North East

Summer Activities at Seaton Delaval Hall

Summer Activities at Seaton Delaval Hall

* This is a sponsored post *

We have been National Trust members for a good few years now. Once we had a baby and realised that we'd have a lot more family time to fill, with considerably less money, it seemed to make sense to sign up for an annual membership. Especially as we have so many great National Trust places to visit in the North East. I love that with an annual pass there is always somewhere lovely to visit without needing to spend money. We often take a picnic so it’s always a pretty frugal trip out.

Great exhibition of the North with Tyne and Wear Metro

Great exhibition of the North with Tyne and Wear Metro

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.

Little Land Play - Peterlee

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.

Scran with Santa 2017 - Grottos with grub across the North East

Scran with Santa 2017 - Grottos with grub across the North East

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.

Disney On Ice presents Passport to Adventure

Disney On Ice presents Passport to Adventure

 * 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.

The FREE Thomas the Tank Engine PlayStation comes to the North East

The FREE Thomas the Tank Engine PlayStation comes to the North East

My toddlers LOVE Thomas and Friends and I consider the fact that I can sing the (quite complicated) theme tune in full, one of my specialist skills. If your kids are Thomas super-fans then they are in luck as the Thomas Playstation is on a UK tour and there are 2 stops in the North East.  

The Playstation is a mobile play space with 8 stations of different activities, including;

Ice Skating at Woodhorn Museum - Ashington

Ice Skating at Woodhorn Museum - Ashington

Merry Sprogmas Advent Calendar Day 4 is all about our trip to the outdoor ice skating rink at Woodhorn Museum in Ashington. I'd visited the museum last year when it was hosting the poppy exhibition, and I often feature Woodhorn in the fortnightly 'What's On' newsletters that I write for Bubele parenting app, as they have some brilliant family events and trails. This was the first time that I'd visited in the winter, whilst their Christmas festivities were on. 

James and the Giant Peach - Northern Stage

James and the Giant Peach - Northern Stage

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. 

Piccolo Music Classes - Now in Gateshead

Piccolo Music Classes - Now in Gateshead

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?

Tumbles and Grumbles - Paediatric First Aid Course - North East Wide

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. 

Little Learners PreSchool Classes

Little Learners PreSchool Classes

Do you take your little ones to any pre-school classes? There are lots of different ones to choose from and it can be hard to find out exactly what you're in store for, so hopefully that is where I can help. I've been visiting a couple of different classes over the last few weeks, and I'll be posting photographs and details about them, so it should help you to decide if any of the classes are right for your baby or toddler. 

First up is Little Learners. I've followed the Little Learners's account on instagram for a while now, so I knew from their photos that messy play was a big part of their sessions. We had wanted to go along to their incredibly popular pre-school festival during the summer but unfortunately already had plans the day it was held, so it wasn't until Halloween that we got to accept their invitation to try them out. 

Scran with Santa - Grottos with grub across the north east

Scran with Santa - Grottos with grub across the north east

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.

Pumpkin Patch at Brocksbrushes

Brocksbushes pumpkin patch review photographs North East pumpkin patch. Pumpkin Photo Kids Sprog on the Tyne

Happy almost Halloween! This is the first year that we've really done anything Halloween-y as my toddler has just turned two and half. Obviously I'd used previous years to dress him up for my entertainment, but last year he wasn't really bothered about any events. This year he is starting to take an interest in it, so we thought we'd take advantage of the fact that there is loads to do in the North East over half term and the Halloween weekend. Having seen the great photographs from American Pumpkin Patches I was really intrigued when I saw Brockbushes, the farm shop just outside of Corbridge that we visited during the summer to pick strawberries, was hosting the only Pumpkin Patch in the North East. The information online was quite vague, there was to be a children's performer, some talk of a witch and magic dust, and each child got to pick their own pumpkin. I still had some questions, such as what age range it would suit, and whether 'pick your own pumpkin' actually meant dig it up from the ground, or choose which one from a supermarket carrier bag on the way out, but confident it would be a fun, we booked up.

You can book online, using this link, Brocksbushes Farm Shop and Tea Room or you can call the shop and pay over the phone. There are 4 slots every day, between 22nd and 31st October, at 9:45am, 10:45am, 11:45am, or 12:45pm. Whilst booking is recommended, you can just turn up and pay on the day. If you're doing this, I think it would be worth giving them a call on the morning to make sure there are spaces so you aren't disappointing any little ones if it is fully booked.

When we arrived at Brockbushes we were greated by a witch, in full get up including a very long nose. She was very friendly, had a chat with us and directed us to the counter to collect our tickets. Thanksfully my toddler wasn't frightened of her, I'd been slightly worried he'd be scared, after he had wailed through his visit to see Santa Claus last year, but he was fine. Tickets collected, our mate the witch, directed us through to the outside of the shop where we waited until everyone had gathered and we were asked to follow the witch to her house.

Brocksbushes farm shop and tea room Halloween 2016 Northumberland pumpkin patch kids events baby toddler. Picture of ourside the shop and an marquee

The 'house' was less than a 5 minute walk away, but the ground was very wet and a bit muddy, so I would recommend wellies, and if you have little ones, either carrying them or putting them in a sling rather than attempt to get there with a buggy. The trail up there was marked out with mini ghosts, and witches leading up to a small marquee. We were greeted by another witch who gave us some magic dust which we were told to keep it safe until later.

Brocksbushes farm shop and tea room Halloween 2016 Northumberland pumpkin patch kids events baby toddler. Eileen and Joe children's entertainer dressed as a witch, with a toddler.

Once inside the marquee there were some mini picnic tables, only big enough for the kids to sit on, the adults stood near them, and a stage for our host, the good witch. I won't spoil the surprise by telling you exactly what we did, but there was a song or two, with Witchy singing on the microphone and the audience singing back certain parts, a few jokes, and a story which introduced some puppet characters who later joined the stage, and a couple of opportunities for the audience to boo and hiss. There were probably about 12 kids in our group and the marquee was full-ish but didn't feel too packed. The performance was really good. As the marquee was so small, so we were close to the stage it felt pretty relaxed but the witch definitely put on a good show. That part lasted about 20 minutes, which was perfect timing for my toddler, anymore and he would have been getting bored I think (at one point I had to leg it out of the marquee after him as he'd decided he was going back to the 'park' meaning the swing set near the café - but that is toddlers for you, once I'd bundled him back into the marquee he seemed to enjoy all of it.)

Brocksbushes farm shop and tea room Halloween 2016 Northumberland pumpkin patch kids events baby toddler. Eileen and Joe children's entertainer dressed as a witch, with puppets

After the performance was finished it was time for us to get our pumpkins. I was really looking forward to this, as I could imagine the instagramable photos that I could get in the pumpkin patch. I hadn't been sure if we would be actually picking pumpkins out of the ground, as they do grow fruit there, but as it turned out we did not need to do any digging. The 'patch' was a section of hedgerows which had been covered in hay. The pumpkins had been hidden within the hay, so we all had to spread out, sow our magic dust and find the hidden pumpkins. Whilst it would have been interesting to see pumpkins where they were actually grown and work out how to get them out of the ground, I think for our purposes this way of finding the pumpkins in the hay worked out better for us, as the ground was already quite wet, I think we would have come back filthy if we were digging up the ground. This way meant that my toddler could get properly involved in looking for the pumpkin and I was impressed by the strength in his teany little body when he was able to pick up his pumpkin when he had found it. Thankfully it was dry when we visited. I think that the rain would put a real dampner (can't decide if there was any pun intended there) on our time outside, so hopefully it'll stay dry for the next week or so.

Brocksbushes farm shop and tea room Halloween 2016 Northumberland pumpkin patch kids events baby toddler. Eileen and Joe children's entertainer dressed as a witch, with a toddler. Toddler in the hay with a pumpkin

Whilst we weren't getting an entirely authentic pumpkin patch experience as the pumpkins were already dug up, the photograph opportunities certainly didn't disappoint. My baby, still young enough to accept whatever I choose to clothe her in, was actually dressed in girls clothes for once, as opposed to her brothers hand-me-downs, and wearing a little Halloween pumpkin tutu especially for the occasion.

Brocksbushes farm shop and tea room Halloween 2016 Northumberland pumpkin patch kids events baby toddler. Eileen and Joe children's entertainer dressed as a witch, with a toddler. Baby and toddler play in a pumpkin patch. siblings
Brocksbushes farm shop and tea room Halloween 2016 Northumberland pumpkin patch kids events baby toddler. Eileen and Joe children's entertainer dressed as a witch, with a toddler. Siblings play in a pumpkin patch.
Brocksbushes farm shop and tea room Halloween 2016 Northumberland pumpkin patch kids events baby toddler. Eileen and Joe children's entertainer dressed as a witch, with a toddler. Siblings play in a pumpkin patch

After we'd picked our pumpkins, and I'd got my paparazzi on, having filled my memory card of hundreds of pictures of kids, pumpkins and hay, we said a quick goodbye to the witches, and headed back to the play part of the farm shop, the 'park' that my toddler had been so keen to get back to.

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We stayed in the play area for a little while, letting my toddler have a go on the couple of bits of equipment that they have here. This was the first time that I'd seen this outdoor play area, and it was great. Really small, but enough to entertain little ones for a while, if you were popping up to browse the farm shop or to get a coffee.

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That was our trip to Brocksbushes over. Having been really well behaved the whole time we were there, my toddler realised the opportunity for public mischief was almost over, so took a bite out of an apple on his way through the farm shop. Realising we had no cash on us we were left contemplating whether they would accept a card payment for a solitary apple. Thankfully my sister-in-law, who had been with us, came to our rescue and bought it for us. Leaving us to counsel the distraught toddler who had thrown himself on the ground in dismay that his beloved and, at that point stolen, apple had to be taken away to be weighed and paid for.

Toddler melt downs aside we had a really lovely day. It was ideal for my toddler's attention span with the whole thing lasting about 50 minutes. I think that it would suit any families with kids up to about the age of 8, older than that and I think that they could well be bored and find it too young for them.

With so many Halloween activities selling out in advance, Brocksbushes pumpkin patch is brilliant as at the time of writing this there was loads of availability. It was definitely Halloween-y but not at all scary, and at £6.50 for a ticket which admits one adult and one child, including a decent sized pumpkin to take home, I think it is really good value. I think the fact that he picked out the pumpkins made it much more special for my toddler than if we'd just bought them from the supermarket. Turns out his pumpkin is very special to him, and at the time of writing this he's tucked up in bed with the pumpkin in the cot with him. He didn't want to go to bed without it, what a weirdo, but a cute one.

I would definitely recommend Brocksbushes pumpkin patch, just don't forget your camera or your wellies.

For more information contact Brocksbushes Farm Shop and Tea Rooms : here or 01434 633 100. Pumpkin Patch sessions are available at 9:45am, 10:45am, 11:45am, 12:45pm every day from 22nd - 31st October 2016.

What do you think of Brocksbushes Pumpkin Patch? What are your Halloween plans? Leave us a comment with any suggestions of other toddler-friendly Halloween events.

To be kept up to date with new openings, and tot-friendly places to take the kids then use these links to find me on FacebookInstagram or Twitter for photos, blog posts and general ramblings.

 

Disclosure Policy - We received a complimentary entry to Brocksbushes Pumpkin Patch in return for an honest review. Unsurprising all of the random blabber and chuntering on in this post is my own. See the about us section of this website for the full corporate speak disclosure policy.

Gan on, bring the bairn - Baby and Child Friendly Newcastle

Gan on, bring the bairn - Baby and Child Friendly Newcastle

So far all have my posts have focused on things specifically for kids, places to go with kids, products for kids. But what about ME? Will no one ever think of me? I learned pretty quickly into my parenting career that if I go somewhere kid friendly there is a chance that I might get 2 or 3 minutes peace in between the nappy changes, feeding and playing. But sometimes I don't want to go to a park, sometimes I'd rather eat a cold Ella's Kitchen rather than go to a soft play and sometimes I just need get some of that long list of life admin actually ticked off. 

So this post is still all about the kids (I haven't had a personality transplant and started talking about anything actually interesting) but it's about places that have tried to make parent's lives easier, by welcoming kids. A round up of places in Newcastle that have a USP when it comes to being family friendly. It's not like us poor parents are going to turn up on a charity appeal on daytime sky telly or anything. There are worse fates than being reliant on babysitters to be able to go to the gym, but I really appreciate it when businesses have been considerate to our needs. There must be some money in it too? All the parents I know, will spend as much as they have available to make their lives a little bit easier. There is the pink and grey pound, surely there is money to be made out of parents? What would we be? The suspiciously brown stain, is it poo or is it chocolate, pound? Lets not get into the details of that just yet, but get on with celebrating the places in Newcastle that are great for parents. 

Cristal Yoga - Mum and Baby Postnatal Yoga

Cristal Yoga - Mum and Baby Postnatal Yoga

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.

Lets Play Big - Hebburn

Lets Play Big - Hebburn

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. 

Beamish Museum - Festival of 50's

Beamish Museum - Festival of 50's

I love Beamish. I hadn't been for years, perhaps since I was at school, until I got an unlimited card this spring. Since then we've easily had our money's worth. I love that it's so picturesque, that I can go and have a good walk, but that there is always something there that my toddler will enjoy too. We visited on the first day of the Festival of the 50s, a four day celebration showcasing the 50s items the museum is accruing in preparation for opening the 50s area some time in the future. The 50s festival was great, it had a really good atmosphere, and I think that will be even more so over the weekend when there are activities planned. 

This review is in two parts, for all of the people who have been to Beamish time and time again, I'll show the pictures of the 50s weekend and encourage you if you have an unlimited card to visit at some point this weekend as it's a brilliant cheap day out as all of the daytime events are included in the annual pass. Then after the photos and write up of the festival, I'll include the best toddler friendly bits of Beamish that we visit time and time again. 

Young Explorers - Centre For Life

Young Explorers - Centre For Life

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. 

Plessey Woods Country Park

Plessey Woods Country Park

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. 

Wheelbirks Parlour (Stocksfield, Northumberland) - If Pinterest made kids areas...

Wheelbirks Parlour (Stocksfield, Northumberland) - If Pinterest made kids areas...

Last week we had an eventful visit to Wheelbirks, the farm shop and cafe in Stocksfield. I was having one of those days where everything goes wrong, mainly because I was making terrible decisions and mistakes every five minutes. I had parked up on the road leading to the farm to take a call, ended up talking for longer than I had realised and drained the car battery, leaving me stranded. After packing up the kids into the buggy and walking the rest of the way to the cafe, I realised the baby's nappy had exploded and handily my change of clothes for her were still in the car - so if you happened to be in Wheelbirks last Tuesday, I was the flustered sweaty one with the half dressed and suspiciously stained baby. I'd only planned to pop into the cafe for a coffee, but ended up there for hours waiting for the AA to rescue us. 

Whilst it wasn't ideal, even through my occasional bouts of tears (I was particularly emotional/sweary when I returned to the car and managed to drain the battery for a second time) I was at least aware that as far as places to be stranded in go I'd picked a good one. As well as having all of the sweet treats I needed to get me through the experience with minimal tears, it also has indoor and outdoor play space so my toddler could roam around and burn off some energy. The farm shop and cafe is based on Wheelbirks farm in Stocksfield, Northumberland. It has been decorated beautifully, the ice cream which is made on site is to die for, the play space keeps my toddler entertained for ages, and there are loads of tables in the orchard to sit and catch some sun if it's a nice day. All in all I think its a bit of a hidden gem.