30 September 2016

A sunny family day out at Dover Castle

Dover Castle is a gorgeous location. We spent a warm and sunny summer day there while  on our first family camping trip. We wandered around the grounds and inside the castle. As always, I have taken lots of pictures from Dover Castle to share here on my blog. 

the bridge over moat at dover castle

mummy and daughter looking at the view from dover castle tower

crenellations at dover castle

mummy and daughter at dover castle tower

view between crenellations at dover castle

view to the seaside from dover castle tower

looking down from dover castle tower at lots of tiny people on the yard

child sitting at dover castle tower floor

moats and outer ring of dover castle

mum and daughter near a moat at dover castle

mum and daughter picking flowers at dover castle

showing a flower to the camera

A family day out at Dover Castle - Dover Castle is a gorgeous location right on the coast and one of English Heritage sites. It is a great place to visit with family. This post includes a lot of pictures and tips for a perfect family day out. Click on the post to see more.

The rooms inside were decked out in furniture, and you could imagine what life must have been like in the castle back in the day. I was wondering out loud to a member of staff that it must have been freezing in these big, wide and tall stonewalled rooms. Apparently however, as Kings held court from their bedroom, the room would have an open fire and lots and lots of staff dealing with the court business, it actually got pretty warm, even on the coldest winter days. 

We had a picnic on the grounds, and grabbed a coffee from the cafe. And we walked around the moat, picking flowers. There was also a show, with actors, for the kids. A queen invited all the children to come and compete in medieval target shooting. It was quite good fun for the older children. We also had a look at some of the wartime exhibitions - although we did have to miss out on them as after hours of running around our toddler started to get quite unmanageable and we thought it would be best to call it a day. 

We enjoyed our visit to Dover Castle a lot. The staff were really friendly and knowledgeable, and the scenery breathtakingly beautiful. Lucky me also discovered that I have a corporate membership to English Heritage so we got off cheap this time. Due to the newly discovered membership I think we might visit lots more of castles this coming year! 

dover castle tower seen from below

glass window staining at dover castle

dad showing child a miniature dover castle model

inner room with swords at dover castle

central yard at dover castle

actors at dover castle

childrens activity target shooting at dover castle

child straddling a cannon at dover castle

children climbing a tank at dover castle

fence by dover castle seaside

seaside view of dover castle grounds

Top tips for Dover Castle: 

  • Pack a picnic. There are lots of nice places to eat outside, and you save a few precious pennies. 
  • Take the whole day - the grounds are huge and there is lots to see. 
  • Have chats with the staff minding the rooms- they are incredibly knowledgeable and can tell you loads about history and old customs. 
  • The Underground Hospital stages air raid simulations - this means the hospital tour is a bit too scary for the youngest children but should be thought-provoking for older kids. 
  • Consider a family membership to English Heritage - for two adults and two kids  (+5 years old) the yearly membership is not much more than one day tickets and you get to visit as many castles as you want for a year! 

You might also like: Our first ever camping trip as a family and Visiting Farnham Castle in Surrey

25 September 2016

Feeling emotional on my daughters first day at nursery

The first day at nursery. A big day. One day you are a little toddler, the next a big girl. 

Our daughter has stayed home with her daddy until now, three and a bit years. Now she has started nursery at our local primary school. Her uniform consists of black leather trainers, dark grey jogging bottoms, white polo shirts and a bottle green cardigan. She looks so grown up wearing all that!

toddler in front of blackboard wall

first day at nursery blackboard wall art

first day at preschool blackboard wall art ideas

Her daddy took her to the nursery on her first day. Although I would have loved to be there, walk her down to school for her first session, needs must, work must, and I was unable to get out of the office on that day. As was told to me, she refused to get pictures taken, practically dragged my husband down the road and shouted "Come on daddy... no pictures it's time for NURSERY at my school... yahoooo!". 

Talk about enthusiasm. I hope that will last for the next 20 odd years.

On her second day I was able to work from home, so I got to walk her. Again, she was pulling us along and shouting "Come on mummy! Come on daddy! We are going to nursery!". At the nursery doors she slipped inside, not even looking back at me. I called her name from the door, asking her to say bye bye to mummy, and she did not even look up from her sand pit and pouring jugs. 

Feeling all emotional and a bit tearful at what a big girl she was, I turned to my husband to say that she doesn't even need us. And as the teacher shouted that all parents can now leave, all the slightly bewildered and nervous parents gathered at the gates begrudgingly started slowly walking away. And every few steps you could see someone peeking a look behind their shoulders, just in case. 

For the past few months she had been talking practically everyday how she wanted to go to school and to nursery. Despite knowing that she was desperate for more interaction with other children, I don't think we realised quite how enthusiastic she would be, and how well she would take it. She now goes to nursery for 24 hours a week and loves it. 

And I suppose that is a good thing, but gosh, doesn't it feel just so strange to see your baby growing up...

toddler excited about going to school

pulling mummy along while walking to school

walking with daddy to school nursery

walking with mummy to school nursery

How did the first day at nursery / school go for you?

23 September 2016

Penguins with Sense Organics kids clothing: review

I loved reviewing Sense Organics. I love kids fashion and I love discovering new brands. I got a sneak peek at Sense Organics AW16 collection a couple of months back and now that the collection is finally out I can show you my picks. Please note this post is written in collaboration with Sense Organics. 

Sense Organics focuses on providing organic, GOTS certified, vegan-friendly clothing for the little people all the way from baby stages to 6 years of age. I loved the AW16 collection - it is very wintry, with lots of snowflakes, arctic motifs (think of penguins and polar bears), and geometric prints reminiscent of ice crystals. A second thing I loved was the focus on good old-fashioned quality materials - there is no acrylic in sight. It is all cotton, and judging by the two items we got, soft, good quality cotton at that. 

For my daughter I chose two penguin items, in her size (3-4 years old). A soft navy blue jersey dress with three penguins appliqued at the front, and a penguin motif fabric at the bottom. She loved it (she loves dresses), and has wanted to wear it several times. She loved modelling it too, pulling some right funny poses for me (after I had promised her a piece of chocolate...). The dress appears very comfortable, the fabric isn't too thick and the fit is loose. 

girl using a toy camera wearing a penguin shirt

The second item I got was the same penguin motif on a shirt. This elicited "Aww, baby penguins" response from my daughter... She loves baby animals of all sorts. The print is absolutely adorable - I love those navy little baby penguins. The print is very geometric, and it is only at close where you notice that it is actually made of many many many little baby penguins. As for the shirt, the fabric is fairly thin and the fit is quite wide. I think this will last her until she is well past four.  

There was one more skirt I was hankering after though - which I fell in love with... When I was ordering my items it was ran out, and it is still in my mind... Absolutely gorgeous skirt with an arctic scene of Eskimos and polar bears and penguins.  Shame it was out of stock at the time! 

Giveaway is now closed but if you like the look of Sense Organics, they deliver to loads of countries!   

a Rafflecopter giveaway

19 September 2016

The trials and tribulations of trying to raise a bilingual child

We are raising our daughter bilingual. It is not easy though. We have had so many trials and tribulations on our short journey already that I am starting to lose hope. I have listed the difficulties we have had in trying to raise our toddler bilingual and they boil down to three main areas - time, temptation and resistance. 

My native language is Finnish and I want my daughter to learn the lingo as well as she can. I recognise that she will never totally sound like a native unless we decide to up sticks and move out of the UK, but I would like her to speak with near fluency and be able to read at an age appropriate level. I know all the research about how bilingualism helps your brain develop, how it makes you smarter, more open-minded and more innovative, but it is not just about that. It is also that I want her to have that deeper cultural understanding you only gain through understanding the language. 

toddler laughing

We have been on our bilingual journey for just three years but there has already been several trials. 

The biggest trial is the most obvious. I work full time. Monday to Friday we only have a couple of hours to converse in  Finnish. A bit when she wakes up and a bit when I come back home from work. Otherwise, it is English from daddy all day long and soon it will be English at the nursery all day long.

Weekends can patch it up, but just a bit. I mostly speak only in Finnish to my daughter, but of course I have to translate the things I say on Finnish to my English-speaking partner, and other family members and friends. I try my hardest to speak in Finnish only when I am speaking directly to my daughter. It does often create quite a bit of interest, and people want to know how her language skills are developing and how we find the whole process. 

toddler girl laughing

Second big trial is also trying to resist the temptation of English. Her English is naturally a lot stronger. When she doesnt quite understand what a Finnish word means I find myself repeating it to her in English. It isn't really what I should be doing of course.  For monolingual children you explain the word, thus expanding their vocabulary and understanding at the same time. It is something I have to be mindful of, as it is easy to slip into. 

We have several additional strategies to support her language development. I've bought tons of kids films dubbed in Finnish for her to watch. Now if only I had Paw Patrol in Finnish... as that seems to be the only programme she accepts nowadays. She does often reject the films I have bought her for whatever is her favourite at the moment. I also read her books in Finnish, and I do sing nursery rhymes in Finnish. And sometimes make up my own silly stories and silly songs, although sometimes she very clearly requests an English song...  

During term time we go to a Finnish Saturday school, where she gets to play with other more or less bilingual children. The sessions are all in Finnish, but I hear the children often, quite naturally, reverting to English when playing together. It takes a keen ear to listen and remind them to speak in Finnish.

toddler girl pulling a funny face

Third big trial we have faced is pure stubborn resistance. My daughter understands Finnish very well, and can speak it a bit less well, but sometimes she just plain refuses to use it. Whether it is because she just wants to push my buttons, or because she just doesn't feel like it, I don't know. I try to mostly ignore it, and ask her to say it in Finnish, or if she insists in saying things in English I repeat them back to her in Finnish. So if she says "I want to have a biscuit", I repeat "Siis sinä haluat keksin?". Which I suppose at least builds her passive understanding of the language if nothing else! 

Although, it might just be that she is slowly turning full-on English. Whenever she says anything to me in English I ask her to repeat it to me in Finnish... 

And she repeats the same English sentence, but just LOUD and s l o w l y. 

Joking aside... Do you have any tips on how to raise a bilingual child?

13 September 2016

A fun and cheap family day out at The O2

We recently visited one of London's landmarks for a family day out. The O2 invited us to experience the range of family activities offered and it turned out there were surprisingly many family activities to do! We got ourselves filmed at Sky Studio, drove a race car at the Nissan Innovation Centre, grabbed a bite, searched for Pokemon and saw a film at the Cineworld. Turns out, The O2 is actually a great place to have a fun family day out. 

father and child walking toward the o2 entrance

the o2 from the river

mother kissing daughter in front of the o2

A fun (and cheap) family day out in London - at The O2. A great place to spend a rainy day in London is The O2. There are several cheap and free activities for children, such as film studios and virtual car driving, and several inexpensive restaurants to choose from. Check my top tips on what to do on a rainy day in London, or when you want to have a cheap family day out in London, UK.

Living in London I've known The O2 for ages. They host big concerts, and there are restaurants too. And that's about it what I knew about it! I've been there twice before. Once to see Peter Gabriel concert, and the second time when we popped by for lunch after visiting the Emirates Airline (review of that experience coming up soon!). This was the third time I visited The O2 and I was quite surprised that you could do so many things over there. 

You can arrive to The O2 by car, tube, or my favourite way, the boat. MBNA Thames Clippers do easy hop-on, hop-off services you can pay with an Oyster card. I always recommend people to take the boat when travelling in London - it feels like a much more fun way to travel, and you get to enjoy all the views too. Depending where you catch the boat from you could get to see Westminster, St Paul's, The Tower, Canary Wharf and Greenwich, all in one big swoop. 

the sky studios entrance at the o2

a wall with congratulations and drawings for chris foome for winning tour de france

mother and daughter taking a picture in front of green screen at the sky studios at the o2

toddler looking at an image of themselves with cartoons at sky studios

a picture of a toddler superimposed with paw patrol

the sky studios at the o2 news desk

toddler wearing headphones at the sky studios at the o2 news desk

We visited Sky Studios first. The theme of Sky Studios changes every few months, summer 2016 the theme is sports. My daughter especially loved getting her picture taken with various cartoon characters, such as Paw Patrol. These were done in a photo booth type setting. She also loved the football game that had been set up.  Other activities included racing bicycles, being a news anchor (this was great fun!), and getting your picture taken on a green screen with footballers. 

Midday we stopped by for lunch at ASK Italian. There are lots of chain restaurants to choose from which was great - you can find anything from sushi to steak - and I would say most were very family friendly. 

ask italian restaurant at the o2

Second activity we did was the Nissan Innovation Station. Our daughter loved sitting in the car and pretending to drive it. In fact, there were lots of toddlers and pre-schoolers climbing in and out of the cars and it was quite hyper over there. 

You could test drive virtual reality cars, race cars and Paralympic racing wheelchairs, which was great fun. My favourite part of the Nissan Innovation Station was doing the race car stimulation, which is the same equipment Formula One drivers use to practice - it was great fun and I wasn't too bad considering I don't actually drive! We also both (virtual) road tested the Nissan electric car. 

nissan innovation station at the o2

toddler looking at a car at nissan innovation station at the o2

red nissan qashqai at nissan innovation station at the o2

race car simulation at nissan innovation station at the o2

driving the race car simulation experience at nissan innovation station at the o2

Our final activity of the day was the cinema. We went to see Finding Dory at the huge Cineworld they have at The O2. We were still stuffed from our lunch at the ASK Italian, so tummy's full of pizza we didn't indulge on any pop corn this time. If you liked Finding Nemo, you have to see Finding Dory too - it was such a wonderful film.  

cineworld escalators at the o2

walking inside the corridor at cineworld theatres at the o2

Doing all these activities kept us busy from 11AM to 5PM so that was a full day out. This kind of a day would be a perfect rainy day outing - or alternatively if you just want a pretty cheap and fuss-free day out. 

Top tips:

  • Age range - there are fun things for all ages, although I think it is best for school aged and pre-teens - especially the driving experiences!
  • Sky Studios is busiest 1-5PM. Visit early or late!
  • Nissan Innovation Centre gets busy too, so if possible try time your visit early or late.
  • Arrive in style - you can take the tube but it is so much more fun to take the boat, especially on a beautiful sunny day. You get to see all the major London sight too in less than an hour! 
  • Don't forget - The Emirates Airline is just outside The O2 and on a beautiful day well worth a visit for the views. 

father and child walking at the mbna thames clippers pier at the o2

the o2 from a boat on the river

mbna thames clippers on the river going towards the o2

father and daughter riding on the mbna thames clipper boat service

the tower bridge from the river boat

the tower entry to the traitor's gate from the riverside from a boat

the london tower from the boat on the riverside

Have you ever been to The O2? What did you think?

You might also like: 11 fun things to do with toddlers in summer London, and London with toddlers: Tower Bridge Exhibition

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