Review – Magna Science Adventure Centre

Last week for us was half term.  Big Mr A had a couple of days off at the end of the week so we decided we would have a day out.  We searched on the internet for somewhere different to go and came across Magna.  Described as a ‘Science Adventure Centre’ the website made it look really exciting and like there would be lots for Little Mr A to interact with.  We booked tickets online and set off.

When we arrived we saw a great play park which had lots of different things to play on so we had a great first impression.  The building itself looked great and like there would be lots to do.

The reception staff were friendly and through booking tickets online we were dealt with quickly and headed inside.

What struck us was how cold and dark it was!  We knew it was an old Steel Mill but from looking on the website it didn’t look to be that dark!  We navigated our way around the main platform but were disappointed by the interactive activities.  They consisted of a few computer screens all with the same game on and spotlights that you had to find things which would then come up on the screen.  This was really quite difficult and certainly too much for Little Mr A to do.

We made our way to the fire pavilion where we managed to warm up!  The highlight of that room was the fire tornado which was really quite impressive, however, there wasn’t really much else of interest in the room and a lot of the exhibits and interactive activities were not working (which we found to be the case throughout most of the rooms).

As it was coming up to dinnertime we went to find the packed lunch area.  This was really quite difficult to find from the signs and with a pram it was not easy to get to having to use a couple of different lifts to get there.  Another problem was one of the lifts was out of order as it had become stuck leaving some poor people stranded in there for most of the afternoon!

When we found the packed lunch area it was full of school children!  We managed to find a table in the corner but it was very noisy!  I appreciate they cater for school groups but think they could maybe have a separate packed lunch area for regular visitors!

Once we had finished lunch we made our way back into the cold and went to the earth pavilion.  In here there was quite a few things for Little Mr A to do such as a sandpit with various diggers etc, some large diggers that you could sit in and pick up things with and a rock activity where you placed pretend rocks on a conveyor belt and watched them go through various processes before being able to collect them in a wheelbarrow at the end and take them back to the beginning.  Unfortunately Little Mr A could not join in properly with this as there were not enough wheelbarrows to go around, and it wasn’t even particularly busy!  Although this room was more fun, it was very noisy and I dread to think what it would have been like on a busy day.

Next we attempted to visit the water pavilion, however, it was full of the school groups and, after 5 minutes of not been able to go on anything and Little Mr A being pushed around we decided to visit the air pavilion and come back later.  I think it should be better organised so that perhaps the pavilions could be closed for a set amount of time whilst the school groups visit and then reopen to the regular visitors after.  It was too much to have lots of school children in one area whilst regular visitors are trying to use the exhibits too.  I am sure we all remember what we were like of school trips, over excited and not really paying attention to anyone else around!!

We visited the air pavilion next which again had a few things for Little Mr A to try, however, I felt a lot of the things in this room were aimed at bigger children as some of them were quite difficult for him to do.

We eventually made our way back to the water pavilion which was definitely the best for Little Mr A.  There was lots of activities for him to take part in including boats to play with and really fun water pistols where you could hit targets.  Be warned though, if you have little ones that like water play, they will get wet!

After that we took a trip to the outdoor play park which I felt was the best part of the day.  There were so many things to go on and I think Little Mr A could have spent all day in there!  In the warmer weather they have a water park too which looked like good fun.

Overall the facilities were good, toilets were clean and plenty of them.  I can’t comment on the food or drink as we did not use the cafe, however, it was very dark in there!

The price of a ticket is £10.95 for an adult and £8.95 for children over 4.  You can get a discount by purchasing online and there are family deals available.  Once you have bought your tickets you can fill in a form and on your second visit take it back with passport photos and you will get a yearly pass for no extra.  Unfortunately I don’t think we will be taking advantage of this as I really can’t see us going back there again, certainly not until our children are older.  I don’t think it is a great place for young children, I am not really sure what age groups would get the most out of it really.

We were a bit disappointed by our visit really, I think there are much better places in the area to go especially with younger children.  I can see that it is a great place for school trips but perhaps not great for the regular visitor.

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Playing with your kids – boring or fun?

I recently read an article that said playing with your children was boring.  Ok I thought when I first saw the headline I am not going to pretend I absolutely love playing with Little Mr A every minute of the day, his new ‘trumping on people’ game is certainly not one I enjoy joining in with, but I do enjoy playing with him.  The more I read of the article the more I was quite disgusted at the sentiment in it.  Why this person ever had children is beyond me!

Little Mr A reading and playing

Little Mr A reading and playing

In my opinion, when you chose to have children you give up your life for the next 16-18 years (or longer! )to be there for your child’s needs.  This is not to say you can’t still have adult time, however, your children come first.  Yes this will include doing things that maybe you aren’t too entertained by, but so what!  Even if I am not particularly enjoying a game we are playing/place we are visiting, seeing Little Mr A happy makes me happy.

Who's having more fun?!

Who’s having more fun?!

I think parents have a big responsibility to teach their children how to play both by themselves and with others.  How many times have you been to a playgroup and seen either a child sat on their own or running around taking toys off other children as they have not been taught how to play properly?  I am not professing to be the perfect Mum who drops everything as soon as Little Mr A says play with me.  Yes there are times that jobs need doing and I have to say no, however, at weekends we will often take it in turns to either go and play lego/trains etc in his room or bring a game downstairs for the whole family to play together.

Playing board games is a favourite Sunday afternoon activity

Playing board games is a favourite Sunday afternoon activity

I don’t consider ‘play’ to be just using toys.  I think anything you can make fun and do together with your child could be considered ‘playing’.  For instance baking, crafts, even getting them to help you with the cleaning can be made into a fun game.  Little Mr A is always asking if he can help with the cooking.

Little Mr A has always loved helping with cooking

Little Mr A has always loved helping with cooking

It is hard sometimes to find the imagination to play with your children and I must admit I do prefer playing actual games or doing jigsaws with Little Mr A, however, I try to remember what it was like when I was a child playing with Barbies etc and all the fun things me and my sister used to play.

Me & my sister used to have great fun (check out those matching outfits!)

Me & my sister used to have great fun (check out those matching outfits!)

I do think it is important for children to learn to play on their own too but sometimes I find Little Mr A needs starting off with something to play with then he will quite happily carry on playing on his own.  At the moment he is spending a lot of time in his bedroom building lots of little lego things for a ‘show’ he is going to do!

I join in with IzziWizzi playfest on a Tuesday night on Twitter which is a group of mums getting together to discuss different play ideas (and see my previous post).  If anyone is doubting how fun playing with your child is I suggest joining in with us!  I think us mums often get more excited about new toys and play ideas than our children!

How do other parents feel about playing with their children?  Do you find it a pleasure or a chore?

Review – Magic Moves Wand

A couple of months ago I wrote a post about Little Mr A’s love of technology and said I was looking for new technology to get him up and about and more active.  When I saw the opportunity to review the Magic Moves Wand made by Educational Insights and sold in the UK by Learning Resources I thought it looked like a great way to get him moving.

wand

The idea of the wand is that when the ‘play’ button is pressed the wand will light up and tell your child an action to perform.  Music will then play whilst your child performs the action.  If they miss what has been said they can press the ‘repeat’ button to hear it again. There are 90 different actions to be performed and 26 different musical tunes, each one having it’s own different light show.  The actions are things such as ‘Hop like a Frog’, ‘Wiggle like a Worm’, ‘Grow like a Beanstalk’…

At intervals, whilst performing the action, the wand will tell them to ‘Freeze’ or ‘March’ to add a different element to the game.  Also, at certain times the wand will say ‘Lets Dance’ which has it’s own three different tunes, ‘Techno’, ‘Afro-Pop’ and ‘Latin Salsa’.

The wand is aimed at children aged 3+ and the idea is that it gets them up and moving to exercise whilst also helping with creativity and listening skills.

Here is Little Mr A demonstrating how the Magic Moves Wand works:

At first, Little Mr A loved the wand.  He really enjoyed carrying out the actions and dancing around to the music, however, after the initial enthusiasm the wand has been left lying in his bedroom, unplayed.  I think perhaps he is a bit too old for the wand and it would be better enjoyed by younger children as there is not much to keep older children engaged for long.

I am sure 3 year olds would love the wand, particularly if they are into animals and the different sounds/actions they do.  Little Miss A was very taken with the lights and music!

I do like the concept of the wand as I think it is a good way to encourage children to move and dance, however, as I said above, I think it is more aimed at younger children.  I am sure if Little Mr A had a friend over they would probably play with it for a short while but cannot see it becoming a regular toy in his play routine.

Priced at around £15-£20 I do not think it is too unreasonably priced and would make a nice gift for younger children.  It is great quality, feels really sturdy and robust and comes with batteries included.

I think the wand would be great for playgroups and nurseries as I think children would have a lot of fun together performing the various actions.

Overall a good toy for younger children and groups and a reasonable price.

If you would like the chance to win one please head over to Learning Resources’ Facebook page, they have 5 to give away!

Review – East Park, Hull

DSCF2533The one thing I miss now we don’t live in Hull is being able to pop to East Park.  We only used to live just around the corner so could often be found there on a Sunday afternoon or I would take Little Mr A when we had our Mondays off together.

When you think of a park you think of a bit of green space and maybe a few swings, slides etc.  Well East Park has this but also so much more.  As well as the usual play park which is full of activities for all ages, there is also 130 acres of parkland to enjoy ranging from open space to more wooded areas where you can spot many a squirrel!

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There is also a lake with splash boats and rowing boats in the summer, an animal education centre and a great cafe.

The animal education centre is a great place for children.  There are so many animals to see including snakes, tarantulas, millipedes, beetles, guinea pigs, goats, sheep, deer, alpacas, wallabies, chickens, parrots and peacocks.  There is also a walk through aviary which includes exotic birds, Koi carp and a waterfall.  Be warned though, once when I took Little Mr A there was a peacock stood in the middle of the path as we went in.  It had it’s feathers up and would not let us pass.  It was quite scary as once you are in you cannot get out without walking all the way around and there was no-one else about.  Eventually I managed to sneak past hiding behind the pushchair, we must have looked ridiculous to anyone watching!  Another great thing about the animal education centre is it is free.

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If you need to take a break there is a great cafe where you can get tea, cold drinks, cake, paninis, etc and when it’s cold you can warm up with one of their lovely hot chocolates!  The cafe can get quite busy as they cater for a lot of groups but there is seating outside and you can take the food out with you.  They do have a few children’s toys and books in one corner so when it is quiet in there it is a nice place to sit with your children and they can be kept occupied whilst you have a nice cuppa!

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If you like to be a bit more active you can hire a bike to go around the park, I have also seen running clubs there to but have never found out more about this as I am hopeless at running!

Throughout the year there are often events taking place.  The main one we always try to visit is the fair in October.  When Hull fair finishes a lot of the rides and attractions take off to different parts of the country but some of them stay and set up in East Park for a weekend.  I’m not keen on taking Little Mr A to Hull fair when it is on as it is so big and busy I can’t relax and worry all the time I am going to lose him (I know I need to losen up a bit!) so this is a great compromise.  He gets to go on the fairground rides but there is nowhere near as many people around!

So if you are looking for something to do with your children on a visit to Hull that doesn’t cost much, I would highly recommend East Park!

For directions and more details please click here.

Homemade Eye Spy Game

Thank you to my sister in law for this idea!

This is a great game to make with your child and something to keep them entertained on long car journeys!

What you will need:-

An empty plastic bottle or tub with the label removed (we used a quality street tub)

Lots of small trinkets – we used items such as small animals, a lego man, a peg, lollipop sticks, a small car, a cork, craft items, a srew etc.  Anything small that you can fit it the top of the bottle/jar!

A bag of rice (we used 1kg Sainsburys basics long grain rice)

Some glue

Eye Spy Collage

Eye Spy Collage

How to make it:-

Remove the label from your bottle/jar and clean off any of the sticky glue.  Put in the trinkets and treasures you have found (making sure you have made a list of them first!).  Fill jar/bottle with rice then glue on the lid (unless you want rice all over your floor!).

Your child should now be able to find any item by rolling and tipping the bottle/jar!

A simple and cheap game that is fun to make.  The only thing we bought was the rice which cost 40p!  Little Mr A had a lot of fun finding things to put into it.

Eye-Spy

A rare moment of Little Miss A being awake and actually wanting to play! – 8 weeks and 2 days

Video

Too much technology?

techAs those of you that know us will not be surprised to find out, Little Mr A would rather sit down with an i-Pad or at the computer than kick a ball around outside thanks to his Dad’s obsession with technology!

How much should we let him play on the i-Pad or computer?  We usually limit him to 30 minutes at any one time which I feel is more than enough.  He never gets to go on anything if he has misbehaved, he knows it is a treat/reward if he has been well behaved.  We make sure that he is playing age appropriate games and do not leave him alone, we are always milling around in the room even if we are not actually sat with him (tea doesn’t make it’s way to the table on it’s own!).

When he’s on the computer he loves to play on Cbeebies or Milkshake and we have also got lots of games on the i-Pad for him, some educational, some not!  He is an absolute whizz on angry birds, much better than me or his Dad, we were amazed when he switched it on at the weekend that he had got 3 stars on nearly all of the levels!  He has been using technology for as long as he could hold a phone without dropping it or dribbling all over it and I really feel it has helped his hand eye co-ordination and he also has a respect for technology products and knows not to mess about with them.  Surely in a world where technology is ever increasing in use it is good to teach your children this respect from an early age?

Whenever I ask Little Mr A what he has been doing at school the normal response I get is ‘playing on the learning stations’ (computers) or ‘we have been in the computer suite’.  If technology is introduced as a way of learning as soon as they start school I think it is a good idea to be embracing it at home too.

Recently I came across the website for Oxford Owl which provides a lot of schools’ their reading books.  It is a great interactive website where you can click on the book to read it and play activities.  I think this will be really useful when Little Mr A starts bringing books home as we will be able to play activities relating to the book he has and look at the other books appropriate to his age range/ability level.  He loves looking at this website already and it is something we can sit and do together.

I would like to discover more technology based products that will also get Little Mr A up and about and being more physical.  We have a Wii and a game which he can use the Wii Fit Board with, Nickelodeon Fit which is a good game to get him active but I would like more games that do the same.

I have noticed the Cbeebies website seems to be introducing more active games, Tree Fu Tom and Justin’s House seem to be popular with Little Mr A.

I am hoping that when the nicer weather comes he will want to get outside more.  Should I be more strict and say no to technology or is it a good thing to be embracing at such a young age?  I can imagine that by the time Little Mr A starts secondary school there will be no such thing as text books and they will all be downloaded onto one tablet.  Oh the sadness of missing out on covering your text books in horrendous wallpaper!

I would hate for anyone to think that this is all he is interested in, it’s not, it just seems to occupy a lot of his thoughts recently.  He also likes playing with lego, colouring and baking all the ‘good’ things we should do with our children!

What is your opinion on using technology with your children?  Do you agree that it is OK within reason or do you avoid it at all costs?  I would love to hear other people’s views.

 

Short Story!

At bath time Little Mr A asked me to make up some stories for him which he was acting out with his plastic characters that he plays with in the bath (Postman Pat and Bob the Builder amongst others).  I made up a very elaborate (and excellent!) story about Postman Pat delivering lots of parcels in the snow which Little Mr A had great fun acting out.

Little Mr A then decided he would tell me a story which went something like this…

‘Postman Pat woke up.  There were no parcels to deliver so he had a cup of tea.  The end!

Thanks for that Little Mr A!

pat

Christmas gifts for babies

Well it’s that time of year again, Christmas is nearly here and I am sure I am not alone in struggling to know what to buy for those pesky little babies!  This year I have made Little Miss A and her baby cousin a treasure basket each, however, people have been asking me what she would like for Christmas and I have really struggled to come up with any ideas.  As she is the second child she has lots of things that have been handed down to her from Little Mr A and really doesn’t need any more toys!

If you are struggling to find a present for a baby in your life, here are some ideas of things we had for Little Mr A that were really good toys and would make great presents.

Learning Curve Lamaze Puppy Tunes
puppy tunes
This is a great colourful toy for babies with a hook so you can attach it to pushchairs, cots etc.  Each of the puppy’s legs plays a different note when squeezed and with the puppy you get a leaflet showing you how to play a couple of songs such as Old MacDonald. You play the songs by pressing the appropriate coloured leg.  It is also a sensory toy as together with being brightly coloured, the tounge is silky and the ears crinkle.

Little Mr A loved the noise when I squeezed the legs – it really made him giggle!

Usually I would avoid noisy/musical toys as they can get very annoying, however, this is good as it just plays nice notes and is not too loud.

There are no batteries required it just works when you squeeze from the air in the legs.

You can also buy other ‘tune’ animals such as an Octopus and Elephant.

 

Early Learning Centre Wooden Noah’s Ark

ark

This is currently half price, a bargain at £7.50!

I think this is a great gift for any baby.  Although they may be too young to play with it properly, it looks really nice set up in a nursery, plus the animals are big enough for a baby to hold (and put in their mouth!) without being dangerous.

It is excellent quality and, as it is all wooden, is pretty much indestructible, unlike some of the plastic toys around these days!

As well as the Ark you get Noah and his wife and 12 wooden animals. The animals are printed on both sides so you get the front and back of each animal! The Ark also comes with a lift off cabin so that you can get the wooden animals back out again!

As well as being able to use it as a shape sorter, you can also use it to teach your child about animals or play snap.

Little Mr A had lots of fun with this toy for quite some time given all the different things you can do with it.

 

Prince Lionheart – BACK TO SLEEP Slumber bear

prince l

This is actually a gift that Little Miss A has received as an early present from Santa courtesy of Grandma!

What the website says…

The ORIGINAL audio pacifier with actual sounds recorded INSIDE
a mother’s womb!
Recordable function allows parents to create their own soothing
message for Baby!

Invented by a DOCTOR, recommended by midwives. Used successfully with millions of babies in maternity hospitals worldwide since 1978! Back to Sleep Bear’s authentic womb so unds are universally recognized by babies and effective in lulling them to sleep in minutes! Soundbox has a 5 minute auto-shutoff timer to save batteries, with sound and motion sensors that reactivate recording when baby cries orthe bear is moved.

Also includes Silkie™–the Natural Bonding Aid!™ Parents can bond with Baby by transferring their scent to the Silkie. Even when Mom and Dad cannot be with Baby, their scent remains to reassure and comfort Baby. Baby loves the soft and smooth Silkie texture that provides beneficial tactile stimulation!

Soundbox has a 5 minute auto-shutoff timer to save batteries, with sound and motion sensors that reactivate recording when Baby cries or the bear is moved.

What I say…

I was a little sceptical as to whether this would actually work at soothing Little Miss A and helping her sleep, however, I am pleased to say I was wrong!  We use the ‘sound box’ attached to her crib at night and play to her the womb sounds and were really surprised when it calmed her and sent her to sleep!  We also use the lullaby music sometimes during the day to sooth her if she is a bit grisly.

With the product you get the bear, the soundbox which can either be placed into the bear or taken out and attached with a velcro strap to a cot/pram, and a silkie blanket.

The bear is nice and soft and looks really nice and good quality.  At the moment he is just sat in Little Miss A’s crib as we prefer to use the soundbox on it’s own, however, I am sure as she gets older we will put the soundbox back into the bear for her to cuddle with.

The silkie is really nice quality and Little Miss A loves the feel of it.  Again, you can either leave it attached to the bear or use it as a separate item.

The soundbox is the main event!  It plays various noises such as the womb sound, white noise, lullabies and nature noises.  You can even record your own message.  It is easy to change what noise you would like, you just press the relevant button on the front of the box.  At the side is a volume control.  We have found you don’t need to have it on very loud when the box is out of the bear.  After 5 minutes the sound will go off, however, if the box is moved or baby starts making noise the sound will come back on again.  Little Miss A seems to have worked this out and gives it a ‘bash’ if the sound goes off before she is asleep!

The box takes 2 AAA batteries.  There is a notice on the website to say that Duracell batteries are recommended as they fit best, however, we have not had a problem with other batteries.  Once the batteries are running out a beeping noise starts (which can be quite annoying in the middle of the night!).

I appreciate this won’t work for every baby but it certainly works for Little Miss A!

 

I hope that has given you a couple of gift ideas for any babies you have to buy for, there is so much choice out there it is difficult to chose something that is going to be useful and enjoyed for a long time!

The importance of support

Little Mr A with some of his toddler group friends

sure start pic Little Mr A with some of his toddler group friends

When we made the decision to move away, the thing I found the hardest was leaving all the ‘mummy’ friends I had made at my local Sure Start centre.

When Little Mr A was newborn I hardly went out with him and it was so hard not having anyone to talk to and gain advice from or just generally be able to have a moan to (apart from one close friend who was at that time back at work most of the week!).

After a couple of months a friend started attending a local toddler group and I decided to go along.  Through this group we started to attend the local Sure Start Centre.

After that I started attending the toddler group once a week and various parenting courses that they ran.  Later on a messy play session was started and I took Little Mr A to that too.

I always find it quite difficult to talk to people to start with, however, after forcing myself to keep going I met lots of great people and gained a wealth of advice and support.  This support was invaluable during my year of being a weekday ‘single’ mum.  I don’t think I would have made it if it wasn’t for these groups and the people there!

When we moved to Hull I started working 4 days a week so could only go to a group 1 day a week.  Although we went along to a toddler group a few times it was really hard to speak to anyone.  Most of the people who attended were chldminders and the few parents that were there all knew each other.  With Little Mr A being that bit older I found it really difficult as he would go off to play whilst I sat on my own!  After a few weeks we stopped going.

Now Little Miss A has arrived I have started attending a baby play session at my local Sure Start Centre and am hoping to start baby massage in the new year.  The people are much friendlier and I am hoping that I can build up some new good friendships.

No matter how difficult you find meeting new people and starting that initial interaction I would encourage anyone to persevere with attending your local groups, they are an invaluable source for friendship and support.

To find your local Sure Start Centre click here.