Competition Time

So we’re all back to school, remedy sad that summer holidays are over and looking forward to half term already?

Whether you’re in the yes camp or no camp, the best way to face the school term (or the thought of another week of holidays in the not too distant future) is to ensure you’ve planned for the next one….and here at Family Super we’re doing just that by checking out where we might want to visit on our October break. (Not that the children have inherited my preference for planning ahead at all!)

Whilst we continue to plan our itinerary, why don’t you think about starting your plans for a family day out with the chance to win a complimentary ticket for four people to visit the top attraction Madame Tussaud’s in Blackpool.

To win a complimentary ticket for four to Madame Tussaud’s in Blackpool* , simply tell me in the comments box below who you would want to see in wax work form and why, and share this competition on Facebook or Twitter vis @workingsupermum for the chance to win.

Entries must be received by 12noon on Friday 13th September and the winner will be announced later that day – lucky for someone indeed!

Good luck.

*Important stuff to note :
Ticket must be used by 31st May 2014, so you’ve loads of time!
The prize is for a ticket for four people, there is no cash alternative.
The prize does not include travel or accommodation.
Winner will be selected at random.
The winner will be announced on the Supermummy blog on Friday 13th September.
Tickets will be posted directly to winner thereafter.

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Staycation

It’s the second week of the Easter holidays and the week of our staycation. Last Easter we were lucky enough to be hanging out with Mickey and Minnie in Eurodisney, rx the year before, enjoying forest walks and the indoor subtropical paradise pool at Centre Parcs. This year, we decided to have a staycation. We’ve a busy summer ahead and there’s a to do list as long as my arm of ‘things I want to get done in the house’. So staying at home seemed like the perfect way to spend our first full week off together as family since Christmas. We cajoled ourselves into it with comments such as ‘It’ll do the kids good to learn that they can entertain themselves at home’, ‘we rarely relax and enjoy our own home, it’ll be good to do some of that,’ ‘we can have days out here and there for fun,’ and ‘it’s good that we’re not being frivolous with our money.’

Then Super Daddy got the opportunity to book himself on a course for the week. Harrumph.

So we talked about it, weighed up the pros and cons and he went for booking on the three day option as a compromise, and we agreed I’d have some quality time with the kids until Thursday. Then he’d be home and we’d pack the rest of the week and the weekend with trips away, family picnics and general holiday type activities.

This far, I’ve been happy with the plan, but didn’t quite have that holiday feeling when I packed up my desk at work on Thursday and said Cheerio for ten days. Equally though, I didn’t have a pile of ironing and packing awaiting me at home or the four different lists on the go that I usually need to get ourselves organised for the off. I did have two messy bathrooms that I knew would annoy me all week if I didn’t crack open the Cif and give them some proper elbow grease. So, the weekend was therefore a ‘normal’ one, cleaning, cooking, dancing class, crafting with the kids, food shopping, grandparent visiting and Sunday night film.

Very nice indeed.

But lacking that proper holiday feel.

So I sat the nippers down and we made a list of the best things about holidays. We’d make this staycation feel like a proper holiday filled with all the things we love about going away together.
Some of their additions to the list? Swimming, going to the park, dinners out, reading magazines, staying up late and extra cuddles. Perfect.

Mine was much more basic. Starting today with not getting dressed til noon. Tick. Done.

I’m now off for a Malibu and Pineapple juice before we have a wander to the park.

Adios for now!

Family Days Out – Edinburgh Science Festival

Keeping a five year old princess and her pal entertained is no mean feat. I mean, buy it’s not up there with understanding Einstein’s Theory of Relativity but it can be tough going, ask particularly on a rainy day in the Easter school holidays.  Cue a day trip to the City Art Centre which becomes a science playground during the Edinburgh Science Festival. Six floors, seven hours, and over twenty different workshops, shows and interactive events to partake in, we were set for a jam packed day. Top on our agenda were the Splat-Tastic and Jungle Safari workshops which we’d pre-booked ahead of our visit to ensure we weren’t disappointed.

Jungle Safari first and our intrepid explorers donned the requisite camouflage safari kit and off they went, leaving me and my accompanying friend free to have coffee for a whole 40 minutes – a luxury these days. If only we’d known that we couldn’t join the kids on their safari, we’d not have had that first cafe stop on arrival where we’d practically had to glue the kids to their seats given they were bouncing off the walls with excitement and anticipation of the day ahead.

 

In honesty a little part of me was disappointed that I couldn’t join in the safari, yet relieved at the same time (well, there might have been actual snakes.) The two jungle buddies joined back up with us after their mini safari exclaiming that it was great but declaring as only five year olds can that they didn’t know what their favourite part about it was.  We established there were dolphin noises, lots of listening in and not a snake in sight. Phew!

With our slime making session scheduled for the afternoon we were free to roam and drop into any other session taking our fancy.  Nina and the Neurons was less than inspiring unfortunately with the ‘Ninas’ needing to up the ante on their enthusiasm and engagement of the kids who were really interested in learning about their senses but disappointed when they were asked if they wanted to colour in instead.  A quick word in the ear from one mummy (I’ll let you guess who) and the Nina’s decided that a Sneeze Workshop was in order.  With an instrument shaped like an inverted nostril and a bundle of brightly coloured feathers to act as the irritants in the nasal canal, there was much sneezing and indeed giggling to be had. Result at last.

 

All Nina’d out, the pull of standing in pod and being surrounded by a giant bubble in the rather damp World of Bubbles was too much to resist.  I did however let the little one go first and only when she had her turn did I step in. Such a simple idea really sparked a whole lot of intrigue in the nippers and so further time was spent with elbows in bubbly water, with no dishes to speak off, but plenty of weird and wonderful shaped giant bubbles floating above our heads.

 

The draw of the ‘moving stairs ‘(escalators) took us to the next floor and our next creative stop – this time Shadowgrams Photolab.  This was my favourite of all activities.  Choosing from a range of junk objects, creating a mini masterpiece on a glass board and then exposing the pattern onto photographic paper in the dark room was a bit hit with us.  One Monster Truck, one Flower Garden later and a stint in the dark room and our two little ones were happy as Larry with their Photolab experience.  Their outputs were pretty impressive too.

 

The Rampaging Chariots Race was the next stop for our two eager beavers, both keen to get in on the action and drive a readymade robot round an obstacle course with a tilting bridge as its final challenge. We had to wait patiently for this one as it was proving to be popular, but it was worth it to watch my daughter stick her tongue out ever so slightly as her father does when he is concentrating and daintily but confidently guide her robot round the race course to victory.

The afternoon sessions quelled any feelings of post lunch lethargy we might have had, starting with the amazingly clever and hugely scientific Chain Reactor.  We watched in wonder as a puff of donut shaped air triggered the pouring of liquid through a filter and set off a series of knock-on chemical reactions and pretty nifty effects culminating in a joyous clang of a billiard ball on a cymbal and rapturous applause from the audience. So good, we watched it a second time, and still guffawed at the corny gags the mad scientist in charge of the reactor doled out just for us big kids.

Next up, and last for us on the days billing was Splat-Tastic. The making and testing of our very own slime was made more appealing by the option of creating disco ball slime.  With the complicated and tricky addition of a good sprinkling of glitter, the gooey slime took on a whole new form of girly sparkliness. The goggles and latex gloves provided a bit of a challenge for my daughter who simply wanted to roll up her sleeves and get stuck in. Equally my mishearing of the initial introduction to ‘learning about polymers’ meant I was fairly confused when an hour later there was still no mention of Olly Murs and his relation to gooey disco ball slime, but neither mishap stopped us from finishing our day on a high with a good old splatting of the large target board with our very own slime creations.

 

Whatever the age group, there was something to suit everyone at the City Art Centre. Next year we might be brave enough to take our youngest and let them loose amidst all that science and creativity. By then the five year olds will be seasoned pro’s and will show them exactly how it’s done.

The final word comes from one very tired little princess, who on the train ride home announced to all and sundry that her day out has been quite simply ‘Exsplastic!

How’s that for creativity?

 

Diabolical Baddies, Eccentric Professors and Boy Eating Monsters!

How’s that for a blog post title?

Whilst Diabolical Baddies, view Eccentric Professors and Boy Eating Monsters might not be the snappiest title for the event we attended this afternoon at the Edinburgh Science Festival, there was indeed something extremely intriguing about the workshop that immediately caught the imagination of my five year old. Assuming we’d both be safe from any lurking hungry monsters (being girls), we popped along to the Story Telling Centre for a spot of creating and inventing with author-illustrator John Fardell.

 

This workshop is aimed at children ages five plus, and promises interaction and involvement for budding inventors and big imaginations. The immediate draw for my little one was the opportunity to throw out some inspired ideas of her own in order to develop a monster and machine drawings fit for a story. As a have-a-go writer, the pull for me was hearing a published author bring to life the creative process he goes through when writing and illustrating his books. We were not disappointed.

The workshop was interactive from the off with plenty of audience participation in both the making of monster sounds to accompany the story John took us through, and lots of encouragement for the children to get up on stage (which the little princess loved) and draw their own images of their imagined monsters and inventions.

Over the course of the hour the eager participants developed a monster story which saw good monsters (Mr Hairy, Sandy and Timmy) come together to defeat the terrifying and evil Squadalump who lives in the depths of a tunnel below a live Volcano under the sea. Using fantastically invented Tall Blaster and Lego Blaster machines which flew, shrunk and turned into a motor bike, and using the powers of poison in their tails the friendly monsters claimed victory.

 

There was a palpable energy in the small auditorium as the little ones threw up their hands, desperate to be picked to call out their ideas and develop the images and the storyline live on stage. Nia was simply bursting with ideas, and it was truly delightful to see her animated and inspired. Wither her imagination fuelled she had sketched and coloured her own boy eating monster within minutes of us arriving home, who apparently goes by the name of Spikey Lightening and only eats boys on Tuesdays – phew.

 

It was great to see the intricate artwork, sketches and models John makes before reworking into his final versions.  John was a joy to listen to and his interaction and encouragement of the big ideas from the little ones was just brilliant. I now have one very inspired girl who tells me tomorrow she is developing a blueprint for a Super Duper Monster Crusher Machine!

A fantastic session all round, which gets a big thumbs up from my mini inventor. Now, where’s my sketch pad..?

 

Family Days Out – Almond Valley Heritage Centre

My three-year old has a long standing obsession with farm animals (particularly cows), unhealthy which made a family day out to Almond Valley Heritage Centre and Farm in Livingston, West Lothian an obvious choice.  So much more than a Heritage Centre, Almond Valley is packed with activities and attractions for all ages – crawlers, toddlers, an inquisitive five year old and big kids alike (yes, I had a good old bounce on the trampolines, but it was one of the designated parent and toddler ones…though my toddler was exploring the wooden train with Daddy at the time!)  Animal wise there are goats, lambs, calves, some famous hogs (reared on an Island, due for slaughter, but donated to Almond Valley when the owner couldn’t quite turn them into his Sunday morning bacon butty.) There are opportunities to feed lambs and cow milking demonstrations, much to the intrigue and amusement of said five year old.

The simulated archaeological dig is quite something else, and being under cover is a bonus if the rain is threatening and you find yourself at that end of the farm with a mad dash across the bridge between you and the inviting haven that is Morag’s Milk Bar and Tearoom.  Morag is a fantastic Highland cow who lives with lots of sheep and few ponies in the field at the furthest end of the farm park. You can see her if you partake in one of the tractor and trailer rides, but be warned, whilst fun, it’s a bumpy ride round the field, and I felt seasick afterwards.  Morag is clearly a very talented cow as her home baked goods on offer in the traditional tearoom are out of this world, mint slice and fruit scones the size of bowling balls both highly recommended.  There are healthy lunchbox options for the kids, and the friendly tearoom team pride themselves for not selling chips!

The museum element could be easily missed as the lure of the outdoor play parks, mini tractors for those budding farmers, soft play, nutty bouncer and go-karts take you straight out of the main door and past it, but it is certainly worth a visit. Complete with a mocked up living room from 1900’s with washtub in front of the fireplace and grocery store manned by a very realistic grocer, as well as a mini mineshaft complete with mining sounds, it feels like two different visits in one day.

There are picnic spots aplenty, choose to sit by the duck pond, but be prepared to part with some of your packed lunch as the ducks took a very keen interest in the contents of our cool bag.  Or you could sit opposite the bouncy cow (not castle) complete with giant pink udders. There’s a soft play for the little ones, with a meadow theme and flowers which make animal noises when you jump on them, much to the horror of my youngest (and cheeky delight of my eldest). There is a working watermill and machinery shed which brings the shale oil history in Central Scotland to life.  We loved having a ‘bubble race’ with the three tubes each filled with oils of different viscosity  and seeing who’s bubbles could reach the top of the tube first.  All of the main paths are buggy friendly, and there’s a microwave and bottle warmer for heating baby food as well as baby changing stations in each of the main toilet facilities. The retro postcards in the gift shop are worth a look.  Expect the family to leave Almond Valley smiling, but exhausted and more than likely with some cow pat on their shoes.

 

This is not a sponsored post. The view expressed are entirely my own.

Family Days Out – East Links Park

Finding myself at a loose end one Monday, ask I packed the kids in the car for the 40 mile trip from where we live to get to East Links Family Park. Despite a glitch with the sat nav and a perpetual chant of ‘Are we nearly there yet?’ from the back seats, viagra it was well worth the 50 minute journey. We met friends in the morning who were well versed with East Links spending many a morning there taking full advantage of the annual membership pass, which heavily discounts the cost per visit, and we took their guidance as to where we might want to spend our time.

The train safari was a great place to start, as the train took us right round the perimeter of the park, allowing us to spot and feed a number of animals along the way, including lamas, deer, rhea, pigs and sheep.  The children found it rather entertaining to see the sheep chasing the train in order to get a mid-morning snack! Needing to release some energy after our leisurely train ride round the park, we had an adventure in the vast wooden fortress which is a fairly new addition to the park, climbing and exploring amidst its cargo nets, rat tunnels and sky rope bridges. The pinnacle being its four lane covered slide which brings its riders speedily down three levels and over the railway track, and which is super fun for kids and adults alike – many of the adults screaming louder than its younger sliders.

The small animal barn was boasting the addition of some new floppy eared bunnies, though I was glad my eldest was still too young to read the sign advertising them for sale as I fear we may have made the long trip back home with an additional passenger as they were very, very cute.  The walk round chicken run was an experience, with the chickens playing hide and seek in the long grass and jumping out to surprise the little ones, much to their dismay but fellow visitors amusement

 

After a fairly basic, but fine lunch of sandwiches and soups in the cafe, the sun came out in the afternoon and we spent a glorious few hours between the toboggan run, which although I’d liken to skeetering down a hill on plastic tray, was great fun, and the roller racers and tractors let my mini drivers put their skills to the test. Despite spending a full day at East Links, there were still spots that we didn’t manage to get to which looked worthy of investigation, including an indoor play area, trampolines and go karts and we’re planning a follow up visit with Dad in tow to tick some of these activities off our list.

Overall, the park offers a great balance between a farm experience and an outdoor activity day out and there is much to see and do, and most certainly something for all ages. The parking and loo facilities are bog standard and no better or worse than anywhere else of a similar ilk, and the gift shop though directly at the exit of the park, is helpful bypassed by a walk-round exit for those who wish to avoid picking up expensive trinkets on the way out.  The icing on the cake of a great family day out as far as I’m concerned!

 

The views expressed in this review are my own and no sponsorship or payment was made for this review.

Family Days Out – Edinburgh Zoo

We often say mealtimes in our house resemble feeding time at the zoo, check so where better to take the nippers for a recent day out but Edinburgh Zoo, Scotland’s largest wildlife attraction.

Upon arrival, both my son and daughter had very specific requests to see their favourite animals, flamingos – because they are pink- for our five year old and monkeys for our youngest, as I sense he fully embodies how close in nature us humans are to them!

As luck would have it, our trusty map showed us the flamingos were just round the corner from where we had arrived.  Imagine our giggles when our son squealed with delight “I see them” at the picture of the flamingo on the side of the ice-cream kiosk just beside the real birds themselves.

 

We were in the monkey house only briefly (well, they might have wanted to keep my youngest) but the antics and indeed cheekiness of the different monkeys had us in stitches. The Budongo trail, a modern and state of the art home to some celebrity chimpanzees (the stars of a BBC2 Natural World programme) is a must. It’s both a great experience in itself with lots of interactive learning activities for the kids to participate in, and being indoors it’s also a good place stop when the rain comes on.

The safari reserve is at the top of a very steep hill, perfect for those who are happy to stride it out and work up a sweat, but we took full advantage of the zebra striped safari truck (complete with commentary and humorous stories about the animals from the driver) and took the walk back down. The wooden walkway half way down is a good resting spot for little legs and gives not only a great view of zebras and gazelles but also stunning views over Edinburgh and the Pentland Hills.

The penguin parade, which takes place daily, is good fun though disappointingly on the day we went there were only three penguins in the mood to participate.

A visit to the sun bear enclosure was new for us, and the interactive area with height chart provided a hilarious view of how long a humans tongue would be based on their height if the same rules applied to us as the sun bears. I could probably lick an ice-cream in the freezer without having to even get off the sofa!

There are plenty of spots to unpack a picnic, and two restaurants / cafes if you’d rather go for a hot option.  We found the various play parks dotted around the site great if the kids fancied a stop off, and the tree trekking attraction looked great fun for the older children.

We’ve not yet been to see the giant pandas since their arrival  last December but we’re sure they’ll be as delighted with their new home as we were with our day to the zoo. We didn’t manage to fit everything in and are planning another visit soon. In fact, ‘we’re all going to the zoo tomorrow, zoo tomorrow, zoo tomorrow…’

The views expressed in this review are my own and no sponsorship or payment was made for this review.

Family Days Out – National Museum of Scotland

The redevelopment of the National Museum of Scotland has been quite a big deal. With an investment just shy of £50 million, generic cialis the site in the heart of Edinburgh has been transformed and upon its re-launch, I couldn’t wait to have a family day out to see what was on offer.  The last time I was in the Museum of Scotland, I was knee high to a grasshopper and remember finding it a vast and intimidating place, but packed full to the brim with new discoveries to be made.  Imagine my delight to find that feeling was still the same nearly 20 years on. Walking into the main hall was like stepping back in time but having the memory coloured in with brighter and more vivid colouring pens.  The impressiveness of the hall was not lost on our two children either, who both exclaimed an audible ‘Wow’ almost simultaneously as they took in the quite spectacular space.

I was struck by the amazing smell of an old museum, which took me by surprise as the new modern glass facade on the outside tricked me into thinking I was entering some sleek minamilist boutique hotel.  I actually wondered whether it was being piped through the building like they do with fresh bread in a supermarket. Then of course we discovered the amazing collections within. Exhibits dating back 130 million years just make the mind boggle and the 12 metre long T-Rex skeleton is simply staggering.

Armed with our map we attempted a planful approach to seeing each exhibit that we really wanted to see, but the sheer excitement and hunger to soak it all up found us wandering around mouths wide open and pointing here, there and eveywhere at something else that had caught our eye. The levels are carefully planned and well segregated, from Natural World displays, World Cultures, Art and Design, Science and Technology and of course, Scotland, there was no way we were going to cover all ground in an afternoon.

The interactive exhibits geared specifically towards families were fantastic and introduced learning concepts in a fun way (how does the wind blow and how do we lift things being just two that caught our attention for some time.) The Imagine gallery was a bit hit with our under fives, giving them opportunity to dress up in outfits from different cultures, make a Chinese dragon dance, play the bongo drums and an assortment of other musical instruments and create their own stories with imaginatively designed word jigsaw puzzles.

Access and facilities for families was great, with toilets and baby changing on every level, glass lifts for easy buggy transits to the next level of exploration. Eating and drinking options cover everything from grabbing a quick coffee between discoveries to languishing over a leisurely lunch in the impressive and much coveted Tower Restaurant.

A truly fantastic place to take a  family day out – and create new memories from some very old things!

Yes, National Museum of Scotland, I like what you’ve done with the place.

Do you rate a day at your local museum as a family day out? Whats been your most memorable moment visiting a museum? Share your comments and your stories below, we’d love to hear.

 

The views expressed in this review are my own and no sponsorship or payment was made for this review.

Image Credit Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian

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