“How old is your son, riding his bike?”

I’ve decided to write this post, as many people have stopped us in the street to talk about it, so perhaps you would like to hear about it too. 

Those of you who have read previous posts of mine will know that my 3 year old, Harley, is an outdoors boy. A stereotype, get your hands dirty, kick a football, type boy.  There are two things that I wanted to make sure he could do: Learn to swim and ride a bike. Well, he started swimming lessons this week, and the latter, he mastered when he was just 2 years old. 

To us as his parents, Harley never felt like a baby for long. I know it’s a cliche but he grew up far too quickly. Mine was the baby who was off on the move with me chasing after,  while others had their babies lying beautifully on the changing mat. 

At 10 months old, Harley could walk. His little legs seemed far too tiny to be able to carry his chubby body around. This is such a special photo. His first steps caught on camera:
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For his first birthday, my lovely friend Emma bought Harley a yellow ‘Scuttlebug’. A fantastic small trike which collapses and folds up, very handy for putting in the bottom of the buggy or in the car. He absolutely loved it. 
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His ‘Aunty’ Becky then brought him a trike which grew as he grew. The trike could convert to three different stages, from being pushed by me, to removing the sides as he got bigger. And herein lies the start of his obsession with riding a bike! 
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Before he was 2, he was riding a scooter with ease, even pushing his back foot down on the brake. We had no intention whatsoever of starting Harley on a bike so young, but we were led by him. 

We were down the park one day when, on a total whim, we popped into the bike shop over the road and bought a Balance Bike. We decided to opt for a metal framed bike with proper rubber tyres as opposed to a wooden framed Balance Bike. Again, Harley loved it. We started him on the small grass bank at the park. He wobbled his way down it and promptly fell off at the bottom! But he was straight up and back on it. Everyday he would ask to go on his bike. He would push off and lift his feet up and giggle every time he was on it. 
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However, he got more and more confident on his balance bike to the extent where I was actually on edge watching him because he would go so fast. He was fearless. So this was when we decided that a proper bike might actually slow him down a bit. 

We had an old Noddy bike in the garage so he had a go on that. We went down the local park again and tried him out on the path. Luke pushed him to get him started and he was off. I should mention that we never put stabilisers on his bike as he had done so well on the balance bike. We didn’t want him to become dependent on them. When we  came home from the park we videoed him. This is the very first video of him trying out a proper bike:

His little legs needed much more strength to keep the peddling going but he has his daddy’s determination to succeed and he just kept trying. Each time we went to the park with his bike he would tell us how far he would try to peddle. So he would try to make it to the tree, a little bit further to the bin, and further again to the gate etc. Again this was completely led by him and we went along with it.


I never imagined he would be riding a bike, unaided, at the age of 2. The number of people who would stop and watch, would make us laugh. His little head hardly fitted in his cycle helmet. He looked so out of proportion. 

As his third birthday approached, we decided to look at getting him a shiny new bike. A couple of shops looked at us like we were mad for asking for their smallest boys bike. Looking Harley up and down and saying they had nothing for someone so small. I felt quite put out. I wanted to prove to them that he could ride a bike and we weren’t completely mad parents. We took him into Halfords were they had a lovely range. He picked out a red fireman bike. Of course he picked out this one: it had an annoyingly loud siren and megaphone attached to it! It was detachable though, so all ok for us!! It was a 12″ bike and fitted him, just, with the seat at its lowest. He loved the little box on the back of the bike for him to keep bits and bobs in it. (He is currently carrying around a plastic water pistol, a whistle, and a Hot Wheels car in it!) Click here, for the link.
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My mum gave him the bike for his 3rd birthday. It was and still is, his pride and joy. He’ll grasp any opportunity to get out on his bike. At first he struggled peddling up hill but now at 3 years old, he has mastered using the brakes effectively, starting from a still position without needing a push and even jumping down the curb! Now we can all go on a family bike ride together, over the Heath. Perfect, when the weather is being kind to us! 

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Wonder product!

kitchen

 I was having a conversation with my friend the other day, about our favourite products. You may be fooled into thinking that I’m talking beauty products, or maybe hair products, baby products even? Oh no, we’re talking cleaning products; as sad as it may be!

Now, I’m not a domestic goddess by any stretch of the imagination. But I do like a clean and tidy house. I can’t go to bed with the kids’ toys all over the floor or with the kitchen looking a mess. A few months ago, we had a new fitted kitchen installed. I love it. It’s so bright and airy compared to the dark walnut wood and black worktops that we had before. The blue spotlights on the plinths look fab at night.

Our shiny new Kitchen

Our shiny new Kitchen

I’ll be honest and say that I enjoy cooking a lot more, now that I have a sparkly new oven and hob. I was adamant that I was going to keep it looking shiny and new, the best I could. Cleaning the oven has to be one of the worst jobs ever, right? I’ll try anything that has the potential to save me time cleaning, or better still not clean at all! I have found a wonder product that does just that!

It’s from Lakeland and it’s called the Magic Oven Liner. I was pretty skeptical at first. But it’s amazing!

The non-stick liner can be cut to size and lays on the bottom of your oven (unless the heating element is in the bottom of your oven.) It catches all the drips of melted cheese from your pizza or bubbled over Lasagna. The liner can be wiped clean or better still, put in the dishwasher. No more oven cleaning for me: thanks mum for telling me about it in the first place.

Possibly the best £9.99 I have ever spent!

I’d love to know if there are any wonder products that you couldn’t do without.

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Must have reads for Pre-school kiddies

children love reading

When I picked Harley up from pre-school last week, I asked him if he had had a good day. To my surprise and in all honesty, sheer disappointment, he replied “not when we had to sit and read the books!”

My heart sank and I felt that I needed to address this brash and rather bold statement, there and then. I even turned on the indicator, pulled the car over and unclipped my seat belt so that I could look at him face to face!

“But you like reading, you always want stories before bedtime. You always pick out a big pile of books that you want us to read to you.”

“I wanted to play in the garden, with Harry, on the slide, not sit with the books!” was Harley’s reply when trying to justify himself.

Since he could crawl, Harley has always wanted to be outdoors. I was reading an article the other day about how children don’t know how to play outside anymore. Well, that theory is completely put to bed in our house because that’s all my son wants to do. His imaginative play is wonderful to watch and to listen to. On rainy days he’s straight on with his welly boots wanting to get out there. So it goes without question, that my son would rather play outside that sit down with a book.

 Now, at only 3, I can already see that Harley is becoming a creature of habit. He knows what he likes, and it’s those stories that he wants us to read over and over again. It’s usually the ones that he can read along with.  Or the ones with flappy bits or pull out tabs that he can interactive with. So I wanted to comprise a list of well loved books for pre school age, to add a bit of variety, all tried and tested by the little lovelies of mine and some of my friends.

 Anything by Julia Donaldson is a definite winner. A child and adult pleaser alike!

 ‘Monkey Puzzle’, by Julia Donaldson

 
MonkeypuzzleWhat a gorgeous book. About a baby monkey who can’t find his mummy, my little boy loves this story and he bought this for me for Mother’s Day. The rhyme that is commonplace in all of Donaldsons’s books makes it fun and easy to read. Harley uses his knowledge of rhyming words (and the fact that he knows the plot inside out) to finish off the sentences. It seems that lots of my friends’ kiddies enjoy Donaldsons’s books, and from a parent’s viewpoint, they very kindly lend themselves to invaluable language development. Nichola also says her son loves ‘The Gruffalo’ & ‘Gruffalo’s Child’, ‘Goat goes to playgroup’, ‘Chocolate Mousse for Greedy Goose’ and ‘One Mole digging a Hole’ are all frequent reads! We also love ‘Superworm’, it’s such a fun story and my son and daddy do their own Superworm chant at the end!

superworm

Rhoda loves the ‘Blue kangaroo’ books by Emma Chichester Clark and ‘Frog finds a friend’ by Max Velthuijs, for really heart-warming stories

 Katie says her kiddies love all the books with ‘Alfie’ and his sister ‘Annie –Rose’ by Shirley Hughes.

 Donna recommends ‘The ‘Great Monster Hunt’ by Tim Warnes. It is brilliant and really engaging where the children join in with the ‘noises’ that the monster makes. It then has a lovely twist at the end! A definite must read.

great monster hunt

‘Winnie the witch’ by Valerie Thomas was suggested by Leanne. Her children really love the story because they can recite the entire book on their own! Surely that’s a big sign that it’s a well loved book.

Winnie_the_Witch

Pen said her daughter loved ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ by Dr. Seuss and also shares my absolute favourite book, ‘Guess How Much I Love You’ by Sam McBratney. What a deliciously beautiful book. A must read. Even now, a tear in my eye is never far away. You really can’t measure love.

Guess_How_Much_I_Love_You_Cover_Art

Geraldine recommends ‘We’re going on a Bear hunt’ by Michael Rosen. We have the story CD of this, as well as the book. I love the repetition in the book and the use of sound effects which the parent or child can add in, throughout the story.

Dympna’s favourite is ‘Some dogs do and some dogs don’t’ by Jez Alborough. This book is rather enchanting and shows that anything is possible. It teaches children to believe in themselves and not to worry about what other people think.

some dogs‘The tiger who came to tea’ by Judith Kerr is a staunch favourite in Sandie’s house. This story has wonderful illustrations and has a lovely little twist at the end.

 The_Tiger_who_came_to_tea

Kieran’s little boy loves the ‘Hairy Maclary’ books by Lynley Dodd. He loves the repetition in them and pretty much knows them off by heart!

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Michelle says her son loves ‘Dear Zoo’ by Rod Campbell. They get his imagination going and have really helped his vocabulary and thoughts. This really is a lovely book; the text can be used at different levels from simple animal noises right up to story involvement

 Dear-Zoo-Sp-L

There also seems to be just as much popularity amongst our little ones, with the timeless classics of the ‘Mr. Men’ books, ‘Three Billy Goats Gruff’ by Vera Southgate and the’ Enchanted Forest’ by Enid Blyton, as suggested by Gil, Justin and Alie. It just goes to show that the classics can still rival the best of the modern.

 And to finish with…

 My favourite book which is ideal to be given as a fun, quirky gift. ‘The Tickle Book’ by Ian Whybrow. Harley loves the interaction with the pull down tabs, lift up flaps, rotating discs and there are a few surprises along the way. We now have an adult version of the TickleMonster in our house, because of this book!

tickle

A list of best loved children’s books, could go on and on, but these are just some of the tried and tested ones by some of the lovely little people and their lovely parents that I have the pleasure of knowing. Some books make you sigh when your child asks for it yet again, but these never do. These books are always a pleasure to read for both the parent and the child. If they are not currently on your child’s bookshelf, they would make an excellent addition to your collection.

I would love to know if there are any other children’s books that you and your kiddies enjoy.

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Start your day right and make a difference

My mum always buys me recipe books. I like the way they make me look like a culinary goddess in my kitchen. But this week, I came across a new cookery eBook, with a difference.

Since I was young, I’ve always known that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It’s my favourite meal of the day. It upsets me often when children in the classroom are yawning and have no energy to interact. These are the children who always tell me they didn’t eat any breakfast that morning. Our children have a choice. A choice to eat breakfast. Sadly, it’s all too apparent that children in other parts of our world are forced to face overwhelming poverty every day. So the choice to start the day with a full belly, is sadly not one that they can make.

So when I saw this recipe book, ‘The Most Important Meals Of Their Lives’, I got a little excited. It contains recipes for breakfasts, believed to be have been eaten and enjoyed by some of the world’s greatest achievers. The eBook features some of the leading men and women from our world history from physics to literature, sports to politics, whose legacies and influence, are still being felt to this day.

The new cookery eBook which contains breakfasts eaten by the likes of Einstein, Mandela, Edison, Austen, Parks, Churchill, Gandhi and the Apollo 11 crew,  is available for free download. It has been launched by the charity ‘Send a Cow’ as part of its new ‘Break… Fast’ appeal. The appeal aims to raise awareness of the importance of a nutritious breakfast in helping children in the poorest parts of Africa achieve their true potential.

‘Send a Cow’ was started by West Country farmers, 25 years ago. They work hand-in-hand with families in Africa, teaching them the skills they need to build lives free from poverty and hunger. The charity provides training, livestock, seeds and support, helping to create stronger communities.

 ‘Send a Cow’ says:     

‘What if Einstein hadn’t had his breakfast the day he cracked the theory of relativity? Or if Edison had skipped his brekkie the morning he, quite literally, had that light bulb moment? Would they have made those ground breaking discoveries on empty stomachs? Breakfast might be the most important meal of the day, but the dishes that fuelled the greats to change the world can arguably be considered as some of the most important meals of all time.’

In order to source the breakfasts of some of the greatest men and women in the world, researchers at Send a Cow first spent weeks painstakingly poring over hundreds of historical records, as well as speaking to experts, inspecting museum archives and analysing the personal correspondence and belongings of several famous figures for evidence of what they ate.’

Some of the recipes in the book include:

Thomas Edison: Apple dumplings and milk (the man who brought the light bulb to the world was once quoted as saying that a breakfast of apple dumplings was the ‘finest repast of his life.’)

Thomas Edison

Rosa Parks: ‘Featherlite’ pancakes, a recipe for these was found when  some of her personal papers were auctioned, it was written on the back of an envelope.

Winston Churchill: Poached egg, toast with jam and butter, cold meats, grapefruit, whisky, cigar (during a flight to the USA Churchill famously amended the in-flight breakfast menu to suit his tastes.)

Winston Churchill

Abraham Lincoln’s Kentucky corn cakes.

Albert Einstein: Fried eggs and honey, with crisp rolls.

Albert Einstein

With each recipe, the book contains a fascinating insight into the lives of the Great who sat down to enjoy each breakfast meal. A great Learning tool, as well as a recipe book. The recipes are clear and easy to follow with lovely bright photos, such as Mahatma Gandhi Breakfast Recipe: Porridge and cocoa:

150ml Goats milk

50g oats

1 tbsp cocoa powder

 Method:

Combine the milk and oats in a pan and heat gently for 5/6 minutes or until cooked through. You can add water if you prefer porridge wetter. Serve with a sprinkling of cocoa.

And my little boy’s favourite:

Sugar Cookie Cubes Ingredients

500g flour

2 tsp baking powder

185g butter

250g caster sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

 Method:

Preheat the oven to 190oC. Beat together the butter and sugar until the mixture is smooth and has turned almost white. Now add the egg and vanilla and finally the flour and baking powder. Roll the dough to the same size as the baking tray and bake for 12 -15 minutes. Let the giant cookie stand for 3 minutes before using a cutter to make the shape you require, now move your cookies to cool properly on wire racks.

 ‘The Most Important Meals Of Their Lives’ cookery book can be downloaded for free by clicking here

 There is a suggested a donation of £2.50 to the Break… Fast appeal. When doubled this is enough to support an African child for a month. The UK government is matching all donations to the Break…Fast appeal from now until the 30th June 2014.

Secretary of State for International Development, Justine Greening, said: “We know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but too many children are not getting that vital head start. Across Uganda and Rwanda, 15 million are gravely undernourished. Given the right chance, any one of those children could be the next Florence Nightingale or Neil Armstrong.

“We will beef up Send a Cow’s appeal by matching pound for pound all public donations to the Break…Fast appeal so we can change thousands of young lives. Just a £2.50 donation, when doubled, is enough to ensure a child can get all the benefits of a nutritious breakfast for an entire month.”

The Break…Fast Appeal aims to raise £500,000, which when matched by the UK government, will help 5,400 children over the next 3 years. For more information click here or tweet @Sendacow with the hashtag #BestStart.

 So, get downloading, get donating and get cooking some yummy breakfasts. Let me know which recipes you have a go at and whether you have any ‘light bulb’ moments as a result. We are off to make the Sugar Cookie Cubes.

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Cherish the moments

sense1

Carefully placed around the clock on the wall, in my classroom, I have the words ‘Time Flies, Don’t Waste It’
So I’m trying to encourage ten year olds to appreciate life, but do I really practise what I preach? There’s no doubting that time really does fly. Seeing the changing faces of my first baby, who will start school next year, and my baby girl who has already put her stamp on the world and my sleeping routine, really encapsulates the somewhat scary prospect that time goes by, all too quickly.
So a note to self…Take a step back, appreciate and cherish the little things that might otherwise simply pass you by.
So I’m going to document my most treasured moments from the week using the senses:
Hear
This week, I heard Lola belly laugh for the first time. She was on daddy’s lap and he snuggled into her squishy neck. It was such a lovely moment. I managed to catch the tail end of it on video camera and keep playing it back to listen to it.
Touch
This last week saw ups and downs in the weather. It couldn’t quite make up it’s mind. So my sense of touch is depicted in the feeling of the rain on my face as I ran outside to get the washing in off the line.
Taste
Yesterday was my niece’s first birthday and my sister made the most delicious birthday cake for her. Traditional Victoria sponge, filled with fresh cream and fresh strawberries, all covered in a pink strawberry cream with white chocolate buttons. Not only was it yummy to the point where someone had to take the cake knife away from me, so I couldn’t eat any more, but it looked stunning on the pink and white polka dot themed birthday tea table.
Smell
We went on the most beautiful Bluebell Walk at the weekend. Aside from the sea of cobalt blue, the smell of the bluebells was so uplifting. It’s such a shame that this can’t be enjoyed all year round and you have to pick your timings carefully in order to reap the benefits.
See
This is my favourite photo of the week. I can’t fail to smile when I look at it.
Lola. xx

Lola. xx

I wonder what joys next week will bring …
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You know you’re a mummy when:

Harley, Lola, Ethan & Connor

Harley, Lola, Ethan & Connor

There’s no getting away from it. When you become a mum, life as you once knew it, is no more. I never thought I would ever  go to the toilet in front of an audience or that the Wheelie Bin would take a trip out more than I did. But with a toddler, a baby and 2 step-sons, the girl who (in my mind) was always beautifully presented with acrylic nails, perfect lashes and used the latest Clarins and Elemis creams, is long gone…for now anyway, while my children are still young! So here are just a few reminders of the full-time job we applied for without having an interview, for which there is no training, no salary and no holidays.
You Know You’re A Mummy When…
You lock yourself in the toilet for 5 minutes peace.
You no longer finish your bowl of cereal by yourself.
You can do everything with one hand.
You step in a puddle and wonder if it’s wee or water.
You can hear the slightest shuffle at night, 2 bedrooms away.
You wake up with more people in bed with you than when you went to sleep.
You’re up at 3am and not drunk!
Your fantasies are about sleeping through the night.
 You go into panic mode when the house is quiet.
You go out to the shops on your own and it feels like a holiday.
Your handbag contains baby wipes rather than a lipstick.
Your first aid kit gets more use than your make up bag.
You hold out your hands to catch projectile vomit.
You talk to the Postman about the weather just to engage in some adult conversation.
You smell another human’s bottom and it’s seen as acceptable.
You’ve been watching kids TV for 15 minutes when you realise you’re the only person in the room.
You can sit up for hours watching someone sleep.
Your heart breaks into a million pieces because you can’t stop the pain.
You feel gloriously happy over a simple smile.
Let’s be honest, we really do have the best job in the entire world. xxx
mum1
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Can you really eat out with toddlers, and enjoy it?

I remember as clear as day, the first moment since having our son, that my husband suggested we go out for a lovely meal. My heart danced. It had been a while since we had eaten out in a fancy restaurant, like we used to before having children. I didn’t know what to do first. Straighten my hair or find a babysitter?

And then….the words, “Yeah, let’s take Harley to his first restaurant, it will be fun!”

FUN?

Where is the fun in taking this, to a restaurant? Other people will be there. Watching.

Harley. Bless him. xx

Harley. Bless him. xx

Now I’m not adverse to a bit of hard work. But the thought of taking my young son out for a meal, did fill me with dread and I’m pretty sure I came out in a cold sweat at the very thought of it.

Continue reading

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My Top 12: 1st Birthday Gift Ideas

Harley, after a fun-filled birthday

Harley, after a fun-filled birthday

Next week, my beautiful niece, Rosalie turns 1. That usual quandary of  what to buy as a gift, always seems that bit harder when they are 1. To be a toy… or not to be a toy? I always debate whether a first birthday present should be something fun and practical like a toy, or whether it should be something a little bit more special.

So I have put together a list of my favourite first birthday gifts. It is based on gifts that I have purchased and given as birthday presents and gifts that my family have received, as surely the best judge of any present is the child themselves. The following have all been success stories in our family. I have tried in the main, to include gifts that are unisex and not applicable to a specific season. Many of the gifts can be extended to be brought beyond the first birthday, and prices are correct at the time of me writing this post.

My first port of call for gifts, whether it be for children, family or friends, is one of my favourite websites, Not On The Highstreet, and the following gifts can be found here.

1. Plush Rocking and Ride On Horse

£75 from Hibba Toys of Leeds

giftsnormal_murphy-plush-rocking-and-ride-on-horse

This plush, Murphy horse easily converts from a rocking horse, to a push along or ride on toddler toy. Cute and fun, an excellent combination!

2. Photo Personalised First Birthday Book

£19.99 from It’s Your Story

giftnormal_now_one

This unique book allows you to celebrate the many things a child can do now they have reached the age of 1. There is a boy and a girl option to personalise. The book includes a special message from you to the child, their name and the date of their first birthday.

3. Personalised Rugby Shirt

£21.50 from Simply Colours

giftskids-personalised-rugby-shirt

I really love these. I have brought one for my own son and as gifts for others, many times. A gift box option is also available.

There is also a similar option here, from Getting Personal which I have bought for my niece.

giftPersonalised-Babys-Hoodie_b

£19.99, they come in blue, grey or pink.

4. Rabbit Hide Away Puppet

£22.25 from The Puppet Factory

giftpuppet

 My son was given this on his first birthday by his Aunty Karen and loved it. This lovely Rabbit Puppet lives inside the lettuce which gives you access to make him hide and appear out of his home to great effect. The 3 mini beasts included are Butterfly, Ladybird, and Caterpillar.There are 10 leaves of the lettuce that have Velcro to hold it in place but can be folded back to reveal a Mini Beast finger puppet friend. There are options to buy additional finger puppets.

5. Tomy Jungle Magic Sounds Aquadoodle

£18.74 from Toysrus

giftaquadoodle

I love the ease and simplicity of this. This was around the age when my son wanted to express his creative side. My nerves were never good when I saw a pen in hand, heading for our cream carpet. The special Aquadoodle pen is filled with water and children can draw on the mat with no mess! Children can also press on one of the sound spots to activate a jungle sound! Ideal for young children taking their first creative steps.

6. My Very Own Rainbow Projector

£19.99 from I Want One Of Those

gift rainbow

This is another of  my favourite websites for quirky gifts. I bought this for my nephew’s first birthday, on a bit of a whim, but it has proved to be a true success story in their home. This soothing night light, projects a rainbow across the bedroom. This particular one includes a sunlight rainbow crystal which shines rainbow light during daylight and also comes with a colourful educational booklet.

 7. Twilight Turtle

£29.99 from Firebox

giftturtle

Staying with the nightlight theme. This is a gift my son was given and still loves it now (although now we have lighter evenings its not quite so effective!) The turtle beams stars and a moon onto the ceiling and bedroom walls. Children can choose between orange, blue or green stars. The turtle turns off automatically, hopefully after the child has fallen asleep!

8. Breakfast/ Dinner Place Gift Set

£18 from Becky and Lolo

giftdinnerset

I’m a sucker for a beautiful plate set. I think there is something really quite special about a child receiving their first dinner set or cutlery set. Becky and Lolo do a lovely range of these sets for both boys and girls. Made from durable plastic and including a plate, cereal bowl and cup, each set is beautifully presented in a matching themed card gift box, shaped to look like a large book. This could then be used as a keepsake box. Some sets include cutlery and an egg cup.

As a fun alternative, try the Landscape Dinner Set

£16.99 from I Want One of Those

giftdinset

I have not actually purchased this but found it as I was looking for a present for my friend’s little boy. I love this bright, fun, quirky idea. I know my son would love to eat his dinner off this. Anything to make mealtimes a little more enjoyable when our little ones are young, is a bonus.

9. Musical Instrument Set

£19.95 from John Lewis

giftmusical

My friend, Anna had her music teacher head on when she bought Harley his first birthday present.  It’s no wonder then that she wanted Harley to explore his musical talents from a young age. Perhaps it’s fair to say that he enjoyed each instrument more than my headache did, but this cute box set has to make it into my top 12. This particular set comes with maracas, drum, bells, rattle, shaker and a play-along CD

10. Woodland Treehouse Wooden Shelves

£28 from Becky and Lolo

shelves_tree_with_books_312517(1)

If my sister reads this before Thursday, she will know part of my niece’s birthday present! I know this one is for the girls but I just couldn’t resist including this wooden shelf; it will look so pretty in any girl’s bedroom or nursery.

11. Snail/Lion Shape Sorter

£16 from Bundles of Joy

giftsort

I distinctly remember my mum once telling me how much she loved wooden toys…as an adult. I completely understand what she means now. This hand crafted colourful Snail or Lion is one of the best Shape Sorters I have seen. It comes with six shapes in primary colours and is a great educational toy for shape recognition.  I remember the delight on Harley’s face when he first succeeded in putting the correct shape through it’s corresponding hole. The shapes can be cleverly stored within the animal for safe keeping. 

12. Little Tikes Car

£44.99-£49.99 from Toysrus

giftcasr

In my opinion and perhaps my son’s, I have saved the best for last. ‘Best,’ based on the amount of use and continued use that this toy has received. It’s a classic that is celebrating it’s 30th anniversary. There is also a  red and a pink Coupe edition and a yellow Taxi Cab edition, in the push-along car range. Great for outdoors, the car has a removable floor so that as the child grows they can drive the car with their feet.

Harleys Favourite

Harleys Favourite

So, there you have it. I really tried to condense it down to 10, as ‘My Top 10’ is much more aesthetically pleasing and rolls off the tongue easier. But each of these gifts, are tried and tested, so why shouldn’t they all receive the honour as top dog of the gifts?

Are there any recommended gifts which you would like to see added?

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Edible Easter Nest Challenge

Tots100 and Center Parcs have challenged everyone to get crafty and make edible Easter Egg Nests. When Harley and I decided we would get creative, we first took a look at the Chief Creative Chef at Center Parcs, Lynn Dixon where she shares her ideas and fantastic alternatives to using chocolate. Click here to see if you can pick up any ideas for making these yummy treats. We were most inspired by Lynn’s first tip: ‘Mix some cereal, such as bran or broken up wheat…’ Having usually used Rice Krispies or Cornflakes, we thought we would try using Shredded Wheat to give more of a ‘nesty’ look.  Inevitably, Harley wanted to make one big nest , so here is our recipe:
easter5
Firstly, Harley broke up 4 original sized Shredded Wheat into a bowl.
easter6
He then broke up 2, 114g bars of Galaxy chocolate. We melted the chocolate in a bowl which we placed in a saucepan of hot water. This was much safer as Harley, of course, wanted to stir the chocolate and there wasn’t the danger of a hot hob or boiling water.
easter4
He then mixed together the melted chocolate with the wheat and added some shredded coconut. We lined a glass bowl with some clingfilm and poured the straw-like mixture into a bowl, carefully trying to raise the sides of the nest, to create a dip in the middle. Leave to chill in the fridge.
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With a bit of help, Harley then removed the clingfilm from the side of the bowl and carefully pulled the nest out.
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He then toiled with what to use for the bird’s eggs…mini eggs was a good option, he even thought of using green and red grapes.In the end he plumped for adding some Jellybeans, as he like the speckled look of some of the flavours.
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As the Easter Bunny had left some cute little chicks in his Easter Trail, we decided to use these too.
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Ta-dah!
This is my entry to the Center Parcs and Tots 100, April challenge. If I’m chosen, I would like to visit Longleat Forest.
So get crafty with your little ones. Share any other ideas you may have.We are going to wrap up our finished edible nest in pretty cellophane and give it to Nana and Papa as an Easter present.
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‘Take A Moment’ Scrapbook

This is my quickest post to write, yet one which has taken me some time to put together.

I was scrolling through the Camera Roll on my phone and laughed to myself, as mixed in among the photos of my children, days out, views that I had captured and the odd selfie of my 3 year old… were some of my favourite quotes that I had unknowingly been collecting.

I enjoy words. Words can inspire; make us smile; make us cry; make us appreciate and make us think.

So I wanted to share with you some of my favourites:

My friend sent me this one when I was pregnant with my son. Ironically, I received it the same day that we went for our 4d scan. I loved the sentiment and have kept it ever since.

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Harleys  26 Week Scan

Harley’s 26 Week Scan

 For both my children:

Lola, 12 days old

Lola, 12 days old

I take huge pride from other people commenting on my 3 year old’s manners and his ability to be independent. He recently won the ‘Rainbow Ranger’ Award at pre-school for consistently sharing, tidying up and being polite. I was immensely proud of him. This quote is one which I will always have in the back of my mind as my children grow up.

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I’m a relatively new mum, but I have learnt more about love and life in the last 3 and a half years, than I ever have done before.

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For my husband:

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For my mum:

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For my friends:

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My amazing friend, Sarah sent me this a while ago. I love it:

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For the dreamer and believer in me:

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For the teacher in me:

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We have this on a canvas in our hallway, I read it every morning as I walk down the stairs:

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For when life gets tough:

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For the humble:

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…and finally, this represents my family’s ordinary life. Our extra-ordinary life, which I wouldn’t change for the world.

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Do you have any quotes which are sentimental to you that you would like to share?

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Hello Springtime

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All my friends will know I’m a bit of a sun worshipper. There’s no getting away from the fact that most people feel better, happier and more energised when they have warmth on their face and sun streaming in through the window. So when I sat down to write a post about my favourite season, most people would assume I would write about the Summer. I do love Summer. The long light evenings, kids splashing around in the paddling pool and of course the long school holidays!

However, Springtime has to be the time of the year when I feel that both I and nature come back to life.
There’s an old Chinese proverb…’No matter how long the Winter, Spring is sure to follow.’ Winter to Spring has to be when the world around us changes the most; changes for the better. It seems such a dramatic transition. Spring breathes life back into nature by painting it in such bright, vivid colours. I cannot explain how much joy I get out of looking at the delicate, pink blossom tree that our neighbours have in their front garden. I know it’s only going to last for a few weeks and that when the wind blows, the petals will end up all over our garden. But to me, it epitomises the change in seasons and is nature’s way of telling us that the cold, winter months are (hopefully) now behind us.
My favourite tree

My favourite tree

It’s the simple things in life, at this time of year, which make me happy: putting the washing on the line; watching my husband mow the lawn and smelling the freshly cut grass; having windows open and watching my children play happily in the garden without having to wear welly boots or having to towel dry everything down before they can sit on it.
It’s at this time of year when we always make one of our favourite family days out, to Farmer Palmers, in Dorset. The boys love playing in the straw bales and taking a bumpy tractor ride around the farm park. They love meeting and holding the guinea pigs. But perhaps the one activity which all the kids love doing is bottle feeding the lambs in the Animal Barn. Nothing personifies Springtime more than this. Click here if you would like to be taken directly to their website. Follow them on Twitter or ‘Like’ their Facebook page to keep up-to-date of events and activities.
Connor feeding the Lambs

Connor feeding the Lambs

The season of Spring will always be held dear to me as I distinctly remember the overwhelming warmth and love I felt from, my then 6 month old, on my first Mother’s Day. We went to Upton County Park and enjoyed the woodland walks, beautiful gardens and the simplicity of feeding the ducks. I cherish the moment that a brightly coloured flower held my little boy’s attention. It was the first moment I had seen that he too, was taken by the beauty of nature. This photo means everything to me:
My first Mother's Day

My first Mother’s Day

Spring tells us of it’s arrival through flowers. Driving past the sea of daffodils on the grassy bank near my son’s pre-school, never fails to make me smile. Unaware that I absentmindedly share my delight in seeing this sea of bright yellow, my 3 year old came running out of pre-school waving his attempt at drawing some daffodils, saying “these flowers make you happy mummy, don’t they!” Simply beautiful.
One of the most spectacular sights, at this time of year, is to go on a Bluebell Walk. We go to the Pamphill Bluebell Wood near Wimborne in Dorset. The wash of colour is stunning and somewhat bewitching. If you have never been on a Bluebell Walk, try to find your nearest wood and take a walk through the bluey haze. It really is quite something.
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Harley loved exploring

For me, the arrival of Jersey Royal potatoes in the shops is another gesture of Springtime. The season of these small, sweet delicious potatoes is short, so we should enjoy them while we can. ‘Rosemary Roasted Jersey Royals’ is one of my favourite ways to cook these. You can find Jamie Oliver’s super easy recipe for these, if you click  here.  Serve them with your Easter lunch.
And finally, if you need a fun, quick and easy treat for the kids to make, try these Easter Pudding Pots:
The carrots are simply an orange chewy sweet  cut in half and shaped around green ‘laces’. Crush some Oreo cookies to make the ‘dirt’ and sprinkle it on top of the chocolate moose. You could add mini eggs or edible chicks.
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Whichever season is your favourite, take a moment to inhale and absorb everything that represents the magic of Springtime.
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Beautiful Memories

I really wanted to share this video which was posted on YouTube last week. A father filmed his daughter every week, from birth up until she turned 14 years old and then made this time-lapse edit.

It’s incredibly moving and such a fantastic way to document and cherish the all too quickly changing faces of our children.

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A little slice of heaven

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I wanted to share with you the knowledge that a little slice of heaven, does exist. It exists in the form of the most relaxing, tranquil place I have ever been: Nirvana Spa in Wokingham, Berkshire.

I first went to this heavenly sanctuary with my lovely friend, Becky. Having been to a few spas before, I had a good idea of what to expect. However my ‘good idea’ was no where near good enough. This tranquil haven, far exceeded all of my expectations. Stunning, doesn’t even cut it.

I was completely in awe of the size and grandeur of this spa. There are 15 natural aquifer fed pools and spas. I loved being in the spectacular Roman pillared swimming pool and then relaxing with a magazine on one of  the loungers. Utter bliss. I could have spent the whole day in this one room and felt perfectly harmonious without a care or stress in the world, as I sipped my freshly made smoothie by the pool.

But there is far too much to enjoy of this peaceful paradise to just stay in one room.

Roman-esque Swimming Pool

Roman-esque Swimming Pool

We tried out the new Thermal Experience Suite with its sauna, salt inhalation steam room, ice rub station, and monsoon showers. It certainly made me feel refreshed and revitalised. Even the blue lighting is calming.

As an extra treat, Guests can book one of the incredible floatation experiences in the Celestial Dead Sea Floatation Treatment Pool. Now, can you cast your mind back to the year, 2000 when Robbie Williams and Kylie Minogue sang their duet ‘Kids’? At the end of the video, a sexy Kylie walks down the steps in a swimming pool where the delicious Robbie is waiting. Well, this was shot on location here. So if it’s good enough for Kylie…

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My favourite room in the whole spa, and it is a tough choice, is the award-winning, 53-station Hydrotherapy Spa Pool, which provides all the benefits of a full body massage in such luxurious surroundings. It’s huge. This was the room I kept coming back to. Now, I was tempted to try the adjacent plunge pools, but no matter how much I knew that this quick dip in ice cold water would cleanse my skin, I just wasn’t brave enough. That, or maybe the classiness of the whole place wasn’t ready to hear me gasp loudly as my breath is taken away, or to see me splashing around desperately trying to get out!

Hydrotherapy Spa Pool

Hydrotherapy Spa Pool

As with most spas, there is an abundance of treatments on offer here, using treatment brands such as Decleor, Germaine de Capuccini, Jessica & Celestial. We didn’t take up this opportunity on our visit as we  didn’t need to. We spent the whole day visiting all of the pools and relaxation rooms to have any time for an additional treatment. Maybe next time?

I also loved the indulgence of the Tepidarium Nirvana Room. The heated ceramic loungers were so relaxing with the trickling of the water fountain in the centre of the room. I did however, have to fight the child within me, and overcome the fit of giggles which was trying to come out, as the room was just so quiet!

Nirvana has a wide array of packages, to treat your mind, body and soul, for both day and evening spa packages. I have returned to Nirvana on many occasions. Some packages are quite pricey but most recently, my husband and I enjoyed a ‘Time Out’ package reasonably priced at £35, which gave us 3 hours to enjoy all of the facilities, except the Floatation pool. Within our allocated time, we included a relaxing lunch in the Nirvana cafe, where the meat and salad buffet option was super value for money. There are so many different packages and experiences which you can tailor to meet your requirements. If you would like to be taken straight to Nirvana’s website to have a look at what they have to offer, click here.

During the Spring and Summer months, guests can visit the garden cafe for some alfresco dining or lounge around the outdoor pool and spa pools.

Luckily for those of us who cannot afford the luxury of a beautiful spa experience all the time, Nirvana have made it possible for us to have a small taste of their spa in our own homes. You may have noticed a range of ‘Nspa’ products in your local supermarket, if you shop at Adsa. Nirvana’s Nspa range allows us to enjoy the affordability of products such as body lotions, butters and polishes; Hydrating Facial Oil and Beauty Balm. I can thoroughly recommend the Brightening Detox Scrub, £4 and the Brightening Day Cream, £6. If your local supermarket does not stock these products you can buy directly from the Nspa shop, here.

Nirvana is certainly unique. It’s Roman-esque feel creates an atmosphere of calmness and serenity. The clean and pure facilities is what have made it the UK’s largest, purest award winning spa. So if you’re looking for complete and utter indulgence, you have found your Nirvana.

Flotation Pool

Floatation Treatment Pool

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Gogglebox for a BAFTA

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For those of you who ‘follow’ my posts, you will know that I am lover of reality TV. But there is a new phenomena that has hit my TV screen on a Friday night. Gogglebox.

Gogglebox has a simple premise: watching people, watch TV.

As the narrator, Caroline Aherne explains, more than 20 million of us choose to spend our evenings in front of the TV, but Gogglebox goes behind closed doors and into people’s homes so that we can watch opinionated viewers pass judgement on the best TV programmes and films of the week.

If you are not akin to such a concept, you really have to make a date with Channel 4, on Friday at 9pm, to see why nearly 3 million viewers tuned in for the first episode of the new series, 6 weeks ago.

We all love watching TV and passing judgement about TV. But the show isn’t really about TV. The show is more about people’s lives, their relationships and the way they interact with each other. It captures cultural response and opinion.

This priceless documentary follows a range of recurring families and in every episode, viewers learn a little bit more about these real-life characters, who welcome us into their humble abodes each week.

My favourite quotes from this week’s episode, which serve to reveal a little more about our sofa-stars, are:

“I thought the world was going to explode when we ran out of Gin,” announces Stephanie (from Sandwich) whose husband Dominic allows us viewers to tell what time of the day it is from the colour of his face. If it’s early on, he’s a moderate shade of pink. Later on in the evening he’ll be scarlet red.

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Jay, (from The Wirral) who never moves or says a word, did make progress this week and reach for a fig roll. But perhaps the ultimate achievement for viewers was the discovery that Jay is taking an NVQ in Customer Service!

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“I’m going to do that to you, June…in a minute,” says Leon (from Liverpool) who thinks he bears a striking resemblance to the late Patrick Swayze in ‘Ghost’.

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Rev. Kate (from Nottinghamshire) said of Demi Moore in ‘Ghost’-“She’s up in the middle of the night making pots. Most people watch ‘Family Guy’…” 

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But the crowning glory for my all time favourite one-liner was back in the first episode of the current series. It comes from Stephanie to her husband, where the alcohol is always free-flowing in the Guest House they run together: “When I read that drinking was bad for you, I gave up reading!”

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Hats off to the editors and the production team; You have created a bold and innovative gem of a TV show, like no other.

Perhaps it says something about today’s society to see that TV is thriving and asserting it’s indispensable role in all our lives.
If you too love the show as much as I do, you can vote for Gogglebox to win a Radio Times, British Academy Television Award. You can click here to be taken to the voting website.

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My Top 5 Apps for Tots

I have to admit, when watching my 3 year old navigate his way around the Sky remote or my iPhone, I am pretty alarmed at how technologically savvy he is. I’m a teacher and a mum. Reading books is the ultimate pastime that I want my children to enjoy, without having to be encouraged or pushed. We always read stories before bedtime; we do the usual discussion of the characters, predicting the plot and are currently picking out familiar letters in words and discussing their sounds.

However, I am not oblivious to the fact that if Harley had an iPad to play on, he would choose that over a book, if I let him, every time.
Resistance is futile.  Whilst your child may well have more fun tapping a touchscreen than turning the pages of a book,  it’s not all bad news for Today’s digital generation, as there are many Apps out there, available for free, which provide so much scope for learning, developing creativity and promoting discussion. So I have complied my top 5 Apps for Toddlers. 

1. CBeebies

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This App allows parents to create a profile for up to 4 children. Children can design a hot air balloon to take them on their journey around CBeebies land. The App has a fair mix of fun filled games with some of the best loved CBeebies’ characters. Whilst having fun with ‘Tree-Fu Tom‘, children are blissfully unaware that they are developing their fine motor skills as they physically manoeuvre the handset, to help Tom collect the berries for the Harvest Festival. Children can also look after their own dinosaur and learn some exciting dinofacts in ‘Andy’s Dinosaur Adventure‘. Children can choose to be ‘Earth Explorers‘ and learn fascinating facts whilst they explore their virtual world on the Moon and Mars: Fantastic for answering all those ‘Why?’ questions which children love to throw at us!

Perhaps my favourite game in this App is the emphasis on phonics and letter shapes with the ‘Alphablocks‘. Children select the letters that make up the word of the picture shown, by listening to the letter sounds.
As your child plays the games within the App, they can earn rewards and collect various cartoon bugs. There is also a nifty little feature where the parent can pre-record a direct message to the child for encouragement, praise or rewarding good behaviour.

2. Barnyard Games

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Barnyard’  is a similar App which has a variety of games with excellent educational value. Games range from learning the alphabet by popping the balloons in order; identifying shapes, animals and colours; testing memory in the traditional ‘find the matching pairs’ game and developing shape recognition by identifying the shape which matches the shadow. Whilst this App is fantastic for early learning, it does have one drawback… My little boy loves the repetitive music almost as much as I hate it!

3. Kids Doodle

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This is effectively a drawing App which allows the child the capacity to doodle, write and create some magnificent masterpieces. It’s simple enough for the child to navigate and select their chosen tools or rubber if they make a mistake. The glowing writing tool is super. Harley loves practising writing his name and seeing it light up. There is also the option of adding a photo to create a background and replaying your creations in a moving gallery.

4. Cut The Rope

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Cut The Rope‘ uses the concept of basic physics to deliver candy to the animated frog, Om Nom. The challenges get progressively harder as you collect the stars and unlock new levels. Whilst the App is aimed at slightly older children, it creates a happy medium in our house as all three of the boys love playing it (3-10 years). It’s one of those games which you dare not try yourself because you’ll find yourself utterly addicted to feeding this tiny frog! It is however a game which can bide a bit of time on those long car journeys, or passing those monotonous times sat in a silent waiting room.

5. Lego Juniors

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Lego Juniors Create and Cruise‘ allows children to use their imagination to create their own mini figures and Lego vehicles. As children drive around their 3D world, they can collect coins to unlock virtual Lego sets which they can build. We love the imaginative play and discussion which this App creates. Once again, this household name (which is also stored in large buckets in our playroom) shows us it’s sustainability, proving why it is still one of the best loved brands.

Apart from obvious content, this list is based on how difficult it is for me to get my phone back!

Are there any other Apps tried and tested by your lovely tots which you would recommend?

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Treehouse Family Play

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A typical and somewhat inevitable rainy start for the kids’ Easter holidays, meant that we took a trip to the indoor Treehouse Family Play in Bournemouth, Dorset.

Located in the town centre (handy if you need a break from a bit of shopping) the Treehouse is tucked away down a side road and did take a bit of hunting for.

Initially, you walk into a spacious coffee house with rustic tables mixed with fun, brightly coloured canvased artwork on the walls. But as you delve deeper into this Aladdin’s cave of a building, you find that their tag line, ‘Play. Pure and simple’ certainly rings true. Because the play area is different. It’s different to the usual indoor soft play areas we have been to before. I loved the innovative concept of a wooden adventure play frame covered in grass (artificial grass!)

My 3 year old played happily and confidently on the climbing rope ladders, slides, hid in the tunnels, played with the balls and just generally had fun, climbing the ‘trees’.

When my baby decided it was time to make an appearance by waking up, I took her to the baby indoor garden where there was a small selection of toys. If you even realise there is a ‘downstairs’, you find a large room filled with even more fun: music, disco lights, a glitter ball on the ceiling, a Lego wall, a chalkboard wall, a football table, even an Xbox set up.

If your children are old enough not to need constant supervision, you might enjoy the luxury of sitting down with some of the locally sourced, organic food that’s on offer. Breakfast/brunch is served all day and there is a good selection on the Lunch and Snacks menu. Our sweet tooth was more than satisfied by the homemade cakes and brownies. There are also dairy free and gluten free options.

We were spoilt for choice in the drinks department: Peppermint Hot Chocolate, Praline Mochaccino, Gingerbread Latte, even super fruit and veg juices and smoothies were there to tempt us.

On the day we visited, there was a large activity table set out for children to design their own Easter Egg with tissue paper, sequins, glitter and feathers. Children could make Easter baskets too.  There was also a small Gift shop selling quirky, chic gifts such as cushions, bunting and photo frames. A box of newspapers and magazines were also available to read.

We will definitely be returning, next time with my stepsons who are slightly older at 7 and 10, but who would also be well entertained and occupied.

If you take a look at their website here, you will find details of prices and a list of various baby and toddler classes which are available during term time. You can refer to their Facebook page here for details of classes and dates.


We really enjoyed our afternoon at the Treehouse. It was so refreshing to see children playing in the artificial ‘outside world’, after all, being outdoors and climbing trees was the epitome of our childhood, right?

Image taken from website

Image taken from website

Are there any play areas or features of a play area which you like or would like to see in your local area?

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