Jim of the Garden

Our regular Easter getaway is to Scarborough/Filey and Easter 2016 was no different. Good weather was interrupted by bad weather (I am currently writing this at 5am with the sound on torrential rain all around!). However, on Easter Saturday morning, we went to Scarborough to see “Jim of the Garden”, a performance at the Stephen Joseph Theatre.

Location

The theatre is in the centre on Scarborough and while parking can be somewhat difficult, it is in no way impossible, even with a toddler. Don’t let the exterior of the theatre deceive either. Whilst the exterior is aged, inside, the facilities are what you would expect.

The show is targeted for children up to the age of 7 and this feels about right. The children found their way to the front to sit on the cushions, beanbags and blankets at the front as the parents/carers sat at the back and side. The parents who were nervous about their child ruining the show were closest to their child! I have spoken about our first “theatre” trip to the Rainbow Factory here – where I had the same worries!

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Before the show

The Show

Without wanting to give any spoilers away, the performance is about 30 minutes long and involves songs, dancing and mass audience interaction. This breaks it up for the little ones so that they are not sat down for more than a few minutes at a time, and it works really well.  Heidi fondly remembered the “Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” song. As a result, she kept on singing it all day!

In terms of a plot, I am not really sure, as in part because the songs and dancing broke the plot up and this isn’t a bad thing at all. There is enough in the performance for adults to get lost in the production, rather than following it through. There is certainly enough for the adults to be entertained with – especially the Lady Gaga cover which was absolutely amazing!

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Play in progress…

There seemed to be 30-40 children there and I am not sure many more could fit it.  However, it was Easter weekend when we went, which might have brought in more people. For £3 each, you’re not going to find much better value for money for a live performance.

Facilities

In terms of the venue, as Heidi is toilet training, we had to play the game of getting a 2 year old girl in a male toilet cubicle. This is always an adventure! Fortunately, the toilets were clean/modern which helps. One thing to note is that the baby changing facilities are on the second floor, which was cordoned off. This is presumably because there were no activities happening on that floor. As a result, if you need baby changing, you might need to ask for assistance.

With all that being said, we will keep an eye out for future child friendly shows at the Stephen Joseph Theatre for when we are making our regular trips over to the North Yorkshire Coast!

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Happy theatre goers!

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Be Curious

I never thought that I would be taking my daughter to University so soon. However,  I took Heidi to the University of Leeds “Be Curious” event, celebrating British Science Week.

Heidi is extremely fond of all things to do with the human body. She has particular obsessions with X-rays and pretending to be a doctor (with proper stethoscope!). As such, this event seemed like an interesting one for us, especially with parts being marketed for families (although not 2 year olds particularly!)

Part of the attraction of the event was to show Heidi what a campus looked like. I also wanted to tell her the story of my graduation through the University of Leeds (2005 – Accounting and Finance, in case you were wondering!) and actually reminisce myself!

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Look, I’ve made it to Uni!

First impressions was that the campus had changed/modernised quite a bit. The new, funky multi-story car park was the first port of call (with free parking for the event – such a bonus!). We headed into the Parkinson Building to be greeted with about 10 stands in the main hall, as well as a couple of breakout rooms upstairs. It was busier than what I thought, but not manic. There were lots of fresh faced volunteers willing to help out.

We picked our stands carefully, trying to make sure that there was going to be something relevant for Heidi. We picked up a snakes and ladders game (to be opened on a rainy day), played a matching game with odd socks and then a mock up of a spine was explained to Heidi by a very understanding member of staff.

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Lollies always help!

We then went upstairs to the family room, where there was the colouring competition (I won’t hold out much hope!) and the medical equipment, which really excited Heidi. There was a real-life one-to-one demonstration of an ultrasound probe being used on a heart. This really fascinated Heidi given her obsession with all heart related things and seeing the movements of the heart was amazing to her.  She also saw MRI images of the skull and the heart and this was equally amazing for her (and me). The fact that she could make out certain aspects of the image was heart warming (forgive the pun!)

All of the staff were really friendly (and obviously knowledgeable!) and didn’t seem to feel uncomfortable explaining things to a 2 year old. However. I imagine that it was quite strange for them!

We then made our way downstairs to see the rest of the stands. This included tasting food made with Medieval recipes (wasn’t the best!) and look at kinetic energy powering lights.

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The main attraction was the 15 seater planetarium which was showing a video about cells. Unfortunately, Heidi freaked out about being in an enclosed space (and was probably tired). As such, we escaped about 2 minutes to allow everyone else to enjoy the film in peace and quiet!

There were bits that we didn’t do because Heidi was too young. This included looking at cells through microscopes, looking at insects using microscopes and having a 3D camera take a picture of your face. However, these looked really quite cool. I hope that they will be there in a couple of years when Heidi is a bit older!

Obviously, with the event being in a University, there isn’t the changing facilities on hand. Maybe some temporary arrangements could have been made, certainly if younger children are attending with older siblings etc.

All in all, it was a lovely couple of hours stretching Heidi’s imagination and knowledge, whilst also going down memory lane! Hope the event is on again next year!

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Boomchikkaboom

We have long since been a huge fan of Baby Rave North (see one of my very early posts here). For the first time after the rebrand, we went to a Boomchikkaboom class. This time for a Preschool Workshop, called “Around the World”.

Hosted at the wonderful Mumspace at Mothercare, Crown Point in Leeds, we made our way in the lift to the private room. For once, we got our timings right so I wasn’t emotionally blackmailed to buy the entire stock of the Early Learning Centre upstairs!

As everyone made their way in, the toddlers ran about. They turned a perfectly set out room into a complete mess! However, they tidied up well (why don’t they do that at home!) and soon we were underway.

I have to be honest, I didn’t know what to expect before it started. The “traditional” Baby Raves are brilliant but they are clearly for the younger end. However, knowing the guys behind Baby Rave/Boomchikkaboom, it was always going to be good. And it was.

The children are encouraged to act their way through a story. In our case, it was going on an adventure to a number of different countries. They were encouraged to do some of the things associated with each country. This included pretending to pack a suitcase, going on an aeroplane and eating some local foods. My particular favourite was the “baby massage”. This meant that I could actually keep Heidi in one place and feel like I was getting involved!!

Using the parachute as a tent

Having always been really hands-on helping Heidi through her activities, this is a perfect opportunity to let go a little bit and so she can be more independent. However, I do feel like a bit of a spare part at times, and a little sad that I am not needed quite as much!! I can’t imagine what I’ll be like when she goes to school!

It is certainly more “grown-up” than a Baby Rave. Whilst the shakers and pom-poms are still used, there weren’t any nursery rhymes and the music was used less as the children acted out the scenes.

To get the most out of it, your child needs to be good on their feet as there is a lot of running/movement and want to be creative with their mind. I think that anything from 2 to 5 years of age would be ideal to be honest.  As a result, make sure whichever event you book is age appropriate for your child.

All in all, the Boomchikkaboom class lasted 45 minutes and included the famous parachute and foam! It was really good fun and now I’m trying to work out the next time I can go to a Boomchikkaboom class.

If you have never been to one before, just give it a try. They are completely different to everything else that is out there, from new borns upwards, and really uplifting and energising.  You will be hooked on them, like we are!

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Is this the largest parachute in Leeds?!

PS You may wonder why all the photos are of foam and parachutes, it was because I was either having too much fun watching/taking part or Heidi was moving around too quickly for a decent picture!

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You WILL have this foam blown in your face!

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Longdown Activity Farm

Our trip to Longdown Activity Farm is the fourth and final episode of our mini break to the South Coast. The other reviews can be found here:

  • Flying with a toddler – Part 1 – (here)
  • Oceanarium and Bournemouth – Part 2 – (here)
  • Paultons Park – Part 3 – (here)

I found out about this attraction via Twitter (@NewForestBreak) and with it being 10 minutes drive from Paultons Park, we headed down there on a sunny, but cold Sunday February morning, whilst not knowing what to expect really.  Finding the farm is quite easy and there is decent (free) parking the other side of the road. This is fully signposted.

Heidi does like her animals and so it felt like a safe option to spend a couple of hours, and so we went in to see what it was all about. As you go in, there are some toy tractors for the kids to play on, as well as a couple of table tennis tables which were clearly meant for warmer (and less windy days!). However, with our trusty map in hand, we made our way to the animals.

Longdown Activity Farm is a traditional farm, in terms of the animals that it has – goats, ducks, cows, horses – pretty much everything Old MacDonald had. The difference is that you are allowed to feed them! There are set times to feed set animals so it does help to plan ahead a little and plot your way around the small farm so that you take advantage of these experiences. It would only take 10 minutes to walk from one end to another. So while the farm isn’t huge, it is big enough, especially for little legs!

Chick 1

As a result, we began by bottle feeding the baby goats. This was fascinating for Heidi as she has never seen an animal take a bottle. Being able to feed it herself was lovely! After that, we went to the animal petting attraction, where tiny baby chicks to hold, as well as able to stroke a rabbit as well as a goat. To finish off, we fed the adult goats, albeit food from a plate as they are clearly past the bottle phase!!

Chick 2

It was lovely to have the opportunity to let Heidi feed and get really close to the animals. It is all well and good seeing them at the other side of the fence, but it was something else letting her feed them. Interspersed with the activities, there are lots of other animal enclosures to look at including ducks, rabbits, horses and calves.

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On a weekend, the little ones are able to ride (for an additional charge) on a Shetland pony,. We took advantage of this, especially as Heidi loves to go on the donkeys at the seaside, or use me as a horse in an evening!

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Lovely Shetland pony

There are a number of enclosed (free) trampolines which is a good way to do something a little different. There is also a small, but perfectly adequate (free) play gym, which will keep the little ones busy for half an hour or so, while the adults relax. Even though it was freezing cold outside, it was relatively warm in there, even though the front was completely open! Here (on weekends), there was a facepainter and for an extra charge, children could have their face painted,. As a result, the farm got a tiger for an hour or so!

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There’s a Tiger!

In terms of taking a toddler, it is important to be aware that Longdown Activity Farm is a working farm. As such, expect it to be a bit muddy and cold (in winter!) so wear appropriate clothes! There are toilets, baby change and feeding rooms, which we didn’t go to, but they looked quite good. There is also a cafe and farm shop, but we had spent all our money on facepainting and horse rides!!

One thing to note is that you obviously have to wash your hands after finishing stroking an animal. As such. it might be a good idea to wear short sleeves, or take a spare top for the way home. The water is nice and warm, but after a while, the sleeves get all wet and unpleasant.

After all that, we spent 2 hours at Longdown Activity Farm. However, we did miss a couple of bits out because of a tired toddler. We would definitely go back, and would perhaps go at a slightly different time so we could do some of the other activities that we missed out.

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Paultons Park

Our trip to Paultons Park is part of our series of posts detailing our mini-break to the South Coast. There have previously been posts on:

  • Flying with a Toddler – Part 1 – (here)
  • A Day in Bournemouth – Part 2 – (here)
  • Longdown Activity Farm – Part 4 – (here)

and this is the next instalment.

Without being rude to the rest of the Southampton/Bournemouth area, Paultons Park, or more specifically, Peppa Pig World, was the main reason for us to make the trip. It certainly didn’t disappoint!

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Entrance into Peppa Pig World

In the planning phase, I contacted Paultons Park as they do certain deals on hotel/tickets. Their customer service was brilliant in terms of tailoring their offers to us. The prices didn’t quite match up compared to buying the hotel and tickets separately. However, it is worth asking to see what they can do.

Rides and Attractions

To the surprise of some, Peppa Pig World is only one part of a larger theme park (Paultons Park) although it does seem to be the most popular. There are 7 toddler friendly rides in the area. These, will entertain the little ones for as long as they can stay awake, as well as a number of “static attractions” including a wonderful, large indoor play area.

(UPDATE: A couple of more rides have been added)

My own personal favourite was going into Peppa’s House and Madame Gazelle’s classroom. However, Heidi loved the Dinosaur ride and the cars! There are a couple of rides which are slow, Ferris wheel type rides and so if your child isn’t good with these, then I would give them a miss.

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Peppa’s House!

In terms of waiting times, we went on a cold, cloudy Saturday at the end of February and we had to wait 20 minutes or so for each ride. However, after lunch, it was only about 5 minutes. We returned on the Monday and the waits were about 10 minutes long before lunch and after lunch, there were no queues at all. If we were to do it again, I would possibly have the morning in the hotel before going after lunch. However, I dread to think what the queues would be like in the summer holidays!!

Meet and Greet

The star attractions are Peppa and George and they have meet and greets (the times are on the back of the classroom building). These were really good, informal and you didn’t feel rushed at all, even though they are very popular. The staff looking after the characters are really good with the little children. They made sure they were not overwhelmed by it all, as I imagine that it can be quite a scary proposition!

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Meeting Peppa and George

There is also a beautiful playground of the children to run around in. Whilst not specifically in the Peppa Pig theme, it is a really good way for kids to run around and play, as opposed to being in a queue!

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Part of the playground

The park is littered with models of the characters of the show throughout. The little ones loved seeing them and recalling who they saw. The models are absolutely wonderful and I’m sure one would look good in my back garden!!

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Zoe Zebra – at a Zebra Crossing!

Food and Facilities

In terms of food, there is a kiosk in the area serving good quality food and drinks, and quite a few picnic tables.  The prices were quite good, although you are allowed to bring food/drinks into the park and so that might be an option. The area has an amazingly good gift shop as well, stocking all things Peppa, and it can be difficult to take a child in! There is a bigger, more generic, shop at the entrance/exit, which has a massive selection of a wide range of toys and gifts.

In terms of baby change facilities, there is limited ones in the toilets in the area. However, there are plenty back towards the centre of the park. They also have toilet seats for those who are potty training, which I was really impressed with! (How sad am I?!). The toilet facilities, as well as the park as a whole was really clean and tidy.

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Never seen these before!

The rest of Paultons Park

You have to remember that there is an entire theme park to enjoy as well. I think that we were guilty of not spending enough time there due to a tiring toddler. Although you can get your hand stamped and return to the park. There are quite a number of rides that the little ones can go on. These include a gorgeous carousel and tea cups, as well as play areas, a 4D cinema, and crazy golf.

A word of warning is that the park is quite big, especially for little legs.  I would make sure comfortable shoes are worn. I would also recommend taking a pushchair, if your child is in one. You can hire pushchairs (or similar) at the park as well.

Perhaps a hidden attraction is the number of animals/wildlife that the park has as they are somewhat hidden away. We saw pelicans and flamingos and there is a lovely garden with smaller birds around the edge as well. We came across this as we were leaving and the big open spaces nearby would be perfect for picnics etc. Another hidden attraction was the free Wifi in the park – although it will never be as good as what you have at home, given the huge space the park covers, it worked really well.

For those with older children or able to split off for a couple of hours, there are a number of white knuckle rides,. These are certainly not my cup of tea, but will obviously appeal to some and mean that even if you didn’t set foot into Peppa Pig World, you could still have a full day out.

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The Peppa Pig World skyline

Conclusion

It says something that we would go back to Paultons Park again, even though we spent 2 days there already, but that is how good it is.  Upon our return, Heidi has been telling people about her time at Peppa Pig World with such enthusiasm. This clearly means that that she has definitely had a good time and I’m sure that we will be contacting Miss Rabbit again at some point to enquire about prices and availability!

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Rainbow Factory – 4/3/2016

We were invited to attend the “launch” of the new Rainbow Factory theme – Space. With Tim Peake currently on the ISS, this seemed like a perfect time to do it, and of course, RF did it expertly well. Some would say that it was “Out of this world”, but I would never go down the route of a pun filled review…!!

Having said that, the staff are absolute stars (ok, I will stop now!) and as always, they make the day there oh so enjoyable. They are always willing to help the little ones and seem to know what they can and can’t do, whilst stretching them a little bit. They seem to be masters of all things creative, which is somewhat disheartening, seeing how easy they make it!

Anyway, I have done a number of reviews here (Valentines Day event) here (Christmas show) and here (“regular” visit) and so feel free to read my thoughts there. As a result, I thought that I would try my hand and be a little creative, getting inspired from RF…

So we arrived
for a tour about space,
I was so sure
that it would be really ace.

Jordan took us round.
A small group of 5.
The children were so happy,
enthusiastic and alive!

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Start of the tour

We learnt about the planets,
the moons and the stars.
We learnt that to space travel
we needed rockets, not cars!

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More learning…

After reading the book,
we finished the tour
We headed to the creative kitchen
after knocking on the door.

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Now a bit creative…

There we were given sticking
and colouring to do
With plenty of colours
including yellow, pink and blue.

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Kirsty helped us make
a beautiful, colourful rocket.
It was far too big
to put in our pocket!

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Bryony and Claire helped
to put on a show.
Even the excited little ones
had a very good go

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Games and dressing up carried on
throughout the afternoon.
We didn’t want to go home
at all very soon.

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As the clock approached 4
we knew we had to depart.
Happy for the emotions
we had in our heart.

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More action on stage

For now Heidi is asleep,
dreaming all about her day.
She would be back tomorrow
if I let her have her way!

Until next time….!!

Oceanarium

Our trip to the Oceanarium in Bournemouth is part 2 of my write up of the mini break we had on the South Coast.

The other reviews can be found here:

  • Flying with a toddler – Part 1 -(here)
  • Paultons Park – Part 3 – (here)
  • Longdown Activity Farm – (here)

Getting to the Oceanarium

So after landing in Southampton mid morning, the plan was to drive to Bournemouth and basically explore a bit and have a bit of a seaside day. So after driving 45 minutes, we arrived in Bournemouth. The drive was a lovely, relaxing drive through the New Forest. However, due to roadworks, took a bit longer than anticipated. I hear that in summer, this journey is a bit of a nightmare due to traffic, but certainly not a problem in late February!

So after approaching Bournemouth, we followed the painted (and sometimes worn!) sandcastles on the road down to the beach and picked up signs for an “Oceanarium”. Having not done any research previously, I was putting two and two together as to what it was and we decided to go for it.

Located right on the beach, the view is perfect out to sea. However, I imagine that the location also means when it is busy, it is difficult to get to. However, we found a car park very close by and made our way in.

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The Oceanarium itself

It turns out the Oceanarium is a marine animal attraction, similar to The Deep in Hull. It has penguins, fish, sharks, turtles and a crocodile, as well as a walking tunnel so you feel as though the animals are all around. Our favourites were the lovely large turtles. Due to their swimming style, you can tell the little ones that they are waving!

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We stayed for about 90 minutes and caught most of the penguin feeding show. This was quite intimate as well, and not in a bad way. Unfortunately with a toddler, you never quite manage to see all of the show. However, they are something to plan the visit around.

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Facilities

In terms of child friendly facilities, there is a very small soft play area. This will give the adults 10 minutes rest as there is only 1 climbing frame so there isn’t much to explore. We didn’t check out the changing facilities, and with most of these kinds of places, navigating with a pushchair would be difficult. This is because it is on a number of levels and the lighting isn’t brilliant as it needs to be dark-ish for the animals. However, navigating carrying a 2 year old toddler isn’t that easy either!!

A couple of things that stand out for the Oceanarium are the beautiful views from within the venue. There is a balcony with seating and an ice cream kiosk at the back of the penguin viewing area. This is beautiful and would be fantastic in summer, although a bit nippy in winter!

The second is the fact that you can come and go as much as you want during the day. We didn’t take advantage of this due to having a tired toddler. However, given that it is about 10 yards from the beach and pier, you could easily spend all day in the same location, rotating between the Oceanarium, the beach, the pier and the other seafront attractions.

Bournemouth Seafront

We did briefly venture onto the gorgeous beach, which looked clean. However, more importantly, it didn’t look like good sandcastle-making sand! We also went on the pier, which had amusements and a cafe, which we didn’t go in. Instead, we favoured fish and chips eaten in the car (classy!)

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All in all, a very pleasant couple of hours spent in Bournemouth. This set us up nicely for the rest of our break, but also left us wanting to spend a few days (when warmer!) to explore Bournemouth more.

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Flying with a Toddler

“Flying with a Toddler” is the first of a series of posts telling the story of Heidi’s first “proper” holiday. This will hopefully give some hints and tips to those planning on taking a toddler away, as well as making you smile along the way.

The other parts of my mini-break review can be found here:

  • Oceanarium & Bournemouth – Part 2 – (here)
  • Paultons Park – Part 3 – (here)
  • Longdown Activity Farm – Part 4 – (here)

So the idea was to go on a short haul flight as a test for a longer trip in the near future. After hearing about Peppa Pig World near Southampton, the destination was set. It sounded quite simple, but it never is!

The night before

Flying Manchester to Southampton at 8.30am on a Friday meant that we decided to stay close to the airport the night before. We chose the Premier Inn South, which is a mile from the airport and relatively handy. You can never go too far wrong with a Premier Inn and the room was everything we really needed. However, the adjoining restaurant wasn’t….

I completely understand that some places are not meant to be child appropriate, and we made a wrong decision to go to that restaurant! The food took an age to come and when you’re finishing at 9pm, that isn’t the best start to a holiday! To be fair, the staff were great. Our waitress had a slight scouse accent and a hairband /bandana and was brilliant! The food was good, but it was all a bit drawn out. This meant that we had quite a late night…

Security/Airport Facilities

So an early start took us to Manchester Airport, Terminal 3 to check in and get through security with a tired toddler – great! It took us 40 minutes to get from going through to doors to get past all security so something to bear in mind.

The security staff were brilliantly understanding, given the job that they have to do. We were ushered to the priority security lane, probably because we looked a little stressed out and this definitely helped. At Terminal 3, there are lots of shops to pass the time with. There is also a small, basic children’s area, but is was a quiet part of the airport and allows children to be children for a bit!

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Given that Manchester Airport is one of the biggest in the country, the changing facilities were good. They also seemed to be cleaned at regular intervals, which is a must!!! If you have some time to kill, I would try and find a quiet part of the terminal. This means that you don’t feel rushed and everyone can relax a bit.

As Heidi is a good walker and aged 2 3/4, we decided not to take a pushchair. This would have taken an extra pair of hands and made getting through security a bit more difficult. I imagine if you have a small child who is happy to be in a pushchair, it would help to have one going through security . However, it would have been a nightmare for us!

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The Flight

So, now to the “exciting” bit – actually Flying with a Toddler! Having done my research (aircraft geek!) I knew the plane wouldn’t be the biggest and we would have to walk on the tarmac. With it being late February, we wore an extra layer of clothes! I also informed Flybe (our airline) that Heidi was a first time flyer, just so the flight crew were aware in case Heidi got freaked out!

This proved to be a masterstroke as the flight attendants were brilliant (Alex and Alice). Every time they walked past and the opportunity arose, they talked to Heidi, making sure that she was ok and keeping her entertained and engaged with the flight. This additional interaction really helped break up the flight (even though it was only 50 minutes!) and made sure we had trouble free flight.

Top Tips

Flybe do an excellent “Flying with a Toddler” guide here and this helped, but I would give the following advice as well:
– talk about the journey beforehand with your child (if possible) so they understand what is going to happen.

– plan your hand luggage very carefully. Know exactly where your wipes, nappies, changing pads, change of clothes etc are. As such, in case of an emergency change, you know without thinking.

– pack quiet entertainment. I packed thin paperback books to read to Heidi and that worked well, as did a teddy and other small toys.

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– plan for a delay. Carrying an extra pack of wipes or trousers isn’t going to cause any issues, but a 2 hour delay might.

– don’t forget the liquids! Unfortunately, security procedures mean that you can’t take more than 100mls of liquid past security. Make sure your hand luggage is packed accordingly and buy a bottle of water for your child after security. No chocolates, sweets or fizzy pop!)

I did try and take Heidi to the toilets on the plane, to see how she would react,. It’s safe to say that she didn’t like them! They are particularly small and I am not sure how you would go on changing a nappy.  This is one to ask for the help of the flight attendants, as there might be some spare seats that you could use.

The landing

The flight was so smooth, that Heidi was asleep for the last 10 minutes of it, including the landing!

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As a special treat, we were also granted access to the cockpit after taxiing to the terminal. However, the conversation was very limited with a groggy toddler!!

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And that was it. Heidi’s first flight and Flying with a Toddler went remarkably smoothly. Onto the car hire and then Bournemouth for a day at the seaside!

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