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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Yesterday we visited the brand new children's play centre in Hebburn. It's brilliant. Really well thought through. My toddler loved it (he cried when we were leaving) and (in my mind the most important bit) parent's can have a cup of tea, a sit down and actually get a bit of a rest. There is definitely a time and place for soft play, sometimes they are just what we are looking for if our toddler needs to work off some energy or if my husband is with us so one of us can go with him, whilst the other looks after the baby. But when you're the owner of a toddler they aren't really a place for a rest, and sometimes I don't want to crawl through a child sized tube, or hurt my feet climbing cargo nets to rescue a strandard little boy (why do cargo nets hurt so much or is that just me being a baby?) So this is where this type of play centre is perfect.
As the name suggests it all designed around role play, with lots of different stations where kids can play with toys and dress up pieces. There has been really good attention to detail and the whole place looks great. It is bright and colourful, and as soon as we walked through the door my toddler was off to explore. It is all based in one large airy room, at the centre of the room are tables and chairs, and the stations are built around the outskirts, this is great as it means that you can always see the kids from the table areas, so you don't have to be on top of them all of the time. It would be a great place to go if you are in charge of more than one child as you can always keep an eye on one of them whilst seeing to another. The baby was spending time with her granny, so wasn't with us this visit, but I noticed they had lots of high chairs, a baby walker and padded play gym for the smallest of visitors to use. It was lovely to have some 1:1 time to properly play with my toddler as we haven't had much of that since the baby came along.
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.