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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How soon can I get my children involved in clubs and hobbies?

I could not wait to sign Olivia up to all kinds of clubs and lessons!

This weekend, she went to her first one – a local tots and mums dance club and she absolutely loved it. She is 2.

The club is aimed at children under the age of 2 and a half, and involves loads of props including sparkly fairy wands (anything sparkly is a win for Olivia), flags, pom poms, bean bags, a big colourful parachute, and teddy bears.

I’ve been looking at so many things that I want her to do. A little while ago at a fun day organised by our Grenadier Guards Welfare, she had the chance to ride a donkey. Her face was an absolute picture. I was excited because she was so excited. After that, I started looking at horse riding lessons for her. I did find one place close by that would take children aged 2 and up, but it was too far away for me before I was driving!

Once she hits 3, there are so many more things that she’ll be able to do! Horseriding is a must – she has a real affinity with animals and I wish I could properly convey how much she loved riding the donkey.

I’d also like to get her playing a musical instrument. For her birthday I bought her a toy grand piano (it is so cute and probably the only grand piano I will ever own). It has a little microphone with it which Olivia loves signing into, and so I think that the piano will be the best instrument to start off with.

I’m not sure on when is the best age to start a musical instrument, and it largely depends on the instrument itself. My stepdaughter asked us to find her a saxophone teacher – don’t ask me why! I have no idea why she wanted to learn the saxophone, however being only 8 years old I had a lot of difficulty finding someone who would teach her to play. Larger instruments that need to be held will mean that children have to be older to start to play. Some advice I was given was that they have lessons in smaller instruments of the same family first, e.g. the recorder or the flute!

I don’t know if Olivia will continue to enjoy playing the piano when she starts lessons, and I don’t really know when she can start! I’ve heard of 3 year olds having piano lessons but in a way I feel like that’s maybe too soon for formal lessons… Maybe I’ll review that when she gets to 3!

The last thing I want to get her into is boxing! Again, she can’t really do this yet, however she goes on a Monday evening with the childminder while her son does boxing classes and they’re great about letting the little ones run around and join in. Because she’s already familiar with the environment there, that’s something I really want to get her into! Not least because she loves giving me “high-fives” whilst wearing Daddy’s boxing gloves! Plus, I want to do it myself and I love the idea of boxing being a whole family activity. Kiera went to boxing a couple of times a week until recently and I know she absolutely loved it, and it’s possibly the best kind of fitness for anyone, adult or child!

Maybe I’m already exhibiting “pushy parent” behaviours, but you can make your own mind up about that! I don’t want to force her to do all of these things, but I’m just so excited to get Olivia involved in these things because not only will she enjoy them, but they’ll be hobbies for life and they’ll stand her in such good stead in the future. She’s already showing signs of being a performer and I want to nurture that, as well as her love of horses and how energetic she is!

These are all just ideas for now, and I’m enjoying the bonding time that we have on a Saturday morning doing our dancing club.

Have you taken your tot to any clubs or activities? How old were your children when they had their first music lessons?

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5 reasons why we should all be walking with our kids!




https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsOne of my favourite things about my day, every day, is my morning walk with my daughter to drop her off with the childminder. She’s not even 2 yet, and this morning walk is already a part of our everyday routine… Why? Well, for starters, I can’t drive, and secondly, even if I could, it brings me so much joy walking with her. Of course, there are the odd stressful moments of characteristic toddler defiance, but more often than not we are both enjoying ourselves!

So here is a little list of reasons why, in my opinion, we should all be walking with our kids as much as possible – whether that’s walking them to school or to the local park, and no matter how old they are, the benefits are just incredible!

1. Children adore the world around them

Olivia is full of awe at everything – she’s at that age where she is curious about everything that she sees, and where she is beginning to ask me questions such as “What’s that?”

Walking outdoors with her gives her so much more exposure to things that she is naturally curious about! The last two days when we’ve walked through town it’s been a constant interrogation of her asking me what things are, but she’s learning, and she’s having fun doing it!

2. Children have sooooo much energy!


Seriously, Olivia runs faster than me. But again, the whole idea of her being outside makes her WANT to burn off that excitement and energy. What better way to start her childhood than doing exercise and enjoying it? God knows that probably won’t last if you stop encouraging your kids to go outside!

3. Dirt isn’t dirty


Bit contradictory this one, but being outside in the mud on a rainy day is ridiculously good for our kids. It builds their immune systems up immensely, allowing their bodies to fight off bad bacteria on its own. And you know what? WHO CARES if they get dirty? What are baths for? 

Olivia always comes back from her childminder caked in something, and it’s a sign that she’s had fun! You can always find her in the garden playing, and as much as I will be regretting putting her in a white cardigan/top while she’s rolling around in the grass, that’s more fool me, and to her, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, so why tell her that she shouldn’t be “getting dirty”?

4. You’ll benefit too

Walking is a form of exercise, and particularly if you go on a nice, ample nature walk with the kids, you’re going to burn a lot of calories! But even putting the physical benefits aside, you’re going to benefit mentally. Getting fresh air and exercise releases endorphins, and, of course, you will love the bonding experience of walking with your children, creating memories with them that will last forever.

5. You just might get a bit more of a childhood out of your little one


Too often now parents are quick to stick the kids in front of the TV for 5 minutes of peace… Trust me, if mine would sit still long enough I’d do it too! Screen time is normal for kids now, but to me it feels like it’s one thing that stops them from being children. Playing outdoors is such a normal part of childhood, and I would hate for that to end too soon for Olivia. Making a nice walk (or run, in her case as she runs everywhere!) part of a daily routine will hopefully give children that extra push to love being outdoors in spite of the attraction of the xbox or PS4. Then, in years to come, your kids will be instilling the same childhood loves in their kids, and so on! 


Times and technology may have changed, but the way we help our children to enjoy their incredibly short childhoods doesn’t have to!

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How to entertain a toddler without spending a penny.

I am so excited about Christmas. The tree has gone up early, I seem to have bought pretty much everything. I’ve planned some Christmas activities for my little one for the month of December. But what do you do when you don’t want to give your toddler any new things to play with, because their toys are waiting in a cupboard to be wrapped, and you’re living off a budget because your money has either been spent, or is going towards all the food and other bits and pieces your money disappears on at this time of year? The weather is also not enticing me to spend much time outside, even with layers on!

I’ve been coming up with some free activities to do at home with my toddler who is a bit bored of her usual toys. She had fun, so I wanted to share these activities with you. Let me know if you try any of them and please share your ideas with us, as we can give them a go before Christmas!

Music time.
Ok, I get it, you’re probably thinking, why Charlotte, why would you want to add to the noise levels you’re already experiencing as a parent?! Well we quite enjoy trying to play some rhythms to songs. I put on some nursery rhymes and we’ll play some instruments, which I’ve separated from the rest of my daughter’s toys, for ‘music time’. If you don’t have any, get the ol pots and pans out with the wooden spoons and have a little sing song. You’re not in front of a judging panel, so who cares if you’re not Mariah Carey? We filled some empty plastic bottles with dry pasta, corn kernels, rice and buttons and used them as shakers. For extra safety you can put some tape round the lids. You could even do this to Christmas songs!

A teddy bear’s picnic.
If you go down to the woods today… Nope, no way… Not in this weather. So what better way to bring a bit of sunshine into your home than to lay out a blanket, sit the teddies round and enjoy a bit of make believe fun. This is when you realise just how vast your toddler’s soft toy collection is getting! My daughter doesn’t have a toy tea set or anything like that yet. It’s something I want to get when she’s a bit older, so what we used instead were some of her plastic bowls, plates and spoons. We even got some empty milk bottles she’s not really used. I put on some music and we had a lot of fun feeding the teddies at the picnic.

If you’re interested, this is the play list we used. I picked some old time classic children’s tunes:

Teddy Bear’s picnic- Bing Crosby
Fuzzy Wuzzy (wuz a bear) – Andrea McArdle
The Bee Song – Arthur Askey
Nellie the Elephant – Mandy Miller
Run rabbit run- Flanagan and Allen
The Sun Has Got His Hat On – Ambrose and his orchestra
How Much Is That Doggie In The Window? – Patti Page
Zip-a-dee-doo-dah – James Baskett

Play dough.
I knew my mum used to make this with me as a child, but I didn’t realise just how easy it is to make and from things that I had in my kitchen cupboard. If I did this again I would add the food colouring to the water, but we still had fun and what we got was more of a marble effect. It wasn’t deliberate but it didn’t bother us, we still had fun. With the amount of salt in the recipe, I kept an eye on my daughter to make sure she wasn’t eating it.

2 cups of plain flour,
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil,
1/2 a cup of salt,
2 teaspoons of cream of tartar,1 and a half cups of boiling water
And food colouring.

Mix the salt, flour and cream of tartar together in a bowl. Add the water, the food colouring and oil into the mixture and stir.

That’s it!

Road car mat.
This was probably the most time consuming activity for me to prepare. I used a piece of board I had lying around the house, but you could use a piece of cardboard. What I did was got out our permanent marker pens and drew some roads, a roundabout and some buildings onto the board. If you were arty, you might like to paint this on, use your imagination! A lot of people will have car mats already for their toddlers, but even if you have, your toddler might enjoy having a different place to drive their toy cars. You could put your house on there and ask your toddler to drive the car home. Now we have this ‘mat’, I’m able to re use it in the run up to Christmas.

These were the free activities I did with my toddler in a week. If you are looking for some fun, free activities to do and you didn’t have the pennies right now, I hope these give you some ideas. Christmas is always a time where we are made to feel as parents that we need to get our children lots of things, and I’m not saying you shouldn’t want to spoil your children. What I’m saying is that your toddler will be enjoying spending the time with you and won’t be worrying about the price tag.

Like I said, please share your ideas, we’d love to see and hear about them!

5 Books to Read With Your Kids Before They Start School

My son is now a bit older and he has started  taking some level of interest in books, particularly those with a solid rhyme scheme and a lot of repetition. I’m no expert but I think the anticipation of me repeating a line or phrase that he knows is really exciting and he often squeals with delight when he knows what the next line is.

I’ll be the first to hold my hands up and say I haven’t read to my son as often as I should have. He’s all about playing and having fun and rarely wants to listen to stories. When I was pregnant I said I would read to him every day from the day he was born but I was hideously unprepared for how much other important stuff would need doing.

My son is now a bit older and he has started  taking some level of interest in books, particularly those with a solid rhyme scheme and a lot of repetition. I’m no expert but I think the anticipation of me repeating a line or phrase that he knows is really exciting and he often squeals with delight when he knows what the next line is.

Of course, chosing just five was no easy task because there are so many truly brilliant books for kids out there and the list does keep growing. I have included books that we keep coming back to, books that he brings to us to be read and a firm favourite from my own childhood.

1. How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? By Jane Yolen and Mark Teague

This is part of a series of books and we love them all but this was the first one we got and we found it dishes out just the right amount of excitement to keep our little guy interested and giggling before it winds right down to a beautiful “…goodnight, goodnight little dinosaur” at the end. As he gets older I hope he also starts to take lessons from these books, which are not so subtly filled with behavioural advice for ‘little dinosaurs’.

Weston Woods Studios Incorporated, 2004

2. Someone Bigger By Jonathan Emmett and Adrian Reynolds

A slightly more recent discovery on our part but it has quickly become one of our son’s favourite books, he ‘reads’ it himself a lot and brings it to us regularly. I suspect it’s because there is a fire engine in there about halfway through but the book has a gentle rhythm that keeps him captivated and the repeated line “This kite needs someone bigger” never fails to get a laugh.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2003
3. The Goat that Gloats by Joelle Dreidemy and Leyland Perree
We got this book when I was pregnant in a second hand book shop and we have loved it ever since. The whole book follows a very clear and bold rhyme scheme and although he’s not old enough to appreciate the moral of the story yet we hope our son is absorbing it all. It’s a very fun read filled with light humour – this one is for the parents as much as the kids.
Alligator Books Limited, 2012
4. One, Two, Flea! By Allan Ahlberg and Colin McNaughton
My first experience with this book was several years ago when my oldest nephew was given it at the end of his first school year by his teacher. He read it to us and we read it to him and we all howled with laughter. When he was seven I found him reading it to his younger brother, both were in hysterics. Fast forward again and my little boy thinks it’s brilliant. Having almost forgotten about it until it turned up in a jumble sale box, I was so exited to share what has now become a bit of a family tradition
 
Walker Books, 1998

5. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury

Here it is, the old favourite. I used to make my mum and nan (or anyone who would dare to enter my house really) read this to me over and over until none of us even needed the book in order to recite it in its entirety. It’s such an adventure and it needs to have the actions and the sounds to go with it. This isn’t a book, this is a script for a performance.
Walker Books, 1993
Do you have a favourite children’s book in your family? I’d love to hear your suggestions and recommendations!