Halloween Half Term Highlights 2014

The great news is the weather is looking pretty good for October so there’s no excuse not to get out and about this half term. Luckily, I’ve managed to get a few days off work so I’m looking forward to spending some time with The Little Guy.

One thing I’m really excited about is finally going to visit Old MacDonald’s Farm in Brentwood after whizzing past it so often on the M25. And this half term the farm is hosting a Halloween Festival from Saturday 25th until 2nd November. There’ll be creepy creative activities, pumpkin carving, glow in the dark painting and a ghost hunt. There is even free entry for children in fancy dress on Friday 31st October. And that’s on top of all the usual stuff that they have on the farm that looks great. There’s remote control tractors, a bouncy barn, large soft play area, steam train, giant adventure area and of course the animals. I’ll post a full review soon.

Old MacDonald’s Farm website

I’m already getting excited about Christmas and have just booked us a trip on the Santa Special steam train on the Epping Ongar Railway in December. But if you can’t wait that long, there’s a steam hauled ghost train on the 30th and 31st October. Featuring face painting, an Epping Forest Hawk and Owl display, apple bobbing and a goodie bag. Plus there are prizes for the best dressed costumes on each train. Apparently it sold out last year so you’ll probably need to be quick to book a ticket.

Epping Ongar Railway website 

I’ve also wanted to check out the new Grange Farm Centre in Chigwell, since I heard about the fabulous new Pelican Playground there which is a a lovely wooden pirate ship. And this week, the Essex Wildlife Trust is hosting an All Things Spooky event at the centre on Tuesday 28th October between 1-3pm. There’ll be nature inspired games and activities suitable for children aged 4 to 11 years old. You can book in advance and they are asking for a suggested donation of £3 to the Essex Wildlife Trust.

Essex Wildlife Trust website 

And finally, if your little ones love dressing up, take them along to Sid & Evie’s children’s shop in South Woodford in their costumes. Then just make a £1 donation to the local children’s hospice Haven House and you’ll be entered into a draw for a £15 gift voucher. There’ll also be free face painting on Saturday 2nd November.

Sid & Evie website

Hope you have a wonderful week and as ever feel free to let me know if you visit any of these events or share other things you’ve discovered in the area.

Healthy Halloween Party Food Ideas for Kids

After picking up a skeleton costume for The Little One at the NCT Nearly New Sale last week, I’ve been thinking about throwing a Halloween party for his friends.

Back in my child-free party days, I used to throw a fancy dress Halloween party for my friends because I really love fancy dress and throwing parties, so it was a no brainer. But with toddlers you can’t just throw alcohol and salty snacks at the problem. The shops might be stuffed full of  Halloween sweets, but what can you feed them that won’t have them climbing the walls on a sugar high?

Easy and healthy halloween satsuma oranges craft idea

Super easy pumpkin satsumas – just use a black pen. From Disney Baby http://bit.ly/1zeDlEk via Pinterest

Pinterest to the rescue. It turns out there’s actually loads of  brilliant ideas for healthy Halloween food for children. Like all the best ideas most of them are so simple I keep thinking, now why didn’t I think of that? But hey, who needs originality when you have the internet. Here are some of my favourites and you can see lots more on my Halloween inspiration Pinterest board including ideas for Halloween decor, costumes and party games.

"boo" nana pops - spooky ghosts made from banana covered in yoghurt

“Boo” nana Pops made with yoghurt from http://www.skinnytaste.com via Pinterest

healthy rice ball pumpkins treats with green bean hats

Rice savoury pumpkin treats from Hello Wonderful http://bit.ly/1wakyoP via Pinterest

Review: NCT Nearly New Sale and Woodford Fire Station Open Day

It’s not for the faint-hearted. With ten minutes still to go before it opened, the long queue was already snaking through the church car park and I looked on in awe at the pregnant ladies in the line. I seem to remember having no patience at all for prolonged queueing while I was in their position, not least because I need the loo every five minutes. Soon the doors were opened and cheery volunteers were ushering us to the table and rails groaning with toys, books and clothes. One friend who arrived at this point, took one look at the scrum and walked straight out again. Admitedly she is eight months pregnant. But the elbows-out jostle is not for everyone.

NCT Nearly New Sale at Christ Church Wanstead

However, it was worth persevering. I got lots of In the Night Garden toys (as that is the current addiction in our house) and a few books that look new to put away for Christmas. I was a bit disappointed by the selection of clothes for our Little One’s age group but was cheered up by some as-new wellies from Mothercare for £1. But the real bargain of the day was a second-hand MacClaren pushchair for £24. We’ve been keeping an eye out for one for while now, and although it needed a bit of a clean it even had a rain cover.  There was another one next to it which was a bit cleaner but cost £60. That’s the beauty of the NCT sales, everyone prices their own stuff so things can vary which also means you can get some good deals. When I paid, the volunteer cashing up helpfully told me that I could just put the seat in the washing machine on a cold cycle which worked a treat. So free tips as well, double win.

Next time, I must try to organise all the bags of clothes so I can actually sell stuff myself.

Family Open Day at Woodford Green Fire Station

Our trip to the Woodford Green Fire Station wasn’t quite as exciting as I’d hoped. Firstly, The Little One had a late nap so we didn’t get there until almost 4pm and by then there was no sign of the helicopter, guide dogs or even much going on. But really, I think he’s actually a bit too young. He usually loves big trucks and vans so I thought he’d love the fire engines. But as they are static they are not quite as exciting and he was a bit little to get inside them and try on the helmets etc. However, all was not lost as there was a little fun fair ride with mini cars that went round which he totally loved and went on twice. There was also a bouncy castle for older children. By the time we were leaving at 4.30pm they had already packed up all the stalls inside so we didn’t get a chance to look at those and I’ve heard a few other people complaining that things were finished well before the advertised time of 5pm. I do think it will be more of a success when the Little One is older so I’d definitely go again and maybe in the morning next time.

The other event we had hoped to go to was the Apple Day at Copped Hall but instead, I stupidly uttered those dreaded words ‘I think we need to go to Ikea’. I then spent most of Sunday wishing I’d just ignored the growing pile of toys like normal instead of buying shelves and toy storage. I joined the chorus of people in the car park muttering ‘never again’. But sadly, like Arnie, I know I’ll be back.

What’s on this weekend: 10th – 12th October

Let’s hope this rain doesn’t hang around until the weekend. I’ve just ordered waterproof trousers for The Little One (as he’s still bum shuffling and refusing to walk) but at this rate we’ll be needing them too.

Well rain or shine, there’s lots on locally especially as its the last few days of the Woodford Festival which I’m keen to support as I think it would be lovely to have even more community events like this in the area. The programme includes music, an arts trail and walks plus a children’s author was doing a reading at The Village Bookshop on Wednesday. It would be great if there were more things for kids but maybe that is something to get involved with in the future. Perhaps I could convince some other mums to set up a children’s fringe festival. Now there’s a thought. (Note to self: stop having good ideas that will involve yet more time I do not currently have.)

toy fire engine on wooden floor

Photo via hellosputnik http://bit.ly/1pWnaBT

Anyway, back to this weekend, my top pick is the Woodford Green fire station open day this Saturday which is being billed as a Community Safety Day for families together with the Metropolitan Police, St Johns Ambulance, Guide Dogs for The Blind and Cadets. As The Little One has turned into a stereotypical boy shouting with glee at every bus, lorry and aeroplane, I’m pretty sure a giant firetruck like the one in Fireman Sam might blow his little mind. Combine that with some dogs and rumours of a helicopter and we could be hitting the toddler jackpot.

When: Saturday 11th October 11am-5pm

Where: Woodford Fire Station, 2 Snakes Lane, IG8 0EX

Before that I’ll be heading over to Wanstead for the NCT Nearly New Sale. You’ll find second hand toys, books, clothes and sleeping bags amongst other things and the quality is usually pretty high while pricers are low – double win. But don’t even think about bringing your little ones along. This is an elbows-out, stay-focused kind of affair. Seasoned NCT shoppers will know that the best bargains go early and NCT members can get in 15 minutes before anyone else by presenting their membership card. It starts at 11am so I recommend getting there as early as you can, queue up and get stuck in. If you’re running late, forget it. The excitement is usually all over in an hour.

When: Saturday 11th October 11am, 10.45 NCT members (last entry 12.15)

Where: Christ Church Hall, Wanstead Place, E11 2SW

Admission: £1

More information: Redbridge NCT Website

And last but not least is the Copped Hall Apple Day. I have to confess that I haven’t actually been to Copped Hall or even heard of it before this week. It looks really interesting; its a Georgian mansion that was saved by local campaign groups and is currently being restored. National Apple Day is all about celebrating our unique British food heritage by highlighting local varieties and orchards, so Copped Hall will be displaying and selling their apples. And just for the adults, I’ve heard rumours of cider… now we’re talking! They are promising entertainment and food as well as access to the gardens and mansion.

When: Sunday 12th October 11am -4pm

Where: Copped Hall, Crown Hill, Epping, CM16 5HS

Admission: £7

More information: Copped Hall Website

If you do visit any of these over the weekend, feel free to let me know your thoughts and views. And if you have events coming up for families that you’d like me to consider for future features, just get in touch via the comments or tweet me @WestEssexMums.

Welcome to West Essex Mums

How the hell did I end up living in a grown up house in the suburbs spending more time watching In The Night Garden than having a social life? Somehow this happened and my previous life, drinking my way around London trying to fit in all the new bars, restaurants, and films is no more.

So I’m getting used to my new life in Woodford with The Little Guy in tow, and to be honest I’m loving it. Having a little person has been even better than I imagined and as he heads towards being one and a half he gets funnier and more amazing each day. But where do you take a one year old? Which cafes aren’t going to kick us out when he insists on feeding himself aka drops stinky tuna sandwich all over the floor? Is soft play a special kind of hell or a handy haven on a rainy day?

The Little One playing with record coasters

I’ve found it quite hard to find out about where to go and what to do with kids in the local area. Not knowing that many other mums means I don’t have the inside knowledge. And as lots of other new mums seem to be moving to the area, I thought it might be useful for others too if I shared what I learn as I investigate the local area seeking out kid-friendly ways to spend our time. So I’m going to give you my honest opinion about local things to do and places to go, reviewing them and writing about them on this blog to help other mums. I’ll be looking at classes and clubs, family friendly activities and kids days out in the local areas: Woodford Green, South Woodford, Wanstead, Snaresbrook, Loughton and Epping. And armed with an Oyster card we’ll also cover London and will take the trusty, rust-bucket we call a car to the M25 seeking out countryside and outdoorsy things in Essex, Surrey Kent and beyond.

The reason I’ve called this West Essex Mums is that this isn’t just about our little family, I want this to be a genuinely useful resource for all local mums, dads and families so please feel free to get in touch with recommendations, questions, suggestions of places or things that you want to know more about and I’ll investigate for you.

Come and say hi on Twitter @WestEssexMums.