and don’t forget to apply for an NUS extra card even if you are a part-time student, for example if you study with the Open University.

9. Moneysavingexpert is a fantastic website, that I have been using for years to save money. They have a thread, in their forums with a list of websites you can sign up to that have regular free screenings of the latest films, for example “The Book Thief” was free to see yesterday at cineworld.

10. Booking in advance, If you book your tickets online with Cineworld you save 10% off the ticket price. This is one of the quickest and easiest ways to save a little money off your tickets.

Finally, what are we doing this weekend? Going to see the Lego Movie of course!

the official lego movie

0

Review: Kingston MK Gymnastics Centre

I have been taking Nate to the MK Gymnastics Centre, at Kingston since before he could even crawl. Back then it was just to get out of the house and converse with other mums. For a long time I haven’t even been able to go because, annoyingly, the “Play Gym” is not open at weekends, which means (as a full-time working mum) we haven’t been able to take him. However, they were open over the Christmas break, so we decided to take advantage of being off work and take him there.

Play Gym

The gymnastics centre runs play gym sessions every day in the week, Monday to Friday, check out the timings and prices on their website. This session is where the majority of the centre has play equipment, suitable for babies to perhaps 5 years old. They have toys for young babies to play with and for older children: a bouncy castle, a mini climbing wall, a lovely playhouse, a ball pit, a giant metal airplane that moves (seen that in costco!), several different sizes of slides, see-saws and climbing equipment and then they have a lot of the gymnastics equipment to play on, including low trampolines, bars, balance beams, and several big pits full of foam for the kids to jump or somersault into (lots of fun). They have a changing room where you can leave your shoes and bags, and they provide biscuits and juice, with an area of tables and chairs to eat/drink them.

play gym aeroplane

There are two other play gyms in Milton Keynes that I know of: Arabian Gym in Bletchley and MK Springers in Kiln Farm. I have to say, having been to them all several times, I do prefer Kingston, it is much bigger with more choice, BUT, they are not open on the weekend for the play gym, therefore we are very restricted. The Arabian Gym is my next favourite, they run sessions on a Sunday morning which we have been to many times, they also do a song time at the end of the session with sticks, which Nate loves. Finally there is Kiln Farm, yes it is cheaper and closer to where we live, but they are pretty firm about their timings, you can’t just show up and it appears to be just a one hour session. There is a lot less non-gym equipment here too so Nate got bored quite quickly with Kiln Farm.

bletchley leisure centre

1

Frozen – Cinema Trip with 2 year old Toddler

On Christmas Eve we took Nate to see the new Disney movie – Frozen. Nate has just turned 2 so we thought we would try the cinema again. Last time he sat through 1 hour of the movie which I thought was good for his age.

This time though he actually watched the entire movie! It took a lot of food and shuffling between the seats but he made it and seemed to enjoy it. He really like the reindeer and “Olaf” the snowman.

funny Olaf

Olaf really did steal the show, especially with his hilarious “In summer” song!

I like the movie, mostly because the snowman was so funny, but I personally found the singing a little hard going. It’s been a while since I have seen a traditional Disney movie, the ones where they sing every 5 minutes. Don’t get me wrong, I love Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King etc but I am one of those weird people who doesn’t actually like Musicals! (I’m envisioning you all throwing rotten tomatoes at me right now!) I once spoke to an avid theatre go-er once and she said ahhhh you don’t like inappropriate singing, and I realised that is indeed what I don’t like. I love it when people sing in appropriate places like on a stage, at a karaoke, maybe even in the shower, but when they wake up, stretch their arms up and break out into song (like in Hairspray), or walk down the street singing at the top of their voices and spinning around lamp-posts I just cringe.

So yes, like many old Disney movies before this one, there is a lot of “inappropriate singing”. The Snowman helped me through though and I did enjoy it, as did Nate.

Am I the only person in the world who doesn’t like musicals?