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The other day I showed Grandma N a picture of Big Girl, and I could tell she was impressed. It looked like Big Girl was on radio.
Our five-year-old was sitting in a radio studio reading a news report and a light on the wall indicated that she was on air. What the picture didn’t show was that outside the room there were mums standing and giggling, feeling very proud of little girls who had their first experience as radio journalists.
We had been invited to KidZania at Westfield London to review, and being a radio journalist was just one of the many fun job-based activities the children did during the visit to this indoor city run by children.
KidZania is designed as a small city with a supermarket, a hospital, a university, a bank, restaurants, a football stadium, shops, a theatre, a tour bus, a newspaper, an estate agent and much more, and in this city it is the children who can do the jobs.
We had originally arranged to come for KidZania’s World Book Day when KidZania had partnered with the Little Tiger Group to celebrate reading and writing books, and introducing little visitors to all sorts of publishing job functions, but we postponed our visit due to the snowy weather that week and the focus became on doing a wide range of different jobs.
I think the range of jobs children can try out in KidZania is impressive, and although there were no queues when we visited on a Friday after school, the girls did seven job-based activities before we felt it was time to go home. The jobs they did ranged from working in housekeeping at the hotel to being cabin crew on an airplane, and after completing each activity, which typically lasts 10 to 20 minutes, they were paid in Kidzos, the city’s currency.
They also did the training to become firefighters and helped put out a fire in the city, and later they had a go at flying, completing the training to become pilots. For these types of activities, the children pay a fee in Kidzos for their training, which I think helps teach young visitors about money.
I also think KidZania London gives children a unique insight into what jobs people do and helps increase their knowledge and understanding of the world. I walked out feeling the girls must have learnt so much in the few hours we spent there after school. In fact, it feels pretty fantastic to have an educational London family attraction like this so close by, and I think KidZania is somewhere we will be coming back to regularly for a number of years to come, as it is equally relevant to much older children.
On the way out, we had the opportunity to buy photos taken by a photographer during the activities–where parents typically wait outside–and after checking out of the city the girls could also spend the Kidzos they’d earned in a special shop with a selection of little pocket money toys like stamps and pencils.
This was one fun afternoon out for the children–and a very relaxing one for me who sat outside each experience chatting with my friend while the children were on their learning adventure.
I would recommend KidZania to families with children aged from 4 and over, as 4 is the minimum age for the majority of the activities.
The Osborne & Little Sale at The Royal Horticultural Halls
For mums, it is worth noting that the annual Osborne & Little sale in The Royal Horticular Halls (Lindley Hall, Elverton Street, SW1P 2QW) in Westminster is taking place later this week. The sale will include a wide selection of fabrics, wallpapers and cushions from Osborne & Little, Nina Campbell, Matthew Williamson and Lorca. On Thursday 22 March the sale will be open from 9.30am to 7.00pm, and on Friday 23 March it will be open from 9.30am to 4.00pm. Parking is available at The Q-Park Horseferry Road car park, and visitors can go to www.q-park.co.uk, select the London Horseferry Road car park page, click on Pre-Booking and use promotional code RHS when making the booking.
Family Fun Weekend at Harrods To celebrate Easter, there will be a family fun weekend event at Harrods on Saturday 24 and Sunday 25 March from 1pm to 5pm on the fourth floor in the Harrods childrenswear department. Visitors can expect a range of in-store activities, and children can, for example, take part in biscuit decorating with Wild & Gorgeous or mask-making with Bonpoint. Moncler will also have face painting, and Mini Harrods will be putting on an egg hunt and arts and crafts activities.
Breakfast with Bunny at Hard Rock Cafe
At London’s Hard Rock Cafe on Piccadilly Road there will be a special family Easter breakfast on Sunday 25 March Breakfast with Bunny. The programme for the morning includes an all-you-can-eat American breakfast buffet, and Easter activities, such as an egg hunt and face painting for children. There will also be a visit from the Easter bunny. Doors open at 10am and tickets can be booked online. The event is £10 per child under 10 and £15 per adult. Adults must be accompanied by children.
I don’t travel anywhere without the iPad these days, as it’s a lifesaver to survive long flights. We download episodes from iTunes and Netflix, and try to ensure the most important programmes are available to view on the go before leaving. I also like to ensure we have entertaining children’s apps that don’t require wifi connection.
One of the things I’ve ended up having to buy in Heathrow several times is headphones. I have a tendency to leave home without them, so the result is that we have more than enough of the JVC Tinyphones headphones with soft ear pads, which are colourful and designed to keep noise at a safe level for children.
3. Hygiene products
I always carry Milton antibacterial surface wipes for cleaning on the go, as I think the wipes are practical for trying to make loo visits as hygienic as possible and it’s useful that it’s not a bottle when flying. I also use the wipes to clean high chairs in restaurants, airplane trays and other surfaces that could benefit from a quick wipe-down. In addition, I carry Water Wipes, Andrex washlets and antibacterial hand gel, ideally one from Bentley Organic.
4. Sticker and activity books
We stock up on sticker books before a flight, and for the youngest I like the Usborne First Sticker Books. There is one called First Sticker Book Airport, where children can create scenes from he airport, and there’s another in the series for New York, for example. For girls, a favourite is the Usborne Sticker Dolly Dressing sticker books, and some are city-themed and one features costumes from around the world. For older children, a mix of activities and stickers can be fun, and I’ve recently discovered travel activity books for kids that feature activity pages relevant to destinations, as well as pages for children to write about their own experiences. I particularly like the look of the My Awesome Adventure books with fact pages, puzzles and games, which are currently available for Sydney and Bali. When children are old enough to write, I think a book like this – or alternatively a standard journal – could end up being a fun keepsake from a trip.
5. Neck pillows
I reviewed the Trunki Yondi kids neck pillow (£12.99) some time ago, and I’ve since bought a second one to make travelling more comfortable for the kids. The compact neck pillows fit nicely in little backpacks and they feature a little hook for attaching a comforter, ensuring it’s not lost mid-journey. I know many also like bringing a travel blanket, and it’s been great when we’ve brought that too–it just depends on space.
6. Card games and mini games
I also like packing little games that don’t take up too much space, and I’ve recently noticed Shuffle has a range of classic board games in a card-game format and University Games has a range of family mini games. I also like the mini games range from Orchard Toys, which is suitable for young children, and I reviewed the Penguin Pair mini game (£5) some time back. I like the compact boxes, and I think the games are good value, so we’ve recently bought two more from the range.
7. Colouring pencils
I typically have a few colouring pencils in my bag, and before travelling I either print out colour-in pages or bring colour-in books. I like the free printables from Crayola, and we also often bring the Crayola Color Wonder mess-free colouring kits, which includes colours that only show on the special paper. At the Toy Fair this year, I also liked the look of a 3-metre long Paddington Colour On roll from University Games, which looks unique and fun for using on the go.
Although we’re not exactly travelling light these days, the books that we bring on flights are typically the smallest and lightest we own. There was a time when we had to bring board books, but I’m now all about Mr Men and pocket books.
9. Spare clothes
On one of our first long-haul flights with Big Girl I was wearing Daddy T’s clothes upon arrival back in London. I’m not making the same mistake again, and from now on we ensure that everyone in the family has spare clothes in the carry-on luggage. I also like to bring warm socks, as little feet can easily get cold on flights.
10. Snacks and bottles
For the children, having their own drinking bottles can be useful for travelling, and I’m travelling with empty Camelbak Eddy kids 0.4 litre drinking bottles that we can fill up with water we buy at the airport. I also bring a variety of snacks to keep the children happy in-between meal times.
Everybunny Count! by Ellie Sandall With charming illustrations and rhyming text, Everybunny Count! by Ellie Sandall (Hodder Children’s Books, £6.99) is a sweet picture book about foxes and bunnies playing hide-and-seek. The counting story is ideal for families planning on practising counting up to 10 over the holiday, as the cute illustrations can make counting fun for children. We’ve been counting bunnies and foxes, and I think the book could make for a sweet Easter gift.
The First Egg Hunt by Adam and Charlotte Guillain
My favourite Easter book is currently The First Egg Hunt by Adam and Charlotte Guillain (Egmont, £6.99), and I love how this funny, rhyming story comes up with a sweet explanation for the Easter egg hunt tradition. In the book, Easter Bunny first gets all the credit for the Easter eggs despite the Easter Chick having worked hard to make them. Easter Chick then hatches a cunning plan, which accidentally turns into the first ever Easter Egg hunt. In addition to being a charming story for Easter with delightful illustrations by Pippa Curnick, I like the focus on teamwork and friendship in The First Egg Hunt.
Little Grey Rabbit: Moldy Warp the Mole and Little Grey Rabbit: The Knot Squirrel Tale by Alison Uttley
Alison Uttley’s sweet and innocent Little Grey Rabbit books have captured the hearts of generations and Templar Publishing has been republishing many of the classics in the past few years. In January, two more were republished–Little Grey Rabbit: Moldy Warp the Mole (Templar Publishing, £5.99) and Little Grey Rabbit: The Knot Squirrel Tied (Templar Publishing, £5.99)–and the cute hardback books tell stories about the adventures of Little Grey Rabbit, Squirrel, Hare and their animal friends. The books feature classic illustrations by Margaret Tempest and make for charming little Easter treats that could also be easy to pack for anyone travelling over the school holiday.
I tend to start Christmas activities at least a month early, and on Saturday we did exactly the same for Easter. Easter is fast approaching, so we had been invited by Cadbury to celebrate the launch of the new Easter egg range and a debut Easter storybook by The Saturday’s singer Frankie Bridge.
The singer-songwriter, who is a mum of two, has launched her new book The Tale of The Great Easter Bunny in partnership with Cadbury this Easter, and the book, which is a re-adaptation of The Tale of the Great Bunny created by Cadbury 20 years ago, is now free to download from the Cadbury website.
At the Cadbury Easter event we had been invited to in Hyde Park, Frankie had the difficult slot before the Easter Egg hunt, but her book still seemed to captivate the children. The story celebrates The Easter Bunny and follows siblings Jack and Molly as they discover a series of mysterious clues and embark on an enchanting Easter Egg Hunt alongside their parents, Tom and Sarah.
Following the storytelling session at the event, Big Girl and Big Boy took part in a scavenger hunt-style Easter Egg hunt, racing around the garden surrounding The LookOut Hyde Park to search for clues and collecting paw print cut-outs. After filling up the cute bunny bags they had been given, they could swap their paw print collections for a canvas bag of chocolates, which practically made the weekend.
As soon as we left the venue they dug into a kind friend’s Cadbury Easter Egg Hunt Super Pack (£6.99) with a range of chocolate treats like hollow eggs and bunnies, and later in the day they started on the good-sized chocolate eggs in the Cadbury Dairy Milk Peter Rabbit Easter Egg and Toy Packs (£6.99) they had received.
I could see the toy packs being a popular choice for parents wanting to get little ones a special Easter treat–particularly since the Peter Rabbit soft toy in the pack is from the upcoming Peter Rabbit film–and the Easter Egg Hunt Super Pack is practical for organising family Easter egg hunts.
The Easter Egg Hunt packs will be ideal for families organising their own hunts, as there are a mix of chocolates in different sizes, and these could perhaps also be useful for hiding in fillable plastic eggs. The
I didn’t really know I was an Elvis fan until I went to the opening night of This Is Elvis at New Wimbledon Theatre yesterday.
The musical starts with what’s later become known as the ‘The ’68 Comeback Special’ when Elvis appeared in a live show on NBC. The show recreates the drama leading up to the comeback, and then proceeds with The King making his Vegas debut.
Elvis Presley is regarded as one of the most significant cultural icons of the 20th century, having starred in more than 30 films and performed record breaking shows and concerts. The first act in the musical about The King of Rock n’ Roll made for a great introduction to what was happening in Elivs’s life at the time of the comeback, and in the second act it felt like we had travelled back in time to a Vegas hotel venue.
We were treated to what felt like a brilliantly fun concert that had us up on our feet dancing and singing along to songs I didn’t even realise I practically knew by heart. When we turned up yesterday I certainly wasn’t expecting to be dancing in the stalls but we ended up having a blast. We were clapping, dancing – even picking up some new moves–and singing everything from Suspicious Minds to In the Ghetto.
Elvis is played by international award-winning tribute artist and actor Steve Michaels, and he didn’t only impress us with energetic dancing and a recognisable Elvis singing voice, but he also handled comments from audience members in style, blowing kisses and staying in character.
This was one incredibly fun and unique evening out!
This Is Elvis is playing at New Wimbledon Theatre until 17 March. The show is on a nationwide tour, which started in January 2018.
That was the conclusion after we went to review The Imperial Arms the other week. The New King’s Road pub reopened after half-term following a change in ownership and refurbishment.
The cool pub has gone from rustic to chic, and is now boasting a sleek white mosaic-tiled bar area by the entrance and a similar style bar upstairs in the light and airy private dining room.
Upon arrival, we escaped into the brasserie-style dining room, and found a cozy booth table –ideal for a dinner date.
The staff was attentive and welcoming, and Nick and his colleagues made us feel like The Imperial Arms is somewhere locals will quickly be recognised and feel at home.
We were presented with the restaurant’s new vegan menu in addition to the main menu–both celebrating the best of British seasonal produce. I started with a tasty salmon bruschetta, and could probably have stopped there because it was a filling dish, but the stone bass with purple potatoes came recommend and didn’t disappoint.
I also had a taste of the gherkin polenta fries with chipotle mayo – a unique starter that works well for sharing. The menu also features a mix of pub classics, like burger, steak and fish and chips, and there really seemed to be something for everyone on chef James Barlow’s menu.
Barlow, who is heading up the kitchen at The Imperial Arms, has experience from London’s Soho House and New York’s Fig & Olive, and the new menu and food we tasted had us excited. We could definitely see ourselves returning to The Imperial Arms for anything from a family brunch to dinner with friends, or perhaps a coffee and a laptop if the upstairs room ends up being available for people who work from home.
In fact, we ended up going back the day after too – that time for drinks in the bar area with a bigger group.
It turned out to be worth braving the cold snowy weather twice the other week for fun nights out at The Imperial Arms.
When we walked out of Jumeirah Lowndes Hotel in Knightsbridge on Sunday, five-year-old Big Girl was chatting away about the Peter Rabbit book she had received to take home and the rabbit-themed food she had been served. And I was not surprised it was a meal that had impressed the kids.
We had been invited to try the limited edition children’s book and brunch menu at Lowndes Bar & Kitchen at Jumeirah Lowndes Hotel after the hotel launched the special menu this month in celebration of World Book Day. The initiative follows on from Jumeirah Lowndes Hotel’s launch of Sunday Book & Brunch in March last year, and it makes the brunch offer a relaxing Sunday option for families in the area.
Soon after arriving we each received a book in a paper bag from Belgravia Books, and while the children ripped open their Tale of Peter Rabbit books, Daddy T and I could also open Julian Fellowes’ Belgravia novel, which is the book of the month on the adult menu.
In addition to the little cute Peter Rabbit books, which we read with the children before the meal, the friendly waiter also brought activity packs with crayons, stickers and activity sheets for them. They were truly well entertained–and I think they were a good age for enjoying the book and the extras.
The highlight was not only the book, however, but also the food that went with it. Big Girl ordered egg and bacon, which came presented as a rabbit, and Big Boy received pancakes in the shape of a chick.
The restaurant itself felt like a hotel restaurant to me with tiled floors and decor in neutral colour, and it boasts a heated street-side patio. As it was quiet when we visited, it was easy to dine with chatty little ones.
We left feeling the food had been both creative and good and the service had been fantastic. I also love the concept of receiving a book to get excited about over brunch–ideal for the children.
Children’s Book and Brunch Sundays is served 12pm to 5pm, and the price is £12.50 per child, and this includes an orange juice, one dish and a copy of The Tale of Peter Rabbit. The adult menus is £30 per person, including the book of the month, and brunch dishes are also available as an a la carte option.
Emmeline Pankhurst – Little People, Big Dreams by Lisbeth Kaiser
After being recommended the Little People, Big Dreams books I’ve become a big fan, and we bought Emmeline Pankhurst by Lisbeth Kaiser (Lincoln Children’s Books, £9.99) in connection with the celebration of Vote 100. The stylish picture book tells the life story of suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst in a way that makes it accessible to children, and after reading this we soon bought several more in the series. The stories talk about the women as children as well, which I think helps put the stories into context for young readers, and we’ve all learnt new facts when reading these interesting life stories. There are more than 10 in the series so far, and there are many more coming soon.
Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World by Kate Pankhurst One of the books we’re regularly reading in these days is Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World by Kate Pankhurst (Bloomsbury Publishing, £11.99). The colourful and inspiring book introduces readers to not only an array of remarkable women, but also to a range of topics ranging from equality to fashion trends. Today, I’ve enjoyed reading the brief two-page sections on Rosa Parks, Gertrude Ederle and Coco Chanel, for example. Next on our list is the follow-up Fantastically Great Women Who Made History (Bloomsbury Publishing, £11.99).
Women in Sport by Rachel Ignotofsky
Ahead of the Winter Olympics in February, Women in Sport by Rachel Ignotofsky (Wren & Rook, £12.99) was published with two-page biographies of women who’ve achieved their dreams. The hardback book, aimed at over 9s, follows on from Women in Science and features fifty notable sportswomen from the 1800s to today. Girls can read about well-known tennis players like Serena Williams and broadcaster Clare Balding, as well as lesser-known pioneers like Gertrude Ederle, who swam across the English Channel.
When I escaped bedtime last night and headed to New Wimbledon Theatre, I was ready to have a laugh and a giggle. We had been invited to the feel-good musical Crazy For You, and I knew the rom-com style show would be exactly what I needed to relax and take a break from the daily routine.
Crazy For You, a Watermill Theatre production, stars actor and past Strictly Come Dancing winner Tom Chambers, West End star Charlotte Wakefield and actor and TV personality Claire Sweeney, and the high-energy show is all about mistaken identities, heartbreak and finding love.
It tells the story about Bobby, the son of wealthy bankers who wants to be a Broadway star. When Bobby is sent to a small town in Nevada to close a failing theatre, he falls in love and gets an opportunity to use his other talents by setting out on a mission to help save the theatre.
Crazy For You features Gershwin classics like I Got Rhythm, They Can’t Take That Away From Me and Embraceable You and the music is lively and upbeat. I particularly liked the second act when I felt Wakefield really showcased her voice and large ensemble musical numbers kicked the show up another gear.
A constant flow of one-liners also kept us giggling, and the music and dancing meant I regularly found myself tapping my toes. In fact, the dancing in this musical reminded me how much fun we had when we were taking dance lessons, and I left the theatre feeling inspired.
The talking point when we were on our way out of the theatre was still the music. There was an announcement at the start of the show about the instruments in the show being played live, and I think this really made it stand out. We were taken aback by the multitalented actors, who were not only singing and dancing in Crazy For You, but also playing different instruments.
With plenty of humour, tapping and swinging, this upbeat show made for a fun evening out with a friend.
Crazy For You is playing at New Wimbledon Theatre until 10 March. The running time is 2 hours 25 minutes, including interval.