West Essex Life magazine with West Essex Mums article

Read all about it in West Essex Life

I’m please to say that you can now read my article about the top 5 places to take the kids in West Essex in the June issue of West Essex Life magazine.

West Essex Life magazine with West Essex Mums article

My list includes the Pelican Park in Chigwell, North Weald Airfield, The View at Epping Forest, Ashlyns Farm Park and Play barn and the Gruffalo Trail in Brentwood. West Essex Life is a free magazine so you can usually pick it up in coffee shops.

I’d love to know what you think of my top picks and feel free to share your favourite places to take the kids.

Dr Seuss exhibition at the Discover Story Centre Stratford

What’s on in West Essex for half term: Sat 27 May – Sun 4 June



Dr Seuss exhibition at the Discover Story Centre Stratford

This family-friendly, interactive exhibition brings the funny and inventive world of Dr. Seuss with story telling sessions, chances to dress up, meet characters and play music with the Boom Band. Children will love seeing characters and props from The Cat in The Hat, Green Eggs and Ham and The Lorax. Entrance is included in your Day Pass for the Discover Story Centre and there’s lots of other things to keep the kids amused from the brilliant Story World to the lovely outdoor playground. There’s a cafe on site and lots of lockers where you can leave buggies and valuables before running around. Check the website for the storyteling sessions which are always great.

All week they will also be running animation workshops with Grace Emily Manning at 10.30-12.30 and 2.30-4.30pm. Suitable for 5 year olds and over you will learn how to create animation with your own character inspired by Dr. Seuss.

Times: Exhibition sessions last about 40 minutes and start at 10:15, 11:15am,12:15, 1:15, 2:15, 3:15 & 4:15pm.
Age: 0-7 years
Tickets & booking info: Included in the price of your Day Pass to Discover (£6.50 per person, £22 family of four).
Address: Discover Children’s Story Centre, 383-387 High Street, Stratford, London E15 4QZ
Further information: Discover Centre website



The latest installation ‘Place (Village)’ by Rachel Whiteread provides the inspiration for the lots of half term activities and workshops. These include a print workshop and craft workshop creating little lantern houses

Time: times vary across the week so check the V&A website for details. The museum is open from 10am – 5.45pm
Age: The age varies depending on the workshop and is either 5 years + or 7 years +
Tickets & booking info: prices vary according to activity, details on the website but most are drop-in so no need to book
Address: V&A Museum of Childhood, Cambridge Heath Rd, London E2 9PA
Further information: V&A Museum of Childhood website


Children can become a little farmer at Barleylands farm. Kids will be able to drive a mini landrover, make butter, bottle feed lambs and have a go at making a scarecrow. They can also learn about caring for different animals.

Time: 10AM – 5PM
Age: All ages
Tickets & booking info: Children £9.90, Adults £10.80, Family ticket £37.80, Under 2s Free. Tickets bookable online.
Address: Barleylands, Barleylands Road, Billericay, Essex, CM11 2UD
Further information: Barleylands website



Victorian Days at Royal Gunpowder Mills Waltham Abbey

A series of Victorian themed events for the family including a series of science shows, a chance to make your own Victorian Top Hat, try out Victorian children’s games and visit the Victorian Mad Lab.

Time: 10AM – 5PM (last entry 3PM)
Age: All ages
Tickets & booking info: £8.10 – £10.50 and tickets are bookable via the eventbrite website
Address: Royal Gunpowder Mills, Beaulieu Drive, Waltham Abbey, EN9 1JY
Further information: Royal Gunpowder Mills website



A craft workshop where you will create your own bird cage to take home after learning all about the birds who live in the Valentines Mansion and Gardens Aviary. The session includes a visit to see the birds to get some inspiration and find out more about them.

Time: 11.30AM – 12.45PM
Age: 5 years and over
Tickets & booking info: £5 per child, pre-booking essential via Valentine’s Box office
Address: Valentine’s Mansion and Gardens, Emerson Road, Ilford, Essex, IG1 4XA
Further information: Valentine’s Mansion website


The perfect way to get your little one into cooking, the Corner Kitchen cafe in Forest Gate is hosting a pizza making class for little people.

Time: 3.30PM – 5PM
Age: 4 -9 years
Tickets & booking info: £15 which includes the cooking class, mini pizza and juice. Book tickets via the Corner Kitchen website
Address: Corner Kitchen, 58 Woodgrange Road, Forest Gate, E7 0QH
Further information: Corner Kitchen website


If you want to get your children out into the forest the Suntrap Education Centre is offering the chance to meet the exotic Suntrap animals including a bearded dragon, snakes and fire salamanders lizards. They will also go on an animal adventure in the forest to discover more creatures.

Time: The session is 10AM – 12.30PM but you can stay in the grounds to play and have a picnic lunch if accompanied by an adult.
Age: 5 years and over (under 8s must be accompanied by an adult)
Tickets & booking info: £12 per child. You must book in advance by email or by calling
Address: Suntrap Forest Education Centre, Church Rd, Waltham Abbey, Loughton IG10 4AJ
Further information: Suntrap Forest Education Centre website



This regular session for little ones at The Duke pub will be hosted for half term by  Creative Biscuit, the ceramics cafe in South Woodford. Adults can have lunch or a drink while their little ones paint a bowl, plate or cup. They will be ready a week later after they are glazed and fired at Creative Biscuit.

Time: 12 – 2PM
Tickets & booking info: £6.82 bookable in advance via eventbrite
Address: The Duke, 79 Nightingale Lane, Wanstead, E11 2EY
Further information: Little Dukes event Facebook page



A workshop to encourage those who are learning phonics at school. The hour long session will feature fun, phonetical games.

Time: 11AM – MIDDAY
Age: 5-6 years
Tickets & booking info: Free but book in advance at the library
Address: South Woodford Library, 116 High Rd, London E18 2QS
Further information: Redbridge website

baby in ball pit owls play centre

Review: Owls Play Centre Fairlop Waters

I have to admit that I’m a new convert to the charms of Owls Play Centre. For a long time I had avoided it due to some friend’s bad experiences there on a wet, Saturday afternoon – too busy, too noisy and all a bit too much. So we had been going regularly to Ashlyn’s play centre and farm which we love but it’s just that little bit further away. But recently I realised that I should be making up my own mind and I’m so glad we went.

toadstools at Owls Play Centre

The first day we went my 3 year old ran around excitedly for 4 hours straight, barely stopping to sip water and shove in some snacks. Since then he asks me almost every day if we can go to the play centre! Luckily for me, when we first went they were doing a deal on the unlimited annual membership and I signed up there and then. And we’ve been back at least once a week since.

baby playing at Owls Play Centre


The first thing to say is that I was braced for it to be super busy and I was surprise by how quiet it’s been most times we’ve been. We have been going on weekday afternoons and after a busy period over lunch time it usually empties out by 1.30/2pm, presumably for nap times. And it gets even quieter still around 3pm when parents head off for the school run and although I had expected it to get busy after school it doesn’t ever get super hectic. So that was my first worry resolved.

Owls Play Centre play equipment

The other great thing is the sheer size of the place, it’s purpose built and so there is loads of play equipment to stop the Little Ones getting bored. There are some big slides in the middle and lots of other little areas, climbing sections, tunnels and rope bridges.

slide at owls play centre

There’s also a really fun machine like a giant hoover which you feed the play balls into and it goes up to the ceiling, then it releases them all after a few minutes to squeals of delight. One of the other aspects that I really like is that they play areas are sectioned off into three.

baby in baby area of owls play centre

A baby area for under threes, a toddler area for under fives and then the main section for under twelves.

Toddler play area at Owls Play Centre

There are lots of tables and a cafe so you can sit and have a coffee and some food while the Little Ones wear themselves out. To be honest, the food is not amazing and is mostly the usual beige kids offerings of chips, nuggets, fish fingers etc. It would be nice to see a bit more healthy food and the coffee wasn’t wonderful but let’s be honest no one is really visiting for the food and drink.

play equipment at Owls Play Centre

There are lots of high chairs, changing stations and mini toilets which makes it easier for pre-schoolers who like to do things on their own! And you can bring buggies in as well.

baby in ball pit owls play centre


As it’s part of Fairlop Waters Country Park there is plenty of parking but the only downside is the cost and the fact you have to have coins. I’m hoping if they have to update the machines for the new pound coins they might install a pay by phone option – especially as half the machines are always out of order. The prices are £1.30 for 1-2 hours but as most sessions are usually a few hours you’re more likely going to be paying the £3 all day charge. The fact that it is right next to Fairlop Waters does mean that you can make a day of it. The lake is lovely to walk around and there are climbing boulders and logs to climb on all around the lake if you need to wear the Little Ones out even more!

If you’re visiting by public transport it’s only a few minutes walk from Fairlop Waters tube and you can get take bus routes 150 167 169 247 275 462 which all stop at Fullwell Cross, stop A.

ADDRESS: Owls Play Centre, Fairlop Waters, Forest Road, Barkingside, Essex, IG6 3HN


£4.20 Toddler (1-3 years)

£6.40 Junior (Over 4 years)

£1.60 Babies Under 1 year or free if accompanying an older sibling

Free Babies under 6 Months

Accompanying adult £1

Annual Membership: £130 Toddler (1-3 years) or £150 Junior (Over 4 years)

FURTHER INFORMATION: Call 020 8500 9669 or email: owls@vision-rcl.org.uk

Owls Play Centre Website

Find out about other activities at Fairlop Waters Country Park including angling, golf, high rope park and Boulders Park by visiting the Fairlop Waters website.


Easter Egg Hunts & Easter Activities in West Essex & London

Yay for Easter – it means Spring is finally here, daffodils are cheering up gardens everywhere and of course you can eat lots of chocolate without feeling guilty. My mum used to hide chocolate eggs all over the house on Easter Sunday and so I love an Easter egg hunt. I’ve been doing them with my little one since he could toddle around the garden but this year I think he’s old enough to enjoy a more adventurous Easter egg hunt. Here are some suggestions for some in West Essex and London as well as other Easter and Springtime activites to do with the children.


Moomins at Kew Royal Botanical Gardens

Explore the hidden depths of the Gardens on an interactive trail culminating at the magical Moomin camp in the wild woodland of the Natural Area. Take part in craft workshops while you sample the Moomins’ beloved pancakes and visit the Hemulens’ Herbarium to find out more about your favourite spring flowers and plant conservation.

Originally created in the 1950s, the Moomins are a family of adventurous and nature-loving creatures from the culturally iconic storybooks by Finnish writer and artist Tove Jansson.

In place of the Easter Sunday Easter Egg Hunt, this year we’ll be giving away delicious Lindt chocolate treats at the gates on Easter Sunday.

Dates & times: Saturday 1 – Monday 17 April
Price & tickets: Included in entry fee to Kew Gardens
Address: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 3AE
More details: Kew Gardens website


Community event run by volunteers with an Easter-themed egg hunt, craft stalls, quiz and story tent with local children’s author. Families are encouraged to bring a picnic.

Dates & times: 8 April, 10.30am – 1pm
Price & tickets: TBC
Address: Elmhurst Gardens, South Woodford, E18 1DR


Step into the wonderful world of Alice in Wonderland at Valentines Mansion. With interactive outdoor theatre performances, craft activities, childrens rides, activity trails, movie time and much, much more. Suitable for 5 years plus

Dates & times: Sunday 9 April 11am-4pm
Price & tickets: £5 per child (activities included in the ticket price), free entry for under 5s (this does not include participation in some activities). Pre-booking essential. Free for adults (maximum 1 per child). Some activities may be chargeable. Valentines Box Office
Address: Valentine’s Mansion and Gardens, Emerson Road, Ilford, Essex, IG1 4XA
More details:  Valentines Mansion & Gardens website


Wow! Said the Owl by Little Angel Theatre at Stratford Circus Arts Centre

Explore the wow-world of colours with this curious little owl who is determined to stay awake to see what day light brings. From the warm pink glow of dawn through to a day filled with the bright colours of green leaves, blue sky, grey clouds and, finally, a stunning rainbow — ‘WOW!’. But despite the beauty of the daytime world, the little owl decides that the night-time stars are the most beautiful of all.

This acclaimed children’s book by award-winning author Tim Hopgood is brought to life with beautiful story-telling, puppetry and music.

Suitable for children ages 2 – 5 years old and duration is 35 minutes.

Dates & times: Thursday 13 – Saturday 15 April 11am & 2pm
Price & tickets:
Stratford Circus Arts Centre, Theatre Square, Stratford, London, E15 1BX
More Details: Stratford Circus website


Epping Ongar Railway’s beloved Bertie Bunny will be leading what is probably the longest Easter egg hunt in Essex. Running the length of the railway track, from Ongar through to Coopersale, the distance covered is equivalent to 131,579 eggs placed end to end!

Children will follow clues to find numbered eggs along the railway and will recieve a special Easter treat when they hand in their sheets. The Easter Bunny will be out and about on the stations and aboard some special trains during the day. There’s also face painting and a children’s disco at various times throughout the day at North Weald station.

Dates & times: 14 – 17 April
Price & tickets:
Discounts for advance purchases Adults £13 (on the day £15), Children £7 (on the day £8), Family £34 (on the day £39)
More Details: Epping Ongar Railway website


Follow the nature trail through Hainault Forest, find clues to answer the puzzle at the end to gain your chocolatey prize.

Dates & times: Saturday 15 April 12 noon – 3pm
Price & tickets:
£2 per child, free for accompanying adults and family. Booking essential.
Meet at the Common Car Park, IG7 6EZ – opposite Chigwell Primary School
More Details: Woodland Trust website 
centralevents@woodlandtrust.org.uk or call 0330 333 5302


Family fun at Hopefield Animal Sanctuary this Easter with an Easter egg hunt, stalls, inflateables, live music, animal handling and the fantastic Crazy Legs providing the children with fantastic entertainment. Plus you get to see over 400 of their rescued animals.

Dates & times: Sunday 16 April 12noon – 4pm, Easter Egg hunt starts at 1pm
Price & tickets: £5 adults, £4 children and free for Under 3s, Easter Egg hunt is £2 per child
Address: Hopefield Animal Sanctuary, Sawyers Hall Lane, Brentwood, CM15 9BZ
More details: Hopefield Fun Day event on Facebook


Children can see the Easter bunny and join in the Easter egg hunt while adults enjoy the spring flowers. There will be tea/coffee and homemade cakes available until 4.00pm and the gift shop will be open until the same time.

Dates & times: Sunday 16 April 2pm – 4pm
Price & tickets: Entry £5 per person, egg hunt 50p per child
Address: Copped Hall, Crown Hill, Epping CM16 5HS
More details: Copped Hall website


Some of the ducklings from Chigwell Meadows have gone walkabout and there are prizes to be won if you can help to find them.

Dates & times: Monday 17 April 10am-1pm
Price & tickets: £5 donation to Essex Wildlife Trust
Address: The Grange Farm Cebtre, Chigwell, IG7 6DP
More details: Phone 020 8500 3094 or visit the Essex Wildlife Trust website


Search Owls Play Centre and around Fairlop Waters Country Park looking for tokens which can be exchanged for special Easter treats. After the hunt little ones can enjoy the Owls Play Centre.

Dates & times: Monday 17 April The hunt will start at 10am, 12noon, 2pm & 4pm12 noon – 3pm
Price & tickets:
£10 includes Easter Egg Hunt, special Easter treat and 1 hours play in Owls Tickets can be bought in advance from Owls.
Owls Play Centre, Fairlop Waters, Forest Road, Barkingside, Essex, IG6 3HN
More Details: Owls Play Centre website


Easter fun at The View at the Chingford end of Epping Forest. There’s egg decorating, Easter crafts and Easter egg rolling at 2pm. There’s also an Easter trail where you can follow clues along the woodland trail to mee the Easter bunny.

Dates & times: Monday 17 April 1pm – 4pm
Price & tickets:
Free, no booking required. Hard boiled eggs to decorate are £2 each
The View, 6 Ranger’s Rd, Chingford, London E4 7QH
More Details: City of London website or call 020 73321911

And it’s a bit of a trek over to West London but the JURASSIC KINGDOM dinosaur exhibition at Osterley Park is brilliant and well worth a vist. It’s on until 17th April and you can read my review of Jurassic Kingdom here.

If you fancy an Easter activity at home instead, here’s my recipe for How to make Chocolate Easter Egg nest cakes.

Mini Moments: Farewell Oman

Boy on beach at Muscat Hills Beach Club Oman

After neglecting the blog for a while, I normally start the next post with an apology but frankly this picture will show you why I’m not sorry! I’ve been making the most of maternity leave with an extended holiday to Oman to visit my parents. They will be retiring this Spring after 19 years in this amazing Middle East country and, as they’ve spent most of their married life travelling and working around the world, it’s the longest they have lived anywhere. The Omani people are lovely and the country has worked hard to preserve its rich cultural heritage and stunning landscape. And as you can see from this photo, the beaches aren’t bad either. Obviously they are very sad to be leaving such a beautiful country and I’m gutted that I won’t be heading out there for a dose of winter sunshine each year.

Ma’a as-salaama Oman.