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The Entertainer – Eating out with Kids

Travel gamesApologies for the radio silence but life seems super busy at the moment.  Now the sunshine has finally appeared and we can now spend more time out than in, that’s exactly what we have been doing.

With the long summer holidays on the horizon and with no doubt holidays being booked I thought I would do a post on how to entertain the Little Ones without the help of the iPad or iPhone when travelling/eating out.

We had a fab trip to Malaysia at Easter and every night was spent dining out with the kids and I was determined not to have to resort to the bright lights of Apps to keep them busy. First up an obvious one but pens and paper do go a long way.  I took 2 pads and a pencil case out with me every evening and simple things like drawing around your fork and spoon staved off a bit of the boredom whilst we ordered food.  Next mention goes to Stickers.  Most children 1.5 – 8 like them and you would be amazed at how simply sticking them onto plain paper keeps them occupied.  I bought some cheap packs from Amazon of Minions, Frozen characters etc. and they were super handy and so easy to stick in your bag.

If you have a long haul flight lined up then these Melissa & Doug Mess Free Glitter Scenes were brilliant.  Quite fiddly for a 2.5 yr old so they need help, but Little A at 5 loved these.  You simply rub the glitter sheets over the sticky bits and voila a masterpiece.  Perfect to bring to dinner or take onboard your flight.

If arts and crafts are a hit these Sticky Mosaic sets were also a success.  You can get easier ones for the 2-3yrs old which are great for learning about shapes and colours and more complex ones for older ones.  Fairly addictive once you get going and you end up with little works of they can keep.

Osborne’s pack of cards entitled 100 Things for Little Children to do on a Journey does exactly that.  They are wipe-clean activity cards packed with puzzles, games and pictures.  Comes with a pen to use that wipes clean (remember to buy a spare if you are travelling with more than one child to avoid WWIII!) and they were great to pack in my handbag for restaurant outings.  If you have older children then look for the equally brilliant 50 Things to Do on a Plane which follows the same formula but includes word searches and more complex puzzles/quizzes.

That’s about it.  All the above were tried and tested by us and I definitely found dining out to be more relaxing than normal, that said maybe it was because I wasn’t doing the cooking!

All in the detail:

Click all the links above to direct you to where you can buy them. 
Prices all around the £5-£10 mark.

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I Spy… an iPad – Universal Tablet Mount holder

ipad mountSummer is round the corner and that for us means a few long, hot car journeys with two Little Ones.  Aside from good old ‘I Spy’ and ‘who can be the first to see a Red Lorry’, thankfully our generation’s kids can enjoy a cinema experience in the back of the car with a little help from the iPad.  Yes, shamelessly we often load up the iPad with the latest Disney/Pixar fare and plug in these headphones and voila peace for an hour.

I have previously recommended an iPad mount that fits directly behind your headrest and this had worked perfectly well until Little B arrived on the scene.  Now she is old enough to enjoy the wonders of Peppa Pig and co. I realised she was also at risk of developing a severe case of ‘iPad Neck’ as she had to crane over to see whatever Little A was watching on the other side of the car.  So with this in mind and to keep World Peace we have upgraded to this great bit of kit which restores harmony to the back seat and makes sure everyone has a good view. Easy to install and compatible with any 7-11″ tablet (with or without its case) it is sure to earn its keep this summer.

All in the detail:
Universal Tablet Mount, £19.99 by Qwerkity
Super quick to install you can pop it in when you need it for those long journeys.  I always remove mine when back home for fear of square eyed children!
Allows for portrait or landscape viewing.
If you haven’t heard of Qwerkity before it is well worth getting their Gift Guide.
Great for the woman/man who has everything and a fab section for kids too.

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On the road – best pitstops with kids

best service station on m6
So half term is upon us and for once we are staying put.  Mr N is in hospital this afternoon for a hernia op and so Little A and Little B will get to play doctors and nurses with a real patient all next week.  (It must be a testament to how tired I am that I am secretly hoping I will be able to have a nap on Mr N’s hospital bed this afternoon whilst he is in theatre!).  For those of you who are getting away from the Big Smoke and if any of you are Northbound and planning on taking in the sights (and traffic jams) on the M6 then there is a little secret stop-off you need to know about.  Travelling with children in the car is no picnic, even with todays gadgets and gizmos there are times when you need to stop and turf them out for some fresh air and about 2 mins off the M6 – junction 40 – lies the wonder that is Rheged.  For starters it looks like it has been dreamt up by children.  Part Hobbit warren mixed with Tellytubby Land, Rheged has a grass covered roof and an excellent outdoor Turrets and Tunnels playground.  Inside lies a soft play area, a pottery painting workshop, cafes, a restaurant, a great bookshop, gift shops and an excellent children’s toy shop (the buyer deserves a medal) stocking everything from Le Toy Van, Djeco, Janod through to clothes and shoes.  If that wasn’t quite enough Rheged also houses a IMAX style 3D cinema screen – currently showing wildlife documentaries and a host of kids films (Toy Story/Winnie the Pooh).  An excellent place to stop for lunch and a run around and there is a service station on site to fill up the motor too.


For those wanting more of a brief pitstop then it is also worth checking out Tebay Services, a mile north of Junction 38 on the M6.  Owned by the same family it has a similar vibe to Rheged but on a smaller scale.  There is a good restaurant serving local sourced and seasonal food that goes way beyond average motorway fare, a lovely Farm Shop perfect to pick up some nice bits for your trip, dedicated family loos, a kids play area and a sweet duck pond to visit.  Overall if you are headed far North then this the place to factor in a stop.

For other bits and pieces that make car journeys just a fraction easier read this blog post.

All in the detail:

Rheged Centre is in Cumbria and is a 2 minute drive off Junction 40,
on the M6

Postcode: CA11 0DQ
They have a good website with full cinema listings 
Definitely don’t miss out on the toy shop – perfect for all ages
Tebay Services (also signposted as Westmorland I think) is just a bit past Junction 38 on the M6.
Postcode: CA10 3SB
The same family behind Rheged and Tebay have also set up in Gloucester on the M5 so although I haven’t been, if you are passing I am sure it would be worth the stop.

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On The Road – car journeys with kids

headp
Last weekend we made our way to Scotland to celebrate a special birthday in the family at Gleneagles.  When I say ‘we’, what I really mean is that I drove Little A and Little B the length of the country whilst the hubby took a leisurely, childfree flight to Edinburgh post work. Doing any long drive on your own with children is somewhat tricksome as you have to be the driver/children’s entertainer/loo stop manager all in one go.  This time I was prepared.  Little B at 10 months was my easiest passenger and once full of grub and in a clean nappy she was happy to snooze for the majority, cosily enveloped in her travel sleeping bag – an excellent purchase if you do lots of nighttime driving as you can transition them into a cot easy peasy as the sleeping bags have slots for the carseat harness.  Little A, however, was somewhat more demanding. Luckily I had borrowed a friend’s iPad holder (it was a goody that I will now be purchasing – click here to view) and with Frozen loaded up and ready to go we had a rather nice time. As much as I do love trilling along to ‘Let it Go’ as the next Disney frazzled parent, I certainly didn’t fancy listening to the whole film from behind my headrest and so courtesy of his rather cool JVC headphones, Little A enjoyed a bespoke cinema experience and I could listen to my own music up front.  After movie hour was over and Little A had critiqued my driving, it was time to stop playing The 1975 and put on something more 3 yr old friendly.  Little A is obsessed with Don Cooper’s Dino Songs, an album from my childhood, which not only is a trip down nostalgia lane for me but also strangely catchy. Emma Thompson’s audio version of her book, The Further Tale of Peter Rabbit, is also easy on the brain and a sweet story for all.

These were just a couple of things that made our journey north a little smoother and the restorative Hot Stone Massage I had at Gleneagles on arrival soon erased any other travel angst.

 

All in the detail:
We stayed in a cottage on the Glenmor Estate at Gleneagles which meant the kids could run riot in our own space but we could join the other family members and use the facilities at the main hotel, click here
Travel sleeping bag by JoJo Maman Bebe, £29, click here
JVC kids headphones, £19.99 on Amazon, click here 
Frozen DVD, Don Cooper’s Dino Songs and Emma Thompson’s The Further Tale of Peter Rabbit all available at the iTunes store
Cygnett CarGo Car Mount for Ipad, currently £13.99 on Amazon, click here

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Hitting the slopes – skiing with the littlies

skiing
If you have plans to get away to the slopes this winter with your little ones then you might want to consider kitting out the famille through Ski de Rouge.  Based in Clapham and set up by a mum and her daughter in law, Ski de Rouge is a one stop shop for all apparel, accessories and bits required to keep everyone toasty whilst skiing.  Far cheaper than hitting the high street, they also stock lots of second hand gear which they sell for other mums whose kids have outgrown their kit.  Sadly we are not brave enough to take Little A on the white stuff yet but to be honest Christmas in Cumbria may well call out for a snowsuit!

Also for a great stocking filler or reading fodder pre-trip, take a look at Monty Goes Skiing.  Written by qualified ski instructor Richard Liddle, the book follows the achievements of Monty the Marmot and his new friend Mortimer as they conquer the slopes on their first skiing holiday.  A great read for any first time skier, it also features the sort of ski award structure that any learner would follow at ski school.

All in the detail:

Ski De Rouge is based in Clapham and to book an appointment call 020 7720 4871 or email libbyderouge@hotmail.co.uk
They stock everything from jackets, saloppetttes, children’s snowsuits, thermal undewear, hats, goggles helmets to sunscreen. Also if you have up-do-date but outgrown skiwear they will sell your items for 40% commission.
Click here to find out more

Monty Goes Skiing by Richard Liddle
£7.99 on Amazon – click here to view

 

 

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Sharm Charm – Four Seasons with toddler in tow

SHARM

We wanted to book a holiday with Little A before his new bro or sis arrives on the scene and so it was off to Egypt we went. At under 10 mins transfer time from the airport, the Four Seasons Sharm El Sheik is quite the find for winter sun.  I shudder at the thought of toddler taming in most luxury resorts but the Four Seasons caters above and beyond for the little people in our lives.  An apple juice awaited Little A in the complimentary transfer car, a pot of Play Doh appeared at check-in and a hamper of nappies, disposable bibs, Johnsons goodies, animal sponges and a flock of rubber ducks lay waiting in the room.  Not only was Little A in tow but Granny came too.  We stayed in a 2 bedroom suite which worked perfectly: Little A was in with us (in a cot already installed by the hotel), Granny had space in her own room with ensuite and we also had a sitting room with kitchen equip.

The resort itself is luxuriously laid out amongst gardens, fountains and with a choo choo – read Funicular – to take you down to the beach what more could Little A dream of.  Ahmed, the golf cart driver, soon became a firm ‘high five’ favourite and all the staff were mega child friendly.  Little A didn’t venture to the kids club but I saw lots of treasure hunts and bake-offs taking place and the resort seems to offer a lot for all ages. My personal favourite was the fact that a travel cot would miraculously appear by your sun lounger should you request it so Little A could enjoy his lunchtime snooze under a poolside cabana whilst you caught the rays. For those more in favour of the beach there is a crate of sand toys for the littlies and a jetty for fish spotting which given the Red Sea location means parrot fish rather than goldfish. On my birthday we took Little A on a glass bottom boat trip which was pretty cool for toddlers and adults alike.

On the food and drink front, 3 restaurants out of 5 were are open to kids and provided kids menus and crayons.  Granny treated us to a night out and whilst she and Little A enjoyed the fab room service, we ventured to the rather slick Sails restaurant overlooking the sea.  All in all I don’t think you would find a more luxury hotel that caters so well for kiddiwinks. Definately a spenny trip but exceptional once you are there.

sharm1

One thing worth noting is that although only 28 weeks pregnant I popped by my GP for the obligatory ‘fine to fly’ letter and lo and behold I was asked to produce it at Sharm’s airport.  If in doubt make sure you get one before you fly if nearing your third trimester.

All in the detail:

We booked our trip with the very helpful Asher at Destinology
0800 634 2837
Email: asher.jackson@destinology.co.uk
Click here for Four Seasons website

 

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Babymoon for No.2 – Hermitage Bay and leaving the toddler behind

Holibobs

With the Christmas excitement behind us hubby and I thought we might get away for a week R & R before the new arrival in July.  Given the long haul distance required for that elusive winter sun and with a willing Grannie and ‘Bumpa’ on board we decided to leave Little A behind and pack our bags for Antigua.  Now one thing definitely worth considering – that is if you dare to be so callous as to leave your toddler behind for a week so you can enjoy a vista of no nappies, uninterrupted book reading and time with your hubby – is to find a ‘no kids’ resort.  If I were to spend the week surrounded by other cheeky chappy toddlers splashing in the pool and building sandcastles then I would have sat there miserably wishing Little A was with us.  Leaving him was hard enough but luckily we had chosen Hermitage Bay for its adult only vibe and it certainly made the distance easier.

If you want intrepid adventure and a high paced, adrenalin-fuelled holiday then this resort may not be for you.  If you want to collapse on a pristine beach, eat and drink to your heart’s content and swim in turquoise water then Hermitage Bay is definitely worth considering.  One huge plus is that HB is all inclusive which although it might seem eye-wateringly spenny when you book, when you get there the food and drink is incredible and there was not a buffet in sight.  HB pride themselves on their cuisine and I was lucky enough to have my baby bump as an excuse for my ever burgeoning waistline. Hubby enjoyed glasses of Minuty Rose over 3 course lunches whilst I made my way through the delicious mocktail list.  We stayed firstly in a bungalow on the beach and then in one of the hill top villas with pool.  The bungalow on the beach (ours was No.15 which is the one to request as it is the far end of the beach) meant you literally stepped off your verandah and could be reclining on your lounger overlooking the sea in seconds.  The hill top villas are better if it is privacy you are after although you do use a golf buggy to get to some of them.

All in all a cracker of a holiday and Hermitage Bay’s staff make a repeat visit a must. Just hope that next time I can indulge in the cocktail list.

What we read: The Fever Tree by by Jennifer McVeigh, The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson, After the War is Over by Maureen Lee.
What we wore: my Beach Candy dress was perfect to cover my middling tummy and hubby brought out a new pair of FB Collection trunks.

All in the detail:

We stayed at Hermitage Bay at the end of January 2013
Click here to view hotel
We booked a last minute deal through Best at Travel

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Flying Long Haul with a toddler – top tips

This time last year I was in the thick of preparations as to how to get Little A to Malaysia for Christmas without too much stress and upheaval. I spent a lot of time searching forums looking for answers on how best to travel and in particular what sleeping/seating arrangements to make for the flight. Little A was just turning one and as he has always been big for his age I was concerned that he would not fit in the travel bassinet (the clip on cot you can request with a bulk head seat). The Grandparents we were off to visit generously treated him to his own seat but I was concerned that it would be difficult getting him to sleep in an adult’s seat. Then I read that you can take car seats on board. The general guidelines state that you can take a car seat on a plane as long as it is forward facing (not your Maxi Cosi Pebble for example) and conforms to safety standards. Each airline commands different criteria and I struggled with Singapore Airlines as to exactly which model they would accept. In the end we took our Maxi-Cosi Priori XP car seat as it complied with current European regulations and hoped the airline would be happy with it.

Next obstacle was how to lug the heavy car seat through the airport with the rest of our other kit. In America you can buy attachments for your American car seats to wheel the seat through the airport as a stroller with your child onboard but last year I could not find the same solution for the British market. In the end I bought some strap on wheels I found in John Lewis so at least we could tow the seat through the airport.

No one batted an eyelid as we made our way through the airport and once at the check in desk we clamoured for any free bulk head seats. Basically if you are taking a car seat it is still better to have the bulk head as the space is much tighter if the person in front reclines their chair in the standard rows. We managed to get 2 seats bulk head and one behind and once on board we secured the seat using the plane seatbelt and unbelievably once Little A once ensconced in his travel sleep bag with his Nay Nay (dummy) and after his evening milk he slept the entire way. Before you accuse me of being too cocky the flight home was another story; we missed our connection due to a delayed flight and had to bed down at 2am in Singapore in a somewhat less than salubrious hotel room courtesy of the airline.

The long and short of it is that taking a car seat on the plane is a great way to keep your toddler secured in an environment that is familiar to them and it is a no brainer to try and book night flights where possible.

Another saviour was the car seat cover I have blogged about before which helped save the car seat from any food/drink calamities and stopped Little A getting all hot and sweaty once in the hotter climes – click here for post.

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The Suitcase Selection

A couple of things that we packed for Portugal.  For more bits and bobs to pop in the suitcase read my guest post on Sunuva’s blog click here to view.

Clockwise:

Scarf maxi dress in pink peacock by Beach Candy
This was great as a poolside cover up that worked from beach to bar in the evening.
Aerosol spray sunscreen factor 50 Kids by Ambre Solaire
Little A loved the spray factor and it gave great coverage.
The Killing DVD – Season 1
The Danish version was a great holiday choice for the odd night in as the subtitles allowed us to keep the volume low whilst Little A slept.
Tozzle App from Itunes
Fab app which was the perfect distraction to combat airport queues, a real must for 18mths plus.
Navy Crocs
Although not a fan of adult toting croc wearers these were perfect for Little A – light and easy to put on.
Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L James
Of course I wanted to see what the fuss was about.  Caught a lot of other mummies surrepticiously reading the second and third book by the pool too.
Byron Bay rope bikini by Heidi Klein
A neutral stripe that makes for a very flattering style.

 

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Toddler Travel – Martinhal resort review

When I asked my mother where she took me on holiday abroad when I was 18 months old the short answer was that she didn’t.  Back in the Eighties it was the chilly waters of Wales, Scotland and Cornwall that my little feet paddled and beach attire was usually a chunky knit jumper, raincoat and shorts.  With the British summer being the usual let down and hubby getting some time off work I set to investigating a family friendly yet chic resort that was only a short haul flight away.  Hello the Martinhal resort in Sagres, Portugal.  Aimed at parents who don’t want to comprise on style and comfort but still want to keep the kiddiwinks happy the Martinhal is only 2 years old and quite a find.

After a short hop to the Algarve we arrived at the resort by noon and this is what we found…

Sleeping –
I had booked us into a Garden House flat which meant Little A would sleep in our room but we would have a separate sitting room to chill out in, kitchen to prepare the odd lunch and a separate WC so we didn’t disturb the sleeping boy.  One of the big bonuses is the amount of baby kit they can provide so apart from clothes you can travel relatively hassle free.  You can pre-book a whole host of things from safety gates, baby baths and travel cots.  We took our buggy but asked for a cot for Little A which was up and ready when we arrived.  It comes as no surprise to discover that the woman behind the Martinhal is a mother of four.

Eating –
Each restaurant has a children’s play area so whilst you and the hubby enjoy a glass of something you can watch your little one bouncing on a trampoline or digging in a sandpit.  The aesthetic of the resort has been carefully considered and each restaurant retains a stylish grown up feel although kiddie friendly – even the highchairs were Nano bloom ones. We booked a babysitter for 3 evenings and stayed in the rest. If you opt for a house with kitchen facilities then you can get the essentials from the onsite Mercado and the village restaurant also does a good take-away pizza.

Playing –
For kids over 2 there are really good kids’ clubs and there is a crèche for smaller ones which we booked Little A into.  This proved to be a somewhat naïve venture given that I don’t put him in a crèche/nursery at home.  Luckily the staff gave us a call to let us know he was missing us a little too much and we were able to set up some 1 on 1 babysitting instead.  Little A was much happier with this plan and it meant that hubby and I still had a couple of hours of us time.

I wasn’t sure a holiday with a toddler would ever be classed as relaxing but I think the key is to go somewhere relatively child friendly and so you don’t have the stress of bothering honeymooners with your toddler’s tantrums.

The long and short of it is, if you want 5 star romantic luxury and long-haul leave your little one at home with the grandparents.  If you want a break solely centred on your kids book Eurodisney.  If you want a holiday where there is something for everyone book the Martinhal.

Little A’s faves….

The helicopter in the playground, home-made fish fingers at As Dunas restaurant, the pool slide and swimming with Daddy.

Princess faves…

Hour long massage at the Finisterra Spa, champagne overlooking the beach at O Terraco, the garden pool and snoozing alongside a towel wrapped Little A on the poolside bean bags.

 

All in the detail:

Since Little A’s arrival I have embraced booking holidays through tour operators.  It certainly proves to be more time efficient and worry free.
We booked through the very helpful people at Original Travel:
click here for website

We booked a one bedroom Garden House and I would probable advise you request a ground floor one one if taking a buggy.  For a bit more luxury I would book an Ocean House as these command a lovely view of the bay but you are still close to the village centre of the resort.

There are 3 restaurants and 5 swimming pool areas – 2 of which are very toddler friendly and I felt safe enough to lounge on a bean bag next to the pool whilst watching Little A paddle around.

We went in the last week of June and had clear skies and a gentle breeze.

For more info check out the Martinhal website – click here 

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