Sundown Adventureland, Retford

We had THE BEST day at this amazing theme park for the under 10s! We’d been last year, and had a great day but left feeling the park was a little tired in places and needed some tlc. Since then there’s been some!

The park consists of a number of areas with themed rides and play areas. There are also small towns, with lots to explore and buttons to press! With a couple of indoor soft play areas there is lots to do in all weather 👍👍

At three, Jess was able to go on all but one of the attractions, and I was able to take James (7 weeks) on most things too.

The rides were definitely the highlight for Jess, her favourite was the water ride which was a pirate themed raft ride which squirted you as you went past! She liked driving the tractors on that ride; great that with four seats our whole little family could get on.

My personal favourites were the flying pigs and ostrich ride!

The play areas are fab; we loved the fort with all the slides and Captain Sandy’s Play Cove which is based on a huge sandpit.

There are picnic areas all over, but there are plenty of food places too (if a little pricey). There’s a great ice cream shop!

If you have small children I honestly can’t recommend this place enough! We spent the full day here and still didn’t cover everything. I think the ticket prices are great value compared to other days out, particularly if you pay in advance!

o

Cannon Hall Farm, Barnsley

Making the most of the hubby’s paternity leave, on Monday we celebrated James’ one week birthday with a trip to the always-fun Cannon Hall Farm. Whilst he slept most of the afternoon, Jess had a great time and did not want to leave! We were so busy enjoying ourselves I forgot to take many pictures, so instead of a blow by blow account of what we got up to, here are the reasons we love to visit…

The Play Areas

Always happy with a slide, there’s a great adventure playground with lots of slides and tunnels. She loved the tube maze (pictured above)- especially when she saw what had happened to her hair! she spent at least half an hour on here exploring. We also tried the indoor soft play for the first time- what a fantastic space! There were some great slides, and for the younger ones a designated space.

Farm Life

It’s a farm! So seeing the animals is a clear perk. We were lucky enough to see newborn piglets en masse. And I felt suitably silenced complaining about the pain of breastfeeding when I saw 11 piglets climbing and squealing over each other to get to their tired mother. Never have I been so glad not to be a pig 🤣🤣

As well as standard farm animals (pigs, goats, sheep, cows), there’s a really great reptile house. There’s also lots of opportunities to pet animals throughout the day. Jess was resistant to the iguana, but much happier to see the rabbits!

Tractor Trailer rides are good fun- just be warned that through the week they’re less frequent.

Quirky Activities

Sheep racing and ferret racing are highlights of any visit here. The gambler in me always loves a good race, and combining this with some good ‘ole family fun is a winning combination!!!

And finally….

The food!! It’s got a great farm shop and cafes- including a dog friendly one. Get a stamp to enter/ exit the farm as much as you need.

So in all a great family day out. Top tip; if you’re local after 3.30pm the entry price drops to just £3 and whilst you might have missed most of the organised activities, there’s still plenty of time for play and animals!

Website: http://cannonhallfarm.co.uk/about-the-farm/

Travelling ‘oop’ North? Three child-friendly alternatives to A1 services between Yorkshire and the Borders.

It’s always nice to break up longer journeys for kids. But services are usually lacking their need for fun and fresh air! Here are three suggestions of places we like to stop off the A1 to make travelling a bit more interesting.

1. Switch Scotch Corner for Cross Lanes Organic Farm.

Ok, so this is a bit of a detour… but don’t let the fact it’s 12 miles off the A1 put you off. Really it’s only 15 minutes from Scotch Corner services where you can fill up with petrol, and SURELY it’s worth it?

Website: http://www.crosslanesorganics.co.uk

What’s it got? A fantastic farm shop, which to be fair is worth the visit itself! It’s organic restaurant has a great menu, and with outdoor seating much more preferable than a motorway meal. There’s a decent play area, and being a farm there will be animals around to spot.

2. Passing Newcastle? A few minutes from the Cramlington services joining the A1 and A19 is the rather unusual but spectacular Northumberlandia

If you’re going past this way there’s really no reason not to stop at the world’s largest human landform sculpture (which is also a lovely country park).

Website: https://www.northumberlandia.com/

What’s it got? A visitor centre with cafe (closed Mondays) means toilets! Car parking is free, and there are even spaces for electric car charging. Walk through the smaller woodland area (spot animal homes in the trees and you could follow the woodland trail) to reach the sculpture itself. Decent paths and lots of climbing to wear out little legs. PLUS picnic benches if you’d rather sit out. Dogs are welcome but must be kept on leads.

3. Sunnyhills Farm shop in Belford is just 500m from the A1.

It might be a smaller farm shop than Cross Lanes, but its proximity to your route makes it an easy choice for a stop.

Website: https://sunnyhillsfarmshop.co.uk/

What’s it got? A play area, cafe with kids menu and delicious deli (amazing cake).

Hopefully these suggestions will help you on your travels! If you find them useful let me know and I can do some more on other well-travelled routes.

I’ve finally realised I’m pregnant

This probably sounds a ridiculous thing to say. I’m 23 weeks with a massive bump. Three weeks of my earlier pregnancy were spent pretty much living in bathrooms making close acquaintances with various toilets. But today it hit me.

Two reasons for this;

1. A throw away comment from a friend we haven’t seen in a while. “Are you all set for the baby then?” Errr no. By 23 weeks with our first one we’d probably trawled every baby event going- and had stocked up on supplies to last us the first six months. This time we have done nothing. Partly because there’s a lot of hand me downs, and partly because of lack of time with a toddler…. but mainly because it hasn’t sunk in that in less than 4 months I’ll have another child.

2. We walked along the canal (so pretty flat) to the pub for lunch and back again. Less than 5 miles there and back, but ever since I’ve been recovering on the sofa with a hot water bottle on my lower back. I am in AGONY. What’s this about?! I’m a walker!!

I’ve not been setting out on long walks over the last couple of weeks, but actually the smaller walks are perhaps a bit too much too. I hate to admit this. I hate it even more because next weekend we’ve booked a cottage in the Dales to do some walks that I’m not sure we’ll be able to do now. We had worried that my husband might find it too hard to go too far with a nearly-three year old on his back… but actually it’s me that’s going to restrict the distances. But the way I feel tonight it’s not worth it. And I think I’ve got to do a better job at looking after me. So until this baby makes an appearance I’m saying bye to the long walks and hills (sob). But I can’t wait to get back to it- and will enjoy those summer walks even more!!

Xx

Is it my party yet?

At work I’m a planner. I’m a doer. I look ahead at deadlines and make sure everything is in place to get things out. So why, for the second year in a row, am I so crap at organising my daughter’s birthday party?

I think the problem stems from it being early Feb. That makes it an after Christmas job. You’d think, with all the self-claimed ‘slummy mummies’ around, that others would share my thought process- and I’d be able to sweep in early New Year and take my pick of all those places who are clambering for my business. Well you’d be wrong. I was wrong. Last year I was wrong and this year I was wrong.

Last year was our first stab at toddler party organising. First off, after realising we should get our act together, we sent messages to our family and friends with kids to save the date. Family were keen, friends with kids already mostly booked up. Second job, decide on what kind of party. Hire a church hall, hire soft play. Job done. Soft play booked online in two minutes, feeling very proud, I set delivery to our little church hall, just needed to ring during church office hours, I’d do that at work in the morning. Ha. That was a hard lesson to learn- four days later and after speaking to half of Leeds only then did we actually find a local hall that didn’t advertise on the internet (and we could only talk to between 5pm and 6pm in an evening so no wonder they were free). And so 7 children (including Jess) and 107 adults piled in to enjoy two hours of screaming. We weren’t rehearsed in children’s parties- didn’t understand the time splits needed for play/food/games, but overall Jess seemed to have fun and was totally knackered so success all round.

This year I was determined to do better. Failed at the first hurdle (leaving it until after Christmas) but eventually found a soft play who organises everything and we were booked in by early Jan. This year Jess has nursery friends. Well I guess playmates? Luckily the nursery were happy to provide a list of 15 names to us to invite. Got the invitations out the next day…. and that night waited anxiously for RSVPs to my phone. Nothing. Nor the next night. I was TOTALLY panicking because Jess was asking me every two seconds who was coming and now all I could tell her was Mummy and Daddy. She wasn’t impressed. Finally a response came.. then another and another. We’re now up to 10 nursery friends… it’s a bit awkward isn’t it? The random text you get- ‘Hi, Ben would love to come to the party, thanks for the invite’. First of all who are you? Mum? Dad? A name would be good for when I meet you! Secondly who’s Ben? Every reply I get I’m now scrolling through observations to see if any children are tagged so I can happily greet Ben when you arrive. Thirdly, lets be honest, I doubt you’ve consulted him unless you’ve already decided that you’re coming. Let’s not lie and say anything about Ben’s feelings. If you’re anything like me a soft play party is an option when there is literally nothing else to do. I’m not sure how many parents really look forward to these things. But anyway I’m delighted that we’ve got actual guests- our daughter is a social butterfly wooohooo!

The final error has been telling Jess about said party. A month’s notice is simply too long. She asks everyone we see if they’re coming to her party (including nursery children who didn’t make the 15 cut). She asks every morning if it’s her birthday party. Everything we plan is in terms of whether it’s before or after her party. Handy tip; don’t tell them until absolutely necessary.

Next year I’ll know this. I’ll know to start looking for venues in November and get invites out nice and early. I’ll know how to structure the timeline of party events. I’ll know to pay better attention of who other children are at drop off and pick up so I know who’ll be coming. I’ll know not to expect replies from parents immediately. And I’ll know that I shouldn’t tell my daughter until I know exactly who is coming, and not to tell her until the week before.

Xx

The Great I-pad Debate

My husband and I are huge fans of eating out. Part laziness on a weekend, but partly it’s something we’ve always done as a couple, and it’s always something to look forward to. Having a child is not something that I think you should stop your real pleasures for.

Recently I was discussing this with a fellow parent at work…. I can’t quite remember how we got on to the subject, but he was telling me how he never eats out any more. The reason being that their toddler won’t sit still, and so the experience was thoroughly unenjoyable. Trying to be helpful (cos that’s the kind of gal I am), I told him about the joys of the I-pad; that it was our trusted friend and whenever we went out to a restaurant with our daughter, we’d be straight on the WiFi and putting Blippi on YouTube. The suggestion went down like a lead balloon…

The accusation was direct; “So you’d rather be stuffing your face than spending quality time with your kid? I think we have rather different approaches to parenting”.

Well, clearly we do. Let me tell you why I think our approach works.

Every weekend we think of something fun to do as a family, and it inevitably includes something outside, and an obligatory trip to the park. We love walking, so try to find trips out that include something child-friendly and something where we can stretch our legs. We love our family days out, and so does Jess. She loves everything about the weekend. But as I started, we also love eating out- and unfortunately this isn’t always compatible with the behaviours of a toddler. Luckily for us she loves using the I-pad, and since she isn’t allowed it in the house, regards time with it a real treat. We often finish walks to a trip to a country pub. She’ll sit happily munching on whatever we order her, swiping between shoes. So really it’s win win all round; we get an hour or two relaxing, and she gets to watch videos with a grown man running around soft play. It works.

Don’t judge our parenting on a couple of hours over a full weekend. Because of our treats we don’t feel like we’re missing out on our pre-child pleasure, and no doubt are happier, more positive people because of it!