How to Plan your Child's Birthday Party!

27.8.19

The thought of planning your child's birthday party can be quite daunting. Where to have it? When to have it? Who to invite? I remember asking myself all of these questions on repeat when planning Indiana's party last year. And even though your child might not remember every detail (or be too worried about it), that doesn’t mean you want it to be any less special.

The planning and preparing doesn't need to stressful or crazy though. As long as you have your child's best interests at heart, you can plan the perfect party with whatever budget or plans you have! In this post I'm going to be sharing some top tips and ideas on how to plan a child's birthday party - whether they are 5, 10, or 15.


The Entertainment

Hiring an entertainer can often be a worthwhile means of keeping children engaged and active at a birthday party. It can also be quite entertaining for the adults too. We all know that clowns can often create a lifelong fear of said performers, so this could be a risky move. But what about a magician, a children's entertainer, or even character performers that fit your party theme? We had Elsa and a pirate at Indiana's pirate and princess party, and they were fab! You could even hire a photo booth to capture the fun at the party too.

If you're not having a full class party in a hall, then why not think about attending something that is entertainment in itself. For example, if your child’s birthday is there in the lead up to Christmas, bringing them to a pantomime could be a great idea! The cinema, bowling or even soft play are great ideas for a party - especially if you don't want to invite a large number of guests.

A party at your home can often be one of the easiest yet also most freeing parties to plan. It can help you avoid the worries of taking a large group of children out, and make it feel a bit more personal too. Booking a bouncy castle, purchasing a large paddling pool or simply playing some fun party games could be all you need. You needn’t spend over the odds to enjoy a successful birthday party for your child, as long as they are having fun!

Who to Invite

Invite lists for parties change a lot depending on the age of your child. Most reception classes have a whole 'class party', so everyone is invited and able to join in the fun. However, once your child moves up the school and creates close friendships, it's probably easier to get them to pick a smaller number of guests to celebrate with.


If your child hopes to spend their birthday with a particular friend from school, but you have yet to speak to them or their parents, try to befriend them in the playground. This not only helps with future get togethers, but will maybe create a new friendship for you too! And if your child has requested a sleepover party, it would be a good idea to invite the chosen friends over for a play date first, just to make sure they're all going to get on okay. No one wants an unsuccessful sleepover!

The Small Details

If you invite more than three children to the birthday party, it is a fantastic idea to enlist the help of other parents or friends. Most parents will want to attend a birthday party with their child, but some may not. It can be handy to have an extra hand to keep an eye on everyone, and can also help you offload some of the stress too. It can of course be nice to invite family and friends along if your party venue is big enough, so everyone can celebrate with your child together!

If the parents decide not to stay with their child it's a great idea to keep them in the loop anyway. Give them the address and contact numbers of at least two adults at the party, and contact details for the venue if it's not at your home. Ask for the child’s dietary requirements or medical needs and any emergency numbers you can ring too - it's always better to be safe than sorry.

And finally, make sure you consider the time and length of the party. A short but sweet birthday party can sometimes be better (especially for younger children), then an all day event. Then once you know the venue, guest list and times you can plan the final details such as food, drink and the party decorations!

This is a collaborative post.

In The Book - My Personalised Nursery Rhyme Book | Review

24.8.19


At 19 months, Lilah is absolutely obsessed with books. She loves nothing more than to snuggle up on my lap and read book after book, only stopping to race over to grab the next story. So when In The Book got in touch and asked if I we wanted to review one of their personalised books, how could I say no?

In The Book are book specialists. They know just how important books are - especially to children - so have made them that extra bit special, by writing the reader into the adventure too! Their goal is to spark the love of reading in every child, which as a parent myself, I feel is incredibly important too. They have an extensive range of titles, featuring beloved characters such as Peter Rabbit and Winnie the Pooh, and of course classic fairytales and Disney characters too. They also cater for a number of occasions, making the decision of which title to pick that little bit easier.



We received their My Personalised Nursery Rhyme book, and of course had it personalised for our little Lilah. Nursery rhymes play such an important role in childhood, as the rhymes are a fantastic way to teach children new words and ideas. With this personalised book from In The Book your child's name appears not only on the cover and title page (which you can also add a personalised message to), but also incorporated into the illustrations throughout too. How special is that?

Flicking through the book, I surprised myself with just how many of the nursery rhymes I could remember. The book features 23 classics nursery rhymes such as Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and Humpty Dumpty, all beautifully illustrated on their own individual page. You can even add an image of your child at the back of the book, which really is a special touch for the book (this is no extra charge too).



We received the book with the standard A4 Paperback cover, which I am a little disappointed to say isn't very sturdy. I'm not sure I could trust Lilah to look through this alone for a long time yet, in fear that she'll rip a page or bend the cover. You can pay extra for the hardback or special hardback cover though, which I think looks much studier and special. I wasn't really keen on the barcode on the back either, as I feel this slightly takes away from the specialness of the book. I know this is just me being picky though, as the rest of the book is lovely!

Overall I do think the My Personalised Nursery Rhyme book from In The Book is a lovely keepsake, and would be a perfect gift for a special occasion, such as a birthday or christening. The special touches such as the reader's name throughout the illustrations and the picture at the end are such a fab idea!


The book with a standard cover is priced at £14.99, and the hardback cover versions are £19.99. I do personally feel this is a little overpriced, however if buying for a special occasion like I mentioned above then I think this could be justified. And I know that we'll be reading it long into the future, teaching Lilah those important classic nursery rhymes!

This post is written in collaboration with In The Book, however all opinions are honest and my own.








Exploring the Maize Maze at Penshurst Place and Gardens

22.8.19

If you saw our Summer Holiday Bucket List this year, then you'll know that one of our goals was to visit a maize maze. It's an activity that I've seen others do over the years so we couldn't wait to visit one locally - especially as it was just around the corner at Penshurst Place and Gardens. We haven't actually been back to Penshurst since our visit in 2015, and I think I loved this visit even more.

Penshurst Maize Maze is located in a field off of the woodland trail (go right when you enter, past the adventure play and through the woods), and this year is an exploration-themed puzzle. The maze actually comprises 3 different trails too:

A smaller 10 minute maze perfect for young children (they must be accompanied at all times).

A tricker 20 minute maze that features an exploration game.

A 40 minute maze that features another exploration game.








If you choose to try the bigger two mazes and play the puzzles, you can be in with the chance of winning a Penshurst Place family season ticket! You simply need to find the clues from the different checkpoints hidden in the maze's twists and turns, and then crack the puzzle to enter. We tried out the 20 minute maze, but with three little ones to run after we quickly got lost and gave up with the hunt. It was lots of fun though, and really got the Little's involved as they raced around looking for the clues! 

Close to the start of the maze you'll find a raised platform, that if you climb up you'll be able to see the whole of the maize maze. Inside the maze you really can't work out where you are, so it's amazing to see where you've been exploring (or where you got lost!). Don't worry about getting lost though, there are stewards at hand to help you out.





The maze is open from 13th July - 1st September (11am to 6pm - last entry at 5pm), so there's still plenty of time to visit and explore. Entry is also included in your admission to Penshurst Place, so once you've finished exploring you an enjoy the house, grounds, and adventure play too!

The Siblings Project | August 2019

21.8.19

My goodness getting these siblings pictures is hard work these days! Getting all three to stand still long enough, and to look at the camera AT THE SAME TIME is practically impossible. But I'm going to keep trying for as long as I can, because I love having these monthly photos to look back on and remember. This month's pictures were taken on my birthday trip to Colchester Zoo (the pig they're sitting on stopped them running away, hooray!), and although they're not taken on the big camera or have them all looking, I really love them!


We're now onto week four of the Summer holidays, and the best way to probably describe our household at the moment is chaotic. Those first few weeks were so, so hard having all three of them at home. It was incredibly intense (especially as we were all ill during the heatwave), and with Jack working long days / weeks, it was hard to find any breathing space.

These last few weeks I feel we've settled into our groove a bit more though. Embracing allll the lazy mornings snuggled in my bed, deciding what we're going to do at the last minute so there's less rushing around, and actually enjoying each others company! The older two have actually wanted to play together, instead of fighting constantly, which has made for much easier days. And as difficult as these 6 weeks are, I already know I'm going to miss having them all around when school starts. Especially as Parker starts school this year... sob!


How to Make the Most of your Garden this Autumn / Winter

20.8.19

If you are like me and have young children, then you'll have likely spent most of the long Summer holidays enjoying your garden and outdoor spaces. You might have spent your days playing in a paddling pool and other outdoor toys, and enjoying bbqs and eating outside in the early evening sunshine. Having a garden is such a fantastic way to make the most of the sunshine without spending money on expensive days out! Especially as the garden can be educational as well as fun - learning to grow fruit and vegetables, spotting different animals and insects, and even improving motor skills by climbing, jumping and exploring.


But with the Summer holidays almost over, and the evenings starting to become darker and cooler, it's almost time to start thinking about preparing your outdoor space for Autumn and Winter. But although your thoughts might have turned to packing away the garden toys and moving some of your less hardy plants to sheltered areas, there’s no reason that you can’t continue to spend time in the garden in the Autumn months, or even as Winter sets in! So in this post I'm going to share four steps to using your garden more this Autumn / Winter.

Protect It
As winds start to pick up and rain sets in, your garden might need a little extra protection. Source quality fencing supplies from a reputable company so that you know it won’t come down in a storm, and make sure any decking and furniture are weatherproofed. Lighter and more delicate items should probably be stored away (or properly covered), however more hardwearing items can still be used all year round. You might want to move any delicate flowers and herbs to sheltered areas so that they survive the colder months too. 

Keep it Simple
The Summer might be time for pretty garden flowers and delicate pottery, but if you're happy to let your children play outside in the colder months, you've got to keep things simple. Don’t worry about keeping everything neat and tidy; just let them play. Put their coats and wellies on and let them splash around in the puddles and explore the area. Try not to be to worry too much about keeping things pretty, there will be plenty of time for that once the warmer months roll around again.


Keep Warm
If you want to spend extended periods in the garden, and enjoy relaxing and even eating outdoors when the weather turns, you will of course need to find ways to keep warm. A sheltered area such as a wooden gazebo or a patio will protect you from the elements, and outdoor heaters will provide extra warmth too. A weatherproof playhouse would be perfect for little ones to play in too!

Add Light
A lack of light is one of the main reasons that we spend less time outside in the Winter. When it’s dark outside at 4pm, it can almost feel like we’re not allowed out. But by just adding pretty lanterns, post lights and even some fairy lights to your garden, it can make such a difference to the space. It can look romantic and warming and will encourage you to spend more time outdoors as the darker evenings set in. 

This is a collaborative post.

How to Bring Modern Technology into your Home

18.8.19


Modern decor and interior style is now slowly stepping into the futuristic age, with the things that we have previously only seen in movies now becoming actual reality. Homes are no longer just about what type of sofa you have, or what kind of ornate fixtures or fancy ornaments you have. Technology has now taken centre stage, and unless your home is truly modern, then no matter how good it looks it will be seen as behind the times.

But where to begin?

Firstly you should focus on what a home is actually for; comfort. Modern decor should be about making life easier, and making you want to come home and enjoy your own space. For this you need a few things that will make your home much more connected to satisfy your needs.

Sound When you Want it
Remember back in the 80s and 90s those huge sound systems? They were bulky, heavy and took up way to much room. Plus they were only in one place so you had to be careful where you plugged everything in! Now however, you have the Google Max Home, which is a home assistant made with some fantastic speakers. You can plug several of these in and connect them all to your system via Bluetooth. They will not only be your search assistant, but also play and control music with the sound of your voice. Compatible with Chromecast speakers, all you need to do is activate it with your voice and say what song you want to hear. No matter where you are in the home, every room where there are speakers the music will play. How amazing is that?


Dancing with the Heat
Central heating is quite rudimentary if you think about it. It's all controlled by boilers, and every room is heated even if you're only using one. So switching to something such as this modern electric Panel Heater would be an amazing improvement. The heater might be electric but it features an artificial fire that replicates traditional fireplaces with different colours and style of flames.

Get Informed in the Morning
You could also replace your bathroom mirror with a smart mirror, to bring modern technology into another room of your house. These connect straight to your WiFi and can inform you about the weather, time, play music and even tell you headline news! Of course they still look and act as a normal mirror too, if you're not wanting to ready to hear about the news while you're brushing your teeth.

Making life easier is what futuristic decor is all about. Merging this style with modern day comfort is something we will all start looking into in the near future. So why not get a head start and start future proofing your home now!

This is a collaborative post.

A Family Day Out at Chessington World of Adventures, August 2019 | Review

9.8.19

Chessington World of Adventures is somewhere I have been visiting since I was a child myself. I've shared a review on my blog before - back in 2015 when Indiana was 1 and I was 35 weeks pregnant with Parker. But as so much has changed since then, I thought it was about time I shared an updated review. We recently visited for Parker's 4th birthday treat and had the most amazing day out!


Rides and Attractions 

Chessington is much more than a theme park. Of course there are plenty of thrill rides for the whole family to enjoy, but there's also a zoo, a Sealife Centre and lots of fun interactive shows and talks. This summer Chessington is celebrating the amazing Gruffalo Summer Party, featuring lots of Julia Donaldson's beloved characters with interactions and a brand new show. Plus until 2nd September you can enjoy Beach & Bounce - a 100 metre long inflatable obstacle course and pop up beach that is included in your admission ticket.







In the theme park itself there are over 40 rides and attractions over 10 themed 'lands'. Our little ones are aged 5, 4 and 18 months, so we haven't really experienced the bigger rollercoasters and thrill rides. But there are plenty of rides that younger children can enjoy!

Rides that we all enjoyed as a family:

The Gruffalo River Ride Adventure
The Adventure Tree
Room on the Broom
Tomb Blaster
Tiny Truckers
Toadie's Crazy Cars
Sea Dragons
The Gruffalo Summer Party

Rides that Indiana (5) and Parker (4) enjoyed with either parent:

Zufari: Ride into Africa!
Scorpion Express
Treetop Hoppers
Seastorm
Flying Jumbos
Jungle Bus
Griffin's Galleon
Tuk Tuk Turmoil






We visited during the Summer holidays, but by arriving early (the park opens at 10am, but we like to arrived by 9.30am to get parked and ready) and making use of the Chessington App, we never queued longer than 20/25 minutes for any ride. You can also pick up a Parent Swap pass from the Guest Help and Information centre to cut down on queuing too - these allow one parent to queue with the child/ren, ride and then swap with the other parent via the exit, so you don't have to queue twice!

The Zoo and Sea Life Centre

Chessington Zoo is home to over 1,000 exotic animals, including tigers in Tiger Rock, gorillas, penguins, sea lions and giraffe. By riding Zufari you can get up close to some of these animals (you can also do feeding experiences at an extra charge), or you can simply wander around the zoo at a leisurely pace. Throughout the day you can experience keeper talks and feeding times, which are really special to see. We got to enjoy the Gorillas up close - including a teeny baby that was oh so sweet!

As well as the bigger zoo animals, there is also a children's petting zoo tucked away next to Room on a Broom. You can see sheep, goats, pigs and also meet guinea pigs, rabbits and kunekunes at certain times throughout the day. The Lawn in front of Room on a Broom is also home to an Animal Antics show which is usually on around 3.30pm each day. And don't forget you can feed the Lorikeets (extra charge), which is such a lovely activity for children.






The Sea Life centre is only small, but it's absolutely perfect for little children. There's lots of fun sea life as well as interactive rock pools, daily talks and feeding sessions, and the walkthrough ocean tunnel at the end is definitely a highlight! My three loved finding the Nemos and rays, and were even brave enough to stroke a starfish.

Food and Drink

To save money on our visits we have always taken a picnic with us to Chessington - we like to sit and watch the show at The Gruffalo Arena while eating, however there are lots of picnic spots dotted around the park too. If you do want to buy food while there though, there are plenty of options. From a quick burger and chips or fried chicken, to a proper sit down bbq meal, there's something for everyone. You can also buy meal deals in advance for places such as the Pizza Pasta Buffet to save some money.

There are also lots of places to grab a quick bite to eat or snack (the Gruffalo cupcakes looked SO good), and the the ice creams at Tuk Tuk Treats are a must. You can also purchase a Quencher drinks cup for £8, that allows you unlimited refills of soft drinks throughout your visit. These are a great deal, especially during a hot summers day when you're drinking lots more.

Ticket Options and Prices

Booking online will always save you money, however you can of course pay on the day. Chessington offer four different types of tickets: basic entry ticket, an 'all inclusive ticket' (includes entry, a meal deal and a Quencher drink cup), a late entry ticket (entries after 3pm), and an adult and preschool child ticket (entry for one adult and a child aged 5 and under). Children aged 3 and under are free.



We actually got our tickets from 365 Tickets, which offer amazing deals to attractions and days out across the country and worldwide. You can save up to 40% off tickets when booked 5 or more days in advance - making standard entry as little as £29.50 per person. This ticket is then instantly sent to you via email (which you can then print off and redeem) meaning you can save lots of time at the gates.

Parking is an extra charge at Chessington, which can either be prebooked or purchased on the day. Standard parking costs £4, and express parking (which parks you closer to the entrance) is £10. To find Chessington, make sure to use the postcode KT9 2NE on your Satnav or Smartphone.

This post is written in collaboration with 365 Tickets. We received our tickets in exchange for this review, however all opinions are honest and my own.

A Day Out in Covent Garden, London with Young Children | August 2019

7.8.19


Living in Kent, we are lucky enough to be only a short drive or train journey away from many fantastic places. One of our favourite places to take the Littles is on an adventure to London; there's so much to see and do for children in the capital, plus it's only 45 minutes on the train so it's not too far away either!

So last week we decided to hop on a train and spend the day at one of favourite London spots - Covent Garden. Located in London's West End, Covent Garden is a must-see for anyone who enjoys shopping, theatre, restaurants, bars, history and culture. Our train takes us straight to London Charing Cross station, so it's just a 10 minute walk from there. I would absolutely love to stay overnight in the area though, and there are plenty of Covent Garden Hotels to choose from if we did decide to in the future.





When a lot of people think of London, they probably don't think of it as being a great day out for young children (our three are 5, 4 and 18 months). But this couldn't be further from the truth! Covent Garden is perfect for young children, as there is just so much to see and do in the area. We arrived around 11am and instantly stumbled upon the first of many street performers. Covent Garden is well known for it's street performers in the Piazza and Covent Garden Market - a mixture of circus acts, card tricks and interactive shows. We also saw a fantastic string orchestra later on in the day, which the Littles especially loved!

There are so, so many places to eat and drink in the Covent Garden area so we weren't stuck for somewhere for lunch. We ended up eating at Wahlburgers, which is located just off the Piazza on James Street, as they are currently offering 'kids eat free' during the Summer holidays! Owned by the Wahlburg brothers (as in Mark Wahlburg fame), the Covent Garden restaurant is the first to open outside North America. It's your standard burger and fries kind of place, but the food was really tasty and it was great for the children.





After lunch we spent the afternoon at the amazing London Transport Museum. We used the National Rail 2-for-1 offer, and as under 17s enter the museum for free, we only paid £18 for all of us to get in! One ticket is also a yearly ticket, so now we have somewhere to visit in the future too. While exploring we enjoyed following the free stamper trail, which makes sure you see every part of the museum. There were plenty of vehicles you can actually explore, as well as a fab family play zone called All Aboard (for children 0-7 years) that has a real interactive bus, tools, mini vehicles and uniforms to dress up in. There's also a Baby DLR which is a dedicated area for young babies.

After the museum, we made a quick pit stop for the yummiest ice creams we've had in a long time (we got ours from Venchi, which constantly had queues out the door), before heading to the Disney in the West End popup. Located just along Long Acre, the popup is a collaboration between two current and two future West End musicals - Aladdin, The Lion King, Mary Poppins and Frozen the Musical. You can see props from the shows, take part in activities such as kite making, and also take special pictures in a Frozen Photo Booth. It's only small, but definitely worth taking a look if you've got young children (or just love Disney!). 








All absolutely exhausted, we made the short walk back to the station and hopped on a train home. We had the loveliest day out in Covent Garden, and we only managed to scratch the surface on what's to offer in the area. There are more museums, places to shop and of course shows to see, that just means we'll need another day out in the future! 

Have you been to Covent Garden? What's your favourite place to visit in London?

This is a collaborative post. The spending money for this trip was gifted by Hotels.com, but all views are my own.