Will you make it through half-term?

The October half-term holiday.

That came around quicker than most of us expected, and if you’re like me, you probably haven’t made any solid plans yet. When it comes to work, planning is something I’m on top of. And yet when it comes to family life, we kind of fly by the seat of our pants. Well, you have to, don’t you? Who knows what’s going to crop up during the course of a day, or a week.

You could plan your days and weeks as meticulously as you dare, but it’s unlikely to stick.

But still, when it comes to the holidays, you find yourself wishing you’d set up a more solid plan and had a few days out tucked up your sleeve.

So, here’s a plan.

#WikiVentures!!

Are you on Instagram? If you are, you might be familiar with the various challenges you see crop up in your feed.

When Wiki Places For Kids mentioned a parenting/half-term holiday challenge to me and suggested that parents set their own challenge, I wanted to share this idea with all the other parents I know to join in the fun.

It’s a simple concept. Make memories, not stress.

To make your half-term holiday one to remember, rather than one fuelled with hair-pulling (that’s you, not the kids). A holiday to help you enjoy your children and cherish the short time you have with them. The short time before they morph into unresponsive teens independent young adults who want to do their own thing, and think parents are embarrassing (sadly, it happens).

5 themes. 5 days. 5 challenges

  • Indoor Play
  • Forest walk
  • Park time
  • Animals
  • Culture

They can be anything.

Indoor play doesn’t have to be expensive soft-play. It might just feature den-building indoors with some cushions and blankets. Or you could use the site wikiplacesforkids.com for some pointers on where to go, if you need to take the kids to burn off some energy and love to get involved in the soft-play antics.

Ed's Play Barn

Round up the kiddies and take them to your nearest forest, to see how many different shaped leaves you can find.

Child woodland walk

Take them to the park at least once in the week.

Russell Park Bedford

Go animal-spotting at a zoo, an open-farm, or even on a woodland walk. You could even write a list of common animals for your children to spot, and have a prize for the winner (and something for the runners-up, because no-one likes to be a loser).

animal hunt

Experience some culture. Visit a museum. Your local library.

MK Museum

The linked photos are just a few ideas to kick-start your thought process.

It’s a simple process; make memories, not stress.

So go on, get involved, and share your adventures with WikiPlacesForKids on social media, hashtag #WikiVentures and be part of something fun!

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This post was written for WikiPlacesForKids.com, THE place to go for epic days out, or that much needed hour out of the house. 

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Lose the guilt… 

Today, I went shopping.

No, not food shopping.

Clothes shopping. You know, for me.

How many times have you been shopping with your little one, only to get hot, get frustrated, throw an internal tantrum and come home empty-handed?

Because no matter what you try on, it looks shit, nothing fits, your stomach has swollen to six-months-pregnant size, and your toddler is squirming and whining and shouting ‘I hungreeeeee!’, or ‘I wanna waaaalk!’, so you thrust the clothes back on the changing room rack, do a 360 with the pushchair, and storm out of the shop feeling totally deflated and demoralised. You justify your lack of clothing with the following reasons:

1. You’re not totally without clothes (despite the fact most of them have holes in, are out of shape, or barely fit you anymore) and don’t really NEED anything (apart from bras – but, well, you have bras and it’s not life and death);

and…
2. You can’t really afford it (Not to mention the hassle of trying all those clothes on with a restless toddler in tow).

So you visit the children’s section and buy your kids something (you can afford that – they need clothes more than you do).

This is me.

Pretty much every time I go shopping.

Apart from today, where I took great pleasure in a THREE-HOUR shopping trip with my littlest shopping assistant.

It was one of those rare days, where she sat as good as gold in her pushchair (Minnie Mouse and Upsy-Daisy can take some credit for this), joining in with the changing-room selfies. There were a few cries of ‘I want to get OUT!’, which were met with firm replies of ‘No,’ and promises of going to get a little treat when we’d finished.

Of course, once I’d tried on 7 dresses in two different shops, the infamous call of ‘I need a weeeeeee!’ came from inside the pushchair (I realise this makes her sound like a tiny thumbelina-type child. Actually, she is a little dot, but she’s not THAT small), and so we left the shop (minus any dress), and circled round in search of the toilets.

If you don’t have kids, you can stop reading now (because, quite frankly, you might think me sad for gushing about this).

But, if you’re a mum with young children, read on.

The new toilets in the Centre:MK are amazing!  

There’s facilities, and then there’s facilities – with kids in mind.

There is actually a dedicated child/toddler/baby change/general hangout-area within the huge, purpose-built conveniences.

Really, the American term ‘rest-room’ has to be the best way to describe it.

In addition to the main toilets, there are toilets for little ones in two dedicated unisex rooms, with a full-sized loo and a miniature one for the miniature people.

Then there’s the baby-changing area; the food-heating facilities, the private breast-feeding cubicles, and the AWESOME touch-screen TV and other play-points for the older children to entertain themselves while you feed your baby. I breastfed my own children, and I recall the struggle of desperately trying to relieve their hunger while stressing about whether anyone was watching; could they see me, would they judge me? I could never relax, and the experience of attempting to be a normal person out shopping with her baby was stressful enough to make me avoid going out.

 

Truly, I was impressed, and just had to share this on the Wiki Places For Kids site. Mums NEED to know about this place if they don’t already. It’s what we’ve been crying out for, for years.

We finally got out of there (by bribery of sweets from Mr Simms’ sweet shop for being such a good girl and getting back in her buggy), and continued our search for the perfect dress.

Three hours and some stress-less shopping later, I left the shopping centre with a luxurious dress from Coast (oh, how I have missed that shop Pre-Motherhood), and a shiny new notebook and pen. In reality, I would feel guilty. But it was such a successful shopping trip – I needed a dress for some upcoming events, I never spend money on myself, and my sweet little button was so good, we walked out of that shopping centre with smiles on our faces.


So no, I’m not going to feel guilty about indulging on my recent shopping trip. And neither should you.

Lose the guilt.

When’s the next shopping trip…? 😘

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Low-cost AND child-friendly – there’s plenty to do in and around Dumfries, Scotland

Low-cost and child-friendly; things to do in and around Dumfries

Sometimes, we all need time to rest and recharge our batteries, without the children.

I was lucky enough to be able to spend the weekend with my own mum, and it was wonderful to be able to put my feet up without calls of “Mu-u-um…?” and “I need a drink”, or “I’m hungry”, and “I need a weeeeeeeee!” as soon as I’d sat down. Despite that, I missed my girls terribly and as they were never far from my thoughts, I frequently swept my analytical eye over the attractions I was lucky enough to visit without the crazy brood in tow.

Of course – these are just a snapshot of some of the things you can do in this curious part of Scotland. I’m intrigued to learn more about the area – I have strong family connections to the area as it’s where my mother’s family hail from. I’ve reached an age where I feel I need to know more about my own heritage and history (and this of course has nothing whatsoever to do with a certain fictional character named Jamie Fraser – ahem), and intend to revisit as soon as I can with my husband and children. Continue reading

7 Reasons Why IKEA Is Perfect For YOU And Your Toddler

AmbassadorI make no secret of the fact I am a huge IKEA fan. If I had my way, my entire house would be kitted out like an IKEA showroom. I love everything about it; from the displays, to the little kiddie play areas, to the huge inspiration from the hacks and online brochure.

I know many people who have IKEA furniture, but I also know a few people who aren’t as enthused as I am.

But I think on the right day, at the right time, IKEA can be a perfect place for you to kill two birds with one stone; entertain your child and have some time for yourself. Here’s how: Continue reading

Three Toddler-Friendly Walks in South Cornwall

When you’re visiting the west-country with small children in tow, and you’re on a limited budget, it can be a little challenging trying to find suitable activities to keep the whole family busy – especially when the weather is on the cooler side of warm and not quite beachy enough to spend hours playing in the sand and sea.

Continue reading

Days out with kids: Brixworth Country Park, Northampton

This isn’t the first time we’ve been here, but as the girls totally loved their ‘grand day out’ (which was meant to be Brighton, but that’s another story), I felt compelled to share this little gem for anyone looking for a spontaneous free* day out.

Situated just outside of Northampton, Brixworth Country Park is free to use, with a choice of three walks, each one a different ability level/distance, so you can determine which route to take before you set off. The shortest route says to allow around 30 minutes, but it took us only 20 minutes. Continue reading

Days out with kids: Milton Keynes Museum Review

 

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A.E. and S.H. Chapman Wheelwrights – hubby’s great-grandfather

We visited the MK Museum for A Victorian Family Christmas at the beginning of December, and were pleasantly surprised at the vast amount of artefacts, displays and historical re-enactments available for the whole family. A ticket into the museum grants you repeated access for 12 months from the date of purchase.

Stepping back in time as we entered the house, we found ourselves transported to the Victorian era where crackling fires, carols and parlour games greeted us in one room, while gramophones and organ grinders entertained us in another. The rooms were small so pushchairs are not advisable, and I would recommend keeping your little ones close by to avoid small fingers grabbing at valuable relics! If you have toddlers you may want to visit the museum at a quieter time when the organisers aren’t running one of the many exciting events presented throughout the year, as space is quite tight in places. Having said that, all of the staff are incredibly welcoming and helpful. We were welcomed through with a warming glass of mulled wine, which we enjoyed while the kids did some colouring and created their own Christmas crafts in the old recreated school room, giving us a chance to peruse some of the material on display.

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Toy General Store

From here, there were classic toys – ancient rocking horses (not to be climbed on!), Victorian dolls and many, many more that your children will love to see – and probably want to touch. Some items can be handled, however others will have obvious signs if they’re out of bounds.

There was a wheelwright’s workshop (below), an old laundry room, a fire grate in the ‘kitchen’, where the youngsters could have a go at making some toast, and beyond here we marvelled at the old-fashioned shops, including a replica of a local chemist, a pub, a Post Office (selling sweeties in a jar), and a cobblers, to name a few. There is so much there to see and do, you simply can’t see it all at once.

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Wheelwright’s workshop

Older children will be fascinated by the history found in this museum, while younger children will love role play with the endless number of telephones on display here. As mentioned before, it’s perhaps not a great place for unruly toddlers, but generally speaking (if you’re not of a nervous disposition or have very well-behaved small people), this is a great way to keep the whole family entertained, especially if you’re looking for an unconventional few hours away from home.

This review was written for Wiki Places For Kids – for parents who are looking for a stress-free time out.