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Activites

My family and I have been going to Winter Wonderland every year since it first opened in 2007. Over the years it has become a place that we always visit, as the build up to Christmas begins. It started off 10 years ago as an ice rink in Hyde Park with a selection of Christmas markets. It has grown over the years to become a destination to visit and I know many families who have made their visit part of their holiday traditions.

Winter Wonderland is open every day (expect Christmas Day) from 10am to 10pm until the 1st January 2018. Admission is free and is a short walk from the following underground stations: Green Park (this has step free access useful to know if you have a pushchair), Paddington, Victoria, Hyde Park Corner and Knightsbridge. I usually avoid getting off at Marble Arch as this can be a very busy station.

This year there is so much more to do! It is definitely worth picking up one of the free maps available, as the site it’s self is now a lot bigger. Or alternately why not get familiar with what is available before you go via the website, that way you can plan which attractions you really want to visit. The Winter Wonderland website also has a handy feature where they have suggestions for various days and evenings out. Perfect if you are going with children or alternatively for a romantic date night!

There are so many amazing rides to try out. Remember you will need to purchase tokens which are available to buy from the various token booths on site. Make sure you use up all the ones you have brought, as they are only valid on the day of purchase. Each token costs £1.00, so to give you an idea of the cost children’s rides start at £2.00, with other rides starting at £3.00. With some of the children’s rides you will need to accompany your child, so do factor in that too.

There are a number of pre-bookable attractions including: The Ice Rink, The Magical Ice Kingdom, Cinderella On Ice, Bar Hütte, Zippos Christmas Circus, Cirque Beserk, Bar Ice and the Sooty Show. It is worth booking these shows as soon as you can, that way you can get the times and dates you want. My top tip would be make sure you allow extra time to get to the right part of The Winter Wonderland. As if you are attending a show, it will depend on which entrance you enter at, as it can be fair walk with little ones in tow!

This year we went to the Sooty Christmas Show and I am not sure who enjoyed it more? Myself or my Daughter! I think it goes back to the fact that when I was a child Sooty and Sweep were very popular and I remember going to see them (yes I am a child of the 1970’s!), so at that time Matthew Corbett was the puppeteer. The show this time hosted by Richard Cadell. It was very much the simple slap stick humour that I remember from my childhood. There was plenty of water pistol action and silly jokes. My Daughter couldn’t stop laughing and neither could I!

I would throughly recommend this show to families with children from toddlers up to around 6 years old. The show lasts approximately 45 minutes, so a really good length of time for children of this age group. An adult ticket is priced at £8.50 and a child ticket is £5.00. Children of 2 and under if they are not taking up a seat will not need a ticket.

We also went to Zippos Christmas Circus, which was an excellent family experience. Incorporating all the fun of the circus, from comedy with clown like characters to acts that perform acrobatics to escapism. Again a really managable length for young children the show lasted approximately 45 minutes. Ticket prices vary according to if it is peak or off peak times.

My Daughter particularly loved the dancing snow bears, courtesy of Britain’s Got Talent finalist Vadik and the Bears.

You will be spoilt for choice when it comes to eating and drinking at the Winter Wonderland. There are so many options to choose from including plenty of indoor areas for when it get’s chilly. I particularly loved the atmosphere in the Bavarian village. You just can’t go wrong with a hotdog and a mulled wine to get you in the festive spirit!

We are planning another visit in-between Christmas and New Year, as there are still lots more things we would like to experience!

I received complimentary tickets to the shows and some rides in return for a review. All opinions are my own and are a honest reflection of my recent visit.

 

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There are so many activity classes for babies and toddlers available locally in Ealing, so as a Mum it can be overwhelming at times to decided which one to go for. One of the aims of my blog is to provide honest and useful reviews to help parents decide where they should take their children. This week I was thrilled to be asked along to a Monkey Music class. I was able to find out more about how music can benefit a young child’s development.

I met up with Helly Summerly, who is the Principal Teacher for the Ealing and Acton area. I was able to see for myself what went on in a Monkey Music class. On the day I visited at Ealing Green Church, I watched the Rock ‘N’ Roll class which is aimed at babies from 3 months up to 12 months.

The venue is perfect for this sort of class. The church has plenty of space for buggies and baby changing facilities. Plus the acoustics of the building made Helly’s voice sound even more beautiful! The special thing for me about Monkey Music is that not only are some of the songs original, but the teacher is singing along with the music and interacting with the children.

What really struck me was that Helly the Teacher made sure that every child was included and made a special effort to get them to engage with her. There were so many smiling happy faces both from the babies and the parents. I notice that the children naturally crawled towards Helly and I think that says a lot.

I loved the way Helly used puppets and bubbles to interact with the children and even brought in elements of the seasons. She was teaching the children about Autumn using paper leaves and a squirrel puppet. You could see the children absolutely loved it!

One of my favourite parts of the session was at the very end when Helly sang a goodbye song, it was lovely to see the children relaxing and calming down with their parents.

I can not recommend Monkey Music enough! I watched both children and parents really submerge themselves in to the world of music. I just wish Monkey Music had been around when my Daughter was this age!

Helly, could you tell me a bit about the background to Monkey Music?

The Monkey Music curriculum was written by Guildhall School of Music & Drama graduate Angie Coates, now Monkey Music’s Managing Director. Classes first opened in London in 1993 and Monkey Music’s popularity led to the company being franchised in 1998. More than 50 franchises currently operate in nearly 300 locations across the UK.

Specialist teachers are carefully chosen for their natural ability to communicate with and entertain young children and their carers, gently encouraging social and musical skills within a fun, stimulating and friendly environment.

How does music taught in groups benefit young children?

Early exposure to singing, listening to and playing music can sharpen up a whole range of educational skills. Language and numerical skills flourish through action songs and rhymes; fine motor skills are refined through playing hand held percussion instruments, while an awareness of space and one another is developed through movement. The children’s confidence and self-esteem grows rapidly as their involvement in the group increases.

What classes are available and what age groups are they suitable for?

Rock’n’Roll – from 3 months

Designed specifically for Mums, Dads and very young babies to share together.

During each class the babies and adults are engaged through gentle songs, fascinating sounds and absorbing activities.

Heigh-Ho – from 12 months

Young toddlers love being up on their feet so lots of dancing and moving encourages the children to explore the space around them and express the music they hear.

The children thrive on the ‘steady beat’ and are very enthusiastic young members of the Monkey Music band. Themed classes and bold colourful props captivate the children and encourage everyone to get involved.

Jiggety-Jig – 2 & 3 years

By this stage, children can really express the joy that music brings them. They sing, dance, play, move, tell stories, speak, and listen to music together.

Monkey Music teachers make sure that the children develop their sense of rhythm whilst playing in time to Monkey Music songs and games. Hoops, parachute games and circle dances are always popular Jiggety-Jig activities.

Ding-Dong – 3 & 4 years

Up until now the children have been listening and responding to music they hear. Now that their ears have been ‘finely tuned’ Monkey Music teaches them what music means when they see it written down.

Reading simple traditional musical notation comes easily to Monkey Music children as it is integrated into the final part of our interactive curriculum.

Helly can you tell me more about yourself and why you became involved with Monkey Music?

I first discovered Monkey Music when I was looking for music classes to take my own baby daughter to whilst I was on maternity leave. As a musician myself, I was keen to find something that incorporated key musical elements whilst also being enjoyable for my daughter. We went to our first Monkey Music class when she was just a few months old, and I was immediately impressed by the musical content of the classes we attended. And seeing the delight on my daughter’s face each week when we she recognised her favourite Monkey songs quickly made it the highlight of our week!

When the opportunity arose for me to take on my own Monkey Music franchise in Ealing and Acton, I realised I had found the perfect way to combine my passion for music and singing, with my love of babies and interest in the important role that music can play in child development. And it meant I could return to Ealing, where I had spent many happy years, to teach!

I am a trained classical singer, having studied at Oxford University where I held a choral scholarship. I have performed as a soloist with many of London’s leading chamber choirs, and feature on over 20 commercial recordings. I have performed on Radio 3 on several occasions and continue to give regular live performances (when I’m not busy teaching Monkey Music or being a Mum!) Before I had my daughter, I also pursued an International career in Marketing and Innovation, and was on the board of directors of a luxury toiletries company.

When and where are the classes?

Classes take place on Mondays at The Grange Pub and Dining Room, on Tuesdays at Ealing Green Church and on Wednesdays at St Paul’s, Playschool Hall.

The current term will end on the 15th December 2017. Helly is taking bookings now for the next term, which will start on the 8th January 2018. However, you are welcome to join part way through the term if you wish. Your first class is free and is a great way to find out if the class suits you and your child. Go to the Monkey Music Website for more information and timetables.

How can I book?

You can book via the website or you can contact Helly directly (see details below). Or alternatively you can book your first free class via the Hoop App.

Don’t forget to follow Monkey Music on social media and keep up to date with the latest classes and news!

Facebook: @MonkeyMusicEalingAndActon or for the nationwide page @monkeymusic

Twitter: @MonkeyMusicNews

Instagram: @monkeymusicuk

Helly Summerly can be contacted:

Email: helly.summerly@monkeymusic.co.uk

Tel: 020 3715 2634

Monkey and related products such as Cd’s, books and t-shirts are available to purchase so you continue the fun at home!

This is a collaborative post.

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This Half Term we decided to book a family holiday to Center Parcs and this time we picked Woburn Forest as we hadn’t visited this location before. We particularly liked the fact that it takes just over one hour to drive there from Ealing and as our little one tends to suffer with travel sickness, so this really suited us.

So let me walk you through what we got up to this October Half Term and also share with you my top tips for a successful break!

Accommodation

We stayed in an Woodland Lodge and found it was worth spending that bit extra on the accommodation this time. Not only do you get the added bonus of a daily maid service, but generally the decor and furniture was much more modern and fresh. I really loved some of the extras such as a coffee machine and there was even a refrigerated wine cooler! Ok, so Centre Parcs are not cheapest holiday, but you get what you pay for. For me when I go away, I want to stay somewhere that is as good as or nicer than my own home.

Our lodge had a large open plan living and kitchen area, two bedrooms both with en-suite bathrooms. You also have Wi-Fi included, flat screen TV’s in the lounge and both bedrooms, an outside patio area with seating, plus your bed linen and towels are included. We didn’t get to use it, but there is also an open fire place which I’m sure would be so cosy on a Winter’s evening. Over all I was very impressed with the accommodation the rooms were spotless and extras were provided such as toiletries, washing up liquid, dishwasher tablets, hairdryer and pods for the coffee machine.

Activities 

There are so many activities to choose from during your stay. There is something for everyone and we found for our five year old there was plenty to keep her occupied. We tend not to book too much as we want to enjoy all that the park has to offer without rushing around. As went stayed around Halloween there was lots of activities based around this theme.

Our Daughter did pumpkin hunting and also attended a spooky princesses and wizards party which she enjoyed a lot. I noticed that the staff really made an effort and dressed up in costumes, which also added to the Halloween atmosphere!

We also did pony riding, which is a real treat and pottery painting which I absolutely loved, as you can see from the photo I was totally lost in concentration.

 

What You Can Do For Free?

Yes, there are things to do that are totally free! You can bring your own bikes and then cycle around the forest’s numerous paths. Once everyone has parked their cars it is really safe to cycle and very relaxing too. Or you could get on your scooter and have a whiz around.

Of course the Subtropical Swimming Paradise is included in the price of your stay. You will find that the lockers work with your electronic wrist bands and there are buoyancy aids available free of charge for children. Our little one particularly liked the wave machine and the lazy river.

You could also enjoy a walk or jog in the forest, there are lots of paths and there are also two lovely adventure playgrounds.

There is always soft play, if you can handle the chaos! Available in The Sports Bar and in various restaurants.

We were lucky enough to be there the week before Bonfire night, so got to experience a wonderful free fireworks display down by the lake. It was a great atmosphere with entertainers and open air food stalls too.

Eating & Drinking

We like to eat out in the evenings and there are plenty of restaurants to choose from. Most of them have children’s play areas, which for us is a real bonus. We can sit and relax while our daughter gets to burn off some energy.

This time we tried Strada, Cafe Rouge, Hucks (Hucks has the biggest and best play area) and Las Iguanas. We found the staff to be really friendly and helpful and so geared towards children. There were always colouring activities to keep her busy!

There are other options for lunch and more informal dinning, such as Starbucks, The Sports Cafe and The Pancake House.

The Ealing Mummy’s Top Tips When Staying At Centre Parcs

  • Make sure you book all your activities well in advance of your holiday, especially at peak times they will get booked up and you don’t want to be disappointed!
  • Try to take your basic food essentials such as: bread, milk, cereals, cooking oil, tea bags. It will save on time and money going to the on site shop.
  • Don’t forget your wellies, waterproofs and umbrellas. Some lodges are a fair old walk to the Village Centre or Sub Tropical Swimming Pool.
  • You will need to bring towels for use at the swimming pool, as you are not meant to use your accommodation towels for this purpose. You can however hire towels too for a price.
  • I would also advice making any restaurant bookings in advance too, because there are limited tables available early evening when everyone with children wants to eat.
  • Think about arriving before the official check in time for your lodge (which is 3pm), you can park your car and use all the facilities it make your holiday that bit longer!

Will We Be Going Back?

Yes! most definitely! The thing with Center Parcs is it has so many benefits and what ever the British weather throws at you there is always plenty to keep us occupied. There is so much to do and the activities fit a variety of age ranges, so I can see us going back for many years to come!

The other thing I love is that they really do make an effort to make the forest look magical for Christmas. While we were there I saw staff putting up numerous lights, features, Christmas trees (with artificial snow) and even a wooden grotto. I think a Christmas stay could be on my bucket list!

Disclaimer

All comments and opinions are my own and are an honest reflection of our recent stay at Center Parcs. This review is completely independent and I have not been paid by Center Parcs or given anything for free.

 

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If there is one activity that my Daughter is always asking to do it is trampolining! We have a trampoline in our garden and it gets a lot of use, but she seems to enjoy this activity even more when we visit a trampoline park. There is a new venue to try out and it is only a short journey from Ealing. So we put on our jumping socks this Half Term and decided to go and try Flip Out.

Situated at Staples Corner Retail Park there is plenty of free parking right outside the venue. I would recommend booking online as this way you can ensure you are booked for the most convienent time for you, plus it is at this point you can sign the waiver form online which saves you time at the venue. However you can just turn up on the day, but do bear in mind that sessions start on the hour.

The park has a variety of different sessions to suit age range and ability. For example they offer sessions for children under the age of 5 called Mini Flippers, this is where toddlers and parents can bounce together learning new skills and gaining confidence on the trampolines. For older children they offer a class called Little Ninjas. Then for anyone over the age of 15 there is Flip Fit a great way to burn calories. On the day we attended it was a standard free jumping session, which is priced at £12.50 per person.

We loved Flip Out because it had some different features to some of the other trampoline parks we have been to. Of course there were absolutely loads of different trampolines to bounce on, plus bars to balance on with soft foam to fall in. For older children/adults there is the stunt box area and wall runners.

We also couldn’t get enough of the laser maze challenge, which is included in the price and you really do feel like you are staring in Mission Impossible dodging the laser beams! After all this adventure we enjoyed a drink and snack in the cafe. It is also worth pointing out there is free Wifi, baby changing facilities and the lockers are also complimentary.

While we were there we also looked at the party rooms. They have two rooms one has an underwater theme and the other one is woodland themed, so could be a great option for a birthday party next year.

We really enjoyed our morning at Flip Out and are looking forward to our next visit very soon!

You can follow Flip Out on social media to stay up to date with their latest offers
Facebook @flipoutbrentcross
Twitter @flipoutbrebtcross
Instagram @flipoutbrentcross

Disclaimer
We received free entry to Flip Out in return for a review. Everything you read is an honest reflection of our visit and all opinions are my own.

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What do you do on a rainy day? Go to a soft play venue of course! I’m sure many parents out there are all too familiar with hours spent watching their little ones climb, tumble and go up and down slides for hours on end! So here is my handy guide to all my favourite venues near to Ealing.

Topsy Turvy World – Brentcross

Topsy Turvy World, has been our go to favourite soft play venue for a while now. The reason being that it is not too big and over whelming like some venues can be. Also as it is within the Brentcross Shopping Centre you can park all day for free! So we often make a day of it. Maybe visit the soft play in the morning and then do some shopping in Brentcross and then it’s on to have lunch in one of the many restaurants.

Topsy Turvy World has different zones for a variety of age groups. Ranging from a specially designated area for babies/toddlers, to a play zone for pre-schoolers and then the big play frame for children up to 12 years.

 

Bramleys Big Adventure – Ladbroke Grove

Bramleys Big Adventure is located just under the Westway Flyover and is a short drive from Ealing. Parking is easy as you can use the pay and display car park at the Westway Sports Centre.

There is a separate babies and under 5’s play area, plus all the usual play frames, slides and ball pools.

Eddie Catz – Putney 

Eddie Catz on Putney High Street is another place we would recommend. It has a designated area for under 3’s and a larger play frame for children up to the age of 8 years.

It has a slightly different variation in the fact that they offer access to interactive games (which are included in the price) from air hockey to table football. They also have a dressing up and reading zone.

For parents there are free newspapers, magazine and Wifi available. Parking is not available on site, so you would need to park in the local shopping centre which is near by.

Heathrow Play Gym – Feltham

Heathrow Play Gym is not your usual soft play venue, as it is actually a fully functioning gymnastics club, which when not in use it runs as a play gym. It is suitable for toddlers up to the age of 7 years. Just bear in mind that each play session starts and ends on the hour, so if you turn up half way through a session you might be asked to wait. Also at busy times it is advisable to get there early as there is a limit to how many children they can have in the play gym at one time. There is also free parking on site.

We like it as it is somewhere a bit different and has many features that you won’t find in other venues such as trampolines, balance bars and a sensory area which is designed for interactive learning and relaxation. Plus our Daughter loves to watch the planes fly over in the car park, the aircraft are just landing and taking off so you won’t get a better view anywhere else!

Snakes and Ladders – Brentford

Snakes And Ladders is the nearest to Ealing, so is always on my back up list for a rainy day. It has plenty of free parking at the Wyevale Garden Centre and then it is about a 10 minute walk up to the venue.

We love the imaginary play zone, where you child can pretend to work in a shop, hospital or drive a bus. There is a designated under 5 play zone and also a recently opened outdoor area if the weather is good enough. My Daughter loves the wooden pirate ship and sand area.

 

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