Okay, so we might not get many hot days, but when the sun is shining there is nothing quite like playing in water for kids. In the North East we are really lucky to have a quite a few options for where to cool down when it warms up. Lets face it though, we could have a cold and wet summer and most kids would still love to play in a splash pad or take a dip in a paddling pool. Read on for some ideas about where to head and information about opening hours.
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.
Welcome back! I hope you are all well. Today's Parents of the North features Kathryn who runs Brilliantly Social - a North East social media management company, and Studio Paradiso - who provide painting holidays in Tuscany. She is also the owner of two very brilliant bairns. I asked Kathryn to tell us what she loves about the family friendly North East, as her instagram page (@brilliantlysocial) is jam packed with days out and kid friendly activities. She is also a huge fan of colour so it's a seriously pretty feed to follow. If you enjoy this feature then check out our previous posts here for loads of great ideas. If you fancy featuring then please get in touch via the contact us page.
Not only does Nat run a gorgeous children's store, but she used to work for the English Heritage, so knows her way around a family friendly visitors destination. Basically she is far more qualified than me to run a family blog - so lets all promise that we aren't going to burst my bubble and mention it to her okay? This post is a lovely long one, with lots of recommendations, and details about Nat setting up her own company. I loved it - Enjoy.
Earlier in the year we visited Kielder Water and Forest Park to follow their Gruffalo Spotter's trail, where an augmented reality app for a phone or tablet brings the characters from The Gruffalo to life on your screen. We are planning to return again soon, but this time we'll be on the hunt for the real versions!
This year Kielder have launched Wild at Kielder which is a campaign to encourage families to explore the park and highlights all of the wild and wonderful animals, birds, insects and plants that call Kielder Forest and Water home.
Hello, this is the second in my series of nosing on instagram pics and where people have been taking their kids in the past few weeks. I run the #newcastlewithkids and #northeastwithkids hashtags - use these on your photos and I'll pop over and give you a like, comment and might even ask if it's okay to include your photos in an upcoming blog post. They are great hashtags to find a bit of inspiration about where to visit with kids too. Don't forget to use them over the Easter Weekend and whilst you are over there, don't be shy, give me a follow too.
Hello, February is over! In the blink of an eye. I'm so looking forward to the lighter nights in March. Summer is just around the corner... right? As always there are a whole host of events for kids, or places to visit, and this post might give you a few ideas. If you'd like my handpicked picks delivered to your email inbox every fortnight, then you can sign up for it here: Bubele.
Another great place for ideas is Instagram - even soft plays look more appealing through a filter! I was surprised that there wasn't a hashtag which brought together all of things that you can do with kids in the North East, so I started my own. Check out #newcastlewithkids for some ideas about places to visit, and if you are on instagram then (a) follow me and (b) use the tag #newcastlewithkids on any photos you are uploading of the places you've taken the kids. Include anywhere in the North East anywhere that is travelling distance from Newcastle.
If you have pre-schoolers then half terms can be a bit difficult. Lots of toddler groups or baby classes take a break during school holidays, and soft play centres or museums are often much busier as the older kids are off. If you are looking for some pre-school events during half term then you should check out Alnwick Playhouse. Their childrens program, Creative Cocoon is brilliant. There are lots of quirky shows, and a regular playgroup which looks so sweet. I wish that I lived closer as I would visit much more often.
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.
Hello, and Merry Christmas (too soon? It is the 1st December, I thought it would be okay) When I realised that I could squeeze the name of my blog into something Christmas related it was too tempting to resist. So here it is, an advent calendar of things to do and places to go around the North East.
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.
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.
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.
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.