A wonderful family stay at the YHA!

Over the Easter holidays, we had a wonderful mini break in the gorgeous town of Padstow in Cornwall. Since Finley started school, we have really had to shop around when booking holidays to keep it within a reasonable budget. As any parent of a child over the age of 4 knows, the cost of holidays is eye watering when the schools break up!

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We have had a few stays now in YHA’s all over the UK and absolutely loved each and every one of them. I should add, that before I married Mr M, I would have been a total snob and had an (incorrect) perception of Youth Hostels. I wrongly thought they would be full of young hippies (there’s nothing wrong with hippies btw!), a little run down, dull, not very clean, with lots of shared rooms and strangers. How wrong I was!

We opted to book in for 3 nights at YHA Treyarnon Bay. I loved the location of this hostel. It overlooks Treyarnon beach, had a lovely outdoor seating and grass area and was a short drive from Padstow and Newquay, which had lots of attractions we were keen to visit. For a private room including a lovely buffet breakfast and we paid just under £200.

Finley loved the bar and breakfast rooms, where as well as lots of tables and chairs overlooking the bay, there was a huge selection of children’s books to read. We had also taken a few games to play, particularly as the weather forecast was a little mixed. Breakfast included a hot option as well as cereals, yoghurts and toast. There were various dietary options available too. The bar served food and drink from 10am. Finley particualry enjoyed the cheese and tomato pizza, whilst me and Mr M loved the falafel burger. Again, the food and drink was really reasonably priced.

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I particularly love the ‘family feel’ to the YHA’S. There are lots of other children staying there and it’s so relaxed and informal.

The rooms are fairly basic, and include bunk beds (which Finley fell in love with! Such a novelty!) and a sink. The rooms are spotless and all corridors are security fobbed. Showers and toilets are really close by and during our stay we didn’t have to wait to use these facilities once.

I would highly recommend checking out the YHA  next time you are planning a staycation. We can’t wait for our next trip!

www.yha.org.uk

The Lock Up!

Recently Finley has become a little obsessed with the Police. I totally believe in being as honest as possible with him when he asks me questions, so when the topic of conversation about law and order and the role of the police came up, we chatted about the Police catching bad people and bad people then having to go to prison. In his 4 year old mind, he then thought that if ever he was naughty he would end up going to prison! The continued reassurance that Police Officers were there to help good people didn’t seem to work. So when I saw a tour of Steelhouse Lane Police Station online, I hoped that a visit there might fill any gaps in his understanding.

The tour is a self guided walk around the facility, which was used as a lock up between 1891 – 2016, so if walls could talk, lots of tales could be told! Tickets were priced at just £5 each so it was a really cheap trip out. On arrival we were greeted by a very tall, very friendly policeman and directed through to the reception area, where we were given a fun questionnaire to fill in on our way round and items to spot to win a prize at the end of the day.

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There were lots of volunteers on hand to answer any questions we had. As a family we all love a bit of trivia so it was great finding out why some beds are raised and some beds are floor level, why each cell has an arrow on the ceiling and how fingerprints were matched before computers existed. We even got to do our own fingerprints on an ink pad and paper and take them home with us.

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There were lots of items on display to look at and try on. I think Finley was a little reluctant when he was initially put in handcuffs, but he found it quite funny having chain round his wrists and chatted afterwards about why people might wear them.

 

His favourite bit was trying on uniforms and hats. While he was playing with helmets and riot gear, me and Mr M chatted to a police officer who gave us some really useful advice on avoiding crime and staying safe. He was also happy to chat to Finley about how he helped children in the community and not to be frightened of the police.

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We managed to answer all of our quiz questions by the end of the tour so we were awarded with a goody pack including colouring and puzzles as we left.

We loved our visit to Steakhouse Lane, and it really helped Finley understand the role of the police. Tickets can be booked for April and May tours via Eventbright

 

 

A walk on the wild side!

We have had West Midlands Safari Park on our wish list of ‘go-to’ places for a while now. We decided to book tickets for a visit there during the recent half term holiday, and we certainly picked the best week weather wise! We have been treated to some glorious weather here in the Midlands over the past week or so. So it was nice to have an outdoor activity booked to finally enjoy some sunshine!

One of the reasons it had taken me a while to pick WMSP as a day out was the ticket cost. Compared to other tourist attractions local to us here, it is a little on the pricey side (we paid £74.04 for 2 adults and a child.) Added to this the inevitable other costs for a day out with a 4 year old (!) it’s a fairly sizeable chunk of money for one day. This does, however, include a ticket for a return visit.

We arrived early and already even by 10am there was quite a queue to get in. Finley did find it quite a novelty though to be able to get out of his car seat and sit up front on Daddy’s knee! So this did help pass the time waiting to get in.

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We decided to explore the drive through safari first. It was a real novelty for Finley to see  animals animals so close up and to be able to feed them. He is currently learning about safari animals at school, so it was a great learning experience for him. We drove through the African Plains, spotting Buffalo, Ostrich and Giraffes, Wild Asia seeing the gorgeous Rhinos and Elephant Valley. The Carnivores section is amazing, to see Lions so close up is such an experience.

It’s quite a long drive round though so about half way through Finley did start to get a little bored. Particularly as there weren’t a huge amount of animals visible to us. Think we must have caught them at nap time!

By the time we had finished the safari drive through, it was time for lunch. We headed to Dino Diner, located inside the park. They had a good choice of food, particularly for us vegetarians! I had nachos with a 3 bean chilli, Stu had a vegetarian curry and Finley had fish and chips. The food was great. I don’t usually expect a huge amount from fast food restaurants inside theme parks, but I was pleasantly surprised! With drinks, this came to just over £20, which again, I thought was not bad at all.

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Next we decided to visit the theme park. Finley could go on the majority of rides which was good, and there was also a fantastic grassed play area with tunnels and musical instruments. There’s a lovely refreshment van here so it was lovely to sit in the sunshine while Finley played!

 

By this time, young Finley was pretty tired and wanted to go home, so I am glad we do have the return ticket to go back in the summer to see the rest of the animals. We still have to explore the African Village, The Ice Age and The Land Of The Dinosaurs.

Really looking forward to returning!

 

 

Little Learners Messy Play Session!

During October half term we were invited along to try out a Halloween themed messy play session with Little Learners UK. Messy play is so great for little ones, but it’s not so great when the mess is in your dining room and you are the one that has to clean up after it! So it’s was a very welcome invitation!

Little Learners run classes all over the UK, with the aim to make to make learning fun through encouraging mark making, stimulating senses, strengthening core muscles and developing motor skills, sparking creativity and developing social skills. Adding a theme such as the Halloween event we attended or any other seasonal event in the year, makes it extra fun and Finley was really excited about his alternative Halloween party this year!

When we arrived, Class Leader Amanda welcomed all of the children and helped them pick out some ribbons to dance with along with singing a song and explained all of the areas the children could get involved with. They first area Finley headed towards was the Play-doh, which is a current favourite at home. He loved cutting out lots of shapes and rolling it out with the rolling pins.

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The next area he picked out to try out was the huge painting area in the middle of the hall. There were huge trays of orange, green and black paint for the children to put their hands in and put handprints on the paper. There were also a selection of paintbrushes and tools to make patterns with too. We spent quite a while on this area – it was a big hit!

A favourite of mine was the slime filled pumpkin! It was bit like a witches cauldron, stirring around with snakes inside with a wooden spoon. We also liked the orange and green rice to make marks in.

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Lastly we went to see the craft area, with colouring pencils, glue and scissors. We are really trying to develop Finley’s fine motor skills at the moment, and he is learning to write at school so there were lots of things here that really helped with this.

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We really enjoyed the session, and I would definitely love to take Finley again. Maybe a bit of background music would have added to the atmosphere. But it was loads of fun, and the best part being, we went home to a tidy house!

*We were given complimentary tickets to this event in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine (and Finley’s!) own*

We made it!

What a 6 weeks it has been since we made our first steps out of the door for Finley’s first day at school. I feel like I have climbed the metaphorical parent mountain a million times. I have laughed, cried, felt like the best and worst Mom in the world and seen my little man change so much already in such a short space of time.

The feeling on your child’s first day at school is like nothing I have ever experienced before. I was a huge boiling pot of emotions, warning Mr M not to even speak to me when he got up as I knew I was going to sob like a baby if I opened my mouth to talk. Finley looked so tiny in his new freshly ironed uniform (yes I now iron. This is also alien to me) and he could barely balance with his rucksack on his back. I wondered if we were doing the right thing sending a summer born baby to school at just turned age 4. Should we have deferred another year? I wondered how people with more than one child could possible put themselves through this multiple times!

Day 1, apart from a few drop off tears, was fine. Day 2, also fine! In fact the first week was a total breeze. We felt relieved! ‘This is easy!” we thought! ‘What were we worrying about?!’ ‘We are pro’s!’

Then week 2 arrives. And the hell began. Despite him seemingly loving school whilst he was there, we couldn’t get him to go. He would decide before bedtime he wasn’t going and remind us again and again over breakfast. We physically couldn’t get him dressed. If we did manage to get clothes on, he would take them off. Add the pressures of yourself having to get to work and all the other general challenges the mornings can bring. I began to dread the mornings. He had to be carried over to school kicking and screaming most days. One particular morning (rock bottom it is now called) all we managed to get on him was a t-shirt and jogging pants, he refused breakfast, wouldn’t brush his teeth and all he would eat was a biscuit on route. Once we did get him to the school gates he had to be prised off me by 2 teachers. The dream of a happy child eating a breakfast of toast, fresh fruit and a selection of juices had now been replaced by a very scruffy, unwashed child eating sugary snacks being dragged by their very stressed parents to school!

Thankfully, things have improved! We have been extremely fortunate with great support from family, the school and our employers, which, without that support, that last month and a half would have been a million times harder. If you are still struggling with mornings or already thinking about next September, I thought I would suggest a few things we implemented that helped

1 – Be military precision organised.

Mornings run like clockwork here. I get up really early to get myself ready before Finley gets up. If I am stressed, running around worrying about being late, no doubt that would rub off on him too. Bags and uniform, my work items are all ready the night before, and the running order is the same every day. Up by 7, breakfast at 7:30, uniform on at 8 (giving us 40 minutes to get it on him if needed) and out by 8:40.

Finley school

2 – Picture prompts

These have been a miracle for us. Finley’s teacher gave us a series of laminated visual prompts to use so he knew what was coming next. Since using these, we have seen a huge improvement in the mornings. We use them for evenings and weekends too.

Timelines

3 – Be honest with your employers

Easier said than done depending on your employer, but like I said earlier we are both very fortunate to work for lovely companies. My start time was later anyways to accommodate the school drop off, but Stuart was also able to go in to work a little later so we could both take him. I physically couldn’t have done it alone, so without this flexibility I don’t know what we would have done! My absolutely lovely boss made me a cup of tea one particularly horrible morning! If people know you are having a hard time, they may be more willing to offer a short term solution to take the pressure off.

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4 – Go to school early

If your school has a nice play area you can access before the bell goes, use this as a sweetener to get your child to go. We were leaving a little earlier and using the facilities to ease him in to the day.

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5 – Laugh

Despite the few moments of tears, me and Mr M have managed to just laugh most mornings at the calamity of the situation, playing good cop, bad cop and giving each other a high 5 once he was handed over to the Teaching Assistant. And sharing wine and an eye roll over the top of the glass. Yes that is definitely the key to staying sane!

I should also add that Finley’s school are amazing, so if you are looking for next year discuss the settling in procedures and what happens if you do have a child who is struggling to leave you in the mornings. We have taken him in not wearing uniform, arriving as the bell was about to go and they have also allowed us to go in to the classroom with him a few times when he has refused to put his shoes on, and they have been more than fine with this. Absolute angels. A huge bottle of something is on the Christmas list for them already!

Happy half term everyone!

10 things to do in the Black Country this Autumn Half Term!

I adore this time of year. The weather is – in the main – beautiful. Not too hot, but not too cold. There are so many beautiful colours around and there’s something really special about wrapping up, going out for the day and getting back home and drinking hot chocolate and snuggling down on the sofa watching a family film. There also seems to be an abundance of family friendly activities to pick from. So, with that in mind, here are our top 10 of things to do in the Black Country this Autumn Half Term!

Arley Arboretum

www.arleyarboretum.co.uk

Trick or Treat Extravaganza

Saturday 27th October + Wednesday 31st October

10:00am – 5:00pm

Hunt for the spooky doors using your trick or treat map! Cost £5 per child. Price includes trick or treat bag, map and take home treat. Costs for adults to enter the Arboretum also apply.

Sycamore Centre

www.sycamoreadventure.co.uk

Jurassic Half Term

29th October – 3rd November

Take part in Dino Modelling, Dinosaur Scavenging and and a Dinosaur Hunt! Suggested donation £3 per child

Let’s Get Active This Autumn!

Huntingtree Park, Mary Stevens Park, Netherton Park and Silver Jubilee Park

Tuesday 30th October – Saturday 3rd October

2:00pm – 4:00pm

All sessions are run by qualified instructors and include tennis, rounders, basketball and football. No need to book –  just turn up! All activities are free of charge.

Chilly Kiddys

www.chilly-kiddys.co.uk

26th October – 5:30pm – 7:30pm

27th October – 6:00pm – 8:00pm

A great chance to get your spooky costumes on! Price includes party games, and trick or treat bags

Haden Hill House Museum

www.sandwell.gov.uk

Sunday 28th October – Sunday 4th November – Times vary, contact the provide for further information

There are loads of activities during half term week including a family fun day, mocktail making, pumpkin carving and a family friendly lesson in to the background of the Gunpowder plot. Various costs apply. Contact … for further info

Intu Merry Hill – The Big Trick or Treat!

www.intu.co.uk

30th October

11:00am – 5:00pm

A great idea! Let you little ones go trick or treating in the warm, safe surroundings of Intu Merry Hill.

Webbs at Hagley Pumpkin Carving

www.webbsdirect.co.uk/pumpkin-carving

Saturday 27th – Wednesday 31st October

10:00am – 4:00pm

Children can pick their own pumpkin and carve it with the help of the Webbs team. Then you can light your pumpkin with the free tea light. Cost £5.50 per child

Halloween at Rainbow Street

www.rainbow-street.co.uk

Celebrate Halloween at Rainbow Street with a fancy dress party, spooky cupcakes and a prize for the best dressed. £6.95 for 1 adult and 1 child, £6.00 for each additional sibling.

Little Learners Wolverhampton Messy Halloween Party

www.littlelearnersuk.com

10:30am – 11:30am

Have fun with scary slime, apple bobbing, chunky pumpkins and lots more Halloween themed messy play. Booking essential. £7.50 per child, £3.75 for additional siblings

Geek Week at Mac Birmingham

www.macbirmingham.co.uk

Saturday 27th October – Tuesday 30th October

10:00am – 4:00pm

Enjoy retro games like Street Fighter, Mortal Combat, Sonic The Hedgehog and Super Mario. £5.00 per child, £3.00 per adult

Any other recommendations for days out? Let me know in the comments below! Whatever you are up to this half term, have a great week!

 

Raising a feminist son

Raising a child in 2018 presents so many challenges. The recent rise of the #metoo movement, the discussion around the support of Trump and only this week the case of Christine Blasey Ford in the US, is just one of the issues as parents we have to contemplate tackling with our children. I have never shyed away from any sort of conversation with Finley and always try and explain things, even difficult subjects, in an age appropriate way.

I was really heartened when Finley was at Nursery they did a Peer Massage session, which included having to check with your friend that it was ok to touch them before you started your massage. I really welcomed this natural, informal way of introducing the issue of consent into their minds. We spoke afterwards about why this was important and if one of his friends didn’t want a cuddle (we are big cuddlers in the Maynes house!) then that was OK and he had to respect that.

It’s really hard to get the balance right. Even as adults the lines between consent, male and female banter, what is ok and what is not ok is difficult, so how do we get it right with our children?! I do really think though, that the younger we start talking about things and making things ‘normal’ the better it is in the long run for our young men and women.

I have also always prided myself on instilling messages of equality with Finley, offering him choices over the toys he plays with, colours that he wears and activities he takes part in. And even though we are a fairly ‘traditional’ household in terms of Daddy being the breadwinner and me doing the majority of the childcare and housework, I am always careful of the vocabulary used around him. Daddy gets a glare if he refers to household items – ie the hoover – as ‘Mommy’s hoover’. I encourage Finley to help me with smaller household chores, putting his own clothes in the washing, laying the table and tidying his toys away.  I have spoken before about the collection of books we have bought him – Little People, Big Dreams, detailing stories of strong women such as Emmeline Pankhurst and Amelia Earhart. I was chuffed to bits when he fell in love with these tales, asked questions about them and chose to read them again and again.  I am absolutely determined that he should grow up believing that men and women are equal and I thought I was succeeding in my goal!

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Imagine my horror then, when a few weeks ago when we were (randomly as you do with children!) chatting about his favourite (mixed gender) band and what they were wearing, he referred to a man not needing to iron his shirt, as the woman would do it for him’. After I recoiled in horror I asked him why he thought that the woman would iron the shirt.

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This week he has asked me a few times ‘what can’t girls do’ and ‘what can boys so that girls can’t’. It amazed me how after only a few weeks at school these gender stereotypes are slowly creeping in. This was followed by ‘Can girls run fast?’ ‘Can girls jump?’ I got some videos up on You Tube of female athletes and asked him why he though that girls couldn’t do these things. Of course, I got a shrug of the shoulders but I’d love to know where these ideas started.

How do you tackle these issues with your children? I would love to hear your stories and how you deal with these conversations in the comments below!