Making the most of your garden with children

I feel so so lucky to have a garden at the moment, and hope to make the very most of it! Here are some ideas on just how to do that.

Exploring Nature

It’s the perfect time to learn about the nature in your very own garden. Activities include;

  • SCAVENGER HUNT. Take a few minutes to write a list of natural things to find in the garden. For small children a quick sketch… or find numerous examples online to print off. You could also do a photo scavenger hunt- they have to take a picture of everything they find.
  • TREE APPRECIATION. It’s the perfect time to learn about the trees (or flowers, or bushes) that you have in your garden. Draw a picture. Find the seeds and learn how they spread. Do any animals, birds or mini beasts live there?
  • BIRD WATCHING. Spend ten minutes to half an hour sitting quietly, counting birds and identifying what they are.
  • FLOWER PRESS. Collect their favourite flowers and press them. If you don’t want them picking your favourites, restrict to wild flowers.
  • MINI BEAST HUNT. Go searching under stones, bricks or dig in the soil to see what you can find. Older children could make a chart; name, size, colour, no.of legs, wings, how many.
  • RUBBINGS. Try different surfaces, different leaves and bark.
  • GARDENING. Plant seeds, prune plants or even just let children dig. Try to think of some usual pots you could plant in; old wellies, egg cups, a mug. Have a competition with every member of the household to see who’s seed grows the fastest!

Eating outdoors

The possibilities are endless! We’re enjoying some fabulous weather, so have been having lunch and tea outside wherever possible… here are some other options;

  • BBQ. It genuinely is never too early for a BBQ. Enough said.
  • PIZZA! On Mother’s Day we lit our horrendously underused outdoor pizza oven… Jess absolutely loves making the pizzas. If you don’t have a pizza oven, create the pizzas, pop them in your normal oven and then eat them outside! You could even turn your garden into an Italian restaurant… spend some day colouring/ painting Italian flags for that extra touch!
  • PICNIC. Jazz up a simple lunch of sandwiches by spreading a blanket and going outside. Make it into an adventure for little ones; pack up a bag and take them on a little walk around the garden ‘Follow The Leader’ style. Can you find obstacles to walk under/ over/ around?
  • ONE POT. If you go camping with your family, you might have a camping stove or trangia that you could use to cook your tea on. Older children might be able to cook the food themselves.
  • DATE NIGHT. Three years ago my husband had the idea to build a bar in our garden. At the time I thought it was a bloody stupid way to spend money, but now I’m eating my words! We had a lovely night at the weekend wrapping up and going outside, listening to music and eating a take-away. I am well aware garden bars aren’t overly common, but definitely go for a ‘night out’!

Outdoor Art

  • NATURE ART. Make a picture with leaves, twigs and flowers that you find in the garden.
  • CHALK. Let children chalk on your driveway or patio. A great canvas, and then for the enthusiastic they can wash it off!
  • WATER PAINTING. A paintbrush and a pot of water is all you need to get some great designs on fences or patio stones. In the sunshine it will dry quickly so you can go again!
  • STONE PAINTING. If you are still going outdoors, hide them for others to find. There are lots of groups and places around that do this.

Dens and Tents

Pretend to go on a mini holiday and make the most of any tents you have, get them out a spend a day using that as your base. Or as a Wendy house. No tent? Grab a few chairs and a big sheet. Get multiple dens going, build a tent village!! Each tent/den could have a different purpose; one for reading, one for games. Or if your little ones like role play, take out your shopping toys and let every den be a different shop! Can you make shop signs?

Make use of what you have in the garden. Do you have a sandpit? Spend a day at the beach! If it’s safe to do so and your children are a little older, you could even have an overnight adventure, sleeping outdoors!

Water Play

Having recently bought a water play table for the children, who spent about 5 minutes with it before they got bored, I can honestly say filling pots and pans with water and letting small children occupy themselves is the best activity you can do.

My daughter also loves washing things, the car is her favourite, but we’ve taken out her brother’s high chair, you could do plastic toys, or outside pots. As long as she feels she’s helping, she’s happy.

If your child has lots of dolls, fill a tub with bubble bath and let them have a bath time. And of course if it’s warm get a paddling pool out!

Sport and exercise

With Joe Wicks taking over the nation, it seems we are all turning to our living rooms for our exercise space. But remember you could do these online sessions outside! Other ideas;

  • SPORTS DAY. You vs the children. Egg and spoon, slalom, rolling races, hopping races, obstacle course.
  • TAG or if your garden’s big enough, a Hide and Seek Tag.
  • DAILY WORKOUT/ CIRCUITS. You don’t need Joe Wicks! Let each corner of your garden be a station. Star jumps/ Knee ups/ Heel kicks/ Skipping. Run in between.
  • BALL SKILLS. Passing, dribbling, hockey skills, tennis skills.
  • DANGEROUS WATERS. Basically dont stand on the grass (the crocodiles might eat you). Create obstacles that children must navigate to get from one side of the garden to the other. Super easy to set up and you can keep making it harder.

Other games and activities

  • TREASURE HUNT. Hide items all over the garden for little ones to find. Older children could be given clues or even create clues themselves!
  • BUBBLES. Endless entertainment!
  • MUD PIE. Messy play for little ones… all you need is water, mud a a few pots for the perfect mud pie.
  • PUDDLE JUMPING AND RAIN DANCING. Don’t let the rain stop you getting outside. Layer up and get involved!
  • MAKING TRACKS. Have a train set or V-tech toys? Just think of the EPIC size creation that you can make!
  • PLAYING WITH TOYS OUTDOORS. Remember you don’t have to do anything particularly special, just being outdoors if something a little different. Do what you would usually do, just outside!

Are there any activities that I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments!

If you’re still heading out for walks, this post might give you some inspiration to motivate little legs!

Azul Beach Resort, Riviera Maya: A review of our TUI Sensatori holiday

We’ve been sticking to winter holidays in the canaries since our four year old’s been around… so decided it was about time we took the plunge of taking a long haul with two small children. Knowing Sensatori’s are geared up for kids, we settled on trying their Mexico offering, the Azul Beach Resort, situated between Cancun and Playa del Carmen.

General facilities

We were in a Luxury suite in building three, overlooking the family pool, with views down to the sea. We were happy with the room itself, it had plenty of space and storage. It worked for us because our youngest is still in a cot, but we would probably have opted for a Family suite if they both needed beds. Daily cleaning was thorough and our mini drinks fridge was restocked daily. The whirlpool bath was a good addition that we all enjoyed, and the sofa area on the balcony was pretty comfortable.We enjoyed the variety of pool areas, and enjoyed a different spot every day. Bali beds are available around the adults only pool and on the beach (unless you’re premium, where they’re around the premium pool too). But you have to get up early to get them. Whilst sun beds are plentiful, favourite spots do get reserved shortly after seven. If like us, you don’t have a strong preference for beds you don’t need to reserve.The beach area was great, with a team of staff working all day to keep the sand clean. The beach bar is in a great setting and we loved the swings! Just a note on cash- you can pay for everything in US dollars. We normally dont take cash and just withdraw whilst we’re away… but wish we’d been more prepared. The cash machine in the hotel lobby is extortionate… and you might want to take a range of smaller notes for tipping.
More on food and drink facilities below.

Is it Child friendly?

Oooooooh, ‘child friendly’ what a term! If we take that to mean that they make it easy for you to bring children with you, then yes it is child friendly. But that’s a far distance away from providing a child-focussed holiday. Let me elaborate.

They provide lots of stuff to make packing and travelling with children easier. Baby packs for the bedroom are provided, including bottle steriliser, bottle warmer, baby bath, and cot. We also borrowed a buggy which made travelling a lot easier (more tips on this on this blog), it was immaculate with a good sun shade.In all the restaurants high chairs were provided, and they were always properly cleaned. Jars of baby food were also available… but be warned the selection wasn’t great, and at times when there was only one flavour left (maybe courgette) alternatives weren’t offered. We read that you could request food was blended for you, but didn’t try it. We had taken our own food pouches so made do.

Around the resort, our daughter enjoyed the small play frame on the beach and the splash park. There were toddler sun beds dotted about which had great novelty value too! She’d been really looking forward to the slide before we went (and had talked about it non-stop), but it was a little faster than she expected which I think gave her a shock and she wasn’t confident enough to try again! Footstools were provided in the bathrooms (and we’d also requested one for our room) but the sinks were still too tall for our daughter.There is also an indoor Playhouse. Again this is immaculate (sorry no pictures as photos not allowed inside). We took our children inside one cloudy morning, and let them play on the wide selection on toys.

So all of that made the holiday child friendly…. moving onto where they could have improved, starting with the evening entertainment.Maybe it’s because the only child holidays we’ve been on are in Europe that we were expecting nightly mini-discos. Something our daughter LOVES. Unfortunately they only have one of these a week at most. They’re great when they’re on, lots of music and games and glow sticks. Just not as many as we hoped! There were some other good alternatives too… there was a really enjoyable Pirate Magic Show, and a beach bonfire where children could toast marshmallows.But there also seemed too many movie nights. For all supervised activities, children had to be over four and importantly unaccompanied. Our daughter is often shy with new experiences, so not being able to join her until she got settled meant that she wouldn’t go. And if you have an under four, you can’t take them to the activities and stay with them. This was the same as the daytime activities… if it was a planned activity, parents weren’t allowed in and little ones couldn’t join in. So basically we didn’t do any of the activities in the play house.

The restaurants

For breakfasts we alternated between Spoons (a wide range and quick option) and at Zamos, where it took a more relaxed pace with waiter service.

Lunches- we never made it to Spoons for lunch. The Beach BBQ was definitely our favourite, it’s a fab setting and good, easy food. If you’ve got a little one park yourself next to the climbing frame. We thought the pizza place behind the splash park was great too. Delicious pizzas, just be aware they only serve soft drinks there so pop to the bar and take one with you if you can’t live without a beer! Finally Zavas offer amazing burgers for lunch (make sure you try the Mexican Burger), but again don’t go if you want anything quickly! Dinner options. Having children meant we passed on the Le Chiquita experience, which is by all accounts amazing. Happily, TUI arranged an alternative taster session; seven courses inspired by le Chique served at the Tapaz restaurant. Ok it wasn’t the same, but it did mean we didn’t miss out completely. Our favourite restaurant was Tapaz, it had a great menu and felt like a real treat. The Italian was also a great choice, mainly because the service was exceptional. In the other restaurants, waiters were friendly and polite, but we found the Italian the only place which felt like 5 star service; we were better attended, they fussed over the children and made sure that our drinks were flowing! Zocalos, the Mexican restaurant did good food, as did Zavas and are worth a booking. In all the restaurants there are children’s menus, and they’re all different which is great.. too many places have the standard chicken nuggets and pasta at every place!

Other bits;
  • Room service. Easy and included in all inclusive. Alcoholic drinks aren’t included, but you can buy bottles of wine. We only did it a few times but it took around half an hour to arrive.
  • Wine and spirits in the all inclusive were fine. Red wine was better than the white. I don’t really drink Chardonnay but found it was more palatable than the Sauvignon blanc. If you did want Pinot Grigio it was about $40US and decent. You might consider trying the rose as well!
  • The Mojito bar did a great selection, lots of flavours! It’s adults only, but one of us popped in and then we could enjoy them in the lobby or on the roof terrace.
  • The Aperol Spritz bar is mega quirky, but you’re lucky to catch it open. Early evening (6.30pm to about 8pm) is your best chance.
  • The Waves bar was definitely the best swim up, where you can enjoy sitting in the sun.
  • Reservations are a pain but avoid going to the concierge at the start or end of the day when it’s at its busiest. You can only book for three days at a time.
  • Starbucks is right in the centre of the hotel, obviously drinks are not included but some people need their fix! If you dont want to pay, take a flask- you can top coffee from outside spoons.

Activities and entertainment

Every week there is Mexican beach party with mariatchi band. It’s good fun and nice to do something a bit different eating on the beach.

There’s a decent selection of evening entertainment (usually the main act around 9.30pm) but with two little ones the best we could do was listen from the balcony! We did enjoy the singers in the lobby earlier in the evening.
We thought the day time activities were great, from Zumba to Spanish lessons there really was something for everyone and the entertainment team were really great.

If you’re here without kids, the Friday Moët party looks amazing. A bottle of Moët on a Bali bed, a DJ and lots of inflatables in the adults only pool. I’d say it’s worth the extra cost.

Places to go

Playa del Carmen.Ooooooooh we LOVED wandering up and down 5th Avenue, soaking up the atmosphere!! Don’t expect a glimpse of the ‘real’ Mexico- it’s tourist central. BUT it’s quirky and a lot of fun. We just asked the hotel doorman for a taxi, it arrived within minutes, took us to a tourist drop off and waited for us until we were ready to return (we spent about three hours there). It cost about $80US. Another alternative is Cancun, but we heard it lacks a real ‘centre’s so you cant just wander from shop to shop (or bar to bar), you need more of a plan anf taxis in between. To see a bit more of Mexiacn history and  culture there are trips to the well known Chichen itza or a bit closer, to the Cobo Mayan ruins. This might be a better choice if you’re visiting before November, as at the moment you can still climb the stairs. In November the restrictions start.


We had a great day at Xcaret Park; a natural theme park. Lots of animals to see, and you can swim in natural underground rivers which is a lot of fun. There are lots of opportunities for additional activities (at an additional cost) such as swimming with dolphins. There are good shows to see; flying men and a horse display, all culminating in a huge show at the end. It’s a bit like Mexico through the ages with lots of singing and dancing. Worthwhile staying if you dont mind the later finish. We went with a Tui organized trip and were expecting carnage at the end getting the coaches back, but were really impressed by the smooth operation.

So there’s my round up. No doubt I’ve not included something important… just let me know and I’ll add it in!

The Muddy Boots 2020 Family Challenge

As the time to make some New Year resolutions nears, let me introduce you to a family challenge that gets you out walking at least once a month… as well as showing you some of the best family walks Yorkshire has to offer.

The concept is simple. 12 of my favourite Yorkshire family walks to complete in 12 months. I’ll be suggesting the months to do each walk on my social media, but feel free to mix them up if needed! Whilst some of these routes are buggy friendly, encourage your little ones to walk as much of the routes as possible (read this blog post for help).

You might be able to identify some of the walks from the pictures… but if not here we go!!

The Gnome Roam at Newmillerdam. At just under two miles with loads of activities on the route, this is a great starting walk to get little ones enthused about getting out and about. A pub at the end can get you warmed up from the cold.

Nature Trail at Oakwell Hall. This two mile route has two loops, so half way round you can stop off at the cafe to refuel… and the pull of the play area gets your little ones to restart!

Golden Acre and Paul’s Pond is 5.5km… and is suitable for buggies that don’t mind mud! Refuel and warm up in the scrummy cafe.

Ilkley and Middleton woods is best done April/May to see the glorious bluebells. With views over Ilkley and a walk along the river, this has a little bit of everything…

Up in Nidderdale lies the fantastic Hackfall woods. You might catch the bluebells here in May, but if not take a picnic and allow yourself to explore this gorgeous woodland.

Aaaahhh Heath. A summer visit means picnics on Heath common or drinks in the lovely King’s Arms beer garden. So summer is the perfect time to try this short circular walk.

One of Wakefield’s most popular family walks is the Room on the Broom Trail at Angler’s Country Park. Pack a picnic and some bird seed and enjoy following the trail round the lake.

Bolton Abbey is just picture perfect all year round. But on a sunny day you can enjoy a leisurely picnic as well as the views!

May Beck and Falling Foss. Walk away those September blues with a trip to the coast. Combine a visit to Whitby with this amazing and magical walk. Waterfalls, woodland and probably the best tea garden on the planet.

Damflask Reservoir is a great circular route with a fab cafe stop on the way round!

Stanley Ferry and Southern Washlands Nature Reserve combines a canal walk with woodland.The Stanley Ferry Pub is well placed for a family friendly meal afterwards, so you might want to keep this as a winter walk.

The National Trust always does Christmas well, so why not leave a walk in the beautiful Nostell parkland until then, before enjoying the Christmas spirit at the house and gardens.

So there you go! At the start of each month I’ll be sharing a bit more about these walks for you. Make sure to share any walks with #muddybootsfamilychallenge. Good luck!

Ponderosa, Heckmondwike

This was one of the best surprises I’ve had in a long time. For a small zoo, there is loads to keep you entertained, and it’s got great facilities. It’s been miserable weather today and I almost caved to Jess’s pleas of soft play this morning, but I held strong and it was the best decision ever… even better there was a soft play there which we had to ourselves so Jess got her wish too!!

Website: http://ponderosa-centre.co.uk

Facilities: Excellent; lots of toilets and hand wash stations. Play areas indoor and out. Coffee shop and restaurant. Even a welly wash.

Pushchairs: Excellent for access, all entrances are level. So perfect for pushchairs. We only came across one set of steps all day, with ramp alternative!

The animals

It’s a small zoo, but it’s got great variety.

Indoors there’s a reptile house and small mammals. On a weekday there were two encounters. Despite Jess being happy in the past to stroke snakes, spiders, you name it, today she had the fear of stroking a tortoise shell 😂. So no pictures, sorry. Interesting fact- they can feel the touch on their shell!! Mind. Blown.

Outdoors we struggled to spot some of the animals, I think the wet weather was forcing them inside, but those that we did were interesting and well kept. Jess liked seeing the ‘kitty’ aka the serval, and couldn’t understand why she couldn’t stroke it!

The Play Areas

On a dry day I think there would be enough here to keep you entertained for a full day. There are two fab play areas as well as a giant ‘beach’ that would be perfect for picnics. The play barn is an indoor soft play area, which I thought was great,but signs are up saying it’ll be closed from November so I’m excited to see what it’ll have in its place!

Food and Drink

There are picnic benches around all the outdoor play areas, as well as a covered area near the outdoor handling area, so plenty of space for you to bring your own. There is also a coffee shop on site (offering disposable cups for you so I could take my drink into the play barn) which sells a great variety of ice creams. The Lakeside restaurant is happily situated, see pics below, and although we didn’t go in looked to have a decent menu.

I think one of the best things about this place is that despite it being a really quiet day, everything was open and available. It’s one of my biggest frustrations when you head somewhere and half the facilities are closed off.

So try it, I’d really recommend a visit. I can’t wait to see what’s coming to replace the play barn and I’m looking forward to returning on a drier day to take full advantage of the play areas!

Exploring Sherwood Pines

Hugely accessible from Yorkshire, this great forest has plenty to keep you occupied for a day out. We seemed to be the only people there without a bike, but it has lots to offer families on foot! We’ve been to the area before; Sherwood Forest and NT Clumber Park are nearby but never stopped off… we’ll definitely be returning!

Website: https://www.forestryengland.uk/sherwood-pines

Parking: £6 all day, £4 if you squeeze it into two hours!

Pushchairs: Gritted paths mean routes we used were for pushchairs.

We’d promised Jess the Zog trail, and got her excited in the car by re-reading the story, so on arrival there was no question of doing anything else first! The activity pack was £3 and included a Zog face mask, stickers, activity booklet and animal reveal.

The trail itself was relatively short, so perfect for little walkers (but don’t expect it to take too long). Activities are a combination of Zog related questions (spot the dragons) and nature questions that get children to think and engage with their surroundings.

Certain activities are done to reward yourself with a star sticker from the activity pack. Jess is a massive fan of stickers so this went down a treat!

After the trail we found a picnic bench (there were plenty) for lunch. We sat next to a large field where families were playing ball games and running round, a great space.

Refuelled, we set off to do one of the two walking trails. The Dragonfly walk is just 1mile on gritted paths, and the Nightjar trail is 3miles, suitable for off-road pushchairs. They are super easy to follow (Jess was our leader) with marked coloured posts and plenty of benches dotted around the pretty woodland.

For Jess, walking without whinging is often for the bribe of a good play area at the end. Luckily we had a few to choose from, with a mixture of climbing, exploring, den building and sandpits!

Other activities that we didn’t try but that are available are;

  • The Gruffalo Orienteering Trail (£1.50 for the map) which is a really simple beginners orienteering course where you find 12 markers (although the link to the Gruffalo is only really by name)
  • Finding Gruffalo sculptures dotted about the woodland
  • Nets Adventure, which looked a bit ambitious for Jess, basically looked like huge trampolines with balls suspended in the air.
  • Go Ape
  • Mountain Biking

Next to the visitor centre there are good toilet facilities (changing area in male toilets too) as well as a cafe that we didn’t visit but seemed nice with indoor and outdoor seating.

Brayton Barff, 2km circular

We were visiting family near Selby today, so stopped off to do this short walk on our way there. It’s been a scorcher, but the well-surfaced main path is through woodland and so we thoroughly enjoyed the shade! Even better news is that if you come in spring you’ll find bluebells 😍😍

Route: https://www.yorkshirewater.com/things-to-do/walks/brayton

Parking: A small free carpark, it can get busy.

Facilities: None, but I’m sure you’ll find a decent country pub nearby, right? There are benches dotted along the path.

Pushchairs: At a little over a mile I’d say why not try to let your toddler walk, it’s a good early one! Otherwise the main route is completely buggy friendly.

The basic premise of Brayton Barff is a circular path around a hill. Whilst the path undulates, there aren’t any significant uphills/downhills. You get some lovely views over to Selby and Drax. There are lots of little trails to take you up the hill and explore, but these are not suitable for buggies. Plenty of little legs do though, and there are loads of examples of den building!

With little explorers I’m sure you could spend hours on this beautiful hill, but equally if you’ve got just an hour to kill when you’re in the area this is a great choice!

Bramley Fall, 1 mile

This might only be a short walk, but it’s got lots to explore along the way!

Route: Found on the following website: http://west-leeds-country-park-and-green-gateways.webplus.net/doorstep_walk2_bramley_fall.html. The paths are signposted at key points.

Accessibility: Along the canal path is fine, and you can get down and back up other ways, but this route itself would be difficult with a buggy.

Parking: Car park on Leeds & Bradford Road

Facilities: There’s a basic playground and picnic area. It’s a short drive to Kirkstall Morrison’s with a cafe and toilets, but there are none in the park itself.

This lovely route takes you down through pretty woodland (quite steep and uneven surface) onto the canal, crossing over a lock that we were lucky enough to see in use.

It’s a flat and easy walk along the canal- with the added bonus of a train line to the other side.

Crossing back over another stepped lock takes you back through the woodland. Before the playground you also pass outdoor equipment from a ‘Trim Trail’ that adds a little fun.

Northwood Fairy Trail, York

There’s a little magic in these woods, if you listen closely and stay very still you might just find a fairy!

Website:https://www.northwoodtrail.co.uk

Northwood Trail is a 1.5km path through some gorgeous woodland. You get the distinct feeling that you’re not alone, and can find lots of evidence that fairies are around, from the toadstool fairy rings, to the overhead fairy bridges, to the fairy doors on the trees. You’ll even see the thrones of the fairy king and queen!

Jess was disappointed not to see a fairy (she’d hoped dressing like a fairy might encourage them to show themselves), but reliably informed us that they were sleeping, and was happy that she’d seen where they live!

The path passes a bamboo maze to find a fairy ring! Be warned, it’s not an easy one and you may be in there longer than you think!

Towards the end of the trail is an area for children to play, with plenty of chopped logs to climb over and a den building area.

Back at the start we enjoyed tea and cake at the GORGEOUS cafe (I imagine in winter it’s even more awesome) and visited the fairy museum.

We really enjoyed this truly lovely walk (even in the rain) but be warned there’s limited places for stopping on the trails, and nowhere to picnic. As such it’s not a walk that you can spend a long time on, so take that into consideration when deciding whether to pay up! It could definitely do with some activities on the way round, perhaps some puzzles or nature spots and rubbings. Having said that it’s still relatively new, so perhaps these things are on the way!

So it’s not an all-day attraction, but would be a great stopping point to the coast or moors. The cafe itself is worth a stop, and I think we would on our next trip to Bridlington.

PS When looking back at our photos Jess was delighted to spot fairies!! They were invisible to our eyes, but the camera never lies, and we can see lots of fairy orbs flying around the fairy ring… see, they really do exist!!

👉Another Fairy Trail that you might enjoy is Studfold! This is more of an activity based trail, so you can make more of a day of it!

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 updates and improvements.

Given it was a sunny Sunday in July, it was great the park was busy but queues remained small and fast moving.

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. Tip: the tractor ride has been the one with the longest queue on both visits so get there early.

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

Adventure Valley, Durham

Don’t go expecting bells and whistles, this place is refreshingly all about good old-fashioned family fun!

We’re up in Newcastle introducing James to family, so thought we’d take advantage of the trip to squeeze in a visit to Adventure Valley. We’ve not been before, and after seeing mixed reviews on the internet weren’t quite sure what to expect but I’m pleased to say that we had a great day, with lots of fun and laughs!

I’m not sure what you can compare Adventure Valley to; it’s great mix of farm, play areas and soft play. As with any of these places, on a sunny day it would be fantastic- particularly for slightly older children where you could set up a picnic base and let them explore the masses of outdoor play areas.

We were impressed with the selection of animals, particularly in creature corner which housed the world’s fastest tortoise (who didn’t move) and a variety of reptiles. There are regular petting experiences- even on a week day (although no pony rides through the week). Goat mountain gave you the chance to pull food up to the goats by a train!

The play areas are fab. In the bottom field there are loads of things to explore; slides, forts, sandpits, pirate ships, zip wire… with lots of picnic tables dotted about.

The Dragon Slide was a hit…. the first time Jess went down. Second time she fell out on the way down, not quite so successful! Think maybe for a little older ones.

The Bouncing Pillows were fun, and there was a separate one for over 5s which reduced the worry of bigger children jumping all over Jess!

As well as petting activities through the day, there are tractor rides and at weekends goat racing.

Other things to enjoy;

  • The indoor soft play area (including an area for under 5s) next to the cafe, which we thought was reasonably priced. There’s also an Indoor Wild West Area.
  • Pedal Go karting track for older children and pedal tractors for those too little
  • The Runaway Races for over 4s- like a huge slide in inflatable rings

I’m sure there’s more- you can pay extra to do adventure golf too. In the summer it looks like a Maize Maze will be open.

Website: https://www.adventurevalley.co.uk

We bought tickets the day before online; as it was a weekday we paid £7.95 each (under twos free in). Personally I thought this was well worth the money. I’m not sure we’d make the trip from Yorkshire specifically for a day out here, but would certainly come again if we’re up this way and looking for a fun day out.