Child-free weekend escape in Amsterdam – review and tips

My Amsterdam mini-break review – a rare escape for mummy and daddy!

Much as we do love them, it is not often we get time away from the kids, even just for an evening out. So this weekend escape really felt like a once in a lifetime sort of opportunity! Free of schedules, school runs, bedtimes and endless demands from children. That in itself was a treat, then to spend our time in the incredible city of Amsterdam was something else altogether!  I thought I would write about it here, in case anyone is thinking of going, as we stayed in a wonderful hotel and ate at some great places that are just too good to not share…


We stayed in the Grand Amrath Hotel. I highly recommend it! It’s an old building from 1916, and the architecture is so fascinating. I discovered after booking that it has made it into the Lonely Planet guide as a sight in itself!  If you’ve seen the film “The Grand Budapest Hotel” this hotel reminded me of the one in the film…  If you haven’t seen it, well, you must as it is such a sweet film!

The location of the Grand Amrath is brilliant as it’s right in the centre of Amsterdam, near the Centraal Station.  If you’re flying to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, there’s a train that will take you directly from the airport to this station.  From there it’s just a 5 minute walk to the hotel.  No Ubers required!


We were stunned when we entered the room by its high ceilings with full height windows and lush blackout curtains. The room was large with the comfiest big bed (we have super king at home, so I do perceive some hotel beds to be a little stingy on size but this one I had no complaints about!) Every room had a FREE minibar (incredible, I know!!) containing bottled water still and sparkling, soft drinks, wine, beer and nuts, as well as a Nespresso machine. Just all this was to die for, seriously!  We had a beautiful view over one of the canals though not all rooms have a view so if you book perhaps it is best to request this.  We were thrilled as well, as the hotel concierge put a delicious chocolate cake in our room for my husband, as they knew it was his birthday, which was a lovely touch and made us feel very welcome.



Beautifully scented Rituals toiletries in the contemporary-style bathroom
Fluffy bathrobes and slippers are provided
Free minibar (fridge below not pictured) and Nespresso machine

As if that wasn’t enough, the hotel also has an amazing pool and spa which we checked out the next day as we had arrived late in the evening and were meeting friends as well. We raced straight down to the hotel bar and enjoyed drinks there, the atmosphere is very relaxed and service good.

The spa pool was so relaxing, and contains a jet stream which you can swim against for a little exercise, and a star-effect ceiling.  There is also a jacuzzi, steam room, sauna and a gym as well as spa treatments which I didn’t have time to enjoy but sounded great from the spa menu!

Spa pool at the Grand Amrath
Spa pool at the Grand Amrath

Here is a direct link to the hotel’s website.

I initially found the Amrath hotel on Secret Escapes, but in the end I booked through, if you click on the link below it will take you directly to the webpage where you can check out the Grand Hotel Amrath Amsterdam. UK


Eating and drinking

We eventually managed to venture away from the fabulous hotel, but we walked everywhere during this trip (despite the bitter cold!) therefore all my tips are for central Amsterdam.  My top 5 favourite places to recommend are:

Omelegg – absolutely brilliant, tiny little place for breakfast, which is so very popular you might find yourself waiting outside for a table like we did (and I wouldn’t try to come with a big group or you’ll never get seated)…but definitely worth the wait!  They have every type of omelette under the sun, as well as burgers, and the service was efficient yet cheerful.

Pancakes – You can’t go to Amsterdam without having pancakes of course!  This place is very central, right opposite Centraal Station in fact.  They have every pancake under the sun.  Super tasty, and when you’ve paid they give you a little clog keychain souvenir.  At least they did while we were there!

Pancake House Amsterdam
Pancakes Amsterdam
Smoked salmon pancake
Smoked salmon and guacamole pancake

Aneka Rasa Indonesian restaurant – The “Rice Table” (Rijsttafel) which has become something of a cultural tradition in Amsterdam was very popular with all our friends.  You get a little of everything, including prawn and chicken satay, vegetable dishes, rice and dessert.  And besides beer they have mini bottles of prosecco too if this takes your fancy!

Dwaze Zaken – a cosy cafe just opposite the pancakes place.  A great place to hang out with friends for a coffee and some lunch.

Relaxing brunch at Dwaze Zaken, check out the integrated magazine rack!
Relaxing brunch at Dwaze Zaken, check out the integrated magazine rack!
Dwaze Zaken Amsterdam
Blue skies and funky cloud formations are not guaranteed but made for a nice photo through the window of Dwaze Zaken

In de Olofspoort – We knew we had to try out some jenever, or Dutch gin while in Amsterdam.  This bar, which is in a historic building that was built in 1618, offers over 200 different spirits including traditional and exotic local jenevers.   I don’t think we could have found a cosier, more authentic-feeling place to while away a few hours.  And the jenever wasn’t too bad either!  They also have draught Belgian beer and wine, if preferred.


No trip is complete without a little shopping, and we found some great toys for the kids at this little shop which has very cleverly rigged up many of the toys so they move around in the shop window and overhead while you browse.  Definitely an attention-grabber!  As was this bicycle laden with ducks and flowers.





Amsterdam cat


I already can’t wait to return to Amsterdam, and it’s such a short flight as well!  I need to get back to the spa to have an actual treatment, as well as check out the museums and loads more.  I hear the tulips are incredible in the spring, so that’s one excuse to return!  Check out the hotel we stayed in via this link, if you’re interested. UK
Have you been to Amsterdam?  I’d love to hear about the places you visited and liked there…do leave me a comment!

If you enjoyed this post you might like to read about exploring Richmond Park or Bushy Park in London, two of the famous Royal Parks not to be missed!

The Amazing Bushy Park, London – an inspiring day out with the kids

Exploring Isabella Plantation in Richmond Park

Diary of an imperfect mum


Accidental Hipster Mum
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Handy guide to buying a gift for a child of any age

Are you looking for a gift for your child?  Or perhaps it’s a friend’s child’s birthday and you have no idea what gift to buy? Worry not, I’ve got you covered for gifts with this guide.

I’ve created a list here of 49+ items, which will help you to easily find a great gift for just about any child!

How did I come up with this amazing list, I hear you ask!? Well, just after Christmas 2016 I asked a load of mums in a facebook group what their child’s favourite Christmas present was, along with their age.

I was overwhelmed by the incredible response as 250 mums replied!  I thought it would be useful to collate all the results to produce this guide.  For many of the items I have also provided a link to the item which can be ordered online.

Of course many gifts could be bought for children above or below that particular age…

But I have listed them according to the results I received from my survey of real parents.

I hope you will find it helpful.  I know I will!

Many thanks to everyone who contributed.

3 Little Buttons


Gifts for Babies under 1 

  1. VTech Baby Play and Learn Activity Table – Multi-Coloured


2. Little Tikes Classic Cozy Coupe Ride-on (Multi Colored)


3. Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn Puppy

4. Oball Rattle & Roll Car (colours may vary)


Other under 1 favourites: – activity cube, crawling lion, wooden stacking rings, dump truck, pull-along ducks, wooden maracas, ball pit with plastic balls, play mat

Gifts for kids Age 1 

1. Disney Frozen Magical Adventure Activity Ride-on

2.  Wooden Musical Table


3. Melissa & Doug Deluxe Pound and Roll Wooden Tower Toy With Hammer

4. Teletubbies Tubby Phone Toy (Multi-Colour)

5. AMOS Bubble Machine Blower Maker Portable Mains or Battery Operated + Fluid Liquid 250ml Kids Birthday Party DJ Disco Garden Wedding (Blue)

Bubble machine is to be used by an adult, obviously it is not to be operated by or left unattended with a 1 year old!

And here are some other age 1 favourites: buggy/stroller, blocks, construction items, Teletubbies musical train water table, bath toys, plastic tricycle, baby doll, Cabbage patch doll, jigsaw puzzles, toy Dyson vacuum cleaner (see below for link in age 2 section), mop and bucket set, water and sand table, jigsaw puzzles, push-along wooden car,  Beatbo, ride on Ferrari, tricycle, battery-operated drill, toy kitchen and accessories


Gifts for kids Age 2 

  1. Zapf Creation Baby Born Interactive Doll

2. Little Tikes Classic Cozy Coupe Ride-on (Multi Colored)

Cosy Coupe is on the list again, as it is still really fun for this age!

3. Finding Dory [DVD] [2017]


4. Casdon Dyson Ball Vacuum Cleaner

5. LEGO DUPLO 10617: My First Farm

Any Duplo set would suit this age group, this farm set is just an example!

Other favourites for 2 year olds:

Teletubby plush dolls, Tea set, Paw Patrol story book, wooden train set, trampoline, Little Live pet birds (see below in age 3 section for link), toy kitchen and accessories, doll house, Wiggles guitar, jumping Peppa Pig, Baby Alive baby doll, dinosaur toys

Remote control Monster truck, Paw Patrol Marshall firetruck and figurine, wooden train set, set of metal vehicles (digger, truck and bulldozer), train table, automoblox car, Fisher Price medical kit, ride on Ferrari, Tool set and tool table, push along lawnmower that blows bubbles, trampoline, Mack truck daredevil jump


Gifts for kids Age 3 

  1. Little Live Pets 28232 Tweet Talking Birds Single Pack

Little Live Pets have birds, puppies and hamsters in their range

2. Mini Micro Deluxe Scooter – Blue

These come in many colours and accessories are available too.

3. Rubie’s Official Doctor McStuffin Child Costume – Medium

Dress up as your favourite vet!

4. Disney Pixar Cars Toy Mack Truck Playset, Lightning McQueen Story Sets (Rust-eze)

5. Bullyland BUL-12760 Buzz Lightyear

6. Imaginext Superman Playset

7. John Adams Gooey Louie Game

This game looks pretty gross but to each their own!

8. Transformers Robots in Disguise Mega Optimus Prime Action Figure

My 4-year old loves Transformers and it’s a definite favourite in this 3-4 years category.


More age 3 favourites: Doll house, kids vanity/makeup, anything Moana related, picnic box of wooden items from Aldi, shopping trolley, kitchen, rocking horse, trampoline, My Little Pony baby flurry heart, bicycle, “Reborn” baby doll (up to age 8), Torch, Rapunzel doll, Babushka dolls, Baby born dolls, connector pens, Frozen costumes, Jasmine (Aladdin) costume,electric motorbike, Hot Wheels cars and sets, Paw Patrol pup house, Good Dinosaur figures, Tonka 4×4 with trailer, a Mack from Cars with Colour changing Lightning McQueen, Thomas the tank engine minis with a track, toy vacuum cleaner, Lion Guard play set, Imaginext super hero flight city, BMX bike, bug catcher, play-doh, Thunderbird 3


Gifts for kids Age 4 

  1. LEGO 10728 Juniors Mia’s Vet Clinic Construction Set – Multi-Coloured

Most just turned 4-year olds will need at least a little assistance with building small Lego sets, but they really do enjoy it!  All my children are completely mad on Lego…

2. Sylvanian Families Family Saloon Car

3. Shopkins 12 pack – Series 5

Shopkins sets (I’m not sure what the attraction is to these exactly but they seem to be very popular!)

4. Hungry Hippos – New Version

This game has been around for years and it’s still popular!

5. Hot Wheels Track Builder Starter Set

Actually quite fun for adults and big kids too!

More inspiration for 4-year olds, from real 4-year olds:

Paw Patrol lookout, Lego boats, train set, Yo Kai medals, flying Blaze car, flick out lightsaber, Jurassic World Dinosaur play set, Nerf guns, Hot Wheels sets, Thunderbirds Tracy Island with Thunderbirds, First bike with training wheels, swimming goggles, Trolls and Moana things, Mud kitchen, My Little Pony remote control car, Snuggles puppy, telescope, my Blazin dragon, baby dragon (responds to voice commands), Build a bear, trampoline, Peppa pig ferris wheel/circus, Barbie camper van, Doc McStuffins pet carrier, Beanie Boos, Wonder woman costume

Gifts for kids Age 5 

  1. My Little Pony Equestria Girls Dolls That Rock Twilight Sparkle with Microphone

In my day I was obsessed with My Little Ponies, and they were actual ponies!  These days there are a whole load of dolls purporting to BE My Little Ponies… I’m very confused, but my daughter has an elaborate explanation for it.  Anyway these dolls are a huge hit.


2. Hatchimals Egg – Pink

Hatchimals seem to be the gift of the season, but I can’t vouch for their longevity in terms of play!

3. Global Gizmos 54660 “Battery Operated Infrared Torch Remote Control Crocodile Lights and Sound” Toy

Remote control toys are great for this age group – and surely everyone needs a remote control crocodile!?

4. Dreamworks, How to Train Your Dragon, All 5 Dragons

“How to train your dragon” is a popular film, here are a bunch of collectible figures.


5. LEGO 10724 Juniors Batman and Superman Vs Lex Luthor Construction Set – Multi-Coloured

Lego sets are almost always a winner, in my experience!  You can also look really clever by suggesting the parents buy a Lego mat bag (see below!)

More favourites according to real 5- year olds: remote control monster truck, soccer nets, Lego dimensions, bicycle, robot chomper dinosaur, how to train your dragon figures, 4 wheel motorbike, Blaze truck, prank set, Thomas train set, Yo Kai watch, Batman lunchbox, buncho water balloons (good for ages 3 and up), fairy door, ice lolly maker, Monster High house, Lego, bug city catcher, popstar Barbie that sings, Little Live Pets bird, Barbie dancing horse, Barbie popping dog, Barbie car, FurReal Friend dog, BMX scooter

Lego Mat Bag Tip – parenting hack by a mum of 3 kids

Gifts for kids Age 6 

  1. Furby Connect (Purple) by Furby

It’s a little pricy but if you’re looking for a bigger gift then this is supposed to be quite good fun – it makes lots of noises (speaks in “Furbish”) and responds to your voice so you can interact with it.  Its eyes are animated so it appears to have different expressions.  The Furby Connect can also be used with an app, and when there is something new to discover in the app the antenna on its head will light up.  Comes in different colours and fur designs.

2. Shopkins Monopoly Junior

Monopoly junior Shopkins version ( I didn’t even realise this existed!  It looks brilliant and I might have to purchase this for my 8-year old!)

3. Instax Mini 8 Camera with 10 Shots – Yellow

Fuji Instax Mini Camera (I had never seen this either.  I must be living under a rock!  I might have to buy this or suggest my daughter save up for this! It looks like it would be great for children of many ages from about 6 onwards, and adults too.  It comes in lots of great colours too, although Amazon seems to have low stock of certain colours at the moment.

4. Binatone Latitude 100 Twin Walkie Talkie – Black/Yellow

I remember having walkie talkies as a child, we had so much fun with them!  They are probably considered a little retro now, in the age of mobile phones, but apparently kids this age are still into them 🙂


5. Minecraft “Light Up” Wall Torch

If you don’t know what Minecraft is you soon will.  It’s a computer game/app that’s become quite a craze, and a very addictive one it seems!  This torch looks like one from the game.

Other favourite gifts of real 6-year olds: wristwatch, Snuggles the dog, trampoline, My Little Pony toys, tickets to Nutcracker ballet, tickets to pantomime, Journey Girl doll and accessories, Our Generation doll, Smiggle pens, Shopkins colouring book, ribbon wand, Hatchimal (see link above), trampoline , Stanley junior tool set, Rescue bots, Minecraft lego, Lego Friends Amusement park, Care Bear, board games, watch


Gifts for kids Age 7 

  1. LEGO CITY Fire Station 60110

We have this Lego fire station and it is a brilliant set, I enjoyed constructing it with my 4 and 8 year old).  Sadly it’s now been deconstructed by the 2 year old but I’m actually looking forward to re-building it.  Bit sad I know!

2. 4M Kidz Labs Crystal Science

We have this exact set and enjoyed growing these crystals, the snowy “tree” grows very quickly in a day, the other two take up to a week and the results are impressive!)

3. LEGO Dimensions Starter Pack with Supergirl Figure (PS4)

More ideas for 7 year olds: Bicycle, fooseball table, quadcopter, dirt scooter, candy floss machine, science kit, Imaginarium marble run, Beanie boos, Robo hedgehog, Batgirl costume, Harry Potter stuff, Pez dispenser, camera, Pendo pad, tablet, roller shoes, Shopkins happy places house, craft kit, Crown of Flowers, bed tent, Pogo stick, remote control air rebound car, keyboard, Lego dimensions starter pack (video game)


Gifts for kids Age 8

  1. My Fairy Garden Fairy Garden

2. Tamagotchi Friends – Blue Gem


3. Zoomer Chimp Toy

4. YO-KAI WATCH (Nintendo 3DS)

Some other favourites of 8 year olds: Learn to draw animals book, robotic turtle terrarium, Harry Potter costume set, Captain Underpants books, Dinosaur backpack, trampoline, spy gear, mountain bike, tent, remote control car, Nintendo 2DS, walkie talkies, Pokemon cards, 3DSXL with Pokemon sun game, Lego dimensions game, Nerf guns, R2D2 Bop It


Gifts for kids Age 9

Camera, Hatchimal (link above), Chill Factor slushy maker cups (for older kids too), magic kit, fake nails kit, go pro, Tamagotchi (see link above), shoes, Big Mickey Tsum Tsum, Nerf gun, tablet and zombie brain saw, Nerf guns, kayak, Harry Potter board game, portable DVD player, virtual reality glasses, Tamagotchi

Skylanders Imaginators (Xbox 360)

Gifts for kids Age 10

Camera, Baby Born doll, Skylanders imaginators game (link above), prepaid mobile phone, Fairy Garden, Goosebumps books, Crayola Airbrush set, Furby, Sims 4, Diary of a Wimpy Kid book, 3DSXL with Pokemon sun, David Warner cricket bat and light up wickets


Gifts for kids Age 11 

  1. Garmin Vivofit Wireless Fitness Wrist Band and Activity Tracker – Black


2. LEGO Star Wars 7965: Millennium Falcon

Of course this is a rather special set of Star Wars lego, but there is a huge range which includes less expensive sets.

Other favourites of 11 year olds: Cluedo game, stikbot green screen and figures, skate shoes, skateboard, chocolate pen


Gifts for kids Age 12

Latest Harry Potter book, MGP scooter, Forza Horizon 3 game, prepaid mobile phone (ZTE zip phones), stereo system, X box one, tickets to a cricket match, 3DS game, Lego


Gifts for kids Age 13

1. Virtual reality glasses

2. PS4

3. Skate grind rail
4. Yahtzee Dice Game

5. Bluetooth speaker

6. Dark shadow controller for Xbox1

Gifts for kids Ages 14-15 

Canon SLR camera, Sony Bluetooth speakers, virtual reality goggles

Older kids

Navman, Uniden UHF radios, virtual reality goggles, concert tickets

 49 Fantastic gifts for kids of all ages
Hope this inspiration list helps you find something just right!

I would love to hear more recommendations from parents.  So if your kids have an ultimate favourite gift they received recently please let me know in the comments! You can also follow Awaybies on twitter @AwaybiesKids, instagram or facebook.

This post contains some affiliate links to If you purchase through the link I do get paid a very small amount, but the item will not cost you any more than normal.  Just to reassure you, I only recommend products I honestly like, or in this case, have been highly rated by other mums.

Accidental Hipster Mum


You Baby Me Mummy


Brilliant blog posts on

If you’re expecting a baby or know someone who is, you might like to check out my list of favourite baby items for the first year

My Top 10 Baby Items for the First Year

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Sleeping Beauty Pantomime Richmond has everyone dancing in the aisles


Reluctant to tell you all about it as I want to be able to get tickets next Christmas 😉 but I really must share that this pantomime at Richmond theatre directed by and starring Chris Jarvis (of CBeebies “show me show me” fame) was absolutely brilliant! It was 2h 20mins long with an interval. Nonstop laughs. People were dancing in the aisles by the end. Maureen Lippman plays the evil fairy and is wonderful. This panto was amazing last year too when Chris Jarvis starred as Buttons in Cinderella. Probably most suitable for age 5 and up due to the length of the show but ok for smaller children too and excellent entertainment for adults (we went with our 8 yr old and 4 other grown ups and they were all amazed by it ❤️)
Still on till 8 January.
It’s very easy to get to the pantomime at Richmond theatre from Richmond train/tube station
Parking available on Richmond Green if you get there early! (£3/hour until 6.30pm)

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