Making Reading Fun With The Reading Adventure Club

[GIFTED] None of my children have been avid readers and it has always taken a lot to get them into a book. Most of the time it’s a lot of trial and error and even then it can be a battle to get them to sit down and read. So when I was asked to try out the reading subscription box from The Reading Adventure Club I was eager to see if this would help to build a love of books.

The Reading Adventure Club was set up by nine year old twin brothers who have a love of both reading and opening presents and thought it would be a great idea to combine the two! The idea is that you read the book that is sent and throughout the story at different points you get the opportunity to open a special gift that has been loving wrapped and put inside the box too.

For me the clever part of this though is the gift can only be opened once the child has answered a question on the story. All the questions are listed and tucked away in a envelope that is marked – To be opened by responsible Grown Up only.

The presents are a good mix of useful items, mainly linked to reading as well as fun stuff and if you’re really lucky you might even find some sweets in there!

The books have all been loving selected and road tested by the boys, so you know they are going to be something perfect for the age range selected.

All you need to do to get started is to choose your subscription period and your box will be lovingly packed and sent off for it to arrive on the 15th of each month.

This box would be perfect for avid readers and those less inclined to read alike. The boys loved reading the story; and knowing there was a prize coming after a few pages kepted them engaged and wanting to really take in the story rather than just skimming the pages to get the book finished.

It comes with a big thumbs up from us and I would love to know if you are keen to give it a try.

Getting That Festival Vibe At Chessington World Of Adventures – Wilderfest

[PRESS TRIP] As a family we have a huge love of festivals and a huge love of Chessington World Of Adventures, so can you imagine how excited we were to find out these two had been combined to come up with Wilderfest – a festival within Chessington World Of Adventures itself, and during the summer holidays we were lucky enough to go and check it out.

We arrived to singing and dancing whilst we queued, which was great for getting you into that festival vibe and a good distraction for the little ones. After a very short queue we made our way inside and it was that tough choice of what we were going to do first. As I only had the younger two we opted to take advantage of the smaller rides, check out the animals and soak up the atmosphere of Wilderfest.

A lot of people think that its all about thrill seeking rides at Chessington World Of Adventures, when in fact some of the days we have chosen to enjoy the smaller attractions and these have been the best ones.

We headed straight for Sealife which we haven’t done for a long time now and we absolutely loved spotting all the different fish and getting the opportunity to hold a huge African snail – well I did as the kids chickened out!

From here we passed by the penguins that were relaxing in the midday sun and made our way to the monkey enclosure where the boys absolutely love the play area. This gave the adults time to take five minutes whilst they played.

Staying on an animal theme we hopped onboard Zufari which is one of my favourite attractions. The big Jeep takes you past a whole host of animals such a Rhinos and Giraffes and then gives you a pretty big surprise at the end, but I won’t spoil that for you.

Feed and watered we hit the rides, which in hindsight probably wasn’t the best idea as sugar doughnuts and fast rides aren’t exactly the best combination! We flew down the log flume at Tiger Falls, got soaked again on the chair swings and plummeted into the ground on the all new Croc Drop which called for some time to chill out at Wilderfest.

Throughout the day we were treated to music that popped up all across the park and lots of characters milling about and introducing themselves to the children, but there was also a whole area dedicated to Wilderfest where you could join in with funfair sytle game, grab some steet style food or just chill out.

The higlight for Oscar though was definitely meeting the baby panda and hippo – even I had to do a double take as they were so life like.

All in all Chessington World Of Adventures didn’t disappoint again and for me the thing that pulls me back time and time again after being a visitor for over thirty years is the fact one trip is never the same. They are constantly evolving to create a different and magical experience each time you vist.

Now I need to wait and see what they have in store for Halloween!

Inside Tower Bridge

[PRESS TRIP] I have passed over Tower Bridge countless times either on foot or by car and the magnitude of it never fails to amaze me. The iconic blue immediately catches my eye and it has always been one of my favourite London landmarks. I have passed this love down to my children who all get equally as excited as me at the sight.

So can you imagine the excitement levels when I told them we would be taking a trip inside – well this was filled with a little apprehension as both Frankie and I are not good with heights!

A short walk along the river chatting about what we might see and do once we arrived and we were there to be greeted by a lovley lady who gave us lots in infromation on the bridge whilst we waited in the short queue. It was then time to make our way inside. We took the small windy staircase of the North Tower up to the top which was great to add to or anticipation, but for those with buggies or access issues there was a lift that could be used.

On the way up there were lots of interesting facts to read, most of which I had no idea about. Once inside the walkway we were greeeted with a light and airy area with panoramic views across London. We purchased a view guide and the boys loved matching up the landmarks in the book when they came across them, and there were also guides on the windows that were really useful.

But of course what we were most looking forward to was the glass floor and it didn’t disappoint! Being 42 metres above the river gave you the most amazing perspective. Oscar was well away and was speeding across trying to spot people and look for his favourite cars. Frankie was a little more coy to begin with – as was I, but I was actually pleasantly suprised that my usual fear wasn’t that great and I got to really enjoy the moment.

Next up was the descent through the South Tower. As we made our was down we got to learn a little about the people who worked inside Tower Bridge and inside the stunning Bascle Chambers if you look closly enough you will spot some statues of these workers. A little futher down there were tools and uniforms of the staff on display that Oscar was particuarly taken with.

As we came out of the South Tower I thought this was the end of our trip and I was pleasantly surprised that we acually needed to follow the blue line along to the engine rooms. the blue line was made to commemorate the people of Tower Bridge and it was lovely to take this all in as we walked.

I wasnt really to excited about going into the engine rooms as I had a preconceived idea it would just be full of machinery and not too interesting. This was quashed as soon as we arrived. The boys made a bee line for the interactive exhibit that showed you the workings of the engines and then much to my amazement we found the most beautiful looking steam engines. Painted in the most vivid green and red, thet really were a sight to behold.

From here there was more things for the boys to get thier hands on and the loved finding out facts about the people who had made histrry on the bridge with their crazy acts, such as the brave Albert Gunter who jumped the open bridge to save a double decker bus full of people!

The Tower Bridge experience exceeded our expectations and Oscar has even been back at school writng about this as his favoruite experience of the holidays. Now we need to try an book again to see the bridge lifting whilst we are on there!

Happy Hour At Ping Pong

[PRESS VISIT] This summer was all about making up for the lost time of lockdown and trying to fit in as much fun as we could. A lot of our time was spent with us being tourists in our own city and exploring parts of London we haven’t been too – and this included a new resturant for us – Ping Pong.

Ping Ping offers delicious Dim Sum and carefully crafted cocktails at a whole host of different locations across London. We were visiting the Tate Modern so decided on the South Bank branch for our visit and were welcomed with a smile and shown to our table.

There are no menus per se, instead you have a list of all the foods and drinks avaliable and then us it as a tick sheet for the items you want. I had completely over ordered to begin with but the friendly waiter was on hand to help me rejig a few things and we were then good to go.

We were there for Ping Pong’s happy hour which runs from 3-6pm Monday to Friday and offers a huge range of their Dim Sum and cocktails for half the price.

There really was something to please everyone and the boys loved the opportunity to sample things they haven’t tried before…and of course it would have been rude not to have tried a cocktail or two!

The soft and delicate prawn and chive dumplings were to die for, as were the turmeric and Chinese vegetable dumplings. The children worked their way through plate fulls of crispy duck spring rolls and enjoyed popping edamame beans covered in celery salt. We washed all this down with lychee and iced teas for the boys and Ping Pong signature cocktails for me.

We couldn’t have faulted our first trip at all. Helpful staff, beautiful surroundings and fabuolous food and drink in a relaxed atmosphere…what more could you want!

Not A Holiday Without A Trip To Hever Castle

I actually can’t remember when we last had a hoilday without a trip to Hever Castle. Our love for it never falters and I would find it hard to tell you what season there I love the most…well actually that’s a little lie as it has to be Christmas. With that said though whatever time of year you visit you are in for a treat and for us the other day was no different.

As I’m sure you have noticed the weather this summer hasn’t exactly been the best, but there is always something to see and do at Hever. We headed straight for the playground as this is always one of the boys favourite areas. Frankie is reaching the age where is sometimes gets a little bored of playgrounds now, but we spent a huge amount of time in here with the boys playing chase and making new friends in a huge game of hide and seek.

Next up we plotted up by the water to feed the ducks and have something delicious from the BBQ. Hever is perfect for picnicing and we normally do a mixtutre of both. Taking snacks and drinks to keep us going and then treating ourselves to something nice – which always includes an ice-cream!

We didn’t go inside the castle on this visit as the children were keen to stay outside, but it is definetly a must if you are planning a visit. Instead we ignored the weather and went straight to the water maze. For me this is such a pretty feature to the already stunning grounds, and something I have never seen anywhere else quite like it.

There are still covid restrictions on this attraction, but the queue was short and we still had a heap of fun.

We sadly missed the times for the falconary exebitions that run twice a day, but we spent the rest of the day enjoying all the little hidden walks around the grounds whilst the boys tried to spot as many naked statues as they could – something else they never seem to get bored off and mananged to meet one of the birds of prey on our way round.

We had yet another fantastic day and can’t wait until our next trip.

Flipping Out At Flipout

[PRESS TRIP] With over twenty years or parenting I sometimes reach the summer holidays and feel that I have exhausted every single day out there is. Of course we have some firm favourites we never tire of and can happily revisit time and time again, but were always on the hunt for new and exciting places and we definitely came across this the other day at Flipout – Croydon.

Flipout is Croydon’s largest Indoor Super Centre and is home to a whole host of amazing activities from mini golf to laser quest, five a side football to bumper cars, synthetic ice skating to ninja tag as well as the most amazing bounce area…I’m sure there is something I’ve missed!

The centre is based at the bottom of Centrale and Whitgift Shopping Centre and you can get discounted parking upon validating your ticket, which makes it super easy to get too as well as affordable too.

We arrived for the first session of the day and were greeted with smiles and very knowledgeable staff that told us everything we needed before we got on with the play. The sessions last for three hours and from what we saw it is best to book an early slot as it fills up towards the end of the day and it becomes harder to find a base to plot up at.

For the first part of the day I went around with the children, taking part in the fun with them, and I loved that it has all been designed so the adults could have some fun too, but I was also perfectly happy to sit back, relax and enjoy a coffee whilst they had some independent play. Flipout spans two floors and although it is a pretty big space, eveything is easy to navigate and there is always someone on hand to help out.

Some of the areas you needed to queue for but aside from the bumper cars we didn’t wait for more than a few minutes for anything, and we were able to visit our favourite areas time and time again. I loved the fact there were fast pace activities such as the laser tag mixed with calmer pursuits such as mini golf and ice skating so there was something for everyone.

After working up an appetite we headed to the cafe that stocks a small range of hot food and snacks. My pizza loving crew filled themselves up with delicious pizza slices that were at a good price and even had an offer running of ‘buy three get one free’. They washed all this down with a slushie, which again was great valve as you had the option to buy unlimited refills.

The three hours literally flew by and it was announced that they had had, ‘the best day ever’ and I have to admit I had a lot of fun too!

Anyone from aged four right through to adults would love Flipout and it’s one of the only places I visited that would keep my entire gang happy – and that’s no mean feat with a family spanning a range of ages. We had no moaning or groaning and in fact the only words muttered as we left were – ‘when are we coming back’ so you can’t get better than that!

Honolulu With The Family:What To See And Do

Honolulu is the largest city in the state as well as the capital of Hawaii. It is located on the south shore of the Island of Oahu and is considered the gateway to the chain of islands that make up the Hawaiian Islands. With an average high temperature of 85 and an average low of 71, spending time on the beaches is popular in Honolulu.

Taking the family to Honolulu is a fantastic idea whatever time of year it is because the weather is warm and sunny all year. Even in December and January, the average temps are about 75 degrees. Wherever you decide to go with the family, be sure to drop off your backpacks and heavy bags at a luggage storage site in Honolulu first.

Check Out the Fishes at the Waikiki Aquarium

Founded in 1904, the Waikiki Aquarium is one of the most popular attractions on the island. What started with 35 fish tanks and 400 plants and animals has expanded to over 3,500 plants and animals in almost 500 species. In fact, in 1978, it had the first display of Pacific corals in the US.

The aquarium is divided into 15 sections. The Amazing Adaptations exhibit has a collection of pipefishes, sea dragons, and seahorses and is one of the most popular. The Giant Clams and Coral Farm exhibits are also pretty popular. But the 7,500-gallon Edge of the Reef outdoor aquarium is the main attraction.

Visit the Animals at the Zoo

If you want to see some land animals, take the family to the Honolulu Zoo at the 300-acre Kapiolani Park. The zoo boasts more than 1230 animals on the 42 acre s with numerous exhibits to explore. See them all from the huge Asian elephant to the zebras from the African Sahara and everything in between.

The zoo was opened in 1916 with several lion cubs, a sun bear, a monkey, and a handful of exotic birds and today houses a huge variety of creatures in several different sections. The African Savannah is the most popular, featuring lions, baboons, African painted dogs, black rhinos, chimps, and meerkats.

Swim with the Dolphins

At Kahala Resort, their Dolphin Quest program is more than just swimming with a few dolphins. They have their own group of six dolphins that you and the family can meet in person up close. The Dolphin Adventure lets you spend an hour with these beautiful creatures swimming and touching them. The Premier Experience offers a private session for just your family to swim and play with all six of the dolphins. These adventures are only for those five years and older though so if you have a younger child, try the Wee Family Fins and Fun where even the tiny tots get to meet, feed, and play with the dolphins.

Play for the Day at Sea Life Park

Another great place to hang out with the animals, Sea Life Park celebrates the local sea creatures by providing the public the chance to get up close and personal with some of them. First, visit the Hawaiian Reef Aquarium, which is a 300,000-gallon tank with 2,000 marine animals like sharks, turtles, and stingrays. 

They also have the Hawaiian Ocean Theater, where the park staff hosts many shows displaying sea lions, penguins, and dolphins. You will get a chance to feed some of them at the Sea Turtle Pool and Stingray Lagoon. But do not miss the Hawaiian Monk Seal Habitat where you can see these amazing animals.

See the Bottom of the Ocean on the Atlantis Submarine

For those of you who want to go deeper and see more wildlife at the bottom of the ocean, check out the Atlantis Submarine. You and the family will take a shuttle ferry to the submarine location in Waikiki. The Undersea Adventure takes you down in a real submarine in the comfort of AC and cushy seats.

For approximately one hour, you will descend 100 feet where you will all get to see marine life up close in its native habitat. The coral reef was rebuilt in 1988 to revitalize the area and it has become a treasure trove of fishes, turtles, and vibrant corals. See two sunken airplanes and sunken ships teeming with wildlife.

Get Some Sun on Waikiki Beach

Waikiki Beach is the most well-known and popular beach on the island of Oahu, and you will know why when you see the gorgeous crystal-clear turquoise waters and two miles of white sand. In the 1800s, the beach was a private space for Hawaiian royalty but today it is a public adventureland. 

But Waikiki has several beaches stretched out along a huge section of Waikiki Bay stretching for miles along the southern side of the island. One of the best sections of beach for kids is Prince Kuhio Beach, which is also known as The Ponds because there are two walls that offer calm and shallow water to play in.

Learn More About Hawaii at Bishop Museum

Teach the kids about the history of Hawaii while you are in Honolulu at the Bishop Museum. It’s the biggest museum in Hawaii with the largest collection of Polynesian artifacts in the world. The exhibits of Hawaiian life and culture are thanks to Charles Bishop, who founded it in 1889 to honor his wife, Princess Bernice.
Some of the permanent exhibitions include the Kaimiloa Expedition of 1924, the Falls of Clyde from 1968, and the Jhamandas Watumull Planetarium, the oldest planetarium in Polynesia. With 25 million items, each with its own story, you could spend the whole day there and not see everything there is to see.

While you are in Honolulu, don’t miss out on trying the local foods like Poke bowls, Kalua pig, Lomi salmon, and of course, shaved ice. Some of the best places to eat with kids include Mac 24/7, the Honolulu Burger Company, Hula Grill, and Duke’s Waikiki. And for dessert, try Island Vintage Shaved Ice or Liliha Bakery.

The Mary Rose Museum:1545 Immersive Experience When Their World Ended

[PRESS EVENT] In 1982 the world watched on as the infamous Mary Rose was bought back to the surface after the devastating sinking of the ship back in 1545 which is still one of the biggest mysteries in nautical history. It stands to this day to be the biggest historical excavation of its kind with over 19 thousand artefacts recovered from the wreckage.

One of the most devestating facts about the sinking of the Mary Rose is that 500 men lost thier lives that day and the new immersive experience, 1545-When Their World Ended at The Mary Rose Museum has been added to the museum to celebrte those lives lost.

I was lucky enough to be be invited along to the lauch of this new instillation and from the minute I set foot on the port I was completly taken with the grandeur and wonder it held. We took the short walk along to the museum, passing HMS Victory and were finally greeted by Henry V111 himself.

The first port of call – pardon the pun, was the new experience itself. We had a short introduction and then we were lead into a darkened room where KIng Henry V111 told us tales of the times before we boarded the Mary Rose and got to re-live those final moments whilst the the screen in front of us filled with water and capsised the boat.

This was a great introduction to the musum itslef, where we took in the magic of all the artefacts that have been found from tiny, intricate dice to the full skeleton of a dog that had been on board and the many, many wepons from cannons to cross bows that must hold so many stories.

On thing that excited me most about my visit was the love and passion the flowed from each and every memeber of staff I spoke to. They were more than happy to answer questions, no matter how silly and the knowledge that held was absolutely dumbfounding.

Ive saved the best until last and that really has to be the Mary Rose herself, and to be honest no picture or video can do her justice, she really does have to be seen to be belived – so what are you waiting for!

Mama Shelter:The Kidzcation

Stepping out of the cab with the blistering sun burning down on us, we could have easily been on an LA strip and not in the centre on Hackney when we arrived at Mama Shelter.

The grand, black building and striking canopies gave the hotel that immediate ‘wow’ factor, which also fills me with dread when it comes to travelling with kids! Little did I know though my worries were soon to be quashed.

We made our way past young couples sipping cocktails in the sun and entered the entrance hall where we were greeted with a ecletic mix of clashing, colourful prints and luxurious fabrics that were a feast for the eyes; but I think the game changer for us all was the arcade game sitting right by the reception; which imedietly put my mind at ease about the children being there and gave them something to do whilst I checked in, in peace.

I couldn’t have asked for a warmer welcome. I was told everything I needed to know and the children were asked what they were looking forward to during thier stay.

Our stay was going to see us experience Mama Shelter’s ‘Kidzcation’ which means that when you book one room you get one half price which is interconecting if avaliable so the family are all still together.

Our rooms consisted of a double bed and two singles which worked perfectly for us. There was plenty of room to move around and all the little essentials you need such as an area to make drinks and gorgous own brand bathroom goodies.

Screen addict Frankie homed straight in on the TV and was over the moon with the huge array of free movies on offer…I think he would have been happy to stay there all weekend. Another lovely little extra were the sweets on the kids beds and the super cute Looney Tunes masks that the boys kept on for the majority of their stay .

All settled in we made our way down to dinner. The restaurant was buzzing and had a fantastic atmosphere. There was a heated debate over who was sitting on the sofa which resulted in a full on meltdown from Oscar. Normally this would make for a fraught evening, but thanks to our wonderful waiter the crisis was divered and his kinds words telling me what a fab job I was doing with the kids meant so much!

We feasted on the best burgers I have ever tasted and finshed off with a variety of puddings from cookies and milk to brulee’d pain perdu.

The children’s menu mirrored that of the adults which is always somthing I like, instead of the usual beige offerings. Mine all wolfed down their meals and I had the chance to sit and enjoy a G&T in peace while the boys played on the super cool football table.

A check out time of 12pm meant that we could have a really lazy morning which is always welcome when you have numerous little ones to get ready. A few coffees, a bit of TV watching and a long relaxing shower later we went to fill our bellies once more. Children under 12 eat free for breakfast and they get to choose from the main menu which has a great variety. We are definitely a pancake loving family and couldn’t turn down the fluffy panckes dripping with syrup and covered in crispy bacon.

Full to the brim the boys made full use of the arcade machines before we headed to the karaoke room. Tucked away at the bottom of the hotel are two karaoke rooms where Oscar was in his element. The disco lighting and iPads to select your favourite tunes were a fantastic addition to an already wonderful stay.

If you are looking for a stay that caters perfectly for the kids whilst still giving the parents something special then Mama Shleter is the place to be!

The Pros Of Big Age Gaps

With a fair few years between my older children and under two years between the youngest I often get asked what I think is the perfect age gap – in short I don’t think there is ever a perfect gap or a perfect time to have children, but I must say having a larger gap can come with its perks and here are a few for you:

Time To Get Into Routine – Having a few years gap gives you time to see what works and what doesn’t for your family. Getting yourself into some kind of routine with just one little one running around is mush easier to do then with two or more!

One On One Time – For me the most precious time is those first few years that pass within the blink of an eye. If you have one that is already at school or nursery then you can get to make the most of that time with just you and the baby.

Tricky Stages Are Easier On Their Own – Parenting comes with endless tricky stages, but if you can tackle things such as potty training and weaning one child at a time then the chances of keeping your hair a little longer are greatly improved!

Childcare Costs – For those of you that are returning to work, childcare costs can be a huge worry and by having a bigger age gap you can spread these costs more if you already have children at school.

Getting Out And About – Simply leaving the house with children can be a huge task so if they are a little more independent than this can be easier, as there is not so much need to take everything bar the kitchen sink with you.

Sleeping Through – Sleepless nights and children come hand in hand, and if I’m honest this tip shouldn’t come from me as I still have a nine year old that doesn’t sleep – that said, in theory if you can get a good bedtime routine set before another little ones comes along to turn this upside down again then at least you only have one you need to settle.

Older Ones To Lend A Hand – I have always been very concious that it was never my children’s decision to have a large family and have never agreed with them having to pick up the parenting because of that; but it is certainly handy when you have a little helper to grab the nappies or entertain the baby for you every now and then.

Giving Yourself Some Recovery Time – Having a baby puts a huge pressure on your body and I definitely felt this with my last two being so close. Having a bit of a break between children and having time to recover both physically and mentally is a definate bonus.

Less Rivalry – I’m not sure if it was more to do with the girl, boy, girl mix or the age gap between my first three, but there was definitely a lot less confrontation and fighting then with the last two. I think the fact they were at different stages and into different things helped with them not arguing over every little thing!

Having children is a huge blessing and whenever they happen to come along is a always the most magical but hard journey, so these really are only a few views on how I have perceived things over the years.