7 September 2018

What is the SEALife London Aquarium like for kids?

The London Aquarium is one of the attractions in London I always recommend families visit. It is a fantastic place for both younger and older kids, and there is such a great variety of things to see, everyone will find something exciting about it. When they recently invited us over to come view all the new things that have been set up, I jumped at the chance to review it. Here is what we thought of the attraction and also my top tips for visiting the London Aquarium.

London Aquarium - review and top tips for visiting

london aquarium tunnel

girl in front of shark tank

woman and baby in front of fish tank

Over the last few years the SEA LIFE London Aquarium has done loads of work on their premises and increased both the exhibition space and spruced up some of the existing areas. Newish additions include the penguins and the jellyfish, and the rainforest area has new decor and play areas for the kids. 

We visited the jellyfish section last year, and absolutely loved the strange world of the jellyfish - it was another fun and interesting addition to the aquarium. This time my daughter was very keen on seeing the penguins, and it was great to see them toddle on their icy little enclosure. The rainforest section had loads of creepy crawlies, crocodiles, tortoises and fish (like piranhas!) and my daughter loved playing at the new play areas - it made it a bit more fun and play-oriented for little ones, enabling us adults to really look at the animals and have a moment to read the signs too, which was great.

mum and daughter in front of fish tank

peep hole

piranha at london aquarium

girl looking at tarantula


penguins at london aquarium

penguins swimming

woman looking at jellyfish

jellyfish london aquarium

Other than that, my absolute favourite is the big ocean tank, with all the sharks and giant turtles. It really is fantastic, and you get to view it at so many points during your tour. You get a glimpse of it at the very start, when walking above the sharks and then later when you walk through the tunnel. 

This year we also attended the Behind the Scenes Tour. I would really recommend this from years 5 upwards - our daughter found it absolutely fascinating to learn more about the aquarium practices and see the areas normally only the staff get access to. As an adult, I found it fascinating too! We got to see the quarantine area, hear more about the aquarium practices, and also see seadragons, fish that is not on display as they are so delicate and get disturbed by the noises of viewers. We got to hold a shark and a ray egg (empty of course) and see their breeding areas. We learned what they feed the fish, and how thick the aquarium glass is, so lots of learning. It all felt pretty special.

london aquarium back room

quarantine tank london aquarium

sea dragon tank

sea dragon through a peep hole

aquarium glass

coral tank

family photo in front of coral tank

The unfortunate thing about the aquarium is that it gets very very busy, especially between the hours of 11AM and 3PM. It can be difficult to secure good viewpoints, and you may have to wait quite long. As the tickets are expensive, this can be quite disappointing. On our visits we have always used the priority entrance, although this time as we visited in the afternoon, it was quite slow and we had to queue a relatively long time (15 minutes I think). On previous occasions when we have visited as they have opened, it was a lot speedier and you were pretty much waved straight through which was great.

Another slightly problematic thing of the aquarium is also that it is quite dark (as aquariums are!). Because some of the passages are narrow and winding, you have to be quite careful and keep an eye and a hand on your kid at all times as they can get so excited and start running off!

mum and daughter in front of shark tank

London Aquarium - review and top tips for visiting

So that's what we thought about the London Aquarium - great place to visit, loads to see, kids love it, but it can get VERY busy around midday. Definitely worth a visit though. See my top tips for visiting below!

Top tips:

  • Visit before 11AM or after 3PM - it is very busy midday.
  • It is fully buggy and wheelchair friendly. The closest buggy/wheelchair friendly tube station is Westminster. 
  • Under 3 year olds are free!
  • Lovely place to visit in the heat of summer as it tends to be very cool down there.
  • Don't bother too much with taking photos - unfortunately due to the darkness most photos just won't work. 
  • Best place to have a selfie is right after the see-through tunnel - a little enclosure that goes inside the tank. 
  • Behind the Scenes Tour is great- well worth it for both kids and adults. Best suitable for kids over 5.
  • You get to pet a starfish - so amazing! Don't rush though as it can take a while for kids to gather the courage to touch it. 
  • If you are peckish, there is a McDonald's right next door - as well as other restaurants nearby. 
  • South Bank is lovely to walk on before or after the Aquarium - there is also a small playground next door to the Aquarium, in Jubilee Gardens. 

Review of the SEALife London Aquarium and the Behind the Scenes Tour, and top tips for visiting. There are sharks, sting rays, jellyfish, penguins, and all kinds of bugs and fish. We think it's great place to take the kids in London!

31 August 2018

What happened in our lives in August 2018

Oh gosh aren't school holidays exhausting? It feels like you are constantly trying to come up with some sort of an entertainment for the little one, which isn't always easy when realistically, you can't really go to loads of places with a brand new baby... Or, well, you can but it just is not fun. And we have done so many things, and if we stay home just one day, apparently it is "sooo booring" and "the worst day ever". 

That said, we have been out and about doing a fair few things. The pictures this time are from our trip to the Whipsnade Zoo, which we really enjoyed. But talk about a five year old - do you think it is ever going to possible to get them to pose nicely for a picture ha ha? Every picture has some sort of monkeying going on!

family picture at whipsnade zoo with antilopes

I have loved:

  • Having the house to myself (and the baby) while hubby and older daughter were away... It was blissfully quiet!
  • Having a home-spun outdoors cinema night, with a projector and pop corn. 
  • The sunny weather and eating a lot of ice lollies when the heat was on.
  • The start of the GBBO. This year I am finally completing my yearly challenge of doing the weekly technical challenges. Bring it on wagon wheels. 
  • Going and doing lots of family things together, like the zoo, aquarium, food festival and so on. 
  • Buying new swim wear and going to aquabic. 

Aili has loved:

  • Being off school! 
  • Going camping with Nanny. 
  • Going to the zoo and the aquarium and to the park. 
  • Going to product launches (Cry Babies Magic Tears - these cute new mystery dolls you get to open and the launch of Boots Mini Club range by Fearne Cotton). 
  • Having picnics - we have eaten at the park a few times and also had a rainy day picnic underneath a gigantic spruce.
  • Saying "This is the BEST DAY EVER" every time we do something. 
  • Doing a funny face in photographs. 

family picture at whipsnade zoo with antilopes funny faces

family picture at whipsnade zoo with antilopes funny faces

family picture at whipsnade zoo with antilopes

Aija has loved:

  • Rolling on her tummy and lifting her head up high. She first purposefully rolled over at 10.5 weeks old and has been at it constantly since. 
  • Turning 180 degrees on her back and front - if I leave her for a bit I never know what way she will be facing. 
  • Trying to lift her butt up. I think we are going to have another extra early crawler here!
  • Grabbing at things, especially her sisters hair. 
  • Gnawing at hew fingers and fists, we think this is an early teether too. 
  • Smiling and cooing, oh she does a lot of this it is so lovely.  

Hubby has loved:

  • Going to Wacken, a metal music festival in Germany, with old band mates.
  • Chucking us out of the house to try and concentrate on doing work. 
  • Going to the gym and buying new gym stuff. 
  • Doing family things and going to Whipsnade Zoo and going to the Behind the Scenes tour at the London Aquarium.

family picture at whipsnade zoo with antilopes

family picture at whipsnade zoo with antilopes

So that was our August, busy but fun. Roll on September and school though, I can finally get something else done than being the chief child entertainer ha ha.

How was your August?

You might also like: What happened in our lives in August 2018

28 August 2018

My best last minute back to school tips

Don't the summer holidays go quick? One moment your kids are running out of the school gates, and the next they are whinging about having to go back to school... There are quite a few things to think about before going back to school again, so here are a few last minute back to school tips I have found useful. 

I'll also be reviewing name labels for school uniforms from Petit Fernand, and you can win your own set too (entry form at the end of the post).

kid in front of blackboard with first day of school written on it

1. Check you have all the uniform bits, in right size

Quite self-explanatory really... That said, if your kids still fit in their uniform from last year I'd recommend waiting until the end of September or beginning of October before going uniform shopping. We have found that the uniform shops are crazy busy, and the supermarkets often run out of some key items - or at least sizes can be difficult to find. But, if needs must, do try get to the shops early in the morning, or try online shopping.  

2. Label the uniform

I don't know about your kids, but mine is constantly losing every loose piece of clothing she wears. We go through a ridiculous amount of time every school pick-up hunting for her cardigan. She has also come back with someone else's tights, and would probably lose her head if it wasn't so tightly attached to her body. 

Anyway, to avoid all items being lost, label them. You can just Sharpie the name to clothing tags, but I find this wears off in the wash, so iron-on and stick-on clothing labels really help. Petit-Fernand sent me some school uniform name labels this year - I chose their Nursery Value Pack, which contains a mixture of iron-on and stick-on clothing, shoe and item name labels - altogether 120 labels for £28. 

It was really easy to order, and arrived within four days of ordering, beautifully presented in a handy booklet. You could choose all kinds of icons and colours for the labels and the names as well as a font, so you can really personalise the labels according to what your kid likes (for mine it was a bunny and blue colours). There was also a sheet of stickers for the kids - bonus!

Also, a pro-tip here - get the labels with your kids last name only. This means any younger siblings can wear the same clothes, without needing to re-label them, saving you a bit of time in last-minute preparations in a few years time. Your future self will thank your past self!


name labels

name label on a school uniform

3. Schedule your kid for an eye and dental examination

Just because it is easy to remember, new school year means yearly check-ups. And it is pretty important to do both regularly. I for example went through a year in school not being able to see what the teacher was teaching us since no one realised I couldn't actually see, much anything a few meters away... 

4. Plan the start-of-the-year photographs

I know the school year usually starts with the school photographs, but I also like to take a picture of my little one on the first day, in her school uniform. I often incorporate little information in the picture as well, such as what she wants to be as an adult, what she likes, how tall she is, the date etc etc. We have a black board wall where we add this, but I have seen other parents also use small chalkboards, white boards or just a piece of carton you decorate ahead of time. 

That said, if it's all too much, just make sure they have had their hair nicely combed before the school photographs ha ha!

5. Get used to early wake-ups again

If your kids have gotten used to late mornings, now it is time to start getting back to the routine. So, put those alarm clocks on again at a normal school wake-up time, phasing them if needed over a few days for a gentle re-programming. And start getting that breakfast routine back in again, making sure the mornings start to run as smoothly as they have to when school finally starts!

6. Rejoice in the savings you make

And if you have left all the purchases of all those school items till the last minute, at least you can be happy that you are probably able to find decent discounts the later you leave it. You might not have much of a choice but at least you are saving some pennies. So don't feel too bad and own the choice to procrastinate and mask it as frugality if anyone asks ha ha. 

I was unusually organised this year and sorted out the school uniform at the end of term last year, but, other than that am busy prepping everything else. If you have any good tips for the last weeks before school starts I'd love to hear them. 

So, what kind of last minute back to school tips do you have?

Enter the competition to win £30 towards Petit Fernand School Name Label Value Packs - just enter using the form below. UK entries only.

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23 August 2018

10 quick and easy ideas for a bunny party

Every year we ask our daughter what kind of a birthday she would like to have. This year a bunny birthday party was what my daughter wanted - and that is what she got!

It was fun planning this 5th birthday bash, looking for a wide variety of bunny-related merchandise and thinking of different ways of having bunny-tastic fun, so I wanted to show what we did and share my ideas here too. So here it is - a bunny birthday party done easy... I have gathered here some ideas for very easy crafts, and easy foods to serve to kids, as well as some links to great products for little bunnies. Check the end of the post for the full list of recommended items. 

(Some links are affiliate - this means if you buy stuff through these links I get a small amount of money at no extra cost to you)

bunny birthday party food table

bunny biscuits and carrot cupcakes and chocolate raisins

bunny shaped sandwiches

1. Easy bunny-themed food!

Labelling normal food with bunny-themed names works a treat! Carrot and cucumber sticks with some dips are perfect bunny food - label them as bunny snacks.  Marshmallows on the other hand are perfect bunny tails. You could also offer bunny noses (pink candies) or carrot juice (any orange-coloured juice really). Cupcakes can be easily decorated with small carrot cake decorations to make them more bunny themed. 

2. Get a bunny cookie cutter

Biscuits and sandwiches are always a big winner, so I used a bunny cookie cutter to make bunny shapes. Kids absolutely loved these  - they were labelled as ham bunnies, and cheese bunnies and biscuit bunnies. This is my favourite biscuit recipe - kids love the flavour and the biscuits stay true to shape. 

3. Bunny droppings...

As an extra special treat, I also offered chocolate raisins - and labelled them as bunny droppings. I figured kids would find it absolutely hilarious, you know, kids and poop... Word of warning though - bunny droppings is a bit too advanced language for young kids, so just label the chocolate raisins as bunny poop. Something I wish I had done after I had to explain the tenth time bunny droppings means bunny poop...

Buy the items:
UK: Carrot cake decorations, Bunny cookie cutter, Chocolate raisins
US: Carrot cake decorations, Bunny cookie cutter, Chocolate raisins

cake in the shape of a bunny head

paper cups with bunny face

girl in bunny ears with a bunny cake

4.  Easy-peasy bunny cake

I usually make the cake for birthday parties, but since we had just had a baby, I wanted to minimise the hassle but still have a stunner bunny cake. So, I bought a shop-made, white, decorate your own cake, cake pens, and modelling icing. I made bunny ears from the modelling icing, stuck them on the cake and used the cake pens to draw the bunny face and the ears. Job done! 

As a tip though, you need to make the ears minimum 12 hours before to ensure they are hard enough. Also, I had to support the ears using a straw behind them - due to their size and weight they kept falling and breaking. Smaller ears would likely stand without extra support.

5. Bunny themed cups and plates

I bought simple white cups, and used felt tip pens to draw a bunny face on. Bonus - you can draw the same face the cake has! For plates you could buy plain white plates, and glue simple white carton ears on the back to make them bunny plates. Obviously, you can just buy bunny-themed cups and plates too if you don't have time. 

6. Bunny ears for the kids

You could buy them - you can find fairly cheap ones online - or be even thriftier and make your own! There are a few different ways of making bunny ears, including paper or felt. 
carrots as decoration

carrot party bags

woman holding carrot party bags

7. Easy rabbitty decorations

Carrots. Seriously, just go buy carrots with their green stems on them, dot them around the place. Such an easy way to decorate, and you can eat them afterwards. Bonus! I bought also rabbit foot prints online for decorations, but forgot to put them up... I think there might be another bunny party coming up in a year as our new baby grows up ha ha. Gotta use those decorations somewhere! 

8. Fun bunny entertainment

We had a wide variety of entertainment for the kids, including a sand-water table, chalks and a bubble machine. For extra bunny-themed entertainment, you could hide toy carrots in the garden and get your bunnies to look for them, or ask the kids to play pin the tail. You can get pin the tail bunny games online, so don't even have to craft it yourself! You could also get the kids dance for a bit - the song "Sleeping bunny" is a great one little kid always love to play along. 

9. "Carrot" bubble wands

Buy orange bubble wands, tie green string on the end -  and there you have a carrot wand. You can either have this as part of the fun at the party or include it in the party bags. 

10. Party bags for little bunnies

I bought carrot shaped party-bags - these were brilliant! I filled them with a variety of general party-bag stuff, but you could also include more bunny related items such as the "carrot" bubble wands, or marshmallows (bunny tails) and chocolate raisins  (bunny poop). I also saw very cute bunny-shaped party bags online, or if you want to get crafty, an easy way is just to get white party bags and draw a bunny face on them. 

Buy the items:
UK: Rabbit foot prints, Toy carrots, Pin the tail bunny game, Orange bubble wands, Carrot party bags, Bunny party bags, White paper party bags
US: Rabbit foot prints, Toy carrots, Pin the tail bunny game, Orange bubble wands, Carrot party bags, Bunny party bags, White paper party bags

bunny birthday party food table

Loads of simple and quick ideas for hosting a bunny party - including decorations, party bags, easy bunny-themed food and a simple cake decorating idea. Great ideas for a bunny birthday or a Easter themed party.

Loads of simple and quick ideas for hosting a bunny party - including decorations, party bags, easy bunny-themed food and a simple cake decorating idea. Great ideas for a bunny birthday or a Easter themed party.

So, that's a few ideas for a bunny party - mostly very simple and easy to do or buy. My daughter was very happy with her party and loved pretending to be a bunny with her friends!

I've included the links to the products I bought or otherwise liked the look of below.

Bunny-themed party supplies:
UK: (Food and serving) Carrot cake decorationsBunny cookie cutterChocolate raisinsCake pensModelling icingWhite paper cupsWhite paper platesBunny cupsBunny plates,
(Decoration and party items) Bunny earsRabbit foot printsToy carrots, Pin the tail bunny gameOrange bubble wandsCarrot party bagsBunny party bagsWhite paper party bags
US: (Food and serving) Carrot cake decorationsBunny cookie cutterChocolate raisinsCake pensModelling icingWhite paper cupsWhite paper platesBunny plates and cups,
(Decoration and party items) Bunny earsRabbit foot printsToy carrotsPin the tail bunny gameOrange bubble wandsCarrot party bagsBunny party bagsWhite paper party bags

So, what did you think of these ideas? Have you hosted a bunny party and what kind of tips would you have? 

You might also like: 10 simple and easy ideas for a toddler Paw Patrol party

14 August 2018

Rainy day fun in London: V&A Museum of Childhood

Ever wonder what to do with the kids in London on a rainy day? Especially if you DON'T want to spend megabucks? I always thought there isn't a huge amount of free things to do, but, as ever, I was totally mistaken. One rainy day we found ourselves at the V&A Museum of Childhood and gosh is that a place that is going to my must-visit-again list! And because it was such a cool and FREE place, I wanted to tell you guys all about it too.

kid in front of V&A museum of childhood

large hangar area inside V&A museum of childhood

To be honest, I heard of this museum ages ago and just sort of discounted it as a big museum of some boring old toys. I mean, I do like museums and old toys are fascinating, but I figured I don't really want to traipse all the way to Bethnal Green to look at toys. And then I had kids.

If you have kids, V&A Museum of Childhood really is a fantastic place to visit. For younger kids, there are huge amounts of play areas to choose from. There are dress-up toys, books, cars, doll houses, rocking horses, Lego, and even a small sand pit to choose from. And a great big robot, and various old-fashioned 3D-pictures and moving pictures would appeal to older ones. There was a small cinema (at the time playing Moomins) and story-telling sessions and arts and crafts too. 

As an adult, I did find it fascinating to learn about old toys and see some real antique childhood objects, and I think this would be interesting for older kids as well. My five year old mostly whizzed past all the collections, but some were interesting for her as well - the modern toys more-so, and the cots and prams that looked like they had belonged to princesses in the old days. 

I definitely recommend V&A Museum of Childhood for families, especially with young kids. We spent hours there, and could have easily spent longer... It doesn't even need to be a rainy day, actually, any day would be great to visit this museum. So yes, do pay a visit when you can! 

child in a sand pit

moving images display

child looking at stereoscope

child looking at dolls

shadow puppets play

london v&a museum of childhood

Top tips for V&A Museum of Childhood:
  • It is free! Yay!
  • Check out the daily drop-in activities to plan your visit time
  • For kids under 5, you can borrow toys and an activity pack (but remember to bring a form of ID)
  • Great for kids aged 3 to 12. Loads and loads of play areas to keep the kids occupied, especially under six or seven years of age. Some of the toy demonstrations and arts and crafts would interest older kids as well. 
  • Closest tube station is Bethnal Green, on the Central Line. 
  • There is a cafe with food - or you could take a picnic and eat in the park next to the museum (there are also outdoor area in the museum with tables, and sometimes indoor areas for packed lunches too).
  • There is a quiet room - to use for prayers, nursing mothers and SEN needs.
What to do in London with kids? A free rainy-day proof day out with kids in London UK - V&A Museum of Childhood! This post tells what V&A Museum of Childhood is like, is it worth a visit (short answer, YES), and top tips when visiting!
What to do in London with kids? A free rainy-day proof day out with kids in London UK - V&A Museum of Childhood! This post tells what V&A Museum of Childhood is like, is it worth a visit (short answer, YES), and top tips when visiting!

What is your favourite rainy day place to visit in London?

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