As a family we love London and we love visiting, however, as we reside in the frozen North of England it is a long journey and sometimes weekends can be stressful and hectic. Not anymore as thanks to Superbreak we had the perfect family weekend in London and I want to share with you what made it so special. Make it for all the family What made this weekend so perfect (even with Mini feeling under the weather) was there was something for everyone in the family. We talked about what we all wanted from the weekend before we started planning and discovered that we all wanted to do different things. more »
Much like the USA, the United Kingdom is famous for its weird and wacky events. Whether it’s rolling cheese down a hill or donning full Viking attire for a fire festival, one things for sure: The Brits know how to have fun. If you’re planning a family adventure to the UK or locally based and looking for a way to get the clan together for some quality time, you’ve come to the right place. Here are the top five kid friendly events to attend in 2014. Boardmasters Does your child thrive on adrenaline? Do they spend most of their time catching waves at the beach or tearing up the sidewalk on more »
We are huge fans of LeapFrog and have been since the boys were small. They grew up with LeapFrog and are only just at seven and eight leaving that stage of their life behind. We have been putting the new LeapReader though it’s paces and it is certainly an improvement and step up on the old one, however, you can still use most of the tag books with it, which is great. Mini loves going to0 be and listening to an audio book on the LeapReader.
axi is currently working on shapes at school in maths and this week brought home an Islamic pattern sheet and he had to identify a number of polygons on it and colour them all in different colours. Maxi is 8 years old and in Year 4 at school (key stage 2).
For someone like me that finds this type of mathematics really hard it is nigh on impossible to look at that page and see anything other than triangles.
Thankfully First 4 Magnets had sent us a magnetic tangram this week. We were sent the yellow one and it retails at £1.99.
Complete square measures 125mm x 125mm
Seven separate magnetic shapes
Made from high-quality die cut foam on a flexible magnetic backing
These challenging and addictive puzzles are based on the ancient Chinese tangram puzzle. Each puzzle is made from premium foam with a flexible magnetic backing providing a secure grip to a steel surface like your fridge. Each puzzle is die cut and supplied as a square so you can easily break the individual shapes apart to create new shapes. A tangram contains a small square, two small isosceles triangles, a medium-sized isosceles triangle, two large isosceles triangles, and a parallelogram. An isosceles triangle has two equal angles and two equal sides. A parallelogram is a four-sided figure with each side parallel to the opposite side.
When I received it I put it on the fridge and everyone in the house has played with it, including Maxi’s friends who have come to visit. I decided to set some challenges for the boys to follow some patterns using the tangram and it was great fun for everyone.
On the suggestion of Cathy from Nurturestore this weekend will be spent turning a sleeper offcut in to a geoboard.
LEGO Club Magazine – Free, quarterly
A free quality childrens magazine, yes I did say free. The boys love their LEGO magazines and are glue to them from the minute they pop through the letter box. There is a Junior magazine for under sevens and it really is filled with hours of fun. It gives you ideas of things to build with your LEGO, stories, comic strips and puzzles too. There is also an interactive version of the magazine too.
Anorak – £6 per addition, quarterly
Anorak is “the ‘happy mag for kids’ is aimed at boys and girls aged between 6 and 12 years old” and it is a beautiful magazine. Printed on recycled paper with vegetable inks, the pages are matt and it has a wonderful book smell. It isn’t a throwaway publication. Just like much loved children’s magazines and annuals of the past, it is designed to be collected and kept. In fact it is in the front of our bookcase and the boys go back to their previous copies on a regular basis.
The Phoenix – £2.99, weekly
This is a 32 page weekly comic, which is aimed at children aged 8 to 12 years old it features 7 or more exciting story strips, a puzzle competition and a new non-fiction strip every week of the year. If you have an avid reader then this is the comic for you. It is fun, full of quality stories and delivered every week. Both the boys love The Phoenix, but it is too regular for us. We would prefer it on a monthly basis as when they are busy they just pile up and you need to read them in order as some of the stories are longer than one week. If you have a very reluctant reader then The Phoenix is available on the IPad.
We love LEGO and we are also huge fans o0f LEGOLAND. We go to the LEGOLAND Windsor once a year and Maxi and I were lucky enough to visit Legoland Florida earlier in the year too. On Fathers Day The Mad Blog Awards hosted their first #MadDayOut at LEGOLAND Windsor and we were lucky enough to be asked to come along and help at the event.
My boys are 132cm and 127 cm, so can go on every ride. Maxi, who is the taller child can go on them all independently. Mini can go on most independently, but needs to be accompanied by an adult on some of the others. We were also gifted a gold VIP wrist band, which I believe is the equivalent of a Q-BOT Ultimate. This meant that we skipped the queue on every ride. We managed to go on every ride in the p-ark in one day and there were no queues! Was it worth it? Well once both the boys are over 130cm we will buy then a Q-BOT Ultimate each, as it made the day so much more special and as a trip to LEGOLAND is a once a year thing for us I would rather save up and do it in style.
So What are our top tips for making the most out of your visit to LEGOLAND?
Get there early – The park opens for general visitors at 10am. Get there early for the park opening. It is quietest first thing on a morning.
Pick up a lost parent wrist band at the beginning of the park (Guest Services). These are invaluable. There are a lo0t of children and it is easy to lose one as Penny will tell you.
Head for the rear of the park first. The most popular rides are driving school and boating school, so it pays to get the queuing out of the way first and we found the queues much less on a morning. We start at the back and work our way forward.
If you stay in the LEGOLAND Hotel you get access to Atlantis 30 minutes early.
Be prepared to get wet. Splash rides include Pirate Falls Dynamite Drench, SQUID Surfer and Vikings River Splash. We use poncho’s to ensure that we have dryish clothes!
Take swim wear or UV wear for children. The new DUPLO Splash Valley and Drench Towers is a superb water area with slides, fountains, water guns and much more. There is a toddler area and an older child area. It is great fun and perfect for when your children are flagging. We managed to both grab a cup of tea whilst the boys made the most of the water.
There can be a lot of walking and waiting, so if you have a buggy take it. Even if your child doesn’t normally use it.
Make use of all your time. We stayed till closing time, a lot of people leave earlier so the queues get shorter.
Turn up for the Pirate of skeleton bay show early (20 mins approx before the start) and put down a picnic blanket a little to the right of the control booth on the corner. The show is brilliant and will be enjoyed by all. The harbour coffee shop does starbucks quality lattes. Even better this is the perfect place and time to have your lunch in front of the show, its fab! And bring a picnic as food is ridiculously expensive.
Ways to keep costs down
Take a packed lunch. There are areas for eating your packed lunch or snacks. You can also go back to the car to get it. There are also lockers at the beginning if you want to store your bags, but they do not refund your coins.
Kids eat free after 3pm in certain restaurants
Get a refillable drink for £7, especially if it is warm. You can use the drinks bottle once you get home too.
Get the shopping over with at the beginning. Set a budget and make sure you stick to it! You can also leave your purchases their to collect on your way home.
Keep an eye out for 2 for 1 deals by search on line.
If you are travelling the park have an affiliation with a number of hotels and you can get your second day free. It is worth checking out booking both hotel and park entrance with these hotels.
We had THE best time, in fact Mini called it Epic. To see more pictures why not take a look at our LEGOLAND 2013 Google+ picture album
Win Your Family Holiday This Year!
The recession has hit most household budgets hard, with families struggling to meet basic outgoings, and not very much left in the pot for luxuries like holidays. If you’re feeling pretty gloomy at the prospect of giving your break a miss this year, imagine how good it would be to win your family holiday this year!
With Cushelle and Butlins, you could do just that. They have teamed up to give away three UK breaks, for families to try out the brand new Wave Hotel at the Bognor Regis Butlins resort. The lucky winners can check in two adults and two children, for a super exciting vacation at Butlins.
Those with older children, between the ages of 8 and 14, will be especially excited by the new Wave Hotel, as everything about it has been carefully designed to appeal to hard to please teens and pre-teens. The designers have gone with a cool and quirky underwater theme, complete with submarine style rooms, and the tech geeks at Butlins have gone all out to integrate the latest gadgets and gizmos to appeal to tech savvy kids.
The piece de resistance is the Games Port, where families can challenge each other to interactive modern games. The hotel also boasts a kindle and iPod library for guests, free Wi-Fi and a Soho Coffee Co Café. In the bright, funky designed rooms you’ll find iPod docks, freeview, and individual DVD players for each bed – saving on squabbles over what to watch!
Outside of the hotel (if you can drag the kids away!), the Bognor resort has also been treated to a brand new fairground, where you can ride your favourites for free! There’s also a fantastic new Discovery Studio hosting live shows themed on science, animals and magic – perfect for inquisitive kids!
It’s got to be worth a quick click to enter – all you have to do is enter a Cushelle barcode online. And even if you’re not a winner, Cushelle will give you £20 off your Butlins break of choice, making a family holiday that little bit more affordable.
Is it Safe for Your Kids to Take a Gap Year?
By Andrew Tipp
It’s not difficult to find news stories of horrible things happening to young people on their gap years.
Whether it’s a bus crash, a robbery or even a murder, the mid-market tabloids splash multi-page spreads full of emotive and frightening reports when something bad happens to a young Brit abroad.
It’s usually an attractive white 19-year-old middle class girl that’s been attacked in India, or a group of friendly 18-year-old boys that have died in a road accident in Thailand.
The message is usually implicit from the reporting: this could happen to your child. Imagine this happening to your child.
Imagining the worst
It’s a horrible thing for a parent to think about, and instinctively it makes some parents think of ripping up their child’s plane tickets, cancelling their volunteering placement and refusing to let them head off on their gap year.
It’s an understandable reaction. Natural, even. Why let your child go off travelling somewhere dangerous when they could be safe and sound at home?
But let’s think about this for a bit. Just how dangerous is a gap year? How many of these reports are down to bad luck? Or even foolishness?
The truth is that gap years are relatively safe, worthwhile and fun. The chances of anything bad happening to your child on their dream backpacking trip or volunteering placement is incredibly small.
Putting it into perspective
Every year an estimated 200,000 British young people take a gap year of some kind. Of that number some will run into problems. It’s inevitable. But most of the problems are things that could happen anywhere.
It’s definitely not worth you or your child being put off the adventure of a lifetime because of some sensational news reports that highlight the few occasions when something bad happens on a gap year.
The right approach for your son or daughter is to seize the chance at a travel experience, take precautions, use common sense and establish an understanding of how you will stay in touch so they can let you know they’re safe and sound.
There are certain things your child can do before their trip to reduce and manage the risk of anything negative happening to them.
There should be plenty of research before the trip. Make sure your child knows where they’re going, who (if anyone) will be meeting them at airports and bus stations, how to get between places, what hostels they will be sleeping in and who will be their contact locally (if they’re doing a volunteering placement).
Make sure your son or daughter knows some of the local language for where they’re going – especially how to ask for help in different situations. They should know who to contact if they get into trouble, and how to get in touch with the regional UK embassy.
While planning and before travelling, your family should consult the travel advice from the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Oh, and make sure your child buys adequate travel insurance – there are plenty of perfectly avoidable horror stories every year involving parents paying thousands so their child could be flown home after breaking a leg trekking in the wilderness without insurance.
The easiest way for your child to avoid crime and danger abroad is simply by not making themselves an easy target.
Tourists wearing expensive clothes and dangling pricey cameras around their necks are calling out for someone to rob them; these things are like a sign that flashes in neon lights: “I have money, come and take it if you can.”
This isn’t too much of an issue for independent gap year travellers, as most of them genuinely have little money – either in the bank or on them. Even so, it would be a good idea for your child to segment their money – storing some of it in wallets/purses, some in bags, socks, hostel safes, etc.
Behaviour can make gappers as much of a target. What you do is as important as what you wear. Be sure your child knows not look too much like an innocent, naive and vulnerable fish out of water. Being able to ask for directions confidently and not looking lost with a huge map is helpful.
Locks for backpacks is an option to stay safe, but obviously it’s a good idea not to take anything that’s worth stealing in the first place. In terms of personal safety, rape alarms and ‘defence’ spray cans are good purchases – although be careful with the latter as in some places this is considered a weapon.
Control and intuition
Although drinking and having fun is part of the gap year experience, staying in control is important. Getting really drunk makes young people abroad vulnerable, so be sure to make them agree to staying with groups and friends if they’re heading out drinking.
Just as you wouldn’t wander into the wrong area of Manchester or Birmingham, it’s crucial your child avoids the dangerous areas of any city, but especially high-crime urban sprawls like Johannesburg or Bogata.
Likewise, it’s obviously no safer for your son or daughter to go home alone with any strangers on an evening of romance.
Staying in contact
Maintaining communication between parent and child is important during a gap year. It’s easy for parents to worry if their son or daughter drops out of contact.
It might be a good idea to agree on a rough contact schedule. Nothing too rigid, but maybe a clear but informal understanding that they will try and check in weekly or fortnightly by email, and let you know if they’re going on a trip to, say, a rainforest and will be out of contact for a while. You might also want them to let you know what hostels they’re staying in.
If your child plans to be very active online during their gap year, this could be an issue; if they blog and tweet and facebook every other day you might also worry if they suddenly stop. It might be a good idea to agree that they let you know if they’re going to cease updating their digital profiles for a while.
Ultimately, there’s no way of guaranteeing safety abroad. There’s no way of eliminating risk completely. Bad luck and being in the wrong place at the wrong time can happen to anyone, anywhere.
But if you have frank and thorough discussions about taking precautions, using common sense and staying in touch there should be nothing to worry about.
Read more about gap year foreign travel advice: https://www.gov.uk/gap-year-foreign-travel-advice
Learn more about volunteering abroad placements: http://www.originalvolunteers.co.uk/
Visit a gap year advice and community site: http://www.gapyear.com/
About the author
Andrew Tipp is a writer, blogger and editor. He’s spent more than a year backpacking and volunteering abroad, and used to work as a site editor for travel advice and community website gapyear.com.
2013, the year of “Choosing Joy”, but also the year of learning. This is the year that I start to take time out for me and put these grey cells in my brain in to some use. Where I try to see if an old dog can learn new tricks! I am doing this in a couple of ways, firstly I am trying to improve my photography by taking a Capturing Childhood course. I have started on the Collect the Moments e-course. It is challenging me to think differently and I am learning lots of new things about my six year old camera. I have even ordered a remote control so I can “be in the picture” more often. The Kats’ are helpful, insightful and more »
Both the boys have stockings that I made for them when they were first born and each year I fill them with an assortment of items.
So my top tips for stocking fillers this year are:
Playmobil Fi?ures (£1.97)
What can I say you can never have too much Playmobil!
Magic Spring £1.49 – Yellow Moon
Perfect for children of any age. My boys love watching it spring itsr way down the stairs! Size 75mm
Notebooks by Jennie Maizel £3.99
We are huge fans of Jennie in the Mad House. Mini is a big fan of her London range and her notebooks are fab. Great quality and super designs, plus free postage in the UK.
Speed Racer Sets – !1.49 Yellow Moon
Fab mini construction sets from Yellow Moon, which are easy to assemble and really great value for money.
We particularly love the EASY Original pen (£6.99) which is designed to aid children learn to write with easy to grip areas and specifically for left handers or right handers. We have loved these pens so much that I went out and bought the boys an EASYergo pencil (£6.99) each. The boys have found them very easy to grip and use.
Other items that go in every year are:
Chocolate coins, a toothbrush, a mandarin, marbles and lip chap.
Maxi and Mini have both loved this play set and we have had hours of fun challenging each other with our own cup competitions. It is great as it packs up relatively small and is easy to play. Mini has had hours of fun just role playing with the characters and I have proven that I can beat both the boys at football! This is a great gift for any football made boy or girl and a really great value gift.
Wappy Dog (£25)
Wappy Dog is a game for the Nintendo DS and it has been a huge hit with Mini. Our Wappy Dog is called Ninja, which is a much better name, as I keep calling it yappy dog! So what is it. Well it is an interactive game with its own character dog. You feed it, pet, it, look after it, but you also play games with it. For a family without a dog it is great as it doesn’t cost anything once bought and it doesn’t need feeding with real food or taking for walks in the dark weather! Mini specifically loves playing rock, paper, scissors and fruit catch with his Wappy Dog.
Angry Birds Trilogy for Nintendo DS (£37)
Angry birds are taking over the world or so it seems. This is the perfect game for maxi, who has loved it. It is such a simple concept but captures his imagination and he just loves it as will many children of his age. Oh and Maddad has been know to play on it when he is in bed! It has Angry Birds, Angry Birds Seasons and Angry Birds Rio, it didn’t take long for Maxi and MadDad to be hooked on the straightforward yet satisfying game lay that defines Angry Birds. There are 19 episodes, each with an exclusive new level that will keep you interested and ready for more.
LEGO Darth Vader and Storm Trouper Torches (£15 each)
What is it about boys and torches? These have been a MASSIVE hit in The Mad House. They are ingenious and for two Star Wars and LEGO mad boys these are great presents. They have been left on a lot and we are still on our original set of batteries after 4 weeks, but you do have to buy your own as they do not come with them. Darth Vader’s light saber is removable and also lights up perfect for role play with evil Jedi teddies!
On the Wish List
This year the boys have also asked for the following for Christmas:
Guinness book of Records 2013
Skylander Giants for Wii
New Bikes (20 inch as both of them has grown so much)
Jaffa Cakes – Mini!
ersil Non-Bio and Comfort Pure have launched a fab new tool in conjunction with British Skincare Foundation and a leading paediatric dermatologist. All you have to do is simply tick the multiple choice answers to their six questions, click submit and you are provided with some free expert skincare advice tailored specifically to you and your baby or child.
This one time at blogcamp
So last week I talked about the piece of music we used for mums funeral, this week I have decided to talk about Dad’s funeral.
My father died suddenly in November 2000 from an industrial accident. Due to injuries he occurred in the accident he had to be kept in a medical come (sedated and paralyzed) for 3 weeks before he turned septic just as the doctors thought he was improving. Over those three weeks, my mum stayed at the hospital and I visited him everyday (MadDad and I came back from Berkshire when mum rang the morning after his accident). I read to him, we played songs to him and most of all we talked to him and I told him everyday how much I loved him. As a family we made the decision to remove any life support on November 6 2000 and within a minute he was pronounced dead. He was 54 years old.
The sixth of September marks a new beginning for Mini and I. Yes you guessed it he will be going in to Reception full time and Maxi will be going in to year one. I have trying to make the most of this summer together as it seems like the end of an era, but I have decided that I am not going to look upon it as such, oh no this is just the beginning, the start of something wonderful. To help the boys on their way to school Clothing at Tesco sent us a school uniform bundle of each of the boys and also a voucher for me to more »
I could go down the I have a genetic spelling mistake and my body is my biggest enemy, route, but been there done that and there is something more apt, something more perfect for today. As today is my 15th Wedding Anniversary. Picture this I was 21 years old and we had set the date, MadDad and I. March the 18th 1995. The dress was bought, the hair was planned. I had the tiara and the veil. We had been together a year, yes not long in the scheme of things, but we knew that it was the right thing to do, in fact I had knew that MadDad was the more »
I have been reminded this weekend of why I make thing with the boys and for the boys. We have been decorating gingerbread house’s at my mums with my niece and we put up the snowmen decorations I made when I was 8 so they are 28 years old and the minimads loved them. I have to say the houses which we from Ikea were a nightmare to fix together and eventually both collaspsed under the weight of three children and excess sweets I fear. But as you can see they had a fantastic time making them. We also dropped off the plate I had decorated for my Neice and the more »
I need to vent, I am sat in tears at the laptop. Since we moved in to our lovely new build house just over three years ago, we have had nothing but issues with the heating and hot water culminating in 4 weeks without either heating or hot water for more than 24 consecutive hours last November. Now we haven’t had the best year as most people are aware. I went into hospital for surgery in February and due to massive complications developed a major infection and nearly died, so spent most of March, April and May in the hospital. This meant that MadDad had to take unpaid leave to help more »
Many people are posting about New Years resolutions and I keep seeing updates on facebook and G+ about dry January and diets. So I wanted to do a quick update on my Winter Manifesto and also my word of the year Joy. I posted last year about the fact that I was choosing Joy. I was making a conscious decision to focus on the good stuff and make the bad stuff less relevant in my life.
It is all about choice and it is my choice. Way back when a very wise person taught me that we always have a choice. Yes there are things in life that we can not change, these are the things that it is not worth expending energy on. It is like worrying about a plane crashing, not matter how much you flap your arms you will not be able to effect it. However, you can change the way you think about it. You can make the choice not to worry about it. It doesn’t take the worry away, but it does give you power over it. So this year I am actively choosing Joy.
However, I am also making this year more joyous by choosing to learn more. I have started a craft course and am making Mini a quilt. I have had the fabric for over six months, but had a mental block on cutting it. I booked the lessons (2 hours every Tuesday) and asked for some help and in two weeks I have cut the fabric, stitched the top and sandwiched it all together ready to quilt. I made this happen.
I have also enrolled on a Collect the Moments e-course from Capturing Childhood, which was recommended to me by my friend Kelly.
Whilst talking about resolutions, goals and aims for 2013, I have been asked to tell you about Hillarys Facebook competition, yes that is the people who have a vast vertical blinds range available. They are currently running a New Year, New You competition on Facebook. The competition offers a chance to win a different prize every week for the next four weeks, and began with a Wii with Wii Fit Plus to get fit this new year. This week is a chance to win a £100 spa voucher, Week 3 is a chance to try something new with Zorbing, and in Week 4 the prize is a Merlin annual pass for a family of four.