We are really missing our days out. They are a huge coping mechanism for me personally to balance out my work and frankly, the monotony of lockdown has really started to take its toll. Of course we’ve been going on daily walks and bike rides, but even those have become a tad boring now too!
I came across Treasure Map Trails on Instagram and the idea fit perfectly with the current circumstances. So I purchased the Tring (Hertfordshire) trail and we planned to go as soon as the weather was dry.
Every Treasure Map Trail is based around a small section of a real town, aiming for no more than one mile between the two furthest points so that little legs don’t get too tired. The clues are not too difficult which meant that Ita was engaged the entire trail. We did get stuck at one point but there are handy clues (and even the answers…) on the back of the map to help you along. Another thing that Ita really enjoyed was taking control of the map and marking off the “treasure”. Treasures are works of art, statues, quirky creations and eye-catching features that they’ll see if they look up, look down and pay close attention to their surroundings.
We were actually stopped by a lady who was enquiring about the map as she said she had seen someone else with it the day before!
With every map completed, your child moves up one rank in the Treasure Map Trails Academy, from Cadet to Captain to Explore to Adventurer and finally a Treasure Hunter Master, earning their very own certificate each time. (You print the certificate at home). I love the fact that you can purchase trails by easy, medium and hard ratings as it means you can decide what is most appropriate for your child(ren).
There are currently a number of trails with more being added weekly.
So far there are trails in;Aylesbury, Berkhampstead, Cambridge, Chester, Hemel Hempstead, Iron Bridge, Leyton Buzzard, Shrewsbury, St Albans, Stony Stratford and Tring.
We had a really fun morning doing the trail and can’t wait to do another! I would say we spent around an hour and a half doing this trail at a leisurely pace. The website suggests breaking the map up and doing a bit of the trail over a few days. I think if you went for the more difficult maps, then this is a really good idea.
One tip though, plan where you want to start. It really helps with the flow. We deliberately started our trail at 9am so that it would be very quiet out too.
Today we went on a magic train journey courtesy of the North Norfolk Railway! The Santa Train is a similar take on the Polar Express, something that Ita absolutely loves.
Our journey started at Sheringham Station where we were greeted by the ticket conductor who informed us of our carriage number and we boarded our private compartment. The steam train is beautiful and really did remind me of the polar express train! When we booked our tickets back in June, we deliberately paid for the private compartment at an extra cost of £25. However, as covid issues continue, everyone now gets a private compartment (we weren’t refunded for paying extra but if you did then it may be worth enquiring).
The compartments are only very slightly decorated with tinsel and I do think they could make a bit more effort in the compartments as it would encourage people to spend more time in them – I’ll get to that in a moment… Off we went on a short journey (about 10 minute) to Weybourne Station where we arrived at Santa’s station aka The North Pole.
We were instructed quite clearly upon entering Sheringham Station that once we arrived at at Weybourne, we would gradually leave our carriages in order to careful filter people to collect their mulled wines and to see Santa. However this didn’t happen and it became a bit of a free for all! Everyone jumped off the train and the station became really packed. I do feel that this part could have been better managed as we didn’t know what to do or where to go.
We decided to queue to meet Santa and we were greeted by a friendly nutcracker. Once inside we entered through a magical wardrobe, into Narnia!! It was stunning and we weren’t expecting it so it really did feel magical.
We wonder around the festive walk-through kingdom. It’s filled with over 100 Christmas trees, light displays, decorations and much more. There are lots of photo opportunities and this part didn’t feel busy or rushed. At the end you’re greeted by a very energetic elf and brought through to meet Santa in a small with a wood burning fire. Although the gift Ita received wasn’t great, it was actually better than the one she received in Hamleys!
Afterwards you are asked to head back to your carriage to wait until the train departs back. You do get to spend a bit of time in your compartment, especially if you’re one of the first to meet Santa. I really looked forward to spending time in the train carriage so it’s a shame that there wasn’t any music on (they had speakers up) or that it wasn’t decorated more. I think this is an area they could definitely work on.
When booking your tickets, you can add a little food platter. Each of these platters (serves 4 people) are handmade and are made up of freshly made sandwiches, savoury bites, cakes and of course sweet treats. I actually wish we had booked one of these because they looked tasty but it would have been perfect to nibble on whilst we waited to depart back to Sheringham. You can’t bring your own food onto the train so this is something to bear in mind.
The train departs 4 times a day at 10.00, 12.05, 14.30 and 14.35. The whole experience is about 2 hours and the trains are cleaned in between.
On the weekend we made an impromptu booking and travelled to SnoZone in Milton Keynes for a 30 minute Private Family Sledging Session! This session has only just reopened and we were quite eager for some fun.
The SnoZone is situated in Milton Keynes MK9 3XS and was quite easy to find. There is ample parking but you do need to pay – I think we paid around £3 for 2 hours so it was not too much at all.
Inside, it is right by I-Fly (which also looks very cool!) and there are other various shops around too.
5 Minutes before our start time, we headed to the hire desk and handed our passes over. We were asked to walk over to the slope entrance where someone would meet us to talk us through our session. Here we were handed 3 smallish sleighs and shown to our private slope. We had a quick introduction on how to safely sleigh and we were off!
Ita immediately took to it and was quite a dare devil – no surprise there really! She wants to go right to the top of the slope where as we were quite happy to work our way up! The 30 minutes did seem to go really quickly and I think a 45 minute session would have worked out perfectly to be honest. I had quite a few questions from Instagram on what the sleighs were like. Well… pretty much this! They were more ‘’seats with sticks’’ as Ita called them but they worked really well and were light too so it was easier walking back to the top each time. I know in some places you can hire rings but I don’t think they are an option here.
We were advised to arrive 45 minutes early but really there was no point and I think we would have been better off arriving only 15 minutes before. I think this might be older information relating to if you have to change and get ready there at the centre. However now you have to arrive ready to go!
You are advised to wear waterproof clothing and snow boots or wellies, otherwise you may find yourself with wet, cold feet.
Due to the necessary precautions, you cannot hire any snow boots, gloves or helmets – all of which are a must to be on the slope. Luckily we had our own from a previous ski lesson but this is something to bare in mind when booking. If you were thinking of doing this session, I would look for sales and special deals in places like Sports Direct. The main thing you will need to focus on is a helmet for safety, but snow boots and gloves can really vary. I for example wore uggs and on their website they do suggest wellies as an alternative too. (Cycle helmets are permitted too!).
The changing area and lockers are also out of use, again, because of covid. Therefore you must leave everything in your car or by the entrance to the slopes. It really is worth baring this in mind if you are not travelling by car. Although I am sure it is safe enough, the centre does not take responsibility for any items that go astray.
This session is for a family/social bubble of up to 6 people. The price is £59.99 per bubble so this works out very well if you are a family of 5 or 6. Otherwise it feels a bit steep. However, with that said, we had a great time and have already made plans to go back!
Please note your group must contain 1 adult aged 16yrs+ (with a maximum of 2 adults per group) and juniors must be aged 3 years and over.
Last week we were invited to the beautiful Taj 51 Buckingham Gate Suites and Residence to enjoy their Mystical Afternoon Tea. The Taj 51 is a beautiful 5 star hotel that sits in Victoria and we had heard so many lovely reviews of their Alice in Wonderland Tea, so we were really looking forward to trying their festive version.
The building itself is gorgeous and completed decked out in its festive attire. We entered the lobby area and Ita’s eyes lit up and she almost ran right into this stunningly themed tree! It caught her attention immediately because she absolutely loves Alice in Wonderland. The staff straight away came across as child friendly which is always something I sense instantly and it typically determines whether we have a good time or not. Being a parent, it is really important that you feel valued and that your child is too, rather than being made to feel like a nuisance. The doorman especially engaged in a chat with Ita explaining the theme of the tree and I could have died when she told him in no uncertain terms that she knew exactly that it was based on the Mad Hatter.
The reception staff were also so courteous given that, in typical London fashion, we were late because of the traffic. Again, Ita was welcomed and asked whether she would like to lead the way!
The moment we saw the main Christmas tree in Kona (the restaurant area) it took my breath away! Ita kept going to look at it because the whole design was simply spectacular. The dress actually lit up far more than this photo shows. The room itself is modest in size which we absolutely loved because it felt intimate and there are only a small amount of tables in here.
Our afternoon tea started with a festive spiced hot chocolate and our choice of a large selection of teas. We were then served our sandwiches but I can honestly say they were the best presented sandwiches we have ever encountered. Usually afternoon teas serve simple finger sandwiches but these were so striking and frankly so beautiful. The selection included Rosemary roast beef and English mustard, Yorkshire ham with cheddar and pickle, smoked salmon and orange horseradish stars and egg mayonnaise with a little twist.
The sweets treats included spicy gianduja chocolate gateau, pine forest pistachio cremeux cones, Bakewell toadstools, a starry night nougatine snap and a Baileys and cream yule log! Of course we also had scones and ones with cranberries in too!
We do quite a few afternoon teas and for us, this one definitely stands out. The food was plentiful and the designs of the sandwiches were the best we have ever had. Dominic thinks this was his favourite afternoon tea… by far! Ita also commented on how fun the treats looked and especially when you look at it from a child’s perspective, she is right! They were bright and inviting.
We would absolutely recommend this afternoontea! It is very fairly priced for a festive tea in a 5 star hotel and it feels luxurious but also very fun. I cannot stress how lovely the staff were which of course added to our wonderful experience. I was even forced into a photo which I was secretly happy about! I’m usually the photographer! I think this also demonstrates how family orientated it was too though.
Afterwards we were actually encouraged to look around. In fact, Ita was told she would love the lights outside and the tree in the joining building. She wanted a photo by every. single. tree. I kid you not! Although I can see why. Taj 51 really is decorated very beautifully.
This particular afternoon tea is available throughout December and served on Thursdays and Fridays at noon and 2pm, and on weekends at noon, 2pm and 4pm. There are sittings on Christmas Day and on New Years day too.
Price £55pp and children aged between 4-11 years can also have tea for half this price.
For more information on the afternoon teas served at Taj 51, please see the link below.
We have been fans of Osmo now for a little while and have quite an extensive collection. But truth be told I came across Osmo a few years ago and although Ita was too young at the time, I always remembered seeing the different sets and thinking how fun they looked. I had wondered if it was a fad but I really liked the idea that Osmo supported and promoted learning, development and logical thinking. I also really liked that it incorporated IT skills which was something that others did not really do at the time. In fact I can remember very clearly that anything to do with children and iPads was typically frowned upon. When Osmo reached out at the beginning of 2020 I was more than keen to review their packages because I had fully intend to purchase one. We are now fully fledged Osmonaughts!
Initially we received the drawing sets called Super Studio – both Disney – so I knew Ita would enjoy them. What I did not expect though was how much Ita would learn from them. Copying and drawing what she saw on the screen has helped improve drawing/listening skills, hand-eye coordination & drawing confidence.
Other sets that Ita now has is the Coding which is for children aged 5-10 years (so quite a bit older than Ita). This set promotes logic, coding fundamentals, basics of programming, solve coding puzzles, teamwork, listening, critical thinking, observation, creative problem solving, music creation & pattern recognition. I was not expecting her to take to it so quickly but within a week she was able to put together simple instructions for Osmo to follow. Really quite impressive!
The Tangram set uses puzzle pieces to match on-screen shapes and complete over 500 designs/puzzles enabling creativity & visual problem solving. I was so surprised to learn this was for 6 years plus! Ita really took to it quickly and really enjoyed the challenge of choosing the right puzzle piece. Much like Coding, this set encourages visual thinking, problem solving, puzzles, creative problem solving and fine motor skills.
With the Creative Set your child travels on an adventures to solve story problems with their drawings brought to life instantly on the iPad.
This set helps develop drawing, listening, speed of drawing, visual thinking, problem solving, physics, creative problem solving & fine motor skills. This is one of our newer sets and although we have not used this as much as the Coding or the Little Genius kit, I think Ita really loves making her stories come to life.
The Words set came as part of the Genius Kit for 5 years +. It is slightly more challenging for Ita so this is set we will be working on more. You look at the on-screen clue to guess the secret word. As Ita is just learning words now that she is in Reception, I think this will soon become something she will want to do.
We also have the Numbers set but this is also for children aged 5 years – 10 years. This one is slightly more advanced I would say where you arrange physical tiles, including dots and digits, to make numbers and complete levels. The ethos of this game is to experiment with numbers without the fear of getting the answer wrong. I feel like this is quite important because I am quite sure Ita will be that child who has a worry about not being right all the time!
The Little Genius Kit is the set that I believe you should start off with! This package is specifically for 3-5 year olds and comes with a few different games inside. They are ABC’s, Squiggle Magic and Costume Party. (There is also a Genius Kit for children aged 5 – 10 years).
Here are some details about what is included in the Little Genius Kit..
ABC’s – This helps with letter recognition, phonics, construction and vocabulary. There are over 300 words for preschoolers to learn.
Squiggle Magic – Your child builds and creates anything their mind can come up with and then it come alive on-screen. Using the squishy, colourful sticks and ring pieces specifically designed for little hands, young artists will develop their cognitive, creative, social and emotional skills through this fun-filled exploration.
Costume Party – Experiment with clothes and colours to make party outfits; then watch characters react on-screen! Designed for early learners, this fun imaginative play fosters spatial reasoning, creativity and fine motor skills, plus they’ll have a blast using the cardboards clothing cutouts to dress the characters for the party! This game got her through the initial lockdown!!
One thing I want to reassure parents is of the durability. Considering Ita was only 3 years old when she started using Osmo, I was a bit worried with how heavy handed she appeared with the pieces. So I want to say with complete confidence, Osmo really is very strong! Even the pieces made of card have not been damaged at all and Ita has played with these over and over!
Every morning Ita puts on her Tonie story box and picks and Osmo to do before we get ready for school. It has become a routine that Ita set herself and I am sure it’s because she finds Osmo fun rather than a boring learning activity.
‘’ Osmo merges tactile exploration with innovative technology, actively engaging children in the learning process’’. This is a statement I fully agree with. I was not obliged to write this blog post. It was not requested by Osmo. I wanted to share my honest opinion and because I believe that there are certain toys that children learn so much from without realising it and those in our opinion are the best kind of toys! Osmo would make a fantastic Christmas present for those as young as 4 years old.
If you are new to Osmo you will need to purchase one of their Starter Kits which includes the base and the Osmo reflector. (You will need your own iPad or Fire Tablet).
How Osmo works
1 – Put your device in a compatible Osmo Base with the red reflector over the device’s camera.
2 – Play with physical game pieces – draw, code, spell and more.
3 – Osmo scans the table and your child’s creations come alive on the screen!
This was by far one of the most requested blog topics I think I have ever had. Happily, this is a topic I know lots about and really enjoy too! Over the years we have tried lots of different afternoon teas and I honestly believe that if you visit London, then afternoon tea is essential!
Afternoon Tea is synonymous with London and at Christmas, many restaurants and hotels go that extra mile with a festive version. As a family we go often to various afternoon teas and do themed ones at home for Ita. Each year though, we always take a trip to The Ritz for their famous Festive Afternoon Tea. This one gets booked up way in advance, I’m talking months! I tend to book this one in around June time. With that said, there are so many options!
I have done quite a bit of research and here are my favourites for 2020!
Yesterday afternoon I posted some pictures to my stories of our walk around London. It prompted quite a few responses and all with the same theme, how beautiful London was looking in its festive attire and how I capture lovely photos of Ita in London.
I certainly do not have the skills to remove people and change settings, so planning photos works best for me (and probably for the other average mums too). So hopefully this blog post will help you plan too!
The truth is photos mean a lot to me. I spend so much time making sure I capture the right image because when all is said and done, all you have left is the photo to remind you. I learnt this regrettably on my wedding day. You cant recapture a moment. Once its gone, its gone. As so because of this I have spent a lot of time thinking about how I could make sure I captured beautiful photos for Ita, to look back on when she is older and maybe even with her own children!
So this leads me here, sharing the most beautiful festive spots in London.
I wrote out a little trail for my friend Jovana on my last Instagram post. It was just a simple response to her comment but I think it captures the most beautiful sights. So I am going to use that little route to provide you with what I believe to be the best photo shots in central London.
New Bond Street:
For us, this will always be the Christmas shot to get. Each year Ita posts her letter to Santa from the post-box just across from the beautifully decorated Cartier store. The lights are undoubtably stunning at night but the truth is this area will almost always be packed… and full of Instagram models. As such, we always visit here on a quiet Sunday morning when you can quite literally park just down the road from this shop.
The post-box is across the road and slightly to the right so the best place to get a photo like this would be standing to the right of the post-box and then taking a few steps back. This means you can capture Cartier in the background too.
To get a nice photo outside of Cartier, I would suggest standing again on the road opposite but more so to the left. There are a load of street signs around here which you will want to avoid – it is this reason that Tiffany’s is so difficult to capture. It is such a shame as the shop is beautiful but there are too many signs and poles that ruin it.
I would say this is best for day time shots. As beautiful as the peacock lights are, it just isn’t worth the crowds of people. Even during lockdown I was receiving messages on Instagram telling me how busy it was.
Right by Cartier and Tiffany’s is the Burlington Arcade that leads you out to Regents Street. I would only suggest visiting here in the day as it becomes very dark inside and also very busy too. The Moet & Chandon swinging chair is probably the most popular photo op but it sits right in the middle of the arcade with nothing pretty behind it. You would really need to wait it out to get a gorgeous photo with no one in the background! (See below).
Definitely better for the day time shots.
Fortnum & Mason:
Once you exit the Burlington Arcade you will see Fortnum and Masons. One of the most stunning shops in London, especially so since their lights are that of an advent calendar. However…. There are loads of road works going on just outside and it is really unappealing to be honest. No matter where you stand across the road, you cant seem to get a photo without these road works being obvious. As much as I love this photo, it doesn’t show off the grand face of Fortnums. (This was taken by the main entrance). However if you walk down Duke Street which is to the right of Fortnums, they have the most beautifully dressed window display.
It definitely looks better at night where it is all lit up and arguably distracts you from the road works.
Sadly The Ritz is all boarded up because of lockdown but it is where my mind goes to when I think of Christmas Days Out. They have a huge tree on the foyer by the reception and the décor runs throughout. Outside, they hang their decorated wreaths and garlands and they dress the two trees by the entrance too. Typically I would say you need a photo by their tree inside but that’s not going to happen right now. The outside is photo worthy though! The tree to the right of the entrance has a sign underneath but the tree to the left doesn’t and actually sits back slightly. Therefore it looks nice in photos without taking over.
I would suggest going during the day although if you are around in the evening it’s definitely worth going to.
St James / Waterloo Place:
My absolute favourite Christmas Tree in London!! There is none that even compare to the tree by the Crimean War Memorial on Waterloo Place (named St James). And this is why! The tree is tall and full but not huge meaning you can get a full length photo of the tree and yourself / child. As it sits on a little square, you can stand across the road and basically capture it from any angel. This means you will be able to get a picture without anyone else in shot.
For this photo I stood in the middle of the road – it was spookily quiet but thinking about it, it very often is quiet around here. There is a small strip of pavement that separates the road and faces the tree and this would be the best place to get a photo. On this night though someone was taking their photo and they seemed unhappy with the outcome so kept asking their partner to take more!
The tree is prettiest at night but I would still say it is daylight happy too.
Is underway and frankly I could burst! I always get too excited for their decorations as they are so OTT and take up the entire front of this private members club. Last year it was heaving during the day and at night time so I can imagine it will be this year too. It sits in a largish square but although its worth going to see, I wouldn’t have your heart set on getting a good photo!
London has a theme of flying angels that kinda remind me of Hannibal the TV series. If you have seen it you’ll know exactly what I mean!! These angels have been reused for the last few years and really do not stand out much during the daylight, but at night they are gorgeous. I have seen so many photos in the middle pavement outside of Hamleys in Regents Street and this is where you will get the prettiest shot. And for that reason this is where were heading to next weekend!
Definitely better during the darker hours.
I’m going to be very blunt here – I am SO disappointed this year with the decorations in Covent Garden. I think we were spoilt last year by the absolutely stunning Tiffany & Co set up and remember that Jo Malone one too? This year they have a gigantic tree. It is so difficult to get a photo without anyone else in it and you will need to be about a mile away from the tree to get it in full length and then you in full length too. Ok so not a mile, but very far away!! I am secretly hoping that they will add something else to be honest.
The London Transport Museum has a small themed tree outside and I think this one is really rather cute. Chanel also have a little photo op outside too!
Honestly? Not worth it.
Other areas that have beautiful lights are Carnaby Street and Marble Arch. However I cannot imagine you will be able to find a good spot for a photo, that doesn’t have crowds of people in.
If you love a pink Christmas then of course Peggy Porschens is for you and this year Elan have a huge pink tree and carousel inside Kings Cross station.
We always visit The Ivy in Chelsea and each year they do fantastic displays. My favourite was from 2018 when they turned the restaurant into a gingerbread house!
With all this said and whilst still being sure that a nice photo is the goal, you do need to simply enjoy and have fun with seeing the Christmas lights and decorations! They are beautiful and have become somewhat of a tradition for us. There is no better place than London in December!
My biggest one. Avoid other people in your photos. Its quite an obvious one but having strangers in your photos not only distracts from how pretty they will turn out, but it also means you will quite literally have photos of random people!
Avoid distractions such as ugly scaffolding and building work. Try and place yourself/ child in front of them if possible to cover them up!
Clean your camera lens each and every single time to take a photo. Honestly, especially when it comes to phone cameras, it makes all the difference.
Take your time. I used to feel so rushed but now I take as much time as I need to get the photo I am happy with!
Natasha from Kiddos Adventures has done a blog post on a Christmas lights tour and I am allowed to share this with you. Here is the link below;
Over the years, I have had so many lovely and positive comments on Ita’s playhouse, especially on our seasonal makeovers. As such, I thought I would share more info on her playhouse and on how we create the little transformations.
Ita has had this playhouse now for around 3 and ½ years as it was a present for her first birthday. It was from Waltons (links below) and is called the ‘Snug Playhouse’ measuring 4×4 feet. Currently inside there is a wooden kitchen, a box of small toys and a little chair and with this there is still room to move freely. It is a really good size for a small child especially and as it also has shatter proof windows on 3 sides, it is also perfect for parents too.
The playhouse comes unpainted so we used Cuprinol white (called white daisy) and pink (called sweet pea) paint to decorate both the outside and the inside, and bought 6 carpet squares from B&M to cover the flooring. I have seen others use vinyl and I think it looks brilliant. Because the playhouse has a felt roof, it is very waterproof and the carpet is still in good shape! It is also anti rot and has a 10 year guarantee. This is really worth knowing as so many playhouses on the market do not have this guarantee.
Initially, I wanted something quite simple for Ita so once it was painted, I more or less just added a little fence border, potted plants and fairies to the outside area. Over the years the space around the playhouse has changed somewhat. It is currently in its festive décor as seen below.
These items, the Christmas trees, were sourced from Facebook Market place. One was £5 and the other was £10. Out of shot is one that we picked up for FREE! As these items are outdoors, I would not suggest paying a lot as the weather can deteriorate them sharpishly. I bought a can of spray snow for £2.99 from our garden centre and added bows that were years old and heading to the bin this Christmas.
My absolute favourite time of year for the playhouse would be Easter. After the harsh winter this is usually when we give it a little freshen up using the white paint. We only do this once a year.
The photo below was actually taken during lockdown this year and Ita had asked that we turned it into a ‘home for bunnies’. The wisteria was from eBay at around £8 per stem (there are only 2 here). The other artificial flowers are from last year and too were from eBay and also Home Bargains. The little bunnies were from The Range and eBay. We tend to stick to lilacs, yellows and pinks during this period. I absolutely love how bright it looks! As does the Easter bunny aka daddy!
Lockdown was a really difficult period for everyone and I felt so relieved that Ita had this little playhouse because it created a separate area of play to keep her occupied. She also enjoyed having her own enclosed area which was safe for her to do so. Now she is a bit older she takes so much pride in organising how it looks and is already talking about whether Santa will know where her own house is!
The playhouse is currently £252.99 but it will also be in the black Friday sale so look out for a bargain! What an amazing Christmas gift it would make!
Certified by European Toy Safety Standards EN71 for ages 36 months +
It would be fair to say that 2020 has been the weirdest year. The covid pandemic was a real shock to the world and most have been affected by it in one way or another. It changed everything we had planned but I am absolutely determined that it won’t affect Christmas. (Even if it seems we’re heading back into a national lockdown…). Our little tradition with Ita of giving back is needed more now than ever. Seeing so many families and businesses affected this year has really put so much into perspective.
I personally feel that Christmas is so important. It stays with you into adulthood and it’s when memories are made. For some, it’s an especially hard time though.
There is so much that you can do when it comes to being generous during the festive period. Even buying a bit extra on your food shopping and donating it to your local food bank is incredibly kind and will go to a family who needs a little help.
I did a blog post on ‘Giving Back’ last year which is still pretty relevant so this year I have decided to focus specifically on children (and toy donations).
For many years we have donated new toys and selection boxes to our local hospital because I have always felt especially sad for children who are unwell and who have had to spend the festive period in hospital. The new toys are wrapped by the fundraising department and handed out to the children on Christmas morning as an extra special gift.
Having had a mum who worked every single Christmas day as a nurse for almost 22 years, I also felt rather sorry for the staff too, so we have sent lots of chocolate in the past!
This year, our local hospital is unsure whether they can accept physical gifts/ donations due to the virus and the risks involved. With this in mind, and still wanting Ita to learn how fortunate she is, I have found some amazing charities who we will be donating new toys to. However, it does not need to be a bag of gifts that you donate, one is enough to make a difference to a childs Christmas.
ALDERHEY CHRISTMAS CHARITY APPEAL
Alderhey arrange to accept toys at Christmas time for their Christmas charity appeal. The toys are set aside into ones for children to play with at the hospital and ones to gift children who are very unwell.
For more information about how they manage toy donations at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, then please contact them via the link below. They will arrange a drop off time to ensure everything is safe.
If you are working from an office then KidsOut’s Giving Tree initiative invites firms to ditch the Secret Santa and buy toys for children in local refuge homes instead. Many of the recipients are children who have escaped domestic violence, being forced to flee their homes quickly and leave all possessions behind. Without Giving Tree, these children may not otherwise receive a gift at Christmas.
This year, the Giving Tree is going digital because of the Covid issues!
Donations can be made by texting the code GIVINGTREE followed by a space and the amount as a number to 70085.
** For example, to donate £10 you would text the following to 70085: ‘GIVINGTREE 10’. You can opt to give any whole amount up to £20.
This one is particularly close to my heart because of my line of work. Dear Santa is a seasonal appeal to deliver gifts of choice to children and young people harmed by serious crime across the UK, the Channel Islands and Isle of Man.
Children referred for a Dear Santa gift may have suffered trauma as the result of sexual abuse, violence or neglect, or have lost a parent or loved one to homicide.
Dear Santa allows the nominated child to choose their own gift (worth up to £30) which is placed on the Dear Santa Wish List for public donation.
Embrace CVOC will wrap and deliver your gift in time for Christmas Day.
100% of your donation goes to your chosen child.
• To nominate a child you must be police or work in a statutory role. Parental/ Guardian consent is required.
And of course, the famous shoe box appeal! Each year thousands of people like you generously pack shoebox gifts to bless children in need around the world. Find out all you need to know about how to pack your shoebox gift below.
With Christmas fast approaching there will be many new toys coming out. I honestly find it quite overwhelming and find it difficult to determine what would make a good toy for Ita. By that I mean one she will enjoy and play with for ages, as well as learning from it too.
With that in mind, we were sent these two new PJ Masks toys by Just Play.
PJ Masks Romeo’s Flying Factory Playset
Retails at £49.99 however I have seen this for about £41.99 on the Smyths website.
This PJ Masks play set is based on the popular pre-school show. Ita actually used to love PJ Masks and even got to meet them, but hadn’t watched the show in a while so I was apprehensive as to whether this would still interest her. As she is only 4 years old, she tends to flit between a few interests the current one being Disney’s TOTS. Anyway! As soon as she saw the sets she was more than happy and was keen to test them out!
The set comes with a Catboy and Romeo figure only and Ita was a bit disappointed that it did not come with Owlette. Luckily she has other figures from PJ Masks other sets that she could use but otherwise I think buying the other characters is a must.
The set comes with a lights and sounds control panel, working crane, laser launcher, drone, and two of Romeo’s greatest gadgets (The Squashatron & The Sniff-O-Whiff).
Ita loved pretending to control the Flying Factory but absolutely loved the secret lair the most.
The Flying Factory can roll back and forth too which of course Ita pushed across the floor countless times.
Romeo’s Flying Factory Playset includes: one Flying Factory, one 7.5cm Catboy articulated figure, one 7.5cm Romeo articulated figure, one lights and sounds control panel, one rolling get-a-way drone vehicle, and two of Romeo’s invention accessories.
•Contents: one Flying Factory, one 7.5cm Catboy figure, one 7.5cm Romeo figure, one light and sound control panel, one rolling get-a-way vehicle, and two of Romeo’s invention accessories
•Lights and sounds control panel plays sounds and phrases
•Kid-powered crane really works
•Launch the lasers to defend the Flying Factory
•Pull the wings back and the Factory will launch Romeo and his get-a-way vehicle
•Dimensions: 20L x 40W x 40H cm
•Batteries Required: 3 x AG14 batteries (included)
I have found the set on here for the lowest price;
Retails at £14.99 however this does come in just under on the Smyths website.
Surprisingly, Ita really enjoyed this smaller set and I think it is because she already had Catboys version from last year! I say surprisingly only because children to tend to prefer the bigger sets don’t they? As a parent, I had to admit I did prefer this smaller set as it was easy to put away and store after playing with. I also think it is very reasonably priced and again, because it is small it means it can be taken out with us too.
The PJ Masks Gekko figure and vehicle assortment comes with a 3″ articulated Gekko and his new Gekko-Mobile. (You can of course also get the Catboy and Owlette versions too). I think what I really liked about this was that you simply buy the preferred character. If you want to buy the others then of course you can use them together but equally, it did not feel like Ita needed to have the other characters in order to have fun.
•Contents: A Gekko figure and a Gekko-Mobile vehicle
•Dimensions: 10L x 20W x 10H cm
•Fly into action with Gekko and his Gekko-Mobile!
•Inspired by the show, this new vehicle features a sleek design and discreet wheels that really roll!
•Catboy has poseable arms and legs to promote imaginative play
•Collect all three PJ Masks Save the Sky Vehicle sets including: Catboy, Owlette, and Gekko. (Each sold separately)
I asked Ita for her opinion on what she liked the most and she said immediately that she liked the secret lair in the Romeo’s Flying Factory playset. I think typically this is because she quite likes secret compartments in toys. She then explained to me that she liked Gekkos ‘’green car’’ because she can make ‘‘him drive fast and crash into the sky so he flies away’’. I also noticed she played with this for considerable amount of time where as with the bigger play set, she explored it more.
Personally I think the smaller sets make really good ‘’little’’ gifts, especially stocking fillers. If I was to only purchase one I would likely have gone for the bigger playset but I do think it would require you to purchase the other characters too.
Overall, comparing the items with others on the market right now, they are both good value for money. Although they are meant to be for 3 years +, I think children slightly younger would enjoy them too!