7 August 2019

Our day with the dinosaurs in London: Dinosaur World Live!

Last week we were invited to review the new/old show in town - Dinosaur World Live - which is running until 1st September 2019. A mix of stage show, puppetry, and audience interaction geared towards the kids. And my, don't the kids love it! The show is old in the sense that it is back again after a successful 2018 run - and new in the sense that this year it is located in a new area - Trobadour Wembley Park theatre. 

meeting a dinosaur

petting a dinosaur

Our whole family attended the show - mum, dad, six year old and a toddler. It was a fun show. We got introduced to the dinosaurs by Miranda, an energetic and happy explorer, and got to see several of them, ranging from the well-known Triceratops and T-Rex to more obscure Segnosaurus. 

The dinosaurs were fantastic, and it was incredibly interesting from an adult point of view to watch the interaction between the puppet and puppeteer, and how they moved. So skilful, both the puppeteers and the construction. My six year old didn't even notice the puppeteers, so deeply was she enthralled by the living, moving, and shrieking dinosaurs.

I also enjoyed how interactive the show was, and how the audience was drawn into the jokes. It was fun to participate by shouting and clapping and all and made the show particularly child-friendly. Few lucky kids were also invited to the stage to directly interact with a dinosaur. As for the story, there wasn't much of a story and the show was more of introducing one dinosaur after another, with a bit of information about the species, some jokes and then the presenter interacting with the puppet. It worked for the little kids, but I would suspect tweens and teens would find it boring.

stegosaurus dinosaur world live puppet

t rex puppetry

trobadour theatre wembley park

theatre trobadour wembley park

dino merchandise

dino egg

posing inside a dino egg

posing inside a dino egg

The age recommendation is 3+, but you can bring in younger ones too. My one year old was mesmerised by the puppets, and seemed to enjoy the show. Surprisingly for her age, she stayed mostly put and watched the stage with interest. My six year old, loved the show and the dinosaurs, and was excited how audience was drawn in to the story. There are a couple of somewhat scary dinosaurs that can scare the younger audience members, but overall, a fun experience for all ages. You get to meet and greet one or two dinosaurs after the show as well, so kids are bound to love that. 

After the show, I would definitely encourage you to walk around Wembley Park area - it was surprisingly nice! It has gone over a serious regeneration effort, and there were many fun settings great for social media photos, a kids play park with climbing frames and slides, a great big outlet complex and another complex for small independent shops, restaurants, and a water fountain area kids loved playing in.

dinosaur family photo

dinosaur family photo

petting a dinosaur as a family

Top tips:

  • You get to meet and greet a dinosaur after the show! Not sure how close you get as there can be a lot of audience but I'm sure kids will find it fun. We were in a press show so got a chance for a quick photo-shoot - probably not totally reflective of the real deal.
  • You can take photos during the show! It's dark though so I'd recommend just enjoying the show. 
  • Few kids got to go on stage so this may cause a bit of jealousy... I explained that everyone got to meet a dinosaur after the show and that you just have to be grateful for what you get, so just be prepared this might be an issue with younger kids. 
  • The theatre is lovely and has a good bar so it's quite nice to come there in time and chill a bit before the show. There is also a crafting area for kids!
  • Go to Wembley Park afterwards - it is such a nice family day out!

16 July 2019

How to get the most out of Kidzania London

During the Easter holidays we were invited by Nintendo to check out Kidzania London and Nintendo's workshops. It was fab to get to finally check out the place. Kidzania is such a unique experience - it is labelled as "an indoor city run by kids". Essentially it is a city for children where the kids do various tasks, earn money (and spend it too on some tasks) and at the end of the day, they can use their wages to buy themselves a treat. There are Kidzanias in several big cities in the world, and we went to review Kidzania London. In this post I wanted to give a few tips on how to get the most out of Kidzania on your next visit!

For our visit we got to enjoy a special seasonal Easter Egg hunt Nintendo-style - we played Yoshi on Nintendo Switch and afterwards went off to find Yoshi's eggs all around Kidzania - and earned good few Kidzania dollars for it. This activity was a special one for Easter only, but all year around Nintendo also has a Labo Workshop where kids get to create a Labo toy, and take it and their Kidzania dollars home - a sweet deal for little gamers!

As tips for the experience, there is quite a lot to say about how to make the most out of Kidzania!

in front of kidzania

kidzania london tips

entrance to kidzania

What ages get the most out of Kidzania?

Get the most out of it by bringing kids under twelve! We took our five year old and our baby with us and all had a fabulous time at Kidzania. All in all I think the city is best for kids from four years onwards, up to maybe twelve years. 

There are some workshops that are good for younger guests too and they get face painting for free, so if you've got kids with young siblings they can enjoy the fun too. We didn't test these workshops as our baby was still too young but she enjoyed the Kindergarten - a quiet space where babies and young ones can stretch their legs and play with suitable baby toys. For kids older than twelve - tthey might enjoy workshops like the Labo workshop by Nintendo or media and music related workshops.

job centre kidzania

playing nintendo at kidzania

kidzania street

kidzania yoshis world

What were the "best" activities?

Get the most out of it by choosing the right activities for right ages! For the younger side, the firemen activity was a very popular one - and I can see why. The kids got to do a fire safety training, ride in a firetruck and then spray water on a "burning" building. Unsurprisingly, the queue for this activity was very long. Paramedic activity was also popular, and involved riding in an ambulance to the same burning building and helping the firefighters. My daughter loved both and would have been quite happy to do them again and again...

There were a lot of medically related workshops, great for younger kids. In addition to the paramedic activity, my daughter also tried the surgeon activity, dentist activity, and a vet activity. She also eyed the nursing activity, where the kids are paediatric nurses and take care of Luvabella dolls, but the queue was long and we suggested trying some other areas too. In all these activities kids really got in there and played with the sets and were absolutely fascinated by the activities.

My daughter also tried the British Airways pilot activity, which she loved, and an air-duct technician activity, which involved kids climbing through tunnels (CCTV monitored of course) which was a good physical activity and got her excited.

Older kids would probably enjoy workshops such as being a news anchor, or making burgers or nut bars, and there were dancing and music related workshops as well that would suit older kids well.

How to get the most out of the activities?

Realistically, eight is pretty much the maximum amount you can do in the four hour session. Depending on the time of the day there may be quite long queues for some activities, so it is worth either trying to jump in when the queue is short, or try look for quieter workshops to maximise fun. Firefighting and British Airways pilot activities had very long queues all day long, so for those ones you will just have to wait.

Get the most out of it by having a look before coming and checking the activities the kids definitely want to do. Try get through these at the beginning to make sure they won't be disappointed when the time runs out. Do allow some time for just exploring and going to workshops that look fun.

kidzania firefighter academy

kidzania firefighters

kidzania firetruckkidzania firefighting activity

How to get the most out of lunch time?

You are not supposed to bring your own lunch, but realistically, you could if you wanted to. There were plenty of places to sit down and grab a quick sandwich. There was a Costa Coffee and The Fire House, so you could have a coffee and a treat, or a quick fast food munch (burger, pizza, hot dog, fries, pasta etc.). The prices were as expected, not in any way inflated. 

Get the most out of it by maximising playtime by food activities! There was three workshops where kids could make food and eat! A wrap factory, a burger kitchen and a fruit and nut bar lab - although small additional surcharges may apply to these. 

Otherwise, we just waited it out until we got out and went to a restaurant at the shopping centre to eat. Plenty of choice and you won't waste time sitting around when you could be playing. 

How to get the most out of it as a parent?

As a parent, you are pretty much just waiting around. Get the most out of it by bringing a book and charging your phone! You could go and chill in the adult only area too if you need a bit more quiet.  

Older kids (over eight years old) can be let loose and you could just go shopping at Westfield, but younger ones need supervising. If you do let your older kids go freely, you can check their last location using these handy location boards inside Kidzania. Kids scan their wristbands at all the workshops and you can locate them easily that way. No kids are allowed to leave without a parent, so that's one worry off your shoulders. 

kidzania dentist

kidzania road

kidzania british airways

How to get most out of it if you need good accessibility?

We brought a pram and it was seriously irritating. There are two lifts - of which one was broken - and the other locked. It was often difficult to find staff to help us, and this is something Kidzania should think about more. Perhaps Kidzania should give families with prams or accessibility issues a key fob to open the lifts themselves. Get the most out of it by asking staff for help with lifts - there are good workshops upstairs and they are slightly less busy than downstairs. 

How to get the most out of the Kidzania dollars?

Get the most out of it by encouraging your kids to spend what they earn inside Kidzania with going for the fun activities! Unfortunately Kidzania dollars will get you very little in the gift shop so better use them for fun inside the venue. 

If kids do have some Kidzania dollars and are lacking just a little when in the shop, worth asking at the till if they can round it up... After all, it is fake money and the prizes are cheap.

kidzania baby room

kidzania surgery

kidzania adult room

kidzania pet surgery

kidzania air conditioning activity

kidzania air ducts

Top tips on how to get the most out of Kidzania:
  • Maximise kids playtime by getting hungry kids try one of the food related activities where they can also eat! (small surcharges may apply) - or bring small snacks. 
  • Bring a book and charge your phone as an adult you will be waiting around a lot - great for small life admin tasks or getting ahead on reading for fun.
  • Choose a few must-attend workshops ahead of time and visit them at first to avoid missing out.  
  • If you do miss out on one activity, you can buy additional playtime - not sure how much this costs though as we didn't use it. 
  • Lockers and pram storage costs a few quid, so if you can, leave bulky items home. Less time spent faffing, more time spent playing. 
  • Accessibility is a bit of an issue, but lifts are available if you ask staff. Go upstairs as there are good workshops there too. 
  • Encourage kids to spend their Kidzos on activities rather than to save them for the gift shop. Gifts are very cheap and not too exciting, and you won't get much for Kidzos. They are more valuable for the play activities. 

 Have you been to Kidzania and what would you say as your top tip?

Our review and top tips for Kidzania London having been there with a 5 year old and a baby - accessibility, workshops, the full experience and all.

2 July 2019

Doing good with your first haircut - The Little Princess Trust

A first proper haircut is a big deal isn't it? When my daughter decided that she wanted to go for a bob I was a little bit apprehensive... Five years of beautiful locks, gone. But, in the name of bodily autonomy and all that I figured I better book a hairdresser. As there was so much beautiful hair to be lopped off, I figured the least I could do was to donate it to The Little Princess Trust, a charity that provides real wigs to children and young people with hair loss. 

The big decision to cut all her hair off was just because of one cinema trip... When The Incredibles 2 came out, my then five year old decided Elastigirl was her big hero now and decided to go for the chop. She wanted to look like Elastigirl. 

posing with elastigirl toy

elastigirl toy

So off we went to the local hairdresser, armed with her Elastigirl toy to demonstrate exactly the type of haircut she was after. She was adamant that her hair needs to have the same flick while I tried to persuade her that a plastic dolly and real hair won't look exactly the same ha ha - we got there in the end and she accepted a version of a similar bob I found a photograph of online. 

And then, the measurement, and the decision, and the snip. Snip, snip, snip. And there she was, my little mini-Elastigirl. 

When my daughter had her first haircut and how she donated over seven inches of her hair to charity

kid at hairdressers

measuring hair

measuring hair

first haircut

first haircut

She was so pleased that she was able to donate her hair for the benefit of other kids through Little Princess Trust.  They are a UK-based charity, that provides wigs to children and young people with hair loss, whether this is through cancer treatment or other conditions such as alopecia. Little Princess Trust also raise funds for research into childhood cancer. 

Educating your kids about charity is so important, and you can do that with the smallest things like this. We had a great discussion around how some children can be sick and lose their hair, and how you can help others in all kinds of ways. Later, after I had posted her hair I also received a certificate from the trust via email which I was able to print out to give her as a reminder. 

hair for little princess trust

with hair to donate

new hairstyle and hair donation

Overall the donating process was so easy. All you need is for the hair to be clean and dry, good condition (no split ends) and minimum 17cm length, although the longer the better. It doesn't have to be virgin hair either, it can be dyed in natural colours, permed, waved, or straight, as long as it looks natural. You can even have a little bit of greys, if you are getting to that age like I am where you start to get a few stray streaks here and there... 

And I'm going to reveal you something. I'm feeling rather inspired by my little Elastigirl - so I've decided that I'll go for the chop too! It's now or never as those greys keep popping up at increasing frequency, so I'm going to grow my hair until 2020 and then it is time for a little (or rather, large) snip...

P.S. For my international readers - Wigs for Kids does the same in US and many countries have their own versions of a similar charity initiative so it's worth asking around!

Have you donated or want to donate your hair?

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20 June 2019

My new fantastic smart photo frame - NixPlay Seed

I’ve always loved displaying photos in our house, and when NixPlay asked me if I wanted to review their flagship NixPlay Seed photo frame I jumped at the opportunity. NixPlay Seed is a digital Wi-Fi based photo frame, a smart frame if you like, where you can upload photos via an app direct from your phone, from your desktop and also by sending them via an email link. I chose the 10.1 inch widescreen frame in black – but there are also 8 inch frames available in black, blue, yellow and maroon, and 10 inch ultra high resolution and 13.3 inch widescreen frames in black too.  

So far I've really enjoyed my frame. I've added all my summer photos on it, and the bright display with the crisp colours has been fantastic to display those vibrant summer vibes. The bright blues and greens of summer are captured perfectly and the pictures are bright and eye-catching. And best of all - any time I manage to take a gorgeous photo of our summer exploits, I can easily transfer it direct to the frame using my phone or my desktop. 

photo frame on mantle piece

How was the set-up process?

You set the NixPlaySeed up via Wi-Fi. Fairly simple process which felt intuitive and quick. Basically as soon as I turned on the frame it guided me through the process. There was a strange hiccup at first, making me think something was wrong, as the frame would not sync with my app despite both being connected to Wi-Fi. In the end it sorted itself out by an automatic software update after a short wait. After it is set-up, the frame can be used and setting changes via the app or the remote control. 

Is it easy to transfer photos to the frame?

In one word - yes! Very very easy. You need an app or a desktop version to begin with and to set your account and pair the frame to it. After that you can transfer photos direct to the frame from your phone using the app, from your desktop (using the online version) or sending it direct to the frame using an email (you get assigned a special email as you create your NixPlay account). This can be used by friends and family as well to send pictures direct to your frame. It's pretty cool! You can add friends and family as account holders as well so they can use the app if they prefer.  

Oh yes, and you can transfer short (15 second or less) videos as well, which is pretty cool. 

What's the quality like? 

The display quality is great - high resolution ISP display. Photos look very sharp and with good colours. The quality of the frame seems good. You use the charging wire as the stand and this seems to be working fine, and streamlines the design a bit. 

mum and baby on a photo frame

family in a photo

baby in a frame

Are there any cool functions?

After playing around with the frame a bit I must say I really liked the smart features it has. 

I dislike the black bars you sometimes get when the photo doesn't exactly correspond to the frame ratio. With the NixPlay frame you can modify the photos so they automatically fit to the screen. You can also ask it to recognise faces and place these in the thirds of the photo. This function works pretty well, albeit not perfectly. Occasionally photos, despite the best efforts, are still cut in strange places. This tends to mostly happen when you play portrait photos in landscape or vice versa. 

Other cool function is that you can fix the colour balance on the frame, so if the photos look a bit odd you can play around with them. 

I also really liked the snooze function and motion sensor function - you can set the frame to go to sleep if it doesn't detect movement for a while. While it is snoozing you can have the screen black or showing a clock. And when you do walk in front of it - on the photo roll goes again. 

Playlists seem like an interesting option too - so you can have rolls of differently themed photos. I'll at some point set up a portrait photo roll and a landscape photo roll, but you could do themes like holidays, or wedding photos or whatever you fancy. One playlist can hold 2,000 photos, and the cloud holds about 5gb data so there is plenty of space! 

Are there any bad points about NixPlay Seed 10.1 widescreen frame? 

As it is a cloud-based system it is reliant on Wi-Fi (I haven't tested yet how it works with no Wi-Fi around...). Not that our Wi-Fi is often down, but I guess we will see next time. Also, all the photos are transferred via the Cloud-based system. Great idea but if NixPlay ever went out of business, then what would happen with this functionality? This frame doesn't support SD cards, USB sticks or bluetooth, so the cloud is the only option. It would be great to have that back-up of either physical storage option. 

And this is not really a bad point, but more of a matter of preferences. In my opinion widescreen version might not be the best for a digital photo frame size if you use your phone camera a lot. 

Firstly, the widescreen 10.1 version looks a bit peculiar in portrait mode, it looks just a bit too thin and tall. Realistically you will probably only use it in landscape mode, but if you might find that if yo'u use your phone camera a lot, you tend to shoot in portrait. Secondly, as the frame ratio is 16:10 and phone camera ratio is generally 3:4 they might not match well. I personally have changed my phone camera ratio to 16:9 now so my phone photos should fit better here on in. 

So it's a matter of preferences and your habits - if you use your phone camera as your primary camera and have a lot of portrait photos you might be better off with one of the more traditional NixPlay See frames, perhaps a 8 inch or 10 inch version. Otherwise, the widescreen version does look fantastic when used landscape and gives that extra oomph to photos. 

photo frame in portrait mode

But all in all I've been very please with my new frame. It is smart, great quality and very easy to use. I'm looking forward to adding more and more colourful photos  to it over the summer! And if you're interested in your own smart photo frame too, NixPlay are doing a %15 of their See photo frames currently! 

Have you had a smart digital frame yet?

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