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!

Image may contain: 1 person, sitting, table and food

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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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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What is there for toddlers at LEGOLAND Windsor Resort?

Recently as part of the army’s welfare service while my husband is deployed, we were invited on a free trip to LEGOLAND! So, of course, we went – who would pass that up?! – and we loved it! But with a two year old in tow, most of my day was spent trying to navigate the toddler friendly rides and attractions at LEGOLAND, which was no easy feat.

One thing I will say is that if you are planning on going with really little ones, don’t go in half term! It wasn’t excessively busy throughout the resort but it did make queue times pretty long!

Duplo Valley…

Duplo Train

This very short train ride is the perfect introduction to rides for your toddler! Olivia was itching to get on the Skyrider but couldn’t because of the height restriction, so the Duplo Train was the perfect substitute! You have to accompany your tot but this is a sure win for toddlers going to LEGOLAND!

Fairy Tale Brook

I didn’t get to go on this one in the end and I’m absolutely gutted! It’s a nice little boat ride perfect for all family members, as adults have to accompany guests under 1.3m and there’s no minimum heigh to ride! The ride takes you through a bunch of fairy tales and you get to see loads of fairy tale characters made out of Lego – it sounds really amazing! When we go back again we’ll definitely be taking Olivia on this one!

Brickville

This is a very nice little play area situated quite closely to the Splash Safari and Fairy Tale Brook, and it’s ideal for kids of all ages!

Splash Safari

Oh. My. Goodness.
My daughter spent THE WHOLE MORNING here. She absolutely loved it! It’s essentially a little water park in Duplo Valley with tons of cute animals spurting out water everywhere. It was honestly amazing and she had so much fun! I would say to bring a swimming costume – they have changing rooms next to the Splash Safari but as Olivia is only little I just stripped her down to her nappy and away she went!

Adventure Land…

Atlantis Submarine

This was another one that Olivia loved. The queue time was relatively short (less than 5 minutes one time and about 20 minutes the other time). I bribed her with strawberries to walk nicely in the queue and she did pretty well, but patience is not her strong point! Once we were in the submarine she was so excited to see the “poissons”! When I first saw the sign for a SeaLife centre I didn’t realise that we would be going into a submarine to see the fish! This was the PERFECT ride for little kids to get on and to enjoy themselves.

LEGO City…

Coastguard HQ

This one is suitable for everyone, as adults have to accompany guests under 1.3m and there is no minimum height to get into the boats! However I’m going to guess that toddlers aren’t the best people to be steering the boat around the waterways, so you’ll very much be in charge of the boat ride! And the LEGOLAND website warns that you will get wet on this one.

Balloon School

Unfortunately your tot cannot get their LEGOLAND driving licence just yet! BUT, they can indeed go to Balloon School as long as you accompany them, which is right around the corner from the driving school areas.

Kingdom of the Pharaohs…

Laser Raiders

This one is fine as long as you accompany your tot, however I’m not sure how successful it would be to get your toddlers on here! The laser game requires some precision and usually it’s better if your kids are a little bit older, but I’m sure toddlers would have just as much fun!

Heartlake City…

While none of the attractions in Heartlake City are any good for toddlers, there is a pretty amazing pirate show as well as a very lively and upbeat Lego Friends show that anyone can watch!

Miniland…

Pretty much does what it says on the tin… Miniland is just full of miniature Lego villages, all themed by country! My daughter was fascinated with them, and I was too!
The Lego boats floated through the rivers, and the sheer detail in the models was incredible – Olivia loved walking around and getting quite up close to the models to point out things she could see.

Imagination Centre…

Right at the beginning of the park there are a number of little build and play areas, including a Lego Reef and an Education Centre. The perfect spot to let the little ones have a go at creating some amazing Lego models.

So, that’s my list of everything at LEGOLAND Windsor Resort that your toddler can do! While the number of rides tailored towards younger kids isn’t spectacular, they have absolutely loads of outdoor play areas and other activities that everyone can get involved in, which is pretty unique for a theme park.
Would I go again?
Absolutely! We had such a wonderful day, and next time I hope that we’ll be able to go on even more now that I know which rides are suitable and where they all are!
Thanks for reading, let me know if there’s anything I’ve missed or if you’ve also been to LEGOLAND we would love to see your pictures too!

 

Mummies Waiting
Monday Stumble Linky

Taking a toddler to SeaLife

Hi all!

Sometimes it’s nice to share photos of things we’ve been up to recently, and Olivia and I have been up to all sorts of antics this week!

Yesterday we had a very busy but amazing day, and I’m really starting to feel like I’m on top of the world now and actually in control. We’ve gotten into a lovely routine together, and although we both miss Jamie very much, we’re managing okay while he’s serving abroad.

So, what did we get up to yesterday?

We took a day trip to the SeaLife Aquarium in London! We managed a (mostly) successful train journey with only one tantrum – I call that a success – and for the majority of the time walking around the aquarium, Olivia was so happy and excited! There were a few screaming fits on the floor, but minimal and I could tell that she was getting quite tired.

I cannot even describe how amazed she was by the whole aquarium, but this photo does it some justice:

Seeing her so happy made the whole day worthwhile, and, of course, by the end of walking all around the aquarium she was so exhausted that I managed a hassle-free trip to uni to collect my White Book! I may have also enrolled her on the BPTC while I was there… She was asleep after all, so she couldn’t stop me!
The only stressful part of the day was attempting to keep hold of Olivia at the same time as pushing an empty buggy around! SeaLife doesn’t have a buggy park (which I was unaware of), and that meant it was a tad tricky trying to lug around a buggy, a bag and a baby all by myself! We will definitely have to go again when Jamie gets back from Afghanistan with the whole family!

Have you been to SeaLife? What have you been up to this weekend? We’d love to know so leave us a comment or submit your pics to us via email and we will share them on our instagram page!

PhotalifeMrs H's favourite things

10 Amazing Benefits of Babywearing

I thought I would be a good time to talk about the amazing benefits I’ve experienced as a babywearing parent. If you like the sound of any of this then you need to get yourself to your nearest sling library and take a look at the options available. Please ALWAYS make sure you follow the T.I.C.K.S guidelines shown at the bottom of the post. 

As International Babywearing Week draws to a close I thought I would be a good time to talk about the amazing benefits I’ve experienced as a babywearing parent. If you like the sound of any of this then you need to get yourself to your nearest sling library and take a look at the options available. Please ALWAYS make sure you follow the T.I.C.K.S guidelines shown at the bottom of the post. 

 

 

1. Settle that fussy baba

Week 1 of my son’s life was spent in hospital. Week 2 was a hellish nightmare of constant screaming. Week 3 my babywearing journey began after a friend leant me her Close Caboo sling and I was able to settle my little guy and keep hold of him without getting dead arms.  Newborns need a huge amount of closeness; they aren’t designed to go long without human contact so popping them into a sling is a great way of keeping them close and content. I’d highly recommend a stretchy wrap for a newborn because it’s soft, warm and ergonomic for their scrunched up little bodies.

2. Hands-free cuddles 

Once your baby has settled you can do crazy things like attend to basic human functions or even stretch to a bit of housework. For several weeks the only way I could feed myself, use the loo or do any washing up was by having little man in the sling. 

3. No more pram-induced invisibility 

There is a crazy phenomena that turns parents and their children invisible as soon as they touch a pushchair or pram. People just do not see you (I can’t be the only one who has experienced this?). The number of people who walk into me or straight towards my son’s pushchair is insane, I’m literally taking up twice the amount of space that other people take up, why can’t you see me? With a sling you can dodge in and out of crowds pretty well without people constantly sideswiping your pushchair. It’s really convenient in busy places.
 

4. Go off road!

Go for a walk in the woods. Climb steps. Paddle at the beach. The possibilities are endless because you can go anywhere your feet will take you without lugging a massive bit of kit around, just a little baby wrapped close to your body. Perfect. 

5. Sleepydust 

‘Sleepydust’ is a word that gets batted around the babywearing community a lot. It’s the magic that a sling has that just makes your kiddo fall asleep quickly and peacefully. Most slings have it and any child who is remotely tired will just conk out once they’re up. 
 

6. Get snuggly 

Babywearing is warm and comfy and most importantly it is an excellent way of bonding with your little one. That level of closeness helps keep you in tune with each other and is a great mood booster because cuddles = oxytocin.

7. No strollers allowed…

It’s not often this happens but there are some places that don’t let you take pushchairs or prams in with you. One place my family loves to visit is Sissinghurst Castle and Gardens (if you’re ever in Kent during the warmer months you have to go there!). They don’t let pushchairs in for conservation reasons and although they provide carriers at the ticket
office they are not the most ergonomic and the ones for toddlers are framed and bulky. Having our own soft structured carrier there makes our trips so much easier. 

 8. Work it mama!

Okay, we need to talk about the obvious benefit of carrying around the extra weight of a baby… think of all those calories burnt! If you’re looking to get a little leaner then this will help you along the way and if not just think about all the chocolate cake you can eat after a day out wearing your baby.

9. Sneaky bit of boob

If you’re breastfeeding then with a sling you can feed easily on the go and if you’re worried about discretion then you’ll love this – no one can see a thing! It’s great, I lost count of the number of times I’ve browsed shops with baby happily attached to the boob.

Please note, this is not a safe carrying position, I was just about to feed him.

10. Community Spirit

Something I was not expecting when I got my first sling was the amazing community that comes along with it – much like the cloth nappy community – the sling community is friendly, supportive and a great source of knowledge and experience. Join a Facebook group and get chatting to some likeminded parents.


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