Hello. I'm so excited to be bringing you this post to let you know that you and your little uns are invited to play the biggest game of Finders Keepers there has probably ever been in the North East. If that wasn't exciting enough, it's also got the sweetest Random Act of Kindness feel to it and I think it will be a brilliant activity for any North East kids.
This week one of my readers got in touch to ask for some suggestions for a winter's day out. Their toddler is turning two at the end of January, they had wanted to visit a farm, but found that lots of the bigger farm attractions are closed until the February half term.
So I had a scout about and there are a few options still open if you have a child obsessed with Old McDonald, or just fancy a getting some fresh air and letting the kids have a run around outside. The best bit? Most of today's suggestions are free, or you just need to spend the price of a cup of coffee in a tea room.
BILL QUAY FARM (FREE)
Bill Quay Farm is lovely. It's pretty small. The type of place that we visit pretty regularly but only ever stay about 45 minutes. There are sheep, pigs, cows, geese, goats, chickens in barns and fields outside. Some of them are obviously used to visitors as they'll come right up to you and there are signs up letting you know which of the animals you can touch in their pens. There is also a small animal room where you can see things like chinchillas and hamsters etc in cages. There is a cafe, but this is now closed until summer. The farm is a registered charity, and whilst they are free to visit they always appreciate donations. If you are looking to make a day of it, then it's pretty close to Role Play in Hebburn, a fab kids play centre that I always recommend. You can read about our visit there on this blog post.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I first visited this play area when one of my friends suggested it. It's not the type of place I would have thought of trying, I usually think of Wacky Warehouses as being within a pub, and as my toddler acts like he's in training for the 2016 Rio hurdles, and darts off as soon as I take my eyes off him, being within a pub isn't great for us. Too many places to hide. But this play area was local to my friend, so when she suggested it, I was happy to go along. It's actually a self contained play area so not connected to the pub, and when I was there I thought it was actually pretty good for us, small enough so that my two year old could explore all of the play equipment without being too far away, and my very favourite thing about this play area is that it only has one exit. So many of the play areas we go to have multiple exits which means I'm constantly having to check that he hasn't escaped out of one of the other ones. As this one only has one, it means I can feed the baby and and actually manage to half concentrate on a conversation for once, knowing my toddler is still where I left him.
Getting There and Parking: It's pretty easy to find, and very close to the airport, right next to Callerton Parkway metro station. The car park is accessed by a barrier, but I think this is just there so people doing airport pickups don't use it. The code to the barrier is displayed within the play area, so there is no cost to park. There were loads of parking spaces, and the car park is right next to the entrance. Close enough that I could carry the car seat, and not have to put it down for a breather on my way to the door. That is my new judge of distance, as i'm soooooo unfit after baby number two. Outside of the entrance, are a couple of picnic style tables, and a small park area. I think these belong to the pub, but if the weather was nice I think you could sit outside on your way in or out of the play area and use the park equipment for a while.