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 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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.