Last month we went to messy play at the BALTIC Centre For Contemporary Art. I’m the type of parent who likes to be out and about pretty often, but planning crafting and sensory play activities at home are well outside my comfort zone. Which is why I love classes like this, as the kids can play in all the sprinkles, flour and paint they like, but it doesn’t fall to me to clean it up.
Tyne and Wear Metro recently got in touch to work with us on a Great Exhibition of the North family day out. To celebrate the amazing exhibits, inspired technology and innovation, Tyne and Wear Metro have launched a limited edition design of their Pop Pay As You Go card and a Great Exhibition of the North adventure book.
We recently visited Little Land Play in Peterlee. One of the newest role play centres to open in the North East. I've been to quite a few role play centres now, and I *think* this one is the biggest? If it isn't, then for me it has the best layout and sense of space. It has been really well designed, with lots of room for kids to run around, but so that parents can view the whole play space from the seating area. The role play area walls are only as tall as kids' height and none of them had front walls/doors so there were no nooks or crannies for kids to hide behind to get.
This week Fenwick's breakfasts and teas with Santa went on sale...and went off sale. They sold out in a day. Whilst you might have been too late for those the good news is that this year there are SHEDLOADS (over 30 in fact) of other dining with Santa options. Tonnes of them, still with availability, so if it's not Christmas to you without feasting with Father Christmas then read on and decide if you would like, breakfast, lunch, tea or ice cream with the big man.
* This is a collaborative post
Disney On Ice presents Passport to Adventure is coming to The Metro Arena this October and we can not wait to go. Like most kids I loved Disney when I was little. I played my tape of The Little Mermaid over and over until the film came off and I honestly thought that if I used a fork to comb my hair that it made me more mermaid-like.
Happy New Year! I hope you had a fab Christmas and New Year, ours was wild. We were up until 4am! Lets not dwell on the fact I'd gone to bed at 11:30pm, and it was a crying baby, as opposed to a dancing all night which had me up that late. If you are anything like me then you'll be feeling a bit sluggish from overindulging on the kid's selection boxes and Christmas leftovers. I'm desperate to do a bit of exercise, I'm even itching to go out for a run. A phenomenon which lasts about 36 hours from New Years Day, only to disappear again for another year.
If you are looking to exercise, but have an entourage of a small person and their many many 'essentials' with you at all times, then don't worry. The North East has loads of brilliant options, there are actually 30 classes on each week across Newcastle, Gateshead and North Tyneside where you can exercise without needing childcare. Many of them run by fellow mums, for parents to exercise without needing any childcare. The ones run by the councils are even FREE! I included some of them in my Gan on Bring the Bairn post about parent-friendly local companies, but since then have heard about loads more, and as it's the New Year thought it would be a good time to pull them all together in one place. Just by writing this post I'll get fitter won't I? That's how it works?
Super quick post today as I wanted to get something up whilst South Lakes Safari Zoo was still offering FREE entry. That's right totally free! I know, I thought it might be too good to be true, or be some catch somewhere but there really wasn't.
I'd spotted on Facebook that South Lakes Safari Zoo was offering free admission until the end of December and thought it would make a nice day out for my baby's first birthday. I've never been before and have always been put off by the long drive, but spurred on by the great reviews I'd heard about it in Family Explorers Facebook group (brilliant for getting ideas about places to visit) I thought we'd give it a go during our Christmas break.
Welcome to day 2 of my North East advent calendar. Today I have a real treat for parents with children over 5 - fun activities for them. So far, so what... but wait. You are actually allowed to leave them. Freedom can be yours for a couple of hours. You could do some Christmas shopping, go for a coffee, or you know sit in a darkened room rocking in a corner - whatever floats your boat. Newcastle people there are spaces available this Sunday (4th December), then Tuesday 20th and Wednesday 21st December. In Sunderland there are two dates, Thursday 22nd or Friday 23rd December.
On Friday we went to the Northern Stage to see the production of James and the Giant Peach, and it was AMAZING. Really amazing. The staging was spectacular and it was properly funny. We'd been offered two press tickets, but as the show was advertised as being suitable for kids aged 5 and upwards, the toddler and baby were staying at home. I thought it would make a nice night out for my nephews and niece, especially as I don't do anywhere near as much with them now that I'm pre-occupied with my kids, so I bought an extra 3 children's tickets.
The evening performances start at 6pm, and last two hours, including an interval. The kids with us were 13, 11, and 10 and the timings suited us really well. Any earlier and we would have struggled to get there on time with school pick ups. The 8pm finish meant we had enough time to grab something quick to eat afterwards without feeling like we were going to run into the Geordie Shore crowd.
Heads up Gateshead, there is a new pre-school class in town. The team from Piccolo Music have responded to popular demand and now offer classes on the other side of the river, and you can find them every Friday morning at the Winlaton Centre.
Have you been to a Piccolo Music class before? They are different to any other baby groups that I've been to. The class is based around music and movement, and I think the best way to describe it is professional. Professional but relaxed. Confused? Read on, surely I'll make some sense at some point wont I?
Since starting this blog we've had a ball visiting all of the all of the classes and events that we've been lucky enough to invited to. I think today's blog is my most important one to date though, and the one that I'm most grateful that i've had the opportunity to attend. A fortnight ago I went along to a Tumbles and Grumbles baby and child first aid course and it was brilliant. It wasn't until I was sitting in the class contemplating how I would respond if either of my kids were hurt that I realised I literally wouldn't have had a clue about the right thing to to.
In the blog posts I write about the places we've gone to I try and explain our experiences, but not urge people to go to the place we've visited, or book the event we're talking to as who knows if you'll enjoy a kids activity as much we did. Lets face it toddlers can be awkward little things, you might have a completely different time to us. But for this class I would whole-heartedly recommend it. Whilst still in the class I decided that I'd book my husband to go on it too. If you've done first aid before, or if you are someone who has to read or sit in front of a computer to learn then it won't be for you. But if you are someone like me, who has never had any first aid training and gets the most out of learning by watching, doing and asking questions, then I can't imagine anyone going along and not getting something out of it.
Can you believe we have only just had Bonfire night and I've already started banging on about Christmas? It's 7 weeks until the big day, but festive events start from early December so if you are looking for family Christmassy things to do in the North East then it is time to get booking.
Hot on the heels from the sell out successes that were Halloween parties (where it seemed that any event with a couple of cobwebs in the window were fully booked back in September, leaving us unorganised parents wondering where to take our little pumpkins for their obligatory photos and E numbers) are the Christmas events!
If anything I think the tinsel is a bigger seller than the Halloween parties. So many festive events are sold out already! Our chances to sing Christmassy power ballads with Chalk, join the Snow Puppies for a party at 7 Stories or take the North Pole Express from Tanfield Railway are gone. The tickets disappeared shortly after they went on sale!
There are still lots of family festive events to choose from though, so keep your eye's peeled for my upcoming posts with loads of suggestions. But what is Christmas without a mince pie? I'm always first in the queue for every buffet I've ever been to, so I'm kicking off the Christmas posts with one devoted to food. Below are the places you can feast with Father Christmas.
This week I was asked if I'd like to come along and try a postnatal yoga class with Cristal Yoga. I actually used to be quite fit, I have run the Great North Run twice, and I could mime along to Jillian Michael's Shred DVD as I'd done it so many times. But that was before children. Since having my second baby, I have promised myself time and time again that I'll do an exercise DVD whilst she naps, go for a run on a weekend, or go swimming when the kids are in bed. Well I have broken all of those promises. I will use any excuse not to do it. The rational part of me knows about all of the endorphins, that I'll feel loads better afterwards etc. But the bit of me that wants to sit on the sofa absentmindedly flicking through instagram always seems to win.
In the past when I've actually managed to keep up with a bit of a fitness routine, I've had the most success with classes, as when I book I feel a responsibility to actually turn up. This class is one where you bring the baby along, so not only can I not use a lack of babysitter as an excuse, but it's also an opportunity to meet up with other mums and have a bit of adult conversation.
I'm back, after a summer of neglecting my blog, I've eventually got around to writing an actual post. We had a great summer, went to lots of places, have thousands of photos clogging up my phone and memory card, loads of ideas for blog posts, but it iss just so hard to find the time to actually sit down and write them. Especially now I am no longer a lady of ... leisure doesn't sound right... more like multiple nappy changes and cold cups of tea, as i'm now back at work! Mr Sprog is on paternity leave, looking after the kids until Christmas, so expect blog posts devoted to craft beer and Fifa to be uploaded soon.
So back in August I finally got around to visiting Shiremoor Adventure Playground. My sister had mentioned it to me a while ago, she had said they had toys, scooters etc, but I couldn't really picture it. Well when I got there it wasn't what I was expecting. There is a certain 'rough around the edges' element to it, and it reminded me of Byker Grove in that it has a youth club feel to it. There is sooooooo much to do, and I think older kids would adore it. As a parent to a toddler and baby I was slightly horrified about how big some of the equipment looked, but I feel the same when I watch kids on skateboards, or free jumping or whatever other fun kids have whilst putting themselves in danger.
But what is is? Even after visiting i'm not sure I can adequately describe it. A youth club and park? There is a huge wooden frame, a massive sandpit, some terrifying rope swings, an allotment with chickens, a pool table, a basketball court, roller-skates, scooters and on the hot day that I visited there was the biggest paddling pool that i've seen too - but I'm guessing as it took me so long to write this post that won't be there any more.
What it is though is FREE, which is amazing for what they have on offer. It's also staffed, and you have to sign in, so it shouldn't ever get too busy to the point of it being over-capacity. They are only open at certain hours (specific times at the bottom of this post) - afternoons after school, but during the day on weekends and school holidays. They are also closed until 13th September 2016 due to maintenance. What is also great about it, is that they run some sessions specifically for children with disabilities and their carers.
Well, South Tyneside is fast becoming the toddler activity capital of the North East. After we visited the fab Role Play cafe a couple of weeks ago, we headed back to Hebburn a few days later to look around the new messy play venture in Victoria Industrial Estate - Lets Play Big
Unlike most of the messy play classes that I know of, which operate from community centres or hired rooms, Lets Play Big is based within it's own unit in an industrial estate. It is open 7 days a week, running four sessions a day which makes it perfect for working families. Before I started my current maternity leave, I worked four days a week, and I remember searching online for classes that I could take my toddler to on my day off, and frequently being disappointed when something looked really good, but was only available on a Monday at 10am or something when I was working. It is even better for people who work five days a week, because as far as I know, whilst some classes are branching out into putting on the odd Saturday morning, there isn't anywhere else nearby where they offer this amount of pre-school classes over holiday time and weekends.
Apart from the brilliant opening hours, Lets Play Big had really gone for it with the variety of tasks and crafts that kids could get involved with. I haven't been to loads of messy play groups, a handful of individual classes and we used to go to baby sensory when my toddler was tiny (obviously neglected second baby hasn't been to any sensory classes, she just gets dragged around to noisy toddler activities, and perhaps that was why she was so excited to be able to play during this visit.) So I can't say that I'm a messy play connoisseur, but I felt like Lets Play Big had put on so many great play stations, that even the most seasoned crafters and gloop-players would really enjoy the sessions.
We love the Centre for Life, it's a great museum in it's own right, and if you visiting without children then you can easily fill a full day looking at the interactive exhibitions that they have on. This year they've given it a long overdue makeover and created an experiment zone, in the ground floor area that was starting to look a bit tired. But apart from all of that, the main reason, that I love it now that I have two small children is the excellent play space on the upstairs floor. That's what I've focussed on in this blog post, because it's where we go most often.
My husband had an unexpected day off yesterday, and as we were in town anyway we thought we'd pop to the centre for life for a couple of hours, as we have annual passes. More about the costs of them vs single day tickets at the bottom, but I think the annual passes are really good value. If you don't have toddlers and you are going to go to Life every couple of years to see specific exhibitions then I think you can probably justify the cost of a day ticket. But as anyone with toddlers knows some days they are brilliant and spend hours lighting up wherever they are with their happy little faces, and other days they wander round crying because you won't let them hit their little sister or because they really really wanted that fifth tangerine and you are just the worst mother for not letting them have it. For this reason, I'm sometimes a little dubious about spending large amounts of money on single days, but I love having the annual pass so that we can just call in for an hour every so often. We went almost every week in the colder months. Now it's summer we're there less often, but it's always good to know that we can go there whenever we fancy.
If you go down to the woods today, you're sure of a big surprise...Well, not if you've read this blog because I've taken pictures of all of the lovely surprising bits, but if you go for a walk in Plessey Woods Country park I think that you'll like it.
Earlier in the year I saw on Facebook that Plessey Woods were having an opening weekend, after they had added some sculptures and activity bits within their country park. I hadn't got around to visiting until this weekend, when the weather was beautiful. The warm sunshine probably helped, but even so it was a lovely place to take the kids for a walk. Our toddler managed to walk lots of it, loved stomping in the puddles and was happy to play along with me when I propped him up on some of the sculptures. I'd like to tell you the distance of the walk we did, and how long it took, but in typical me style the battery on my phone died half way through so I lost the data from the distance app that I was using. If we're doing confessions then I might as well fess up that we took the wrong turning at some point, so we missed at least one sculpture area (Totem Poles) and ended up carrying the double buggy up an exceptionally long and steep flight of stairs. So it's probably best that you look at the pretty pictures, and take no notice of any advice that I might give as I think most people would have done a better job at navigating a buggy friendly walk than we did.
I've been meaning to try out The Laing Art Gallery's under 5 area and their weekly Tuesday group for a while. A friend of mine had mentioned that the kids room was a nice space, and I'd seen the brief info about the Little Artist class on the gallery's webpage. The class starts at 10:30 which always seems a bit early to get me, the two year old and the baby up, breakfasted, dressed and into Newcastle for. But the today the stars aligned (read the baby decided to wake us all up earlier than normal) so we headed in to check it out.