Wednesday, 11 September 2019

A Day out at Chessington

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The summer holidays can get expensive fast, especially if your children are like mine and feel the need to snack every 10 minutes from the moment they get up to the moment they go to sleep, so I am always looking for ways to save money and keep them entertained. I have a tiny thrill seeker and another child who had ‘visit an aquarium’ at the top of his summer holidays wish list, so we had been looking at taking a visit to Chessington World of Adventures Resort when we discovered the Coca-Cola Reverse vending machines.



You can take along an empty 500ml bottle and exchange it onsite for a 50% off voucher for entry into a Merlin Entertainments attraction. Plus, you can rest assured that your bottle will be recycled. Coca-Cola are working hard to make their packaging more sustainable and I usually opt for a glass bottle or can when available, but it is great to know when I do buy a plastic bottle I can make sure it is correctly recycled. They are planning on increasing the amount of recycled plastic used in their packaging by 2020 and are committed to continual improvement.



We visited in the middle of the summer holidays so I was expecting it to be busy (and it was) but we loved the variety there, which meant we could break up rides with the zoo, the SEA
LIFE centre and everything else there was to see and do. We loved the Julia Donaldson attractions which were perfect for mini adventurers like ours and generally found Chessington a great option for younger families. The Gruffalo River Ride Adventure was our favourite and the new Room on the Broom – A Magical Journey was pretty special as well as we walked through the story which is so familiar to us, watching the characters come to life. Even the queue was entertaining with little puzzles and games along the way (and a station to buy coffee!). Finn can’t wait to be big enough for Dragon’s Fury which is a twisty, turning rollercoaster that kept going over our heads – he couldn’t take his eyes off it! (This is definitely one I will be going on with him once he is a little taller!).


The SEA LIFE centre was set right in the middle of the Resort and we got to see stingrays swimming around as well as walking through a tunnel of fish. For all the children, their highlight was definitely being able to stroke a starfish though and they all got stuck in! Next door to SEA LIFE was a walkway with monkeys which Dylan came on with me whilst the other three acted like monkeys running through the playground high above the ground. There was lots of space for the children to run around and they loved being able to see the animals as they did!




Merlin Entertainments have plenty of attractions with reverse vending machines like Thorpe Park Resort, LEGOLAND® Windsor Resort and SEA LIFE Blackpool, so there are plenty of options whether you have little ones or bigger.




Which Merlin Entertainments attraction are you thinking of visiting next and do you have your Coca-Cola bottle ready to recycle?


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Sunday, 8 September 2019

Keeping Fit as a Family

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It is important that I lead by example and as I train for the Simplyhealth Great Bristol Run I am making sure my children learn about how important it is to keep fit, and how necessary it is to look after your body as you are doing it. My plan from Simplyhealth has made sure I have everything I need to look after myself, including physiotherapy and podiatry. We have been getting more creative with the ways we keep active as the summer holidays come to an end, so I wanted to share our five favourite ways to stay active together.




1) The children have had their scooters for ages and I have recently started getting out more on mine as they love it when we make it a family activity. They have so much more stamina on a scooter than they seem to on foot and there are some lovely areas locally where we can take them and race around. I haven’t yet braved the skate park with them but I am not ruling it out!


2) It is so easy to stay out of their games, but actually getting involved can be so much fun and many of their games are super active. We love playing different versions of tag where I am always the one chasing them and garden obstacle courses are another favourite. Both of them allow me to do something the children love whilst also being active together and encouraging each other further. It was actually some of the games that made me want to start running in the first place as I found I got tired so quickly and I wanted to be able to keep up with them!


3) We are lucky to have a park locally with some great activities including a table tennis table. We bought our own paddles and balls and it is a lovely after school activity if we need to get some fresh air and exercise. Many parks now have outdoor gyms or areas for sports so now is the time to go exploring and see what you can find!


4) Swimming is a family favourite for lots of people and we are no different. All four children have separate swimming lessons but they love it when we go for a ‘play swim’ and they still practice everything they have been learning as well as loving games of shark and catch. The water is one of the best places to exercise as it is more gentle on joints than impact sports too.


5) As the boys are getting bigger, I am able to take them out on shorter runs with me and there are lots of races that have children’s categories including the Simplyhealth Great Junior and Mini Runs. Running together is a great way to spend some quality time with them and to push each other and they have a unique way of running at the moment that involves lots of sprints alongside some very slow speeds which is great for preparing me for a sprint finish!



It is lovely to be able to prepare for my big event as a family and I have been making the most of my plan from Simplyhealth to ensure I am ready, from a new optical prescription check to ensure I can see everything clearly as I run around, to physiotherapy to make sure my weaker ankle is up for the challenge of 13.1 miles! You can find out more about my plan from Simplyhealth here and if you need inspiration on how to get your children involved, ask them what they want to play!


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Friday, 30 August 2019

A Family Evening Out at Goodwood

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I had presumed that all the family days at race courses would be afternoon affairs, but we chose to visit Goodwood as part of our collaboration with Great British Racing and the first race started at 5pm. It was lovely to catch the late afternoon sunshine and enjoy an outdoors tea as we watched the fun. 




We arrived just in time for the first race and we loved how easy it was to find our way around at Goodwood.  It didn't take the children long to notice there were fairground rides down one end so we walked straight there! There are 50 family days across the summer with plenty to do for children and we were delighted to see that all the rides were free of charge! There was a fantastic atmosphere as the children rolled down the hills, spun round on the carousel, had their faces painted and devoured the ice creams being sold at the little ice cream van on site.  There were 7 races with the final one being at 8pm and we stopped our play to watch the horses and choose which one we wanted to win each time.




It was pretty much always the pink one they voted for and sadly they didn't win every time, but they loved cheering on the number of their horse and watching them dash by.  At the edge of the family area was an amazing playground that meant even the most energetic children were occupied and the kids thought it was the best evening!  We popped back to find some food and drink but the family area was always calling and it was brilliant having the mix of a funfair and the horse racing.
What we really loved was that the fun didn't stop when the races did and there was music, fire dancers, stilt walkers and fireworks still to come after the last race, meaning we could enjoy our evening as it got darker.  Finn starts moving as soon as he hears music and he loved showing off his dance moves to everyone and anyone!  The children were totally captivated by the bands and dancers and we didn't want to leave.




Under 18s go free to over 200 fixtures across the summer when accompanied by a paying adult and there are still 2 family days left, one at Brighton on September 1st and Fontwell Park on Sunday 8th September where you can dig for fossils and get the chance to meet a newborn baby dinosaur!  You can find out more about this amazing offer and your nearest race course at www.Under18sRaceFree.com.  We had such a lovely evening at Goodwood and were so impressed with how family friendly everything was, from the kids meals to the entertainment.





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Thursday, 29 August 2019

Victorious Festival with Children

Every year we seem to try a new music festival as a family and we all have different criteria.  For me, having plenty for the children to do is a must.  We have four children aged between 3 and 8 and so I know the most enjoyable weekend is one where they are entertained.  Ed on the other hand wants to prioritise good music and make sure there are plenty of bands he wants to see.  He has been going to festivals without children for years and he will spend a long time checking out the lineups.



This year we decided early on that Victorious festival in Southsea fit all the criteria and we were lucky enough to be offered Press Tickets just before we got round to actually purchasing them.  The line up included Two Door Cinema Club, Bloc Party and The Hives that we were keen to see alongside Lewis Capaldi, Rudimental, Professor Green and loads more.  


We arrived late at the camping fields and everything was calm, quiet and well set up.  We were shown a great place to pitch up in the families area and we had so much space around our tent.  Unlike most festivals we have been to, the camping is actually seperate to the festival and we had to get a bus across the city when we wanted to head to the music.  Generally, this worked quite well and we never waited more than about 10 minutes between arriving at the bus stop and leaving in both directions.  The journey was about 20 minutes and on the way home it gave everyone a chance to calm down, meaning the camping fields were always pretty quiet.  My children love a bus, especially a double decker so they had no problems with this! The camping fields had brilliant security but only one coffee van and no other ammenities so we were glad we were prepared!


The festival itself is in Southsea and set along the coast so that within 10 metres of leaving the gates you are on the beach.  It made for a really picturesque festival with the most amazing sunsets over the sea as the artists played. The layout wasn't what we expected but the festival is spread out along the available space and once you get used to it, navigating wasn't hard.  It was huge with the two main stages at different ends and countless small specialist stages all around meaning there was music for everyone.  


The kids arena was obviously a priority and it didn't disappoint.  There was a main stage with its own lineup including Mr Bloom, The Princesses and Peppa Pig but it was everything else that made it special for our children.  There were free fairground rides aimed at the smallest children (perfect for Cora and Finn who are 3 and 4) as well as a selection of bouncy castles that were also free and queues were between about 1 and 15 minutes. (There were also fairground rides for older children and adults at an additional cost of roughly £3 pp)  There were tents full of local businesses offering shows, classes and all sorts and we saw a Jedi training class run by a local dance centre, as well as a drama class aimed at 3-7 year olds that Finn and Cora were completely engaged with, hunting for an invisible 20 headed dragon.  The Lidl Mudder area had obstacle courses for children as well as pedal bikes to make smoothies and free fruit, there were Horrible Histories from the local Docklands teaching kids (rather factually) how to load and clean a cannon and one of our favourite areas was circus skills that was open from 10-6 (the same opening times as the entire kids arena) and had plenty of helpers for the tight rope and all sorts of equipment for the children to practice with.  This is always where they headed first and where they were when everything started packing up.









The music we watched had a great atmosphere and we stayed far enough back that we had space for dancing and running around as well as a blanket to sit on.  There was a huge selection of food vendors offering something for everyone and plenty of shops selling festival essentials like glittery bum bags and more glitter.


Victorious Festival was full of colour, music, smiles and families and whilst you can definitely go child free and have a great time, we thought it was a brilliant family friendly festival.  If we go back again (which we really want to do) then we would break up the crowds of the festival with little escapes to the beach as there is no limit to how much you can go in and out, and it would have been great to cool down in the sea when the temperatures were hovering around 30 all weekend! Southsea pier is also a lovely little area to explore with arcades, a few rides, a soft play (next to Wimpy, which we used for an hour or running free one afternoon) and little cafes.  It would also be great to make an even longer weekend from Victorious and visit the aquarium, Portsmouth city and the local docklands too.  


Obviously my view of the festival is different to that of a child so I have asked the children for their views:


And of course, there are so many more photos of our weekend at Victorious Festival.

















To find out more details on Victorious Festival 2020 check out their website!


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