Archive for March 2014

Free Family Swim at Aqua Vale

Friday, 28 March 2014

We enjoyed a lovely family swim today at Aqua Vale Swimming Pool. Made even better by the fact that it was free!

It's a pretty good price for Mums with babies at just £2.70 but a family swim would have cost us £7.50 (£2.70 + £4.80 for my partner).

However, it's worth applying for the free Everyone Active Card as every month or so they send an email with an offer for a free activity session. Both my partner and I have one of these cards so we usually get to have two free family swims.

Here's a snapshot from the email that they send:

We love taking Baby A swimming. We have been taking her for swimming lessons since she was 5 weeks old. Our classes are run by Swimkidz at Reflexions Health Club, Watermead and these are highly recommended. We believe that having confidence in the water is a really important life skill for Baby A. Luckily for us, she loves the water and always has a smile on her face when we go swimming. My favourite part of the lesson is always seeing her swimming underwater - it's amazing!  These free family swims at Aqua Vale are a real bonus as they mean we get a few extra swims in and they give my partner a chance to see how Baby A is progressing.

So if you use Aqua Vale (or any other Everyone Active pool) then it's definitely worth spending a few minutes signing up for this card and enjoying some free swimming sessions!

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Trip to the Zoo - Paradise Wildlife Park

Friday, 21 March 2014

My partner was doing a networking event at Paradise Wildlife Park today so Baby A and I tagged along. We weren't sure if we'd have to pay for entry but luckily when we mentioned that my partner was an exhibitor, they let us in for free. Result!

We bypassed the playground and rides to go straight to the Birds Area. Baby A has only really seen a few small birds in our back garden so there were lots to interest her here with the really colourful Lorikeets and Macaws, the large birds like the Owls and Hawk and then there were the vocal ones too. She wasn't too keen on the noise the Hornbills made but was intrigued by the Cockatoos that started saying 'Hello' to us!

It was then into the main Animal Park and first up was the Cheetahs. We'd just arrived in time for a talk by the keepers which Baby A seemed to be fascinated by!

After a brief stop for our picnic lunch (saving on food costs as usual by taking our own lunch!), we wandered around the other animals. There's quite a variety. Something I've never seen before are Tapirs - very strange noses! We spent a bit of time watching the Meerkats, which seemed to intrigue Baby A's. Probably because like her they never stop moving! They sit up, they sit down, They run around. They sit up, they sit down again. And they're off again!! Here she is showing them a new move!!

The Wildlife Park is about an hour's drive from Aylesbury (you are reliant on the M25 behaving itself though!). Baby A is very used to car journeys and we generally get a lot of singing from the back seat before she falls asleep after about half an hour of driving.

After the success of meeting the animals at the Farm a few weeks ago, it was really great to introduce her to a lot more new species. We spent a couple of hours looking at the animals, about the right amount of time for her as she was just starting to drift off to sleep as we returned to the car. She would have enjoyed the play areas, but we'll have to save them for another time.

A lovely family day out at the Zoo.

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St Patrick's Day Themed Play

Monday, 17 March 2014

After the success of the Valentine's Day Themed Play, I've been meaning to put together some more themed sensory play. Realising it is St Patrick's Day today and every Facebook post I saw this morning contained a lot of green, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to do a 'Green' themed play session with Baby A.

With no pre-planning, here is what I managed to quickly gather together:
  • A stacking cup
  • A plastic ball
  • Triangle from a shape sorter toy
  • Egg box
  • Bell shaker
  • Triangle piece from a puzzle
  • Chick from an egg toy set
  • Caterpillar rattle
  • Ring and alien head from a stacking toy
  • Round tubes from a hammering bench toy
  • Discovery bowl (see below for contents)

The Discovery bowl contained sweet wrappers, foam letters, magnetic letters & numbers, pom-poms, plastic sea animals, a dolphin peg, a balloon filled with rice, milk bottle tops and baby food pouch caps.

It didn't take Baby A long to get into the bowl and start taking each item out one by one! At one point she picked out 3 of the milk bottle tops and crawled off down the room with them. It's interesting that it was very deliberately 3 of the same object rather than a mix of things from the bowl.

It was mostly the bowl she was interested in throughout the day, the other items didn't really get a look in. But then the sun was shining and she did want to keep going out into the garden. Baby A is gaining a lot more confidence with her walking. She still needs to hold on but she just wants to wander about everywhere. Therefore, when my back was starting to ache a bit from holding her hand whilst she walked, I decided to just bring the bowl outside. The sweet wrappers had to be quickly gathered up and put away as they were blowing away in the breeze, but Baby A did sit still for a little while and explore the contents of the bowl again. So a short reprieve for me from the walking!

As with the Valentine's Day play, the great thing about this is that I just used things I already had in the house and therefore it didn't cost a penny!

With so many small objects in the bowl, I made sure that I closely supervised her at all times.

The bowl kept Baby A amused both indoors and out, so all in all this was a success again. Now we've done the colour red and the colour green - still lots of colours to do!

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Roald Dahl's Countryside Trail

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Last week we visited The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre as we were in the area and as it was World Book Day, it was free entry! Whilst there, we picked up a leaflet with 'Roald Dahl's Countryside Trail' so we decided to do part of this trail today.

I was a bit worried when we set out this morning as it was really foggy but by the time we got started on the walk, the fog had burnt off and it was fantastic weather.

The Trail directions start from the Museum in Great Missenden. If you want to do the whole thing then you need to park in one of the Pay & Display car parks. However, we chose to park in Green Lane in Prestwood and pick up the trail in Angling Spring Wood. This wood is said to have been the inspiration for Roald Dahl's 'Fantastic Mr Fox'.

The Chiltern District Council have created a 'Talking Tree Trail' in this Wood. There are 10 carved posts around the Wood and you listen to the different audio tracks at each post. Unfortunately, we couldn't get internet access whilst in the Wood so we couldn't stream the audio. We'll have to find a way to download the tracks and re-visit the Wood again soon as this seems an interesting and unique thing to do.

So after a little wander around the Wood, we picked up the Roald Dahl Trail which took us through a field and without realising to our car!! So we could have started out here. Oh well, we know for next time!

It was a really lovely walk taking us past an orchard, along another field, through another wood (Atkins Wood), before finishing back at Angling Spring Wood. Just before re-entering the Wood, there was a nice viewpoint so we paused here for a few minutes to take in the view over the valley and talk to the sheep in the field that came over to say Hello!

Baby A and Daddy doing a bit of bird spotting in Atkins Wood

We had a leaflet with the trail on, but here's a link to the pdf of the Roald Dahl's Countryside Trail. There's a few suggested activities for older kids to do whilst on the walk such as Woodland Bingo and Nature Words.

With the sun shining, we picked up the car and drove back into Great Missenden to have our picnic lunch. The first hour of parking is free, so we parked up near to the children's playground so we could enjoy our food and then Baby A had a go on the swings and slide. Her new favourite thing is slides - she can't get enough of them at the moment!!

A lovely family day out. Here's hoping we get lots more of this type of weather so we can enjoy lots more of walks and days out like these!

Life Unexpected

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Family Fun at the Farm - Open Mead Farm

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

We have Baby A's Grandma and her friend staying with us for a few days and wanted somewhere different to go for a day out. We picked Mead Open Farm, near Leighton Buzzard which is about half an hour from Aylesbury.

My first piece of advice is to book online at least 24 hours before you go. It's 50p per ticket cheaper to book online which isn't a lot, but every bit helps. However, it's not made that obvious on their website that you have to book 24 hours in advance so you've been warned. It's cheaper to go mid-week in term time, even cheaper if you go mid-week term time after 3.30pm.

We picked a great day weather-wise to go. It was really mild today so perfect for wandering around all the outside elements and we even managed to eat our picnic outdoors - very unusual for early March!

I was really surprised by how many different areas there are. We started in Jo's Barn with loads of very friendly goats! Baby A has not really encountered many different animals yet. I wasn't sure how she'd react to them but safe to say, she was really intrigued and was keen to stroke and pat them.

It was Baby A's lunchtime so we headed into Shaggy's Café to feed her. After wolfing her food down it was time to play in the large soft play area. Baby A was in her element! She tried driving a Little Tikes car, she's good at going in reverse! Then it was into the ball pit which also has an air jet which makes the balls float in the air. Baby A loved the sensation of the air as well!

She managed to "persuade" her Daddy to go round the soft play assault course with her. Through the boulder, up and over the obstacles and down the slide! Then it was on to the big slides with Mummy & Daddy taking turns to take her down. She really is a thrill-seeker. We secretly enjoy it too!

Back to Jo's Barn for the 'Bunny Hop' where they bring the Bunnies out of their hutches. Amazingly they really didn't mind an 11 month old patting at them. She doesn't quite understand the word 'gently' yet!

Time for the adults to have their lunch. We headed out to the picnic area and enjoyed the sunshine. Obviously you could have food from the Café but as we're on a budget it was a homemade picnic for us!

That just left a quick play in the large sandpit (Digger Land) and then back through to see and stroke some more animals, before heading home.

Some areas of the Farm are out of action at the moment as it's too early in the season or open later in the day when the after schoolers arrive (e.g. the Sky Trail). There is a new playground being built at the moment which looks like it's going to be really fun.

There was a lot more for Baby A to do than I would have thought. It's always hard to know if she's going to be just a bit too young but with all the different animals areas, the sandpit and the soft play area, it was definitely a good day out. Thumbs up all round from all generations of the family!

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