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?

 

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.

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