Jurassic Kingdom London – Mummy Review and Tips

Experience walking among “live dinosaurs” at Jurassic Kingdom London!

We’ve just got back from a great day out at Jurassic Kingdom London, located at Osterley Park in Isleworth.  The day exhausted me, but as the event is only on in London for one more week (till 17th April), I thought I would write my blog review straightaway so it can benefit more people!

If you haven’t heard of Jurassic Kingdom, it’s an animatronic display of dinosaurs, complete with moving parts and realistic sounding roars.  The setting is beautiful, in the National Trust property Osterley Park.

The display is only on in London for 2 weeks in total, after which it moves on to other parts of the UK including Birmingham and Manchester.

Jurassic Kingdom London
Pteranodon dinosaurs at Jurassic Kingdom

Getting there

We all enjoyed our day out at Jurassic Kingdom, and we were lucky to have glorious weather for it!  Getting there was not too difficult as we travelled by car.  (I’m afraid I can’t comment on the public transport links.) We were able to park on a residential road nearby, thanks to a tip from another mum.  There is a huge car park within the gates of Osterley Park, and it costs £7 to park for the whole day.  On the weekend there is some free parking on the residential roads.  Whether you park in the main car park or a residential road, you will be walking a lot.

Remember to bring comfortable shoes and your buggy!  We actually brought 2 buggies, one for our 2 year old and one for our 4 year old.  The 4 year old can walk just fine, but it was useful to have once he got tired.  The terrain is very uneven, which can be a problem for buggies, but we were able to manage ok with a Maclaren.

Caged Raptors dinosaurs escaping at Jurassic Kingdom
Caged Raptors escaping at Jurassic Kingdom

Arriving at Jurassic Kingdom

The entrance to Jurassic Kingdom is located just after the lake, to the left of Osterley House, which you can’t miss seeing – it’s the main building you’ll see with huge grand columns.

Within Jurassic Kingdom there are portaloos, or you can use the toilets around the corner from the cafe at Osterley.  I recommend bringing some tissues as by the end of the day there was no toilet paper!

There are places to buy food and drinks.  I did not heavily investigate this as we brought a picnic, which I recommend, but I noticed hot dogs, noodles, and curly fries were on sale at various stands.

There was a virtual reality game for £5.  We didn’t try it.

An impressive Tyrannosaurus Rex robot greets you immediately.

Staff will check your tickets (if you have a smartphone you can download these and save them to your phone for scanning) and you pass through some barriers you begin walking around the trail.  There was no queuing at all at this point which was great, and we sailed right through.  Just to note, no map or guide is provided.

 

Strolling Along The Dinosaur Trail

As it was a Saturday today as well as Easter holidays it was incredibly busy, and this was a slight drawback to the whole event.  In combination with the lovely sunny weather and loudly roaring dinosaurs some of our children were finding it all a little intense!  But things did improve as we found some shady, leafy spots to enjoy where the children found logs to sit on and sticks to play with.  They actually seemed to really have the most fun mucking around in the forest!  I recommend taking time to hang out and find a nice spot to play, as there are many beautiful nooks to get away from the crowd.

Halfway round the trail (about 30 minutes in, for us) there is a clearing where there are more food stands and a sandpit.  There was a moving dinosaur which your child can ride here for £2.  A little further on from the food stands is a large tent within which a documentary was playing.  There are several rows of chairs, and a few dozen people were taking a break from the trail there.  After the tent are more portaloos, and you can find a sizeable hatching dinosaur egg here.

Majestic dinosaur at Jurassic Kingdom
Majestic dinosaur at Jurassic Kingdom

 

Photo opportunities

On the final part of the Jurassic Kingdom trail there was a place where your child can sit on the back of a small dinosaur.  This makes a great photo opportunity.  There was also a large dinosaur head which you can climb into, which also seemed like a great place to take a photo.  Unfortunately the queue was quite long, so we didn’t wait to do that.

 

Souvenirs and snacks

Once you get to the very end of the trail you return to where you entered.  There are souvenirs like T-shirts and soft toy dinosaurs on sale.  All we were really interested in by then was buying ice creams, but the ice cream stall outside Osterley cafe accepts only cash, and I had forgotten to bring any!  So it was yogurts and a chocolate brownie from the cafe instead.  This was not such a bad thing in the end!  We spread out our picnic blanket on the grass by the lake and the kids enjoyed playing hide and seek in the shade of the trees.

All in all a lovely day out.  A must for all dinosaur-lovers.  You should be prepared for a lot of walking.  Bring buggies, cash, tissues, bottles of water, suncream (if you’re lucky like us with the weather) and a picnic blanket.  Enjoy!

Find out more at www.jurassickingdom.uk/experience/

I’ve noticed discount tickets are also available at groupon.co.uk

 

Escaping Raptor Jurassic Kingdom
Escaping Raptor – watch out!

Other posts which may interest you:

Kidzania London review and tips – successful first visit with my 8-year old

 

Top 16 attractions at Legoland Windsor – Fantastic family day out!

Naptime Natter

 

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Kidzania London review and tips – successful first visit with my 8-year old

If you’re considering a visit to Kidzania London you’ve come to the right place!

I’m always on the lookout for new activities to do with my 3 young children.  Not only to keep them occupied (though that’s obviously important too!) but because I genuinely love to see their happy little faces when they are enjoying a novel experience.  I am practically a collector of days out and activities, well before I started writing a blog.

I heard about Kidzania from a friend’s friend about a year ago.  She had heard of it but hadn’t actually visited yet.  It sounded strange but intriguing, from her description.  I then checked out the website which really piqued my interest, and it’s been on my list of things to do ever since.

Entrance to Kidzania Westfield London
Entrance to Kidzania Westfield

Kidzania is a “City” for 4-14 year olds with more than 60 real life role play adventures.  The idea is that it is like a mini real world, where children can take charge and choose what they want to do, earning play money and using it to purchase things.  If your child is 8 years and over they can actually be left in Kidzania by themselves as it is secure and children wear an electronic wristband that allows them to be tracked as they go from one activity to another.  So if your children are older you could leave them and enjoy the rest of Westfield child-free! I decided to stay on this occasion, of course, as my daughter had never been before, plus I didn’t want to miss out on the fun!

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It is a little pricy and for us not a regular activity, so we chose a special occasion when my eldest had just done a music exam which she had worked very hard for!  I also managed to find a discount online at picniq.com which made it more affordable.  We were both very excited when the day finally came to go to Kidzania.

It was extra specially exciting as it was just the two of us that day, and the boys stayed at home with their dad.

First of all, my daughter was wowed just to even be at Westfield shopping centre.  “This place is am-aaaa-zing…” she said, looking around in awe.

The arrival process was smooth.  It’s recommended to arrive about 15 minutes before your actual time slot begins.  I had booked a slot from 2-6pm, so we were there for 1.45pm after a light lunch of fish and chips in the food court.

The arrival counter is styled like an airport check-in.  Everyone is in character, which was very impressive!  The lady on the counter explained a little about what we could do, since it was our first visit to Kidzania.  She attached a security wristband to both of us, then handed over 50 kidzos to my daughter, which is the toy money used in Kidzania.  The fun began!

Kidzania London Westfield
Receiving kidzos at the check-in counter at Kidzania Westfield

We were a little overwhelmed to begin with, as it was quite crowded, but luckily for us the crowd thinned out within the next 1-2 hours.  My daughter wasn’t sure where to start, so she ended up choosing the hotel activity.  After that she did the fashion design activity which takes place in a realistic version of H&M!  She was keen to get her face painted so we headed to the shop where you can purchase this.

She proceeded to do the following activities, all of which she enjoyed very much: surgeon (really quite realistic looking operating theatre and equipment), beauty salon, special care baby unit (unbelievably cute to watch the children taking care of the “newborn babies”), pilot, newsreader (very realistic, with cameras and a green screen!) and finished with the chocolate-making.

Special Care Baby Unit Kidzania London Westfield
Special Care Baby Unit

 

Kidzania Westfield London
My daughter “working as a surgeon,” giving oxygen to her “patient” before a kidney transplant!

I think she enjoyed the newsreader activity the most, as she asked if she could do it again!  We stopped for a break to eat ice cream, and briefly attended the magic show in the theatre.  This looked like a really cute and fun activity in which the kids are taught tricks they then get to perform for a live audience. I hope my daughter will try it next time!

Tips for visiting Kidzania

Kidzania is a brilliant day out. However there was a lot which I felt wasn’t explained at the start. But perhaps, as with real life, you are meant to find out more as you go along, so this isn’t really a criticism.  In any case, to help you make the most of your experience, I can give you some advice which I wish I had known, as well as some more general info.

Look at the Kidzania website before you go, to get a feel for which activities are available and discuss it with your child beforehand (maybe make a list in order of priority).  If there is something your child is desperately keen to do, head there at the start to see when they might be able to do it, as some activities only take place at particular times or have longer queues.

You’ll be given a map at check-in, which is really useful to help get your bearings.  For several of the activities your child will receive a kidzos payment for participating (these are marked with a “+” sign in the map guide) and some of the activities your child has to pay for with kidzos (marked with a “-” in the map guide).  If you look at the chart outside each activity it tells you how much you will be paid or need to pay, how long the activity lasts, and how many children can participate in the activity at a time.

If your child attends the “university”, they will receive more kidzos for each paid activity they do!  So this might be useful to do first.  My daughter didn’t actually make it to the university this time, as we didn’t realise this till later on.  But we’ll definitely go there first next time.

If you manage to collect 75 kidzos you can open a bank account.  There is no charge for this but you need 75 kidzos.  You will receive a bank card, which you can use at a rather realistic looking ATM machine!

If you pay 5 kidzos you can get a passport.  This has your child’s photo in it, and gets stamped at every activity you then do, and makes a nice souvenir for them to take home.  In addition you are eligible to some “discounts”, for example the face-painting costs a little less if you have a passport!

Once you have a passport/bank card you can keep these and use them again on your next visit! You get to keep your kidzos as well.

Food and Drink

Kidzania Westfield London
Seating area outside cafe – relax and get a coffee while your kids zoom around busily working
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Make a cereal bar at this factory

There are stalls and counters within Kidzania where you can get food and drinks.  These cost real money, so make sure to bring some actual pounds with you.  You can’t bring any food in with you.

There are also some activities which allow your child to have a go at preparing food, for example the chocolate making activity and the cereal bar factory and the burger factory. Apparently the burger activity allows your child to make a burger which they can actually then eat, but we sadly we ran out of time before we could get to this one! It’s worth noting that the you don’t eat the chocolate from the chocolate making activity, but you do get a coupon which you can then take to “immigration” at the end of kidzania, and redeem it for a small free chocolate bar.

Photography 

You can take as many photos as you like in Kidzania which in my opinion makes it really great, but they do ask that you remain outside the activity, so this has to be done from the doorway or through the windows and sometimes it’s not possible to see, for example during the pilot activity.

There are also hired photographers roaming around who carefully take photos of your child and the photos can be viewed and purchased if you wish at the end of the session. We didn’t purchase any on this occasion but I took lots!

Lockers and buggy park

It’s a good idea to get a locker to stash your coat and cumbersome items as you’ll probably be doing a lot of walking around!  Locker rental costs £3.  Locker plus buggy parking costs £5.

Parking at Westfield

Parking in the enormous car park costs £8 for the whole day.  There are hourly parking rates as well, for shorter stays.

All in all we both thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The 4 hours raced by in a flurry of exciting activities and we were completely exhausted by the end.  We finished off the day with dinner at Pizza Express.

I highly recommend this activity for kids.  It is fun and has educational value too!

We can’t wait to go back again, as there is so much we didn’t have time for. Next time I would love to take my 4-year old son as well.  I know he would go absolutely bonkers for the emergency services activities!

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If you’re interested in another great day out, do read my post on Legoland Windsor.

Top 16 attractions at Legoland Windsor – Fantastic family day out!

 

Accidental Hipster Mum
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Diary of an imperfect mum
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Lego Mat Bag Tip – parenting hack by a mum of 3 kids

I urge all parents of children who love Lego (or any toy with multiple tiny parts) to buy this Lego mat bag. I wish I had bought it sooner, as I’ve wasted so much time on my hands and knees picking up Lego and feeling cross! So if you’re feeling fed up of stepping on or clearing up Lego you really won’t regret this purchase, consider the Lego mat bag an investment! Of course if you’re handy you could just sew one yourself. But I worked out I would probably spend the same amount if I tried to make one, and it may well not last very long in this house. This one seems very sturdy! It is 150cm in diameter which is big enough for quite a few small children to be able to play all at the same time, sitting on the Lego mat bag if they choose (though mine often sit just outside the mat).

img_8187Below is a picture of how it looks when you’re done with Lego for the day…pull the drawstring and bingo, that’s it! Put your feet up and pour yourself a glass of wine for being so clever 😀

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Below is an affiliate link for the Lego mat bag, but as I’ve said before I only recommend products I own myself and truly think are worth buying! I wasn’t even given a free one or anything!

Only £9.99 at the moment which I think is worth it.

You can read about our day out at Legoland Windsor here!

Top 16 attractions at Legoland Windsor – Fantastic family day out!

 

3 Little Buttons
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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…

Accommodation

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!

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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.

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Beautifully scented Rituals toiletries in the contemporary-style bathroom
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Fluffy bathrobes and slippers are provided
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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. http://www.amrathamsterdam.com/en

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

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! www.pancakes.amsterdam

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! http://anekarasa.nl/

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

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. http://www.olofspoort.com/

 

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. http://knuffels.nl/

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Amsterdam cat

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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.
Booking.com 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

THE LIST

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 amazon.co.uk. 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 HonestMum.com

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

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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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Center Parcs Longleat – amazing family break

Where can you enjoy a few days of fresh air, be completely car-free, spend time swimming with your family, and also enjoy delicious pancakes and the most hysterical magic show you have ever seen, just a few hours drive away from home?? Center parcs really does have it all…

We’re no strangers to Center parcs, having now been 3 times.  Friends often ask me about it, and so I decided to write a blog post to share some of our favourite activities at Center parcs, and a few tips as well.

Admittedly Center parcs is not a cheap holiday, but if you’re able to go outside of school holidays it really can be a good deal.

Our last visit was a 4-night midweek break to Center Parcs Longleat Forest in the summer of 2016.  The previous year we had been to Woburn Forest.  I think there are pros and cons to each, but in this post I will concentrate on Longleat as that was our most recent trip.  If anyone is interested I can cover more about Woburn in my next post!  One of the features I like most about Longleat is the stunning forest.  It is more expansive than Woburn, which is either an advantage or a disadvantage depending on your point of view.  But it is the type of tree and the density of the trees at Longleat which I find most alluring.

Center Parcs Longleat forest

The accommodation is fairly basic but we have always found it very comfortable.  Our kids always enjoy arriving and making the place their own by drawing all over the blackboard in the living area.  We stayed in a 3-bedroom woodland lodge this time, which had one shared bathroom and a kitchen area.  At the front of the lodge is an area to lock up bikes and trailers.  At the back is a little patio with a barbecue and a small table with a few chairs.  We were lucky enough to catch sight of this little fellow rustling around behind our lodge!

Deer outside woodland lodge

Our oldest is obsessed with swimming so while other people usually arrive and get settled into their lodge straightaway, we always find ourselves heading to the pool first, then dinner, then getting our bicycles from the bike rental place, then heading to the lodge around 8pm, when everybody else seems to have that bit done and dusted!  Completely backwards!  Swimming is included in the price of your visit to Center parcs and is probably one of the highlights for most people who visit.  It can get rather busy and confusing in the Longleat changing rooms – the layout at the newer Woburn resort is definitely better and you can get an electronic wristband which locks and unlocks your locker, and can be used to purchase food and drinks as well.  The pool area at Woburn also has a great area for the little ones that looks like a pirate ship.  Though Longleat has toddler areas they were not as exciting for our preschooler.  One advantage Longleat has is part of the pool is outdoors, which is enjoyable if the weather is cooperative!

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Some stepping stones over an indoor pond, near the entrance to the subtropical swimming zone
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White water rapids slide in the subtropical swimming zone – our 7 year old daughter had a blast on all the water slides

We really enjoy cycling everywhere while at Center parcs.  Everything you need to do this can be hired from the cycle hut, but you can bring your own bicycles and this would save money.  We adults hired bicycles, and one for our 7 year old, but the 3 year old brought his balance bike, and for the 1 year old we hired a trailer.  It was easy to fit the 3 and the 1 year old in the trailer at the same time, when needed, as there are enough straps to fasten them both in safely.

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The Spa at Center Parcs Longleat
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Relaxation area at Aqua Sana Spa, Longleat

The spa at Woburn Forest is newer and state-of-the-art.  I was lucky enough to spend a few hours there with my husband last year.  This year I decided to try out the spa at Longleat for the first time, and I wasn’t disappointed!  Though not quite as flashy as Woburn it is nonetheless incredibly relaxing and service is top-notch.  Basking in the little suntrap with a magazine on a recliner, after a massage, is one of my best memories of our visit to Center parcs!

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Nutty Noah the Magician

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The other big draw for us at Longleat is the magic show at the Pancake House.  This takes place just twice a week, and it doesn’t seem to be very well-advertised so many people don’t even realise it is on!  This surprises me as it really is too good to miss.  Nutty Noah, the entertainer, is really the most hilarious magician you will ever meet!  And he also does some very good magic!  The children were falling about laughing uncontrollably, as were the adults, for the entirety of the show.  Just plain brilliant.

Delicious savoury pancakes
Delicious savoury pancakes

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When you attend on magic show night (which absolutely must be booked in advance) the price you pay includes a savoury pancake and the dessert buffet, as well as the show.  The picture above of a dessert waffle, was actually taken when we returned to the pancake house the following day, for more gluttony!  I am not sure this is meant to be the point of a Center Parcs holiday, but for us scoffing pancakes and waffles at this restaurant is very much now a tradition.  On the day we returned we were delighted to find there was another entertainer doing free balloon modelling for the children.  He will literally make any animal you ask for!  So both our kids got a nice souvenir.

One of the activities our children enjoyed was “mini crossbows”.  It’s a short, indoor activity, but was enjoyable for both a 3 and a 7-year old with a budding interest in archery.

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Mini-crossbows

My husband and I managed to escape for a couple hours to play tennis, while the older children attended the kids’ club in the “activity den” and our youngest was with my parents who joined us for a couple days at Center parcs.  There are a few events to choose from which take place at the activity den, that are aimed at 3-7 year olds.  My daughter has previously been to the pirate and princess party, which was a big hit, but this time she decided on the Mad Hatter’s tea party.  They seemed to enjoy decorating hats, playing games, and each had a box of cupcakes to show off when they emerged at the end of the session.  There was also an opportunity at the finish to watch them singing together as a group with the other children, which was sweet.

I’ve included some photos at the end here, from our visit to Longleat Safari Park, which is really just next door to Center Parcs Longleat Forest.  Right after checking out of Center Parcs on the last day, we went to the safari park.  There is so much to do here, we didn’t manage it all!  The kids absolutely loved it.  The boat cruise is good fun, and there are some great activities.  There is also an indoor area which our kids enjoyed, with a chamber full of balloons, with a fan in each corner.  Our 19 month old in particular thought this was the most amazing thing ever.

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My daughter took this photo of this monkey hanging out on our car

 

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If you enjoyed this post, you might also like to read my handy guide to gift-buying.  I find that if I’m buying a gift for my own child it’s easy – they tell me exactly what they want all the time!  Even for my children’s same-age friends, again pretty simple.  But ask me to buy for a child who is a little older and I’m completely clueless.  Sometimes with younger I can’t remember, either!  This guide solves all those problems.  It was put together with the help of 250 mums on facebook.  Take a look…

Handy guide to buying a gift for a child of any age

 

Rhyming with Wine

 

The Tale of Mummyhood

 

Accidental Hipster Mum
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Christmas at Kew – magical light trail at Kew Gardens

Giant baubles, shimmering lights, and a tunnel of sensational colours…all these and much more can be found at Christmas at Kew.

My daughter and I happened to visit Kew Gardens during the day last January, as we have a membership, and we had a free afternoon. She was 7 years old at the time. The remnants of Christmas at Kew could be seen, and it became apparent to her from all these carcasses (an empty Santa’s grotto and huge numbers of unlit lanterns) that we had actually missed this event! I had considered it previously but always dismissed it, uncertain that my children would be interested. My daughter was so disappointed, but she quickly became determined that we should go the following year, when it was actually on. So our journey on the trail began!

I bought tickets just a few weeks ago, I think I should have done it sooner really, to get the more popular early slots, but I managed to get tickets for the 7pm slot on 20 December. Phew!


img_5848The night of the big event came! I decided after much deliberation to take both my daughter and my 4-year old son as though it was late I thought he might like it. I brought a buggy as I knew he would be too tired to walk at this time of day. We wrapped up warm (essential) and brought a few torches. My son had those mini lights you can attach to your fingers. We arrived a little early, and managed to find some on-street parking a short walk away, which is free on many residential streets. It was no problem getting in and though it looked crowded the ticket scanners were working quickly so we stood in line for just a few minutes.

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The Hive
View from below the Hive
View from below the Hive

We started the trail straightaway, and were delighted by all the lights. Some of these are set to music. We were quite taken with a heart-shaped disco ball rotating to the song “Oh Holy Night” and another area, which looked like a sea of hundreds of spherical multicoloured lights fading on and off and flashing. It was just the right amount of darkness so that the lights stood out, but not so dark as to be too hazardous, though the torches were definitely useful. There was also a tunnel you can walk through, containing bands of lights that changed colour. My son declared at this point that it was “better than Disneyland!” (though he hasn’t actually been to Disneyland!) The new giant Hive sculpture was absolutely spectacular as well.

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Giant candles

At several points along the trail were stalls selling mulled wine and cider. Sadly as I was driving I didn’t partake, but I made a mental note for next time!

Halfway round the trail (about 30-40 minutes in, as we were taking our time strolling and taking photos) was the area with a lot of food options, including lots of hot food and desserts like freshly made doughnuts, ice cream and waffles. It was relatively busy and rather chaotic here. The queues for hot food were long. Luckily my kids had eaten already so we skipped to dessert.

Ice cream and doughnuts at Kew
My daughter peruses the tempting offerings in the ice cream shop

The shop here is open (as is the main shop by Victoria gate) and there is both indoor and outdoor seating. You can also get mulled wine here and hot chocolate. Toilets are available, and last but not least a set of Victorian style funfair rides. The rides cost £2.50, and tokens can be purchased from a booth. Credit cards are accepted. My kids went on 2 rides each, which was enough I thought! There was hardly any queue for the little cars and mini train ride (for under 6’s really) but a bit of a queue for the carousel, which wasn’t a problem.

Then it was onto the rest of the trail, which included a little 5-minute show with elves and Santa. The kids enjoyed this and it was a chance for a little sit down. This half of the trail took us another 30-40 minutes, but it can be done faster.


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Santa and his elves

There is also a place in this second half to toast large marshmallows that come in different flavours. We didn’t try this as we had just eaten a large Nutella waffle and were all sugared out! But it looked like a popular activity.

At the end is the grand finale with the Palm House beautifully lit, and incredible projections illuminate the waters in front of it, to various Christmas songs played at a very gentle level. My son was completely captivated and would have watched it for a very long time! But my daughter was getting tired by now so we left. It was 9.45pm!

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If you’re uncertain about it, I hope my review will help you decide. The photos don’t really do it justice, it has to be experienced!

I would certainly recommend it as a great family evening excursion, the children absolutely loved it, and I am looking forward to next year already!

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You can book through the Kew website

http://www.kew.org/visit-kew-gardens/whats-on/christmas-kew-details

It is on until 2 January 2017. Enjoy!

If you’d like to read more about days out with the kids please check out the rest of my blog, which I am steadily adding to.

If you’re interested to watch a fun and Christmassy 2-minute animation please check out this post (click below).

Elfin’s ice-skating escapade

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Elfin’s ice-skating escapade

Elfin the Christmas elf’s got a new video out and this time he is showing off his new ice-skating skills in a beautiful winter wonderland.

Elfin on Ice
Elfin on Ice

 

 

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His skating moves seem to improve each time he goes by, and he spreads a little magic too…

He does take a little tumble at the end but a lovely magical snowflake lands in his hand making him feel much better about it all… Elfin just loves snow!

In case you missed his other two videos here they are below!

Please leave a comment if you or your children like it, and let us know if you have ideas for more Elfin videos! And click subscribe (circle with Elfin’s picture at the end of the video) to stay updated…there may well be one more video before Christmas! Your idea could magically be made into a real video…

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Elfin the magical Christmas elf dances in Santa’s grotto

A new Elfin the Christmas elf video is out!

In this minute long escapade, we see Elfin the Christmas elf through the window of Santa’s grotto, practising his dance moves for the Christmas party!  I think he is pretty good!  If you like the video please give it a thumbs up and subscribe, as  a few more Elfin videos will be on their way shortly and you’ll be alerted as soon as they arrive…

 

If you missed the first, original Elfin the elf video which came out just a few weeks ago, you can watch it here!  In this one, Elfin magically comes to life…

 

If you’d like to read about fun things to do with the kids please check out the rest of my blog.

Below is a link to a post about taking my son to Mercedes World on his birthday, a fun little outing for both boys and girls!

http://awaybies.com/a-driving-lesson-for-a-car-mad-birthday-boy-great-indoor-activity-for-a-wintry-day/

We will be visiting Christmas at Kew soon, so look out for my review here.  I’ve never been before so am really excited!

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