Pinewood Pods at Port Lympne Zoo

On the morning of Sunday the 13th October, we headed to Port Lympne where we were going to spend the next couple of days. Port Lympne Hotel & Reserve is about a 25 minute drive from our home, the perfect sort of distance away for a short break! Here is my review of how our stay went!

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The Accommodation- Our Pod at the Pinewood Pods facility was lovely. It had the room to sleep four, although in doing so- leaving the pod is definitely made a little more difficult. The bedding and towels were clean. The beds were comfortable and we had more than enough tea and coffee bits and bobs to get us through our stay. The Pods are located right next to the Lion and Tiger enclosures and hearing the Lions, especially Daddy Lion ‘Milo’ throughout the night was magical. The Lions have three beautiful cubs that were born about five months ago, staying so close to them was definitely very special!

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The facilities- Despite the Pod being well cleaned, the toilet and shower block was pretty dirty, not only did it not look clean, but it didn’t smell clean either. We checked out the facilities right after check in, so they were not dirty from use- if anything they should have been cleaned and ready for new guests. The extractor fan was thick with dust. The floors had a fine layer of watered down mud. The pedals on the sanitary bins did not work. The access to the toilet and shower block had steps, meaning that even if you were to stay at the accessibility friendly pod, you wouldn’t necessarily have an access friendly stay.

The Staff – The staff at Port Lympne generally seemed very helpful and genuinely happy to be there. The Safari drivers were fantastic and very knowledgeable. The restaurant and shop staff doted on my daughter and were full of praise for her manners.

The Pinewood Restaurant – When staying at the Pod we decided to bring our own bits and bobs for breakfast- juice, croissants and long life milk for F. I am very glad we did, because a basic dinner of hot dogs and chips for three of us, set us back over £35. I cannot imagine how much we would have spent if we’d had to buy all of our meals, snacks and refreshments there- but based on the prices for four meals at the Pinewood Café alone, we’d be looking at around £140 alone.

The Animals- I wholeheartedly believe that Port Lympne is one of the greatest zoos in the country for conservation efforts. This can be seen in their successful attempts at breeding endangered animals such as Lions, Gorillas and Rhinos. The work they have done to reintroduce animals that have been on the brink of extinction is nothing short of amazing- especially in regards to Silverback Gorillas, over 50 of these beautiful and endangered animals have been sent to wild Congo over the years where they are safe and thriving, all thanks to Port Lympne’s conservation and breeding success. The animals all appear happy, healthy and well cared for. The keepers and staff clearly adore the animals that they work with and see on a daily basis.

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The Safari- The Safari as an experience was excellent. Being able to see the animals wander free, without bars or the conventional confines of an enclosure was fantastic. F wanted to go on it three times and still didn’t tire of the whole experience! Some facts given to us by the three different safari drivers varied, for example “We only have one male giraffe here, if we have more than one, they may swing their necks to fight and this can cause a massive amount of damage, injury and distress to the animals and their enclosures” compared to “We have 4(?) females and 3 males in the giraffe house and surrounding enclosure” .. and “African hunting dogs have a success rate of up to 90% unlike other comparable but larger carnivores like tigers or lions who have a success rate of 20 to 40%” compared to “African hunting dogs have a success rate of up to 90% unlike other comparable but larger carnivores like tigers or lions who have a success rate of 30 to 50%” Leaving us wondering what exactly was true and accurate and what wasn’t. We were also quizzed by one driver on F’s age, when other drivers let babies less then six months on board- the inconsistency in safety information was definitely confusing! I also feel that maybe, like with rides at a theme park, it could be beneficial to warn people about how bumpy the safari is, so they can make an informed decision to ride- especially in case they are pregnant, suffer from back / neck complaints, arthritis, complex pain syndromes or heart conditions.

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Accessibility- Some types of accommodation include a Golf Buggy to use at your leisure throughout the park along a Buggy route, our accommodation unfortunately did not include this. We enquired to see if we could maybe hire a Buggy for the duration of our stay but sadly the reserve only ever has enough buggies to cater for users of higher end accommodation. I feel that if additional buggies could be made available, it could really benefit Port Lympne’s guests with additional mobility needs- the park is particularly hilly and access to manual wheelchairs is a nice option, but putting their use to practice seems almost impossible in a park where even pushing a three year old in their stroller was a struggle.

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We enjoyed our stay and really recommend going if you can find a similar experience at the off peak reduced rate. For the full £200 to be worth spending, the toilet and shower facilities need to at least be clean. As a whole, I feel that if I had paid the full £200 for a nights stay, I would have been disappointed, solely based on how dirty the toilet and shower facilities were. However, as I paid the off peak price of £100, I was very pleased with the value of money for two days park access for two adults and a child, a nights stay in a lovely little pod and unlimited rides on the safari- Realistically I would have been happy to pay up to £150 without extras for this experience! I have been visiting Port Lympne for just under 25 years and have never been disappointed- visiting the animals makes learning about them and their habitats super fun and interactive. I grew up visiting this zoo and I am pleased to be doing the same with my daughter as she grows!

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A great day for dinosaur lovers – York Maze review…

Olivia and I have just returned home from a lovely long weekend visiting our family in Yorkshire.

Living in army quarters roughly 200 miles away, and being ridiculously busy with work all the time, means I don’t get to see them as often as I would like, but we did manage a solid 4 days of visiting! As it doesn’t happen very often, we ended up being very, very busy and visiting lots of different places (so expect to see a couple of reviews in the next few weeks!) It became a little mini holiday for us which was really lovely, and I had some precious quality time with Olivia, too.

One of the places we went to was York Maze. We spent about 4 hours there in total as there was so much to do, but some little legs got the better of us. Never have I done so many piggy backs before this weekend! I will probably regret ever demonstrating what a piggy back is, I am sure…

What is York Maze?

It’s a fantastic, fun-filled day out that caters to the entire family. Although I only went with Olivia, who is 3, we could easily have had just as much fun if 9 year old Kiera was with us too.

It isn’t just a maze, but they mazes (plural) are of course the main attractions. Over the years, the maze has been shaped into a number of different characters/features from films/television, including Star Wars, Jurassic Park and Harry Potter. This year, the main maze was Lion King themed. You have 6 checkpoints to get to and answer some themed questions to get the magic word for the end of the maze. Olivia enjoyed shouting the secret word very loudly so that everyone could hear her!

On top of the main maze, there is also a separate Jurassic Park themed maze with 8 dinosaurs inside. Olivia insisted on stroking them all… but on the up side she was also able to name all but one! The spinosaurus evaded us, but there was a helpful list on the way back out naming them all so that you can see if you got them right!

The Jurassic Park maze is much smaller, but the classic theme tune can be heard throughout, and it’s great fun finding the dinosaurs. For my little dino lover, this was perfect!

Is it just a maze?

No, there are so many activities at York Maze aside from just the mazes, which is how we ended up spending so much time there.

As well as the maze, they have a sweetcorn themed obstacle course (which Olivia and I smashed) and meet and greets with the animals. You can hold a snake or a creepy crawly and the owls and reptiles are out for you to meet, too.

Is there much for little ones to do?

Yes! Olivia loved jumping on the popcorn pillow which had split sessions for little ones to jump together without the big kids. That worked really well and was much nicer for the children (and parents) not to worry about any big kids hurting the smaller ones by accident.

What can the big kids do?

There’s a lot of things for the bigger children to get stuck into, too! As well as all of the other activities, there’s a rock climbing wall and an adventure play park that’s suitable for big and little children.

The quiz in the main maze is probably more geared towards older children too, although Olivia still managed to have lots of fun!

Have you ever been to York Maze? Let us know what theme the maze was and whether you enjoyed it!

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10 things to do with the kids in North Hampshire and Surrey

  1. Gruffalo Trail at Alice Holt Forest
  2. Ceramics Cafe Farnham
  3. Gravity Force Trampolining
  4. 360 Play Farnborough
  5. Coral Reef Bracknell
  6. Aldershot Lido
  7. Birdworld
  8. Hampton Court Palace
  9. Chessington World of Adventures
  10. Farnborough Vue

1. Gruffalo Trail at Alice Holt Forest

Alice Holt Forest is situated in the South Downs National Park which spans a vast area covering Hampshire and Surrey. Alice Holt itself is local to Farnham, a mere 15 minute drive from the centre of Aldershot, and is FREE OF CHARGE! That’s right! You can spend the entire day there and the only money you will spend is for parking and petrol.

Alice Holt boasts a fantastic wooden play area, bike hire and trails, walking trails (including the infamous Gruffalo Trail), and GoApe! for the older kids. We have been many times to Alice Holt and never grow tired of it!

2. Ceramics Cafe in Farnham

Whether you have little babies doing handprints on plates or older children, a quiet afternoon of pottery painting is a great way to spend time with the family.

Ceramics Cafe in Farnham is situated less than a 5 minute walk from a large car park (next to Sainsbury’s) and is in the centre of Farnham, which is a beautiful place to visit in itself. There is a £2 session fee on top of anything you paint, and the pottery prices are very reasonable. The staff are always on hand to help, and they will happily cater for parties too!

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3. Gravity Force Trampolining

This fantastic trampoline park in Camberley is where we have spent many a weekend morning!

Gravity Force have a brilliant timetable which caters for all ages, with dedicated sessions for younger jumpers and a family jump session which makes it much easier to have fun with all of the family. We love it there so much that we’ve been annual pass holders since last summer, for the very good price of £8 per month. This park also hosts Gravity Fit sessions and they have a holiday club for older children!

4. 360 Play in Farnborough

This is more than just a soft play… This is an M&S soft play… KIDDING OF COURSE!

But this soft play is really something else. It is absolutely huge for a start, and there are loads of different areas and activities for the children to do. The staff are very safety and security conscious and you have a photo ID card so that they know exactly who is in the building in case of any emergencies or lost kiddies! (Not that we have ever had to seek assistance for this, thank lord!)

360 Play is a hidden gem in Farnborough, just past the Sainsbury’s in the town centre. They have a carousel, a dressing up area, a huge soft play structure for the big kids, and smaller soft plays for toddlers and babies. They have also begun Gymfinity clubs there which are gymnastics and ninja classes for children of all ages – we are trialling those very soon and can’t wait to bring you a review!

5. Coral Reef Waterworld in Bracknell

This one is a bit further afield, but definitely worth the travel! Coral Reef is an amazing indoor water world famous for it’s slides. Again there are lots of different areas in the pool for children of different ages. They often have a professional photographer there too to capture pictures of your babies’ first swims!

Just up the M3 and probably a half an hour / 45 minute drive from Aldershot, this is a brilliant day out for the family. Booking in advance is usually recommended as it can get quite busy, but equally if you arrive for when it opens you won’t end up queuing for too long either.

6. Aldershot Lido

Following on from the swimming theme – Aldershot Lido is a great local day out and a fantastic way to cool off in the summer sun! It’s also relatively close to Aldershot Park so you can combine the fun!

Tickets are half price after 3pm if you don’t get there until later in the day.

7. Birdworld in Farnham

You will drive past Birdworld on the way to Alice Holt Forest – it takes about 10 minutes in the car to get there from Aldershot town centre.

Birdworld often have special exhibits and events on during school holidays, and military families may be able to secure a discount on entry! Speak to your local welfare service if this is you. You also have the opportunity to feed the penguins which is just amazing!

8. Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court Palace is a bit further afield, based in Moseley, but a truly wonderful day out with the family. The Palace itself is magnificent, and the gardens are an extra something special!

Hampton Court Palace’s Magic Garden is a wonderful area for the children, and the Palace itself hosts lots of extra events such as music festivals and outdoor cinemas throughout the summer months!

If you are a member of the Historic Royal Palaces Society you can visit Hampton Court Palace (and the other 5 palaces that are included in that membership) for free, but otherwise tickets are free for under 5s and roughly £10 for children up to 15 and £20 for adults. There is also car parking nearby (just across the road from the main entrance), and the whole palace is quite accessible if you’re having to lug a buggy around with you!

9. Chessington World of Adventures

Again a bit further afield, but where we are we are lucky to be living on the doorstep of this and other incredible theme parks! I would say that without any horrendous traffic we live roughly half an hour away from Chessington, which of course boasts a children’s theme park, a SeaLife centre AND a zoo!

It’s no wonder that many of the families living in Aldershot invest in Merlin passes while we live so close to Chessington and other Merlin attractions. Chessington however is the best one for young families as the rides accommodate a range of age groups. Our tall 9 year old and our only just 3 year old love going to Chessington, and the SeaLife centre and zoo are frequented during the day! The penguins are a particularly great attraction. You can also feed the giraffes and the elephants if you get there at the right time!

10. Farnborough Vue

If the weather isn’t good enough for a full on outdoor day trip, the Vue cinema in Farnborough is a really good way to spend a few hours with the kids without feeling like you’re stuck at home. Farnborough Vue offers any film at any time for £4.99 per person, so even if you’re a big family, you can have a cinema experience without breaking the bank!

This year is set to be a brilliant one for Disney films with Dumbo and Aladdin, Lion King, and Toy Story 4 having already been released, and Frozen 2 due to come out later in the year as well!

Are you local to Aldershot? Would you add any other attractions to the list? Let us know if you have been to any of these listed here!

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Review: Chaffree Knickerboxers During Pregnancy

Nothing I have tried has come close to the comfort and support offered by Chaffree Knickerboxers. I was concerned that they wouldn’t be suitable for me because I.m pregnant and they don’t offer maternity sizes but I am pleasantly surprised that at 27 weeks pregnant I am still getting on well with them.

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Let’s be frank here for a second, shall we? Thigh chaffing, the infamous “chub rub”. Most women, regardless of size, know what I mean. I have suffered through it and struggled to find an actual solution to this for years – I’m not much of a skirt/dress wearer and this is probably why.

I have tried chopping the legs off of my tights and leggings and wearing them as shorts but unsurprisingly the bottom of the legs would roll over themselves and make the problem worse.  I have purchased shorts specifically for the job – most notably the flimsy white ones that I bought to try and get through my wedding without catching my dress on fire from the thigh friction. Thank goodness my wedding dress went to the floor and wasn’t figure hugging because I can only describe those shorts as “gigantic bloomers” and they set me back £15 – for only another £3 I could have had a pair off Chaffree Knickerboxers… if only I had known. 

Honestly, nothing I have tried has come close to the comfort and support offered by these Chaffree shorts. I was concerned that they wouldn’t be suitable for me right now because I am hugely pregnant and they don’t offer specific maternity sizes but I have to say, I am pleasantly surprised that at 27 weeks pregnant I am still getting on well with them. I was a size UK 14/16 pre-pregnancy so I got the M/L size to fit UK 16/18/20 and they’re only just getting snug.  As a realist, I predict that this pair probably won’t be comfortable for me right up until the end of my pregnancy at the rate I’m growing, but they are not too tight yet! I’m considering just rolling the waistband down once they become too tight around my ever growing belly.

Inside of the legs/crotch

When the shorts arrived I realised that they have a slim padded section that almost looks like towelling but it is synthetic so I was concerned that I would get very hot in them and sweat but actually the oppposite happened, they kept me very much cool and dry. The main material feels like thick tights to touch but the wizardry that keeps them from riding up or drooping down like tights is impressive. 

I got the ‘long’ leg Knickerboxers, which I thought would be fine as I am not much of a short dress wearer and I worried about them rolling up if they were too short. At 5’3″ (29″ leg) I would say the long is just slightly too long for me unless I am wearing a dress on or below the knee – anything above the knee can flash them a little bit – what I didn’t account for was my dresses appearing shorter after they’ve made their way all the way over my bump!

As far as I can tell these are not intended to be a shapewear garment – they have too much stretch for that – but I have found them to be supportive and flattering. They hold my bump up and take some of the pressure off of my hips and seem to smooth out some of my wobbly bits without being constrictive. 

My one quibble with the product is the use of synthetic fibres and the risk that poses to the environment – if they developed a natural fibre product I wouldn’t hesitate to buy every colour – as it is, I am pleased that one good quality garment is replacing all of  my feeble attempts at comfort. 

What other products have you come to swear by during pregnancy?

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Blue Reef Aquarium, Smuggler’s Adventure and Hastings Castle

annual tickets entitle you to use the Aquarium as well as visit the Smuggler’s Cove and Hastings Castle. We used the Aquarium tickets a few times over the year and a few days before his 3rd birthday we decided to hit all three attractions in one day

For my son’s second birthday my husband an I took him to the Blue Reef Aquarium in Hastings, East Sussex. He loves animals and was really into fish at the time so it was perfect. When we looked at prices we decided to get annual passes because they were very good value for money and our son would get another whole year of free entry.

The annual tickets entitle you to use the Aquarium as well as visit the Smuggler’s Cove and Hastings Castle. We used the Aquarium tickets a few times over the year and  a few days before his 3rd birthday we decided to hit all three attractions in one day along with three more adult family members.

Using our passes we were able to get a further 10% discount on the price of the already discounted “triple” tickets so we were quite pleased with the price of entry to the attractions.

Blue Reef Aquarium

As aquariums go, this one is actually quite small but I feel like it is fairly reflected in the price of a ticket when compared to others like Sea Life. If you want to go somewhere that is a whole day out then this is not for you, but if you’re looking for an enriching morning or afternoon then it’s perfect!

There are several scheduled talks and feedings throughout the day and we were lucky enough to watch a few of them. There is also a reptile section that my son absolutely loves, we got to hold a boa constrictor which was pretty cool. The staff are all friendly and helpful and seem to really care about the animals and the work they are doing which makes a really lovely atmosphere.

The aquarium has a small gift shop, a cafe and accessible toilets with baby changing facilities.

The food and drink in the cafe are pleasant enough and are inline with seaside prices. Sadly, they weren’t able to cater for my son’s allergies but they were apologetic and able to provide allergen information easily at my request. They had no issue with my son eating his packed lunch whilst we all had a coffee.

One thing that I do find quite disappointing about both the cafe and the gift shop is the lack of environmental sustainability. The cafe readily uses plastic cutlery, straws and single use cups and the gift shop sports a whole host of “cheap and cheerful” toys and souvenirs. I would have thought that a place that values marine conservation would have made these changes a long time ago – before mainstream attention.

Overall, we do really enjoy the aquarium and the negatives I have found are easily negated with a bit of preparation. We take food for our son and we take our own cutlery or eat elsewhere and we don’t spend long in the gift shop.

Smugglers Adventure.

Now, I really liked this. It was informative with a touch of humour and a little bit of “creepy” thrown in there. My three year old? Not so much. When we went in, the first thing we did was track down a dark, narrow corridor and into a dark cavern where they projected a ghost onto the wall that was to narrate our entire trip around the caves. Luckily, I had taken our toddler sized sling because he needed to be carried the whole way round after (unsurprisingly) refusing to walk down the first corridor because he couldn’t see.

There were a couple of things in there to make you jump but not badly.  Because of the nature of this attraction, I wouldn’t recommend visiting with a wheelchair or pushchair – being a cave there are some narrow spaces, rough ground and low ceilings to navigate. I imagine it could be done with a lot of coordination and help from the staff and a few sections would get missed, so if you are considering a visit with a wheelchair then make sure you call ahead and arrange it all with the staff and pick a time when it will be quiet. 

There were toilet facilities on site but a little tricky to find in the middle of a tour in a dark cave, if you pass a loo it’s best to use it! The gift shop was fairly similar to the one at the aquarium but less ocean themes and more pirate themed, some of the gifts were slightly better quality. There was no cafe there but there was one a short walk away across the top of the cliff.

Hastings castle

I had no idea what to expect with Hastings castle and I have to say, I was a bit disappointed. I knew it was a ruin but I didn’t think that’s all it would be – especially with a normal ticket price of £5! Luckily, it worked out with the triple ticket the price of entry for us was £1 each. When I have visited other ruins they have been well kept and neat. the hedges trimmed and the grass cut. There are usually plaques with information for every part of the ruin and pictures of what it would have looked like. Hastings Castle seemed to be lacking these, even in the height of peak season. Admittedly, it probably would have been pleasant enough if it hadn’t been raining at the time, but we all felt quite bitter at having trudged, soaking wet, up a hill for… not very much. Even the view across the coast was obscured but overgrown bushes.

There are absolutely no facilities on site, just the ticket office and a small unsightly temporary structure with a screen showing a battle reenactment on loop, large enough perhaps to seat a class of school children. 

Getting there and parking

There are no motorways in East Sussex at all, so you will use a lot of A roads and not all of them give a pleasant ride, leave with plenty of extra time to get there if you’re planning to drive!

There is limited street parking available near(ish) the Smugglers’ cove and Hastings Castle, but being on the top of a cliff, they understandably don’t have their own car parks! Alternatively, you can park on the seafront and use the funicular railway to get up the cliff side. The aquarium is on the seafront surrounded by parking but it is a 10-15 minute walk to the funicular railway from there, there are closer car parks further along the seafront as well.

Hastings is well serviced by public transport, there are a couple of bus routes that will drop you right outside the aquarium and all along the seafront.

Have you been to either of these amazing places in Hastings?

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Oliiki app review

Two members of the Mummykind team with kids at different ages (and a growing baby bump!) were given the opportunity to try out the Oliiki app, an app designed to aid your baby’s brain development from early pregnancy through to 2 years old.

The app itself is free to download, and then you can choose to buy one section at a time or buy all of the content at once, which works out a lot cheaper.

Higher quality image of app

Maria

I have been testing the pregnancy features of the app as my son is much older than the suggested age for the toddler activities, although I have had a peek through the app at the newborn and toddler pages as well!

Overall I really like the concept of the app, it provides you with a daily activity to aid specific areas of development and explains how/why it works and a link to the scientific study.

During pregnancy it is a little harder to interact with your baby, it encourages a lot of independent activities which is fine if you bought the whole content library at once but I would feel short changed if I had paid for a single trimester at the same cost as 3 months of the more in-depth content for babies and toddlers.

The information in the app is incredibly interesting, the Oliiki team have done an amazing job compiling it all and condensing it down into bitesize chunks. If you love learning and finding out how things work this app is perfect for you. If you are more of a visual learner you might struggle with the lack of images/videos/graphics in the app.

Paige

My daughter is coming up on fifteen months old, so we’re testing out the toddler activities.

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So far we’ve enjoyed using the app as a family. The app offers one activity per day on the homepage, but you are also able to access all activities by age or by subject using the menus at the bottom of the screen. There are some activities for her age that I never would have thought to encourage her to do (such as walking in jelly – big clean up needed!), but my monkey has thoroughly enjoyed them. There are some recommended activities that we’ve been doing long before using Oliiki, but I suppose that is more down to a child’s individual development, and at what stage you started using the app. At the end of completing the activity, a graph appears to show the relevance of the activity to the brain learning areas. This is really interesting, and you can see your child’s overall progress in the user profile area (however, if you’re like us and didn’t start using it until later in your child’s life, the progress won’t be 100% unless you go through and ‘complete’ all the activities for previous months, which is tedious).

Higher quality image of app brain area

The one thing I would say about this app is that if you’re not a big fan of reading, this may not be the app for you. I love to read, and I find the ‘Science and Research’ section fascinating, especially the ‘find out more’ section, which links to a larger article for further reading. You’d still be able to use the app well if you’re not a fan of this kind of thing, but I feel it would be better suited to parents who want to understand the scientific reasoning behind the activities they are doing with their children.

Overall the Mummykind girls loved this app and were thrilled to review it! Have you used the Oliiki app before? Let us know what you thought in the comments!

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Child-Friendly Cleaning Advice and Tips for Eco-Friendly Parents

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Cleaning the house is one of those things that just makes you want to pull your hair out!

I know first hand as a mother who works full time and always has about a million and one things to do in the short time that I actually spend at home of an evening!

One thing that has really helped me is getting Olivia involved, even with only tidying up her toys, it allows me to do a daily run around with the hoover and just get a bit done!

Chrissy has put together some more tips to help busy parents with their cleaning schedules, and, not only that, but also tips on how to make your cleaning eco-friendly! I know I for one am particularly terrible at needing cleaning products that probably are quite harmful (honestly, if it smells like lemon, it’s probably in my kitchen somewhere!), so I am especially glad to read these tips for a clean and safe home!

While they might make your home smell like a fresh meadow, cleaning products have actually been shown to be as bad for your lungs as smoking 20 cigarettes a day. Not only are these types of products incredibly dangerous for the health of your family, but they can also be harmful to the environment as they contain dangerous chemicals that spray out into the local air. While this all might sound a little overwhelming, there are actually really easy and cheap ways to give your home a deep clean that won’t cause harm to your family or the rest of your household. 

Keep it Simple

As a parent, especially to a newborn baby or even a toddler, you might fall prey to the age-old desire of wanting to sterilise your entire home to keep them safe. While this is a normal feeling, you’ll actually want to remember one thing: keep it simple. Just as nutritionists recommend eating food with the most simple ingredients possible, experts recommend the same for cleaning products. The same study that revealed just how dangerous cleaning products are also noted that microfibre cloths and water are usually sufficient enough to do the trick. 

DIY All-Natural Cleaning Products

If you need a little more help than mere hot water is providing you with, try lemons. Lemon juice, water, and a little vinegar mixed together are actually enough to lift grease, dissolve any dirt and grime on appliances and even disinfect the surfaces of your home. Vinegar can also help clean certain floors, leather sofas, and even wine glasses. To create an all-purpose cleaner that’s safe on the environment but also smells great and won’t affect your allergies, you’ll want to combine equal parts water and vinegar and add about 20 drops of your favourite essential oil. Shake, spray and enjoy the aroma while also enjoying keeping your air fresh and clean.

    

Pinterest has some amazing DIY cleaning products that are all natural and homemade (and, of course, much better for the environment)! Some of our favourites are these…

Make Cleaning Fun

You’ll be able to reduce the amount of time and products spent cleaning your home if you can clean periodically throughout the week. Waiting until enough dirt, dust, and grime have built up so that it becomes noticeable will require you to use more product to get it off your floors, walls, and appliances. To avoid this, try to make cleaning fun. Set aside about ten to fifteen minutes a day to turn up the music inside your house, take off your shoes, and let the kids run crazy. The catch here is that they can run around, dance and sing at the top of their lungs during this time period, but only if they’re cleaning. If you have especially competitive children, this works great as a game, too. Challenge them to see who can clean the most every day and watch how they take to cleaning as if it’s actually something fun.

A Clean Home Makes a Happy Mum

By making a few simple changes and ensuring you’re always practicing child-safe cleaning, you’ll find that your home is cleaner and your family is healthier. This will result in a very happy mum that can rest assured knowing she’s taking care of her home and family in the best way possible.

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Disneyland at Christmas

If you are thinking of going at all, you simply have to, but Christmas time is just incredible. We’ve been saying for ages that we wanted to go away for Christmas so that we didn’t have to do anything at home on Christmas Day. No mess, no plates to wash up, no hundreds of presents! It was great.

Oh my lord. We’ve been away for Christmas this year, and not just to anywhere, but to the place where magic really happens – DISNEYLAND PARIS.
If you are thinking of going at all, you simply have to, but Christmas time is just incredible. We’ve been saying for ages that we wanted to go away for Christmas so that we didn’t have to do anything at home on Christmas Day. No mess, no plates to wash up, no hundreds of presents! It was great.

The Highlights:

  • Christmas dinner with the princesses
  • Olivia’s face on the parachute ride
  • Meeting Mickey Mouse and Père Noël
  • All you can eat breakfast
  • Our Disney Christmas tree

The Not-So-Highlights:

  • It was bitterly, bitterly cold
  • We all came down with colds
  • The meal plans are a bit more confusing now
  • Being tricked into getting on Space Mountain
As a family, we DO Disney. This is our third time going together (Jamie has gone an additional 3 times with Kiera, and Kiera went another time with her mum… that makes 7 times for her now!!!!) so we weren’t newbies to the whole thing, but since the last time we went in January 2016, things have changed quite a bit!

What to Book…

We always book our Disney holidays directly through Disneyland Paris, but there are 2 things especially that we make sure are on our bookings!
1. Meal Plan
 
Since we went in 2016, Disney have completely changed their meal plans. Instead of half board or full board, they now have multiple options for half board and full board meal plans. Normally, we book a full board meal plan because it saves so much time and money. You just book your meal at your hotel in the evening, or in one of the parks for lunch, and it’s all already paid for. The cost of the restaurants in the park for a 3 person buffet is about 95 euros so you don’t want to be shelling out for that every day!
They’ve also now got rid of the Pause Gourmande/Teatime Treat vouchers from the half board meal plan. We managed fairly well on the half board standard meal plan this time, but in future I will always still go for full board – the trouble is that when we booked, this was unavailable.
We did have a bit of a problem over Christmas Eve being told that we couldn’t use our vouchers at the hotel for dinner because they were doing a special Christmas Eve dinner that we had to pay for. Needless to say, I obviously wasn’t too happy with that but we managed to get a late lunch/early dinner in the park and so had a cheap meal deal in our hotel room for supper.
2. Character Dining
Jamie had done the lunch with the princesses once with Kiera, and our Christmas dinner this year was lunch with the princesses. From what Jamie told me about the last time he did that character dining, I wasn’t expecting it to be that great, but actually, it was incredible and I’m so glad we did it!
We had already done breakfast with the characters the last time we took Kiera and that was really great, but seeing as you already get an all you can eat buffet for breakfast and you can meet those characters every morning at the hotel, it didn’t feel like it was worth as much as the lunch with the princesses. It was still brilliant – Pluto came and “ate” Kiera’s sausages and we got some amazing photos, and there were loads of characters coming between the tables.
At lunch with the princesses, Olivia met 4 princesses (Cinderella, Ariel, Belle and Sleeping Beauty) after having already met Snow White in the Princess Pavilion, and also met the two mice from Cinderella, Suzy and Perla. The characters were brilliant, Ariel was especially good and the mice made a huge fuss of Olivia, pretending to sew her dress for her like they do for Cinderella! It was truly magical for Olivia, and her face lit up as soon as she walked in and saw “Cinder-e

lly”.

Aside from the characters, you also get a 3 course meal which was really good, and even though we didn’t technically have a meal plan for Olivia as she is under 3, she had the same meal as Kiera and was very happy with it!

What to See and Who to Meet…

1. Princess Pavilion
 
The waiting times for meeting the characters is always long, but at least on one day, make sure you go to the Princess Pavilion. It opens at 10am and the notice board outside tells you which Princess is inside to meet. Olivia waited about an hour to see Snow White, but with Kiera I remember we waited about 90 minutes to see Cinderella and we were quite unimpressed with the whole thing (Kiera was made up about it). This time we were better prepared – Jamie took Kiera on the bigger rides while I waited to meet Snow White, Olivia had her own autograph book to draw in so that we kept the Princess one intact, and she also made friends with another little girl and was playing with her in the queue.
Snow White was absolutely fantastic with Olivia (even if Olivia did tell her that her favourite princess was Anna), and Olivia was starstruck and went all shy, but we got some amazing photos! Waiting times are always a bummer, but inside the Princess Pavilion there are loads of things to look at – castles and items from the fairytales line the walls and so does the magic mirror from Snow White! It’s a really great experience.
 
2. Meet the Characters at the Hotel
 
Every morning, your Disney hotel will have a character waiting for you to take pictures with. On Christmas Day, we had Père Noël at Breakfast with us and Olivia went straight over to see him! It was an amazing moment for her to meet Father Christmas and get that extra signature in her autograph book.
Even without needing to go at Christmas time, the characters will be there waiting and if your little ones want to meet characters like Mickey Mouse, you are far better off meeting them at the hotel rather than waiting the 90 minutes to Meet Mickey Mouse in the Disneyland Park.
The official photographers are there too and they asked Olivia to go back to give Mickey Mouse a kiss!
 
 
 
3. Meet the Characters in the Parks 
 
All of the characters in the Walt Disney Studios Park now have to be reserved in advance on the Lineberty App – Minnie Mouse is over there, as are the Toy Story Characters, and, Spiderman.
Olivia really wanted to meet Spiderman and we weren’t familiar with this app until we tried to meet Pluto and were told we needed a reservation! Upon closer inspection it seems like a good idea – you can get into a virtual queue to meet the character of your choice, then spend minimal time actually queuing up and get your photos and autographs done ready for you to go straight back to the rides.
Spiderman was great, and I wish we could have done Minnie Mouse too except her queue was full up when we tried to get a space, and also I didn’t see any way of knowing if it was Minnie or one of the other characters! Either way, these are definitely easier to meet and greet than in the Disneyland Park where you physically queue up for as long as it takes.
4. The Parade
 
We only managed to gatecrash the parade on this trip, which was a shame as Olivia wanted to see Anna, Elsa and Rapunzel, who all feature in the parade. The trouble was the timing as she was pretty much asleep at that time every day we were there! I don’t think there is a way you can actually meet those other characters, so if you have Frozen or Tangled fans, try to get a good spot near the ground so you can see Rapunzel (Anna and Elsa are on a big float so you can’t miss them!)
 
5. The Illuminations
 
We didn’t get to see these at all this time due to Olivia needing sleep and feeling a bit rotten, and also, the cold would have been even worse at 10pm when the Fireworks started. However we have seen them before and absolutely loved them! The whole castle is lit up and projected onto, it’s truly magnificent and I’m more than a little gutted that we couldn’t stay to see them on this trip.
6. Christmas Shows
 
One of the other advantages to going to Disneyland at Christmas time is that you get a bunch of extra Christmas shows put on! Most of them are on stages outside, however one was indoors in the nice warm Videopolis near Space Mountain and the Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast ride. Olivia loved watching Mickey and Minnie Mouse and it’s great because you get a seat and a chance to warm up a bit before going and braving the cold again! Plus, French hot chocolate is yummy and there’s a food spot right inside where you can use your magic passes/food vouchers!!!
Would we do it all again?
ABSOLUTELY YES.
I never want another Christmas at home – think of how much of the rubbish we have skipped out on by being away! The girls knew that they were only getting little presents as Disneyland was their Christmas present, and we had no dinner to cook (we don’t eat Turkey anyway!)
Okay, so maybe we won’t do it every year, but it was really nice to get away over Christmas and Disneyland was simply incredible over Christmas time. 100% recommend!
Have you taken your family away over Christmas? Will you be doing it again?

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ENDED: Perfect Puppets Giveaway – just in time for Christmas!

Here is your chance to win one of our favourite products from the fabulous Fiesta Crafts!
“Children who love story time will adore these hand and finger puppets which have been beautifully designed to spur on even the wildest of imaginations. Reflective of the key characters in two of our most treasured children’s stories, one large hand puppet plays a key character supported by a series of embroidered fabric finger puppets to make the retelling of these classic fun and fully interactive! Not only is it a great toy for individual play, it is also designed to encourage role playing with others – improving confidence and social / communication skills. The finger puppets can be stored in pockets on the hand puppet after play making it easy to keep the whole set together in one place.
Beautifully made and thoughtfully created, the hand puppet and finger puppet sets which will stimulate and entertain, encouraging children to retell classic stories in their own, unique way. Suitable from 3 years plus. RRP £25.”

 

Closes at Midnight on 30th November 2018

Our Favourite Fiesta Crafts toys!

Fiesta Crafts create traditional toys with fun contemporary twists! They design and manufacturer toys that help children to develop their creative, imaginative, communication and language skills. Here are some of Mummykind’s tried and tested favourites!

 

Push N Roll Toys…

 


For walking, for crawling – a perfect developmental toy. The dinosaur push n roll along is beautifully colourful, sturdy and fantastically crafted. The Push N Roll Along toys are designed to be the perfect play toy for small children- supporting and encouraging them as they develop from sitting to crawling to walking. It comes with a detachable wooden rod that inserts easily into the back of the toy. The Push N Roll toy can be rolled (sitting or crawling) or pushed (walking) via the wooden rod with an easy-to-grip  handle. This 2-in-1 toy with its moving parts will keep little ones greatly entertained. The bright colours and attention to detail are sure to make this toy a much-loved addition to any toy collection while helping younger children to improve fine and gross motor skills as well as becoming familiar with new sounds, shapes and animals. Also available as a giraffe, pink elephant, police car and fire engine. Suggested for 18 months plus. 


Wobbly Garden Toys

Wobbly Garden from Fiesta Crafts is a bright and enchanting set of 18 hand-painted colourful garden creature pieces and wooden garden wobbly board. Children carefully place pieces onto the board without tipping over. But watch out! Don’t be the one who makes the board tip and make all the pieces fall. Wobbly Garden can be used as a fun children’s game for 1-4 players or individually for a fun way to enhance fine motor skills. Box contains 18 colourful chunky wooden pieces and a big garden balancing board piece. The aim of the game is to balance pieces on board before they all fall off!The wooden pieces include butterflies, ladybirds, flowers and hilarious goggle-eyed frogs. The game has been designed to help improve children’s fine motor skills and increase general physical awareness of balance. Suitable from 2 Years.          

 

Giraffe Play Blankie                    


The Giraffe Play Blankie is an adorable, exciting and interactive combination of a teething toy, a comfort blanket and activity toy all in one – perfect for keeping little ones entertained.These gorgeous Play Blankies have soft, friendly faces and bodies, and four entertaining and engaging activity paws. They are visually appealing with their brightly decorated fabrics and  entertaining with different textures to feel and squeeze. Each paw has something for the baby to interact with – one of the paws has a teether/chew piece, perfect for teething babies and sore gums. Another of the paws has a jingly rattle, a third with colourful fabric tags, and the fourth has a push to squeak stripy star. The Giraffe Play Blankie appeals to multiple senses, it is the perfect cuddling comforter, and even has two cords so that it can be tied on to a cot or buggy and provide comfort and entertainment wherever you go! Also available as an elephant. Suitable from birth onwards.

Musical Boxes

 

 
This beautifully crafted musical box is the perfect addition to any nursery. Nothing soothes our babies more than music. This hand made rotating music box plays Brahms lullaby, lasting approximately four minutes each cycle. The bright coloured wooden animals make it a cute but stylish accessory for a child’s room too. Recommended for handling from ages 3 and up.                   
 

Cush N Case                                                  

 


These amazing Cush N Case toys is soft, loveable and extremely practical! It’s a cosy kitty cushion that doubles up as a travel case. Perfect for using as a height boost at the cinema or at the dinner table, sleeping on or taking on adventures inside and outside the home. Fabulous for travel, with zipped storage for those little bits and bobs like lolly sticks and pencils that our cheeky children simply ‘must’ take with them. Our babies can also cuddle up to the very comfy Cush N Case and sleep on it during those long car and plane journeys. Featuring adorable little ears and beautifully sewn whiskers, noses and eyes. They come complete with a matching character soft toy so that children have a new friend to match their cushion and play with on their travels. The Cush N Case is genius, handy, practical and also transforms into a fun toy that can be accessed on the go, wherever your little ones are! Also available as a tiger. Suitable from 12 months plus.            

 

Hand & Finger Puppet Sets                

 
 


This is our favourite! The fabulous hand and finger puppet sets come with a soft and cuddly main character hand puppet and multiple other story characters as finger puppets! All of the little finger puppets attach to the hand puppet for tidy storage. Ideal for re-enacting their favourite stories and creating their own! I honestly feel that these are the perfect toys for encouraging imaginative play and enhancing social skills! Playing with these fun puppets is a fabulous way to entertain children and their families as well as furthering the development of children’s creativity and imagination. 
 
Also available as Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate FactoryJames and the Giant Peach, The BFG®, Puss in Boots, The Jungle Book, The Little Mermaid, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The Big Bad Wolf, Red Riding Hood, Goldilocks, Jack and the Beanstalk, Nursery Rhymes, The Gingerbread Man, Cinderella and The Frog Prince. Suitable from 3 years plus.

If you loved these as much as we do stay tuned for a Fiesta Crafts give away, with the chance for two of you to win one of these fantastic items – Just in time for Christmas!

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