If you’ve been trying since yesterday’s Silent Sunday (billed as a trailer for today’s post!) to work out what I’m posting about today, you need wait no longer! I know that we want to ensure that More Than A Mum doesn’t become too London-centric, but I have to tell you about an amazing local place today.
Today, munchkin, Daddy and I visited a hidden gem. We went with friends to the Harlington Locomotive Society’s Mince Pie Run.
I’d not been to the Harlington Locomotive Society before, but the website promised mincepies and Santa, and what more could you want on the last Sunday before Christmas?
It turned out that this visit was one of the best child friendly days out that we could have asked for. For 40p a ride (toddlers are free but have to be accompanied), we tootled round a track pulled by minature steam and diesel trains, reaching a giddy 6mph.
Trains pulled between 1 and 3 carriages behind them and each carried three or four people. Each train had a driver and a guard and it really was good fun powering round the track with your feet dangling a few feet from ground.
The trains are cared for by a team of chaps who obviously love their trains and love introducing them to the public. Judging by the number of people there, they are definitely doing a good job.
And, what of Santa? Well, he was there too. He arrived, went on a quick journey round the track ringing a bell and then sat in the tearoom. Munchkin and her friend popped to see him and let him know what they would like for Christmas. He promised to see what he could do and gave them each a sweetie.
Altogether (including tea/coffee for the adults and biccies for all round as well as 2 rides each and Santa) we spent less that a fiver and we spent two hours enjoying ourselves, in spite of the cold. There were all ages there, from babes in buggies to older primary aged children with Mums, Dads and Grandparents.
All in all, I’d highly recommend a day out at Harlington Locomotive Society. Unfortunately, there are no more mince pie runs, but there will be open days through out 2012 and you can organise children’s parties there too.
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OK so it’s a bit of an ambitious title, but it’s a work in progress! Over the last few months I have discovered that it is important to meet with old friends in very different locations to those we used to. Having lived in various locations across the country and having friends spread far and wide, I have often met friends ‘half way’. We used to meet for spa days and meals, now with so many of us having kids in tow, the usual location is a park or during these winter months, a soft play. So now that I have met people in a range of locations I thought I would share my experiences with you.
Starting close to home, friends and I have the choice of 3 local soft-play centres. My favourite is the Osterly garden centre. It has a small, very clean, soft play at one end of its excellent cafe, so you can sip an Earl Grey and munch a yummy cake whilst little monsters run riot. It also does excellent kids meals and all day picnics, and because it’s a garden centre, not a dedicated soft-play, the entry is free. The next choice we have nearby is Snakes and Ladders in Brentford. This is a paying soft play, but it is much bigger and suits both older and younger children with a specific 2-5’s section and ride-ons. There is no upper age limit, but a height limit of 4’ 8’’. It is a bit frayed at the edges and the food is uninspiring, but hot and reasonably priced. Munchkin, Bearcub and their little friends with birthday’s around the same time had a joint 2nd birthday there this year and it was a good venue for this. The third option is Heathrow Gym, which is I am told is very good, but haven’t visited yet… TBC!
Around the rest of the country
Rugrats and Halfpints in Banbury: We went here to meet with friends from Birmingham. It was about an hour from West London and about an hour from Birmingham, so perfect distance. It was also really close to a lovely park so in the afternoon the kids had an outdoor run around too. It is large and clean and had a very good cafe. It cost £7.50 for a child including a hot meal and drink and adults were free, but there are loads of other options and deals and if you’re local there’s a membership scheme. The kids played happily for hours and it had excellent baby sensory sections and ride-on toys. It had both large and small soft-play sections and was not averse to grownups going in with the kids to show them the ropes first time round (as long as you take your shoes off). It is aimed at children from birth to 8 and I think it definitely has something for all.
Creepy Crawlies in York: We were staying in York with friends (you may have read the post about the York Railway Museum a few weeks ago) and needed something to keep munchkin entertained. They had taken so other friends with a 9 and 6 year old a few weeks previously, and themselves had a month old, so again this is suited to a wide age range. The most noticeable thing about this one was it’s size. It’s HUGE! It is in a factory unit and has a massive soft play area, with toddlers’ and bigger kids’ sections. The Adveture centre (as it call itself) it caters for up to 16yrs old and the outdoor section has things suitable for adults too. There is a sand pit, adventure playground and animals. They also have highwires and an eco skate rink. Oh and a kids hairdressers – this really is an everything under one roof kind of place. The cafe was really nice too – if you need another reason to visit this one!
Cheeky Monkeys in Cheshunt: This was another half way house meeting point and provided a place about an hour from us in West London and a friend in Ipswich. It was good value and really friendly. When we first arrived I was a little confused as the building looks like an old scout hut or village hall, but inside it is small, but clean and well looked after. There is a sliding scale of prices from £5.50 to £2 dependant on age for 90minutes, though when we arrived, we were told the time limit is only enforced if it is really busy and they also had a £1 off deal. There is a small under 3’s section with a wendy house and some baby gym equipment as well as the usual small soft-play things. There is then a larger play-frame suitable for older kids. There is a cafe with food and drink. It has a children’s hot menu with the usual sausage beans and chips, style meals and then there are sandwich options, jacket potatoes and paninis. All at very good prices.
These reviews are all unsponsored.
So there is my work so far – are there any near you that you would recommend? Either write about them in a comment below, or send us your brief reviews to firstname.lastname@example.org with the title SOFT PLAY and we’ll pop them up on the blog. The only requirement is that you state if you work for the centre or have been incentivised to write the review.
Daddy took munchkin to Richmond park and these are his photos.
I know you all know this, but kids LOVE the outdoors and it is brilliant to get them running, jumping and exploring outside as often as possible. That is why I have joined us up to Country Kids again this week. It is such a great reminder to us all that it is really important to get outside with the kids.
As it gets colder and darker it is easy to forget just how much our little ones get out of a good run around. My plan is to try, even through winter, to get munchkin outdoors for at least an hour everyday. I’ve bought her some waterproof dungarees and a jacket from the lovely @kidzoutdoors (unsponsored post, other retailers do exist!). Now all I need to do it make sure I am wrapped up warm and dry enough to enjoy outdoor time too!
You may well know that we here at More Than A Mum are based in London, however we are keen that this blog doesn’t become London-centric. Today’s blog post therefore is based in York.
We went to York to visit friends and 4 hours after we left home, we knew that we’d need a good active diversion for Munchkin once we arrived, so we took her to the National Railway Museum.
We arrived at around 11am and headed to park the car (top weekend tip: park in the railway car park for £2.50 all day instead of the museum car park which cost £9). The museum is free entry, so like the last ‘Toddler Friendly Museum’ post, you can spend as long or as short a time as you want there without feeling short-changed.
First, we headed to the Station Hall and wandered round the trains – well ran, full pelt with excitement for Munchkin! Half way round the hall, we stumbled on an old goods carriage which had been turned into a venue for the Aesthetica Short Film Festival. We sat and watch three lovely short films, beautifully artistic, thought-provoking and fun for all the family.
We then headed outside for a play in the play area and a ride on the miniature train (50p per ticket). Munchkin loved both, despite it being a cold and damp day.
Next, we popped to the restaurant for lunch; a good choice, with 3 out of 4 adults opting for the warm pork, apple sauce and stuffing bun and one for the cream of curried butternut squash soup with a roll. Munchkin had a kiddy’s picnic meal. Reasonably priced and sized portions.
Finally we headed into the great hall and looked round the engines and exhibitions. Munchkin’s favourites were the Japanese Bullet train (“that one looks like a plane, mummy”) the interactive announcement and jigsaw exhibits (“the train now leaving the platform goes from my house to Grandma’s”) and the film about women and the railways. (I think the final one may have had more to do with the swing music than some budding feminism on Munchkin’s part!).
All in all, we’d highly recommend the National Railway
Museum for all the family.