Tyranosauraus Rex and triceratops egg at Jurassic Kingdom Osterley Park

Review: Jurassic Kingdom dinosaur exhibition, Osterley Park

Tyranosauraus Rex and triceratops egg at Jurassic Kingdom Osterley Park

“Wow, that’s amazing!” A huge roaring Tyrannosaurus rex greeted us as we arrived at Jurassic Kingdom and the three year old was clearly impressed from the start. The Jurassic Kingdom dinosaur trail is an outdoor exhibition of animatronic and static dinosaurs. There are huge ones towering over you, baby ones hatching out of eggs and hungry-looking ones clawing and fighting each other all along a woodland trail.

Jurassic Kingdom is a touring touring exhibition and we visited it in the first few days at its launch location at the National Trust property of Osterley Park, West London. It will be there until 17th April before touring around the country (see tour locations and dates below).

Osterley House, location of Jurassic Kingdom dinosaur exhibition

They dinosaur models are fairly good; quite realistic and the ones that move usually also have an impressive roar. Our son was a bit frightened by some of the louder roars but he just asked to move away to look at them from a bit of a distance, and he can be a bit overly sensitive. Plenty of children younger then him seemed to be loving it and roaring loudly back! Most of the dinosaurs are roped off and you’re asked not to touch them but there are some smaller ones that you can climb on along the route or dinsaur eggs that you can pose inside for photos. The majority of them – mostly the larger dinosaurs – have signs with details of their names and some information about where they lived and what they ate etc. Personally I think it would have been good if all of them had labels, or at least names, as our son kept asking what they were all called and I’m a bit rubbish at remembering! We were impressed by the amount of dinosaurs he did recognise though and it never ceases to amaze me how little kids, including ours, can remember the really complicated dinosaur names that I can barely pronounce.

There was also an area that I thought was just a sandpit – I steered our son past it quite quickly as I knew he’d want to take his socks and shoes off and I was reluctant as it was a cold day. However, I’ve since read online that it was actually supposed to be a T-Rex excavation pit but it really wasn’t very clear and they could have had some better signage. We probably would have had a go if we had realised.

Pterodactyl or pterosaurs dinosaurs at Jurassic Kingdom, Osterley Park

Along the trail there are woodlands and a den building area as well as some swings to play on, so lots of natural attractions to amuse the kids apart from the dinosaurs. The bluebells are also starting to make an appearance in the woodland and there’s even a nesting swan very close to the path that the children were all intrigued by.

There’s a small marquee labelled as an education area which has a few chairs in and shows a film about dinosaurs if you need a sit down and a rest on the way. There are also a few toilets dotted along the route.

Diplodocus dinosaur at Jurassic Kingdom, Osterley Park

At the way in and out of the trail, along with a virtual reality ride (an extra £5), a merchandise stall and toilets, there are some food vans. Although these were advertised as “mouth-watering street food vans” online it seemed to be fairly standard van food like chips, coffee and sweets so nothing that was very appealing and I was glad we had brought a picnic. Tickets are not cheap when there is a whole family visiting, so we weren’t alone in bringing our own lunch. And unlike some short-sighted attractions, there are no restrictions on bringing your own food which is great. There are a few logs and picnic tables dotted along the trail but it’s probably a good idea to bring a blanket as they were all busy – they could definitely do with a few more. Half way along the trail there were a few more vans selling drinks and churros and, as we love churros, we shelled out an extortionate £6 for a large portion which turned out to be cold and tastelesss so I’d definitely give those a miss. (I know, we’re mugs!)

Dinosaurs fighting, Jurassic Kingdom at Osterley Park

You are asked to specify an hourly entrance time when you purchase tickets and when we arrived at about 11am the trail was very busy. However, it never felt overly crowded and it seemed like there was a steady stream of people arriving throughout the day. Also, nobody seemed to be actively checking our time slot so I think this is more to help stagger visitors rather than something they are really strict about. The trail seemed to appeal to both girls and boys alike with kids of both sexes running around excitedly. (This made me happy as far too often dinosaurs seem to be marketed mostly at boys for some reason.)

Animatronic dinosaurs at Jurassic Kingdom Osterley Park

We spent about three hours doing the trail at a very leisurely pace and with a long stop for our picnic lunch. So you could obviously do it a lot quicker if you needed to or you can stay longer as there is no time limit once you are inside. You could also spend some time looking around Osterly House itself, there’s a National Trust cafe outside the trail if you want something other than the food from vans and the Cadbury Easter egg hunt is taking place in the gardens at the other side of the house. However, our Little One was pretty exhausted by the long walk and the excitement so he was happy to head home full of chat about his favourite dinosaurs.

I’d definitely recommend a visit for any little ones who like dinosaurs and, even for children with only a passing interest, it’s a great way to get the kids out and about in the fresh air enjoying the gardens and woodland.

Diplodocus at Jurassic Kingdom Osterley Park

Parking is provided in fields next to Osterley Park and it is worth noting that the walk to the entrance of Jurassic Kingdom at the side of the house is quite long for little ones and ours was not the only one complaining how far it was. However, it will be no problem for older kids and I just wish we had remembered to bring the buggy board. The whole trail is suitable for prams and is a flat, easy walk.

Jurassic Kingdom will be at Osterley Park until 17th April and then will be embarking on a UK tour.

OPENING TIMES

10am to 6pm (last entry at 5pm). Entry is by hourly time slots but once  inside you can stay as long you wish.

ADDRESS & GETTING THERE

Osterley Park, Jersey Road, Isleworth, Middlesex, TW7 4RB (sat nav TW7 4RD).

There is parking on site which is an extra £7 which I think is pretty steep on top of the cost of tickets – be warned it’s cash only! It took us about an hour and twenty minutes to drive from Woodford Green.

If you want to take public transport the nearest tube is Osterley on the Picadilly line and its only a 1 mile walk away. Isleworth train station is 1½ miles away. You can catch the H28 Hayes to Hounslow to Osterley, or the H91 Hounslow to Hammersmith to within 1 mile.

TICKET PRICES

London:

£13.50 adults online, £15 on the door

£11.50 Child online, £13 on the door (Under threes go free)

£46 Family Ticket, £52 on the door

Prices are cheaper for the rest of the tour at the other locations in the UK!

The Cadbury Easter Egg hunt costs an additional £3.

JURASSIC KINGDOM UK TOUR DATES

Birmingham 20th May – 4th June

Manchester 8th – 23rd July

Blackpool 5th – 13th August

Glasgow 26th August – 10th September

Newcastle 23rd September – 1st October

Leeds 14th – 29th October

MORE INFORMATION

Jurassic Kingdom website

Osterley Park website

Review: Bebs Bites Authentic Indian Cookery Lessons

“Amazing and loads better than a takeaway,” this was just one of the many gushing things my partner had to say about the leftovers I brought home from my Bebs Bites Indian Cookery lesson. And it’s high praise indeed from someone who loves Indian food and would eat takeaways most days of the week if he could. He was totally right though, the food we created in just a few hours with Ranjeet, who runs Bebs Bites Indian Cookery lessons from her home in Woodford, was totally delicious.

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Yellow Lentil Dahl, Keema Lamb, Raita and rice

I arrived at Ranjeet’s house on a Saturday evening late and harassed after facing a toddler bedtime battle, but luckily her house was an oasis of calm and I was shown to the conservatory at the back where two other pupils were waiting. They were a lovely, young couple, cooking novices who had travelled from Brixton for the class after reading such brilliant reviews on Trymykitchen.com.

Ranjeet immediately made us all feel at home, offering a glass of beer or wine to start with, and talking us through the spices we would be using throughout the evening. Even though I have cooked quite a lot with spices, Ranjeet was excellent at telling us about each one and demonstrating the differences when you roast and grind your own and she was brilliant at sharing tips and tricks about how to cook and prepare spices as we went along.

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Chilli Paneer

We began by making a starter of Chilli paneer which was surprisingly easy to make but absolutely gorgeous and which I will definitely be making again. We then moved on to one of my favourite dishes, a Yellow lentil dahl and while I have tried loads of versions of this around the world the combination of ingredients and spices made this one of the best. Then we set to work on our other main dish which was Keema lamb which could also be made with Quorn for the vegetarians. As with all the dishes, we were surprised by how little oil we used and as Ranjeet explained the lack of loads of ghee, oil and onions that you find in takeaway food means that her recipes are healthy as well as being delicious.

Amazingly, Ranjeet runs two Indian cooking courses a week as well as holding down a job and raising a family and although she has only be running lessons since September 2015 she comes across as a natural hostess and teacher. Not only does she offer adult cookery classes in the evenings, such as the one I went to, she also offers bespoke children’s cookery courses. Usually these are a minimum of 4 lessons run once a week for an hour for parents and kids to do together, and is often a popular activity for dads to do with their children. Children can learn to cook things liked baked bhajis, chapati, stuffed parathas – healthy Indian food that is not deep fried, with an emphasis on teaching children about real ingredients and proper food. I think this would be a great idea of children who love cooking and you can see some photos of happy kids having a go on the Bebs Bites Facebook page.

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Keema lamb

 

After our Keema main courses were cooked, we all sat down at the table together to try the dishes we’d made along with some rice and a simple raita that Ranjeet showed us how to make. We were all amazed that we’d managed to cook such yummy food in such a short space of time – although I do think the fresh spices we used made a massive difference. If I didn’t have cupboards full of spices at home I would have bought some of the freshly ground spice trays Ranjeet was selling and it has definitely motivated me to cook Indian food more regularly. The couple who were doing the course with me both said they found the lesson very simple and easy to follow, so I’d recommend it for people of all abilities. As a parting gift, we were even sent home with some Indian sweets that Ranjeet had made for us.

You are advised to bring Tuppaware containers to your class so you can take home any leftovers and my partner has already been asking when I’m going to cook the recipes again. But I’ve got a better idea, I’m already planning on sending my partner along for his own lesson so he can learn how to cook these dishes himself.

640cookery_dana

For more information about Bebs Bites Indian Cookery lessons visit the Bebs Bites website or Bebs Bites Facebook page. Ranjeet also offers kids parties, catering for functions and classes for corporate events and cookery lessons start at a vary reasonable £38.

Disclaimer: I attended the cookery lesson free of charge in exchange for a review, but as always, the words and opinions in this review are completely honest and my own.

What’s on in West Essex this October half term: Monday 26th – Friday 30th October 2015

It’s finally starting to feel like Autumn and the October half term will be here before you know it. So here’s some inspiration for child-friendly activities and things to do around West Essex and London.

ALL WEEK

MICHAEL ROSEN’S BEAR HUNT, CHOCOLATE CAKE AND BAD THINGS EXHIBITION, DISCOVER CENTRE STRATFORD

Michael Rosen Going on a Bear Hunt exhibition Discover Centre Stratford

Opening on Friday 16th October, this interactive family exhibition at the Discover Children’s Story Centre in Stratford is suitable for children for both to 11 years old. I’m sure we’re one of millions of parents across the country who end up reading We’re Going on a Bear Hunt on repeat so this is bound to be a popular exhibition. There’s even a Bear Hunt trail for younger children to swishy swashy and stumble trip through. It’s not only the work of he much-loved children’s author Michael Rosen that features in the exhibition but even things that provided inspiration for his writing such as his grandparents sitting room and his classroom. You can also step inside a humungous chocolate cake and explore the Bad Things in the Dread Shed. There’s also a chance for older children to create their own poems and find out some fun facts about Michael Rosen as they go around the exhibition.

Price: £5 per adult or child, £18 family of 4, free for under 2s
Opening Times: During half term and weekends you’ll need to book one of the following slots: 10.20 (half term only), 11.20am, 12.20, 1.20, 2.20, 3.15 and 4.15pm. Then during term time you can drop in on weekdays between 3-5pm and there is no need to pre-book.
Address: Discover Children’s Story Centre, 383-387 High Street, Stratford, London E15 4QZ
Further information: Discover Centre website

VARIOUS DRAWING & STORYTELLING EVENTS,  V&A MUSEUM OF CHILDHOOD BETHNAL GREEN

Daily drawing drop in sessions which take children on an adventure around the museum and are suitable for all ages. Illustrator Salvatore Rubbion, author of A Walk in London will be running the Explore and Draw sessions on Monday and Wednesday. Using drawing and collage children will help to create a long fold-out picture exploring the special things about the capital. Illustrator Heidi Deedman will be helping children create their own Toy Stories, a book and story inspired by the real toys from the Museum’s collection on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.
The Enchanted Forest Toy Theatre Workshop will be a chance to create your own story in a quintessential magical setting with illustrator Frances Barry who will help you draw trees, characters and creatures.

Price: Most are free but the Explore and Draw, Toy Stories, Enchanted Forest Toy Theatre workshop all cost £5 (with parent or carer) and you can sign up on the day. These three activities are most suitable for ages 5 – 12 years.
Opening Times: Activities 11am – 4pm, museum is open daily from 10.00am to 5.45pm (last admission 5.30pm)
Address: V&A Museum of Childhood, Cambridge Heath Road, London E2 9PA
Further information: V&A Museum of Childhood website

SPOOKY SECRET ISLAND, ROYAL GUNPOWDER MILLS WALTHAM ABBEY

Spooky Secret Island, Royal Gunpowder Mills

Professor Nitrate’s evil twin Dr Gore will be hosting science shows and cooking up some diabolical experiments, much to the amazement of all those present in his crazy Mad-Lab.

An array of frightfully fantastic activities will be available for all ages. Try hat and mask making to transform yourself into a witch, monster or other spooky character for the day. Be prepared to get messy with some ooey-gooey monster slime making, freaky monster skin, and make gruesome discoveries in the feely boxes.

Price: Adults £8.77, children £6.97
Opening Times: 10am – 5pm (last entry 3 pm)
Address: Royal Gunpowder Mills, Beaulieu Drive, Waltham Abbey, Essex, EN9 1JY
Further information: Royal Gunpowder Mills website

MONDAY 26 OCTOBER

FESTIVAL OF STORIES, VALENTINE’S MANSION & GARDENS ILFORD

This special half term event for children 3 years and upwards features local authors hosting talks and workshops on storywriting, illustrations and craft activities.

Michael Rosenberg, author of Chilly Goes to Australia, will be carrying out hour long readings and workshops at 11.30, 12.45 and 2.00. And Julia Habgood, who wrote and illustrated Esmeralda and the Prancing Parasols, will be sharing her wealth of knowledge on drawing and illustrating in her 45 minute workshops, followed by 15 minute readings from her debut published childrens book, also at 11.30, 12.45 and 2.00.

Price: Free entry and no need to book
Opening Times: 11am-3pm
Address: Valentine’s Mansion and Gardens, Emerson Road, Ilford, Essex, IG1 4XA
Further information: Valentine’s Mansion and Gardens website

TUESDAY 27 OCTOBER

PRESENTING BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA, VALENTINE’S MANSION &  GARDENS ILFORD

Spooky storytelling Dracula may well be getting the audience involved and they recommend coming dressed in your scariest Halloween outfit for a spine chilling visit to Valentines. Suitable for all ages.

Price: £5 per child (maximum 1 adult per child), Pre-booking essential on 020 8708 8100
Opening Times: 2pm – 2.40pm
Address: Valentine’s Mansion and Gardens, Emerson Road, Ilford, Essex, IG1 4XA
Further information: Valentine’s Mansion and Gardens website

WEDNESDAY 28 OCTOBER

GHOULISH SPIDERS, PUMPKINS & GHOSTS, VALENTINE’S MANSION & GARDENS ILFORD

There’s a chance to get creative and make your own pom-pom spiders, pumpkins and ghosts to decorate your home with this Halloween. Suitable for children 4 years and over.

Price: £5 per child, pre-booking essential on 020 8708 8100
Opening Times: 10am-11am
Address: Valentine’s Mansion and Gardens, Emerson Road, Ilford, Essex, IG1 4XA
Further information: Valentine’s Mansion and Gardens website

HALLOWEEN LANTERNS, VALENTINE’S MANSION & GARDENS ILFORD
Have fun transforming old jars into amazing Halloween decorations, guaranteed to create a spooky atmosphere at home! Suitable for ages 4 years and older.

Price: £5 per child, pre-booking essential on 020 8708 8100
Opening Times: 2pm-3pm
Address: Valentine’s Mansion and Gardens, Emerson Road, Ilford, Essex, IG1 4XA
Further information: Valentine’s Mansion and Gardens website

FAMILY ASTRONAUT: COMETS & METEORS, EPPING FOREST FIELD CENTRE

An illustrated presentation on Comets and Meteors: their relationship and how to observe them. Audience participation with practical activities and time for questions. Given clear skies, there will be the chance to observe some notable objects with a 15cm Newtonian reflecting telescope. Take appropriate clothing and footwear in case the ground is muddy. Suitable for children aged 8 and over (must be accompanied by an adult).

Price: £6 per person, booking required.  Email enquiries.ef@field-studies-council.org or ring 020 8502 8500.
Opening Times: 6pm – 8pm
Address: Epping Forest Field Centre, Paul’s Nursery Road, High Beach, Loughton, IG10 4AF
Further information: Field Studies Council website

THURSDAY 29 OCTOBER

PUMPKIN CARVING, THE VIEW EPPING FOREST 

Join us at The View for an afternoon of pumpkin carving. From jack-o-lanterns to spooky faces, learn how to create a design that will impress any trick or treaters – with prizes for best-carved designs!

Price: £5 for a pumpkin and tealight, and a free hot or cold drink. £3.95 if you bring your own pumpkin. £1 for non-carvers. Booking required (2 hour time slots) call 020 7332 1911.
Opening Times: 10am – 3pm
Address: The View, 6 Ranger’s Road, Epping Forest E4 7QH
Further information: For more information and to book, please contact The View on 020 7332 1911. The View website

FOREST FAMILIES: FREAKY FOREST, EPPING FOREST FIELD CENTRE

Join in with creepy crafts, monstrous makes and a spooky scavenger hunt in the forest. While siblings of all ages are welcome, the activities are aimed at children aged 5-11. Wear appropriate clothing and footwear in case the ground is muddy.

Price: Children £4, adults £2, booking required.  Email enquiries.ef@field-studies-council.org or ring 020 8502 8500
Opening Times: 10am-noon
Address: Epping Forest Field Centre, Paul’s Nursery Road, High Beach
Further information: Field Studies Council website

If you know of any other events that you think local mums should know about just leave a comment below or tweet me @WestEssexMums.

banana bread with chocolate chips and sunflower and pumpkin seeds

Cooking with kids: Easy seedy, chocolate-chip banana bread recipe

banana bread with chocolate chips and sunflower and pumpkin seeds

I love banana bread and as the Little One loves bananas we always have some hanging around. So if you find yourself with some that are over-ripe this is a perfect way to use them up and it’s very easy so the children can help you bake it. This is a mishmash of various banana bread recipes, keeping the bits I like such as chocolate chips and a crunchy, sweet, seeded crust. At two years old, I’ve been involving my son in baking for a while now and it’s great to see him really keen to get involved. However, as with most things these days, he insists on trying to do it by himself (obviously I’m actually doing most of it) but luckily this is one of those recipes that is quite forgiving even if everything isn’t quite mixed properly. And I’ve learnt  to accept the fact the kitchen will get covered in flour as he ‘stirs’ while actually flicking stuff all over the place!

What you’ll need

A 2lb loaf tin
A willing little helper (ideally wearing an apron if you can get yours to wear one!)

130g Butter
150g Light brown sugar
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large free range eggs
250g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp mixed spice
100g bag of choc chips
2 tbsp demerera sugar
2 tablespoons seeds, sunflower and pumpkin seeds

weighing ingredients for banana bread

What to do

  1. Preheat the oven to 160° C (fan), 180° C conventional, gas mark 4. I use a silicon loaf tin so just grease it with butter but if you’re using a conventional tin you may want to line it with baking parchment too.
  2. Get your little ones to help you mash up the bananas with a fork (I have to stop mine sneaking most of it into his mouth as he loves bananas).
  3. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. I use an electric handheld whisk then little hands can ‘help’ you by holding on.

Mixing banana bread ingredients

4. Add the eggs, mashed banana and vanilla and whisk a bit more until all combined.

5. Sift the flour, mixed spice, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda and fold in. Then add the chocolate chips (you could add other things here – dried fruit, coconut, white or dark chocolate chunks – up to you)

6. Transfer to the loaf tin and then sprinkle the top liberally with mixed seeds. I suually have pumpkin and sunflower seeds in the cupboard but you can use whatever you have or even exchange these for nuts like flaked almonds or even desiccated coconut.

7. Finally sprinkle with Demerara sugar (for a yummy sweet crust) and then put it in the oven for 50-60 minutes.

8. It’s delicious eaten warm, but it will keep for a few days and is yummy lightly toasted with butter for breakfast. Although ours usually gets eaten pretty quickly!

Boy stuffing his face with banana bread

Link up your recipe of the week
The Twinkle Diaries

Review: OAE TOTS classical music concert for kids at the Southbank

Our Little One loves music. He loves watching people play any sort of instrument and I’ve been on the look out for gigs and concerts for children for ages. There are surprisingly few around that are suitable for toddlers, even in London, and while I found a few classical music concerts I have yet to find a regular live music gig with rock or jazz music.

The OAE TOTS (Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment) concerts at the Southbank only happen about every 6 months in London so I’ve been waiting since before Christmas to visit this one. And that’s probably no bad thing, as the Little One is only just about able to concentrate for long enough. As my parents were staying with us for the weekend, I dragged everyone out of the house at 8.30am on a Sunday morning (the boyfriend was not impressed!) to get to the London Southbank Centre in time for the 10am concert (they also do a second sitting at 11.30am). Luckily, Waterloo tube station handily has a lift which makes it easy for the buggy. The whole thing was really well organised with a colouring in table and stickers to keep kids amused before the concert started. And there was a large buggy park area for all the pushchairs. The Purcell Rooms where the concert is held is quite small which meant that it felt exciting to be part of an audience without being overwhelming for the kids. I’d booked some of the last few tickets which meant we had tickets right at the back but there was still a very good view of the stage.

boy watching OAE TOTS concert at Purcell Rooms London

One of the OAE musicians was effectively the MC; introducing the music and getting the children involved – shouting hello, getting them to sing along and encouraging them to learn about the instruments. She was brilliant at getting everyone involved and made it fun for both the children and adults. There was a water theme and she helped to explain sounds that appeared in the music and linked certain sections to animals which all the kids enjoyed. As well as some classical pieces there was some family favourites too for the kids to join in with such as Row Row Row the Boat. All the music was kept short and just the right length to engage the children.

Boy watching OAE TOTS concert

Our son LOVED the whole thing; he was the first one to shout ‘hooray’ after every piece of music ended and was enthusiastically clapping along. I was worried about him being able to sit still for the duration – it lasts about an hour – but as we were at the back he enjoyed dancing on the back steps as well as climbing up and down a few. The great thing is all the other parents there are in the same boat; some have babies, others have toddlers and older kids but people really don’t mind if your child makes a noise, or wanders around and I found the whole thing really enjoyable rather than having to worry about his behaviour or how other people would react.

The other lovely thing was that after the concert all the musicians left the stage to set up in the foyer and played as we all filed out of the Purcell Rooms. It was great for the kids to see the musical instruments being played up close and they all seemed to really enjoy this aspect of it. It was just a great example of the small touches the OAE have provided to  ensure the concert is genuinely child-friendly.

OAE musicians in foyer at Southbank Centre

Even the boyfriend, who went under duress, loved seeing our son so excited and couldn’t believe we’d have to wait until October until the next one. We’re definitely going to go again and I’d thoroughly recommend it.

OAE TOTS concerts are advertised as suitable for children aged 2 – 5 years old and our son is 22 months and there were people there with babies and younger children.

The next concert at the London Southbank Centre is in October but the date is still TBC – I’ve signed up to the Southbank and OAE family mailing lists so that they’ll let me know.

Meanwhile, the OAE do other children’s music concerts around the UK and you can find out more information on the OAE website.

If you’ve been to the OAE TOTS concerts or discovered any other good live music events for children please let me know in the comments section or tweet me @WestEssexMums on Twitter.

 

Bubbablue and me music linky

What’s on this weekend: Mother’s Day special

With Mother’s Day coming up on Sunday, I’ve reminded the boyfriend a number of times that he has to make the day special until the Little One is old enough to make me tea and burnt toast in bed. I’ve dropped lots of hints, well ok demands is probably more accurate. There must be breakfast in bed, flowers and a card. It’s only my second Mother’s Day as a mum but I think it’s important to set the ground rules early! And I want to get out-and-about with the Little One and I definitely do not want to cook. Not too much to ask really.

As the boyfriend has been lacking inspiration, I’ve been suggesting things we can do and I thought it might be useful to share some of the local places we’ve been considering. Hopefully, by next year he can just surprise me! So if you haven’t quite decided how you’ll spend the day together or if you want some inspiration to share with your other half, here are a few ideas for kid-friendly places visit.

WALK IN EPPING FOREST & LUNCH AT BUTLER’S RETREAT

boy walking in Epping Forest

If your don’t want to be tied down to a lunch booking or if you’ve left it too late, one of my favourite ways to spend any Sunday is a walk in Epping Forest followed by lunch at the lush Butler’s Retreat café. And as we don’t do it often enough, this looks like it could be a front-runner for us this weekend. Run by the same people behind The Larder in Wanstead, the food at the Butler’s Retreat is great and it’s very child-friendly with lots of space to run around outside. Perfect if, like me, you have a toddler who is against sitting still for 5 minutes. Hopefully, by next year he’ll be at an age where he can sit nicely at the table without a meltdown and we can go somewhere a bit fancy. But until then, open spaces and outdoor tables mean we don’t have to worry about noise or making too much mess.

Address: 12 Rangers Road, Chingford, E4 7QH

More info: Butler’s Retreat website

GUIDED TOUR OF COPPED HALL

Flowers in Copped Hall garden

Run by a charitable trust, this Georgian mansion is currently being restored and they open the doors to the public once a month. It’s set in grassy parkland and so at their open day and tour this Sunday you’ll also get a chance to see the gardens. There’s a shop that sells produce from the walled garden and refreshments available on site. You don’t need to book and the tour lasts between 2 – 3 hours. Kids under 14 are free and it is £8 for everyone else.

When: Sunday 14th March 2015, The gates only open between 10-11am on Crown Hill.

Address: Stables Courtyard, Copped Hall, Crown Hill, Epping, Essex CM16 5HS

More info: Copped Hall website

EASTER BARNS AT NORPAR BARNS

Easter barn at Norpar Barns Essex

I’m a big fan of Norpar Barns. It’s a lovely drive out into the Essex countryside and the barns are down a peaceful country lane. A visit to their Christmas barn is already a family tradition. Last year, I went along to the Easter barn and it really does get you in the mood for spring. There’s also a small tearoom where you can have tea and cake. It depends on the age of your children and how well behaved they are if you want to bring them. Babies and older children will be fine. For the moment, while the Little One is a mischievous toddler who wants to grab everything I think we’ll wait a bit longer before bringing him back. However, it would be the perfect place to take your own mother if you want a few hours away from the kids!

Address: Navestock Hall, Navestock, Romford, RM4 1HA

More info: Norpar Barns website 

FLAMINGO FAIR FOR MOTHER’S DAY

Based in Wanstead library, this local fair is holding a Mother’s day special this Sunday 14th March 2015. It’s child friendly and there’ll be stalls from local artists and craftspeople as well as jewellery, vintage furniture and haberdashery. Open 11am – 4pm and it is open to all ages

Address: Churchill Room, Wanstead Library, Spratt Hall Road, LONDON, E11 2RQ

More info: Flamingo Fair Wanstead

MUMS EAT FREE AT HARVESTER WOODFORD GREEN

I haven’t actually eaten here before but I noticed that The Castle Harvester restaurant in Woodford Green is offering a free main meal to all mums who eat with them after 6pm. There’s no voucher needed and you can read more about the offer on their website. The website claims they are kid-friendly so I’d be interested to hear from anyone who has tried it out.

Address: 393 – 395 High Road, Woodford Green, Essex, IG8 OXG

More info: The Castle Woodford Green website

What’s On: February half-term highlights

This is not an easy time of year to keep the kids entertained and thinking up child-friendly activities for the February half-term can feel particularly tough. The festive season has depleted wallets, new year motivation has gone and the weather makes us want to hunker down under blankets. But do not fear, here are some ideas to inspire you to get up and explore with the kids next week.

Be one of the first to visit Lee Valley Park Farms this year 

Tractor at Lee Valley Park Farms

This weekend, Lee Valley Park Farms opens its gates for another year. And to celebrate there are lots of activities planned for the opening weekend including the unveiling of the brand new meerkat enclosure. There’s plenty of animals including giant rabbits, rare breed pigs, llamas and pygmy goats. There are indoor and outdoor play areas although some of these may be closed while some improvement works are ongoing, but to compensate they are offering reduced entry fees until the end of March.

Lee Valley Farms Opening Weekend, 14th & 15th February 2015.

Where: Lee Valley Farms, Stubbins Hall Lane, Waltham Abbey, Essex EN9 2EF

Lee Vally Farms website

Get creative at Valentine’s Mansion

Children painting ceramics at Valentine's House and Mansion

On Wednesday 18th February, kids can take part in a Creative Crockery class taking design inspiration from the house and gardens. It is open to children aged 4 to 11 years and costs £9, pre-booking essential.

Where: Valentine’s Mansion & Gardens, Emerson Road, Ilford, Essex, IG1 4XA,UK

Valentine’s Mansion website

Spark their imaginations at the Southbank Centre

Children at Imagine Festival Southbank Centre

Take the tube into town for the inspiring Imagine Festival which will be running until Sunday 22nd February. There’s loads of great stuff going on so you’re sure to find something that appeals to your little ones (or you). There’s reading and appearances from children’s authors including Lauren Child and Anthony Horowitz, live theatre performances from the likes of Charlie and Lola and world class orchestras as well as a series of programmes for under 5s.

Where: Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London SE1 8XX

Imagine Festival website