Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Millie has some fun at a Princess and Pirate toddler group!

Last week Millie and I met up with some friends and went to a Princess and Pirate themed toddler group that had been organised by our local Sure Start Centre.

I have to admit that I do feel a bit guilty when it comes to Millie. When Chester was younger I used to take him to groups at least 2 times a week, most weeks it would be more than that. But nowadays I am finding it a bit of a struggle to fit it all in! So Millie is lucky if she gets to go to one a month!

So I really wanted to make sure we did attend this Princess and Pirate toddler group as I knew that Millie would absolutely love it!

The day before I told her we were going to be attended a special Princess group, and she was allowed to choose what Princess dress she wanted to wear. She chose to wear her Anna dress. What a surprise!

When we got there she was excited to see that her friends were all dressed up too! Two of her boy friends were dressed up as pirates and then her girl friends were dressed up as Princess Sophia and two Tinkerbells!

There were lots of activities laid out for the Children to choose from. They had a Pirate sand pit, Pirate mask making, musical instruments, Play doh,  Princess Mirror making and tiara making!

Millie of course headed straight for the Princess tiara making!

She then had a go at making a Princess Play doh face and decorating a Princess Mirror too!

In the background they had Jake and the Neverland Pirate music playing, which Millie happily sang along to. Then they had some Princess songs, but best of all they had the Frozen soundtrack playing. This was the highlight of the morning for Millie, she done her usual dramatic expressive dance moves, which was so funny cute to watch!

The fun morning was topped off with snack time. It was a really great, well organised themed toddler group, its lovely that we have such a great Sure Start Centre nearby, they always make such an effort into making sure the activities are relevant and that the Children are enjoying themselves.

Do you have a local Sure Start Centre nearby? Do you attend their sessions?

How important are toys to a child?

Me and my soft toy

If you think back to your childhood, there are bound to be a few playthings or possessions 
that stick out the most. I had a brown teddy which I called Hash Brown! But whether it was a teddy bear, toy car, colouring book or even a comfort blanket, these cherished belongings are thought of fondly. What’s more, you probably didn't leave the house without them. 

Take Millie for example. She has no end of dollies and soft toys, especially Pandas, that are never far from her grasp. These companions are there for her to talk to, play with and rely on. This all 
sounds fairly innocent, but it is amazing just how important cherished play toys and worldly 
goods are to a child’s upbringing. Although Millie doesn't know it yet, her dollies have the 
potential to shape who she becomes later on in life.

So while us adults have to deal with nonsensical or arbitrary tasks on a daily basis, such 
as dealing with telemarketers or doing the weekly food shop, our kids are going through a 
remarkable phase of growth and development.

The importance of toys

Despite our best efforts, it isn't always possible to devote every single second or hour of the 
day to our children. Although this makes us appreciate the times we do have together, it is 
reassuring to know that kids are being entertained and comforted in other ways.

As mentioned before, Millie has quite the imagination, so there is no need to worry about 
whether she'll get bored or restless easily, and if the recent trip to Center Parcs is anything to 
go by, Chester’s love of football and other outdoor pursuits will stand him in good stead too.

But it is easy to forget how often they turn to their favourite toys and possessions for 
enjoyment and amusement.

The role that toys play

After conducting a bit of research, it is quite unbelievable to discover the role that toys play 
in a child’s development. You'd think they would simply satisfy their imaginations or occupy 
a bit of time, but it is far more significant than that. From developing language and motor skills to encouraging cognitive thinking and developing a sense of safety, toys are on hand to educate and enlighten before schoolteachers have the chance! On top of that, they familiarise youngsters with being alone or working independently as well as alongside others.

Childhood memories of sharing secrets with a trusty teddy and having tea parties alongside 
dollies or figurines seemed fairly inconsequential and of little importance at the time, but it 
may well have influenced the person writing this today.

*This post was written in collaboration with Tesco

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Wonderous Ink Personalised books - with a little added extra!

Recently Chester and Millie received some surprise post, I absolutely love surprise post, so you can imagine how excitable they were about it! Especially when they opened their parcels to find these books inside!

We really do love books here, as you know. But these books were slightly different to most of the ones on our book shelves... they were personalised!

Chester instantly realised that the title had his name in it, and he could not wait to get reading!

The books are cleverly written so that the story ends up spelling your childs name. So for instance in when the book used the C (the first letter of Chester's name) when talking about him it said he was Clever. By the end of the book the story had used each letter of Chester's name to give him words that described him.

It was the same for Millie, but the story was different as she had different letters in her name. Each letter was different so Millie got two separate descriptions for the 2 sets of 'L' and 'I' in her name.

Both children were captivated by the stories, I think Chester 'got it' more than Millie but they equally enjoyed the illustrations and excitement of each journey!

The books had an added bonus to them, in that they had a unique key code at the end of the story. Meaning that they could carry on their storybook fun online! That included add on's to the stories and a quiz, which Chester thoroughly enjoyed.

You can personalise your own Wonderous book on their website where you can customise and view the full book before placing your order. The books are £19.99 each, I think this is a fair price, the quality of the book and the paper is fantastic and the stories, as we have found out are really captivating. The books are aimed at children aged 2-8 I think they would make great Christmas presents or keepsakes.

Do your Children love storytime and reading?

Travelodge - Get up and go!

I have to admit that Travelodge are always one of the first companies I think of when I think of hotel stays in this country, we have used them on many occasions over the years, be it for somewhere to crash after a friends wedding, or somewhere to stay before a family day out which happens to be a bit too far away from home.

But it has been almost 2 years since our last Travelodge stay and in that time there have been some big changes.

I am sure you have all seen the Travelodge adverts inspiring you to get up and go, to explore all that Britain has to offer. They say that "whether you are going to take the kids, leave the kids, or make more kids, there are now over 500 Travelodge hotels to base yourself in and thousands of new beds to get up and go from.”

What caught my eye about this was the new beds. As we already use Travelodge as our get up and go base. They have been investing a million pounds a week in modernising their hotels and they have installed more than 37,000 new Travelodge Dreamer beds! I wanted to find out just how comfy they were, as you know, I am a terrible sleeper so would the Travelodge Dreamer beds get a thumbs up from me?

Well, on October 10th 2014 we got to find out! Quite often when we visit Center Parcs we use Barton Mills Travelodge either before our holiday or after our holiday, or both. This is so that we can explore the local area and extend our holiday, plus is also means that we can avoid the dreaded rush our traffic on the M25! The Staff are always polite and friendly, and happy to help with local suggestions. But I have to admit, that on the last couple of visits, previous to this one, the decor and general state of the rooms left a lot to be desired, they were worn out and tired and it showed!

We arrived pretty late (for us) at around 8.30pm, we queued for a couple of minutes whilst people before us were checked in. Then when it was our turn, we were greeted with a smile and checked in pretty quickly. We were told that should we need extra towels or help getting out the extra bed then just let them know and they would be happy to help.

Our room was lovely and spacious, plenty of room for us, it had tea and coffee making facilities and even a bottle opener attached to the main 'desk' unit! The decor had certainly been updated since our last visit, it now had a refreshed look, which went very well with the Travelodge colours and included some lovely calming colours.

The bathroom has had a makeover too. Its simple but makes total sense. The walls in the bath/shower area are no longer tiled, they have got a waterproof white wall instead. A lovely touch was the body and hair wash dispenser attached to the wall, and also the hand soap dispenser near the sink.

The bed was indeed a new Travelodge Dreamer bed, and it was super comfy. The pillows still do not get a thumbs up from me though, as I had the age old problem of 1 pillow not enough and 2 pillows too much. This could easily be resolved by using a thinner pillow as the second pillow!

Another feature of the new bed was that 2 'childrens beds' came out from underneath it. The lovely receptionist helped put the extra one up for us (Chester's was already up when we arrived). It was a super quick process, She simply pulled out from under the bed, popped the legs up and then added the sheets, duvet and pillows. Millie loved her bed and the fact she had a 'big bed' next to Mummy and Daddy's certainly made it easier to get her to sleep. Chester couldn't decide if he liked the bed or not, he loved it at first, but I think after a while he realised that it was not a comfy as his bed at home, nether the less he did fall asleep in it and both Children slept really well!

Travelodge has also slashed prices for wifi to an initial free period of 30 minutes and £3 for up to 24hrs. This was advertised in our room and Craig seemed to be able to get onto his free 30 minutes no problem. I however, struggled. It was not really that much of a problem though, as we were only staying for one night and it was a family visit, so not really time to surf the net!

Did you spot Millie's makeshift Baby Panda bed in that last picture?! She was pretty appalled that they didn't provide beds for Pandas to be honest! Heehee!

Overall we were really impressed with the improvements made to Travelodge Hotels. We all agreed that it certainly made our stay more comfortable and we actually enjoyed having an evening just chilling out in the room! The best part was I did actually sleep better than I normally do, so the new Dreamer beds must be good!

Have you stayed in a Travelodge recently? What do you think of the changes?

Our week in pictures 12th-18th October 2014

Another week has gone by in a blur! Just where is this year going?!

Our week started with Chester excitedly collecting his Birthday present! No surprises that he asked for the new Skylanders Trap Team game! 4 years on and he is STILL obsessed with Skylanders!

We then spent a few hours in the local Country Park making the most of the Autumn sunshine!

Millie and I attended a Pirates and Princess themed party organised by SureStart. Watch out for my post about this.

The week ended with Chester attending a party to welcome the new Reception Children to his School, I think he looks very grown up here, and in desperate need of a hair cut!
So that was our week in Pictures! What have you been upto this week?

Friday, 17 October 2014

The back to School squeeze with Primula

Chester is in Year 1 at School now, and he is finding it a whole different experience to Reception. Not in a bad way, he is enjoying the new learning challenges that come with being in Year 1. But I think that he is using all of his energy at School to try and sit still, an almost impossible task for Chester (his teacher agrees). 

The problem with this, is that by the time I pick him up at the end of the School day, he is exhausted! Its impossible to get any sense out of him. If you ask him what he has done during the day, his answer is almost always ' I can't remember'. Its so frustrating for me! But I always have to think about the bigger picture and remind myself that he has had a busy day learning. 

As soon as we get home, he always asks for something to eat. The problem is that he will of had a big lunch at School so he is not quite hungry enough for another big hot dinner, but he just needs a small tea to satisfy his hunger. As soon as he has eaten he is (usually) back to his normal happy self!

Primula have brought out a new Primula Kids cheese spread. Primula is perfect for younger cheese eaters as it has no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives and reduced salt, as well as added calcium. 

Primula have challenged me (and the children) to come up with a dish using Primula Kids. 

So we put our thinking caps on and came up with what we think is the perfect after School snack! 

Cheese and ham croissants! 

All you need is:
1 tube of croissant dough
1 tube of Primula Kids cheese spread
2 slices of ham cut into small squares

Now I should mention, that on the the day we chose to make these, Chester decided to have an ultra big strop so would not help us at all! Although he happily ate them afterwards so I think the dish was a success! 

We rolled out the dough, into 6 triangles. Then squeezed some of the Primula onto each one, using a knife to spread into a thin even layer.

We then sprinkled on some ham.

Then rolled the dough up from the base of the triangle to the tip.

Placed on a baking tray and bake at 180 degrees for 15-20 minutes until golden. 

We ate them warm and they were delicious, they went down a treat! Both children approved, I love the fact that I could involve the children and in no time at all we had an afternoon snack to eat!

Do your children come home with the after School grumps? Do you have any tricks to make them happy again?!

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Another 30th Birthday treat ticked off the list!

Not one to do things by halves, I am still celebrating my 30th Birthday. Which was in August!

Although, if you remember I was actually not looking forward to my 30th, but since celebrating it and receiving such wonderful and thoughtful presents I have decided to embrace it!

You may remember that one of my presents was a trip to Center Parcs, Elveden, which we took last week. It was a much needed break for us, time to spend some quality family time together, just the four of us.

We had a totally amazing week, we are massive Center Parcs fans, I have been going since I was a child and I love that I can now enjoy it with my Husband and Children. We booked lots of activities before we arrived so had lots to look forward too. The children were practically bouncing off of the walls with excitement in the run up to it!

To tell you everything we did would make for a pretty long blog post and amount to an evenings worth of reading! So here are some highlights...

When we arrived, our first port of call was The Pancake House for brunch! Its a favourite of mine and the children really loved it too! Millie thought it was hilarious that she could have beans on her pancake and Chester loved choosing his own toppings and decorating his own! Craig and I are so predictable, we both had the American, which is a bacon and maple syrup pancake! We couldn't resist a pudding pancake as well!

We had 2 leisurely (but competitive) games of bowling. It was boys against girls, the girls got off to a great start with a strike on the first go! We won the first game, but the boys managed to win the second, boooo!

The wildlife! This is one of the many reasons we really love Center Parcs. About 5 minutes after arriving at our accommodation we had seen Squirrels and Ducks! By day 2 we had also seen a young deer (we saw a female one as well by the end of the week), a bunny rabbit, a heron, 2 Kookaburra's, moor hens and geese. This was all from looking out of our patio doors! It was amazing to wake up to see all the wildlife awake and awaiting their breakfast! Chester and Millie absolutely loved it, it was really special to watch them get so excited about the wildlife!

We had two lovely meals out at Hucks, an American themed restaurant. What I love about Hucks is that they have a great play area and some computers right in the middle of the restaurant. The children can have a buffet dinner and then once they are finished they can go and play, whilst the Craig and I chose off of the menu and ate our meal at our own pace and without having to keep stopping to sort the children out! They were happy, we were happy. Job done!

Pizza making and pottery painting we joint activities the children could do together. They really had a great time. They made some friends at Pizza making, it was so cute when they saw them again throughout the week! No surprised that Chester chose to paint a Dinosaur and Millie chose, wait for it... a Panda!!

Chester had a fantastic time at a Football training session. He is on the waiting list for a local club so is desperate to play. He did really well and I was amazed that it kept his attention for the whole 90 minutes!

Millie attended a Teddy Bears Picnic, it was super cute! She participated in activities, gave a teddy bear some lunch before eating hers and finally she got to meet Rupert the Bear! She was star struck but still managed to pluck up the courage to show Rupert her baby Panda teddies!

Swimming was a massive part of our trip. The subtropical Swimming Paradise as its known, is the kind of pool that you can stay in all day! There is so much to do, and since our last family visit the childrens pool has had a complete revamp. Both Children loved it! They had flumes, water cannons, buckets of water tipping on people at random and a small really warm pool for the really little ones! It was in here that Millie gained her confidence, by the end of the week she was going down the flumes by herself and she didn't mind the water on her face! Fun was also had in the lazy river, the jacuzzi, the cave pool and even the cold plunge pool! We even had lunch by the pool one day, Snow Cones (Hawaiian Ice) and Sweet Potato fries, the children thought it was hilarious that we ate lunch in our swim costumes!

The highlight of the whole trip for Chester has to be Cyclone! He was only just tall enough to go on this, its a fairly new water ride and oh my gosh is it scary! You basically get into a 4 person round dingy, get told to hold on tight and get pushed down a flume which in the middle has a massive hole that you fall through! It is pretty hair raising and certainly takes your breath away! Craig didn't like it! I have been on it before and enjoyed it, but this time with Chester in the dingy too it was a bit too much for my heart to take! But Chester absolutely loved it! He is a real thrill seeker so according to him it was 'awesome'!

The highlight for Millie has to be the Disco! She absolutely loves to dance, she really enjoyed it, made some friends and even won a certificate for best dancer! It totally made her evening!

On our last day we hired a soft tennis court, and I wish we had done it earlier in the week! Chester absolutely loved it! We would of done it a few more times if I had known he would take to it so easily! We all had a great time!

We were sad to leave, since coming home Chester has been busy working on a strategy for living at Center Parcs for 6 months of the year, of course this includes not being at School for all of those 6 months so I doubt very much he is going to pull it off!

Loads of firsts for both of the Children happened over the week, which was great to see, but more importantly the time we spent having fun together as a family was just the best! I couldn't of asked for a better week. So a massive thankyou to everyone that contributed to my 30th Birthday treat!