Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and the Arcelor Mittal Orbit

On the afternoon of the day we visited the Discover Story Centre, Thomas and I meandered our way over to the Olympic Park for our very first visit since we were there for the games themselves. Thomas was less than a year old at the time, so he surprised me last week by musing out loud “We’ve been here before”. I can only conclude he’s seen the pictures or something – any other alternative is a bit freaky!

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The best part of visiting the Olympic Park this time for Thomas was almost certainly the journey across Stratford, which offers the opportunity to see almost every type of train – and bus – that he could wish for. He was delighted by our journey to Stratford on board the HS1 Javelin Train from Ebbsfleet, and equally as delighted by “driving” the DLR to Stratford High Street and back. To be honest, if that had been our entire day out, I think he’d have been completely happy.

As it was, however, it was a beautiful day, so we did go for a walk through the park. The site is so vast that we traversed only one corner, and did not make it to much of what is on offer, including the large outdoor playground. We did have a lot of fun exploring the Year of the Bus Trail, with all 60 painted Routemaster models on display at the park prior to being auctioned off for charity. The exhibition has already been extended but is now due to finish next week. Thomas picked out some definite favourites, including one painted with a steam train, and another dressed as a Coldstream Guard in a bearskin hat!

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Thomas was also absolutely overjoyed to spy a good old fashioned helter skelter. He first rode one at Carter’s Steam Fair last June, and still talks about it now, so when he saw this one in all it’s glory in the sunshine, I knew I was unlikely to get away without a ride! And as helter skelters go, it was a good one, even if carrying Thomas up to the top, along with my bags, did nearly kill me! he’s getting pretty heavy these days!

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The main reason for our trip to the park, however, was a ride up the Arcelor Mittal Orbit – a first for both of us. The Orbit is Britain’s largest sculpture and on a clear day offers views over London reaching twenty miles in each direction. It may not be as high as the Shard, but it still offers a unique perspective – and is considerably cheaper to boot. There are good discounts for booking online in advance (which is what we did) and you can then exchange your tickets free of charge for one which is valid for a full year. I’ve no doubt that we’ll go back with Ian as a consequence. (This fact also meant that we came down in the lift rather than walking, as we’d already had a long day and I could imagine I’d end up having to carry Thomas most of the way down on my own. It’s good to know we can go back and do the walk without paying again.)

Whilst we were there, the “Bricks in the sky” exhibition was still on, showcasing miniature Lego models of the Olympic venues and other London icons. In addition there were plenty of Lego bricks available for free building, which captivated our budding Lego enthusiast almost as much as the skyline views.

 

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It was a very full and exciting day, despite barely scratching the surface of what the area has to offer. Thomas still had enough energy for a good run around the park on our way home, and I’ve no doubt at all that we will be back, as it’s firmly on our list of good places to go in London.

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The Discover Children’s Story Centre, Stratford

Half-term is a funny old time for us at this stage in Thomas’s life. He attends pre-school at a private nursery which provides year-round care. It closes for Bank Holidays and a week at Christmas only. This means that half-term doesn’t really affect us yet. I still go to work, Thomas still goes to pre-school and it’s all hunky dory. Except… anywhere that we might choose to go for a day on the days I’m not at work is FULL of older kids on their half-term holidays. I almost feel guilty for taking Thomas out to places because we have all the other weeks of the year to do these things, and everywhere is quite crowded enough without adding us to the mix. But, Thomas’s usual weekly classes are not in session, which, particularly on a Tuesday, gives us a lot more scope for a whole day activity. And with the good weather this week, I didn’t want to pass that up.

I thought carefully about what we might do that wouldn’t involve too many crowds. And settled on a trip to the Discover Children’s Story Centre in Stratford (combined with a trip to the Olympic Park, but that’s a story for another post). It’s a place that’s been on my list to check out for quite a while, and it seemed like a good place as much of its content is aimed at younger children anyway, so I thought it was unlikely to suffer from an influx of older children and teenagers. Plus, during “term-time” I know that it’s popular with nursery and school groups, and choosing the holiday avoids these large groups. As it turned out, it was busy but not unbearably so. The good weather helped, because the outdoor garden was being well utilised.

The Discover Centre bills itself as the UK’s first hand’s on creative literary centre. From their website:

“Discover’s overarching mission is to spark children and adults’ imagination, curiosity and creativity in a magical and stimulating environment.”

And I think they certainly achieve that. The space is laid out in various sections. The main floor is a bit like a themed play area, but with numerous imaginative triggers. There is a large central area where stepping on the lights triggers musical sounds that correlate to the image of an instrument projected on the wall. In one corner there is a craft activity station.  In another an area with tents and a slide with a cubby hole underneath. Elsewhere is a trip trap bridge, a lion tunnel and mountain, and a climbing wall. There are dressing up costumes and a miniature theatre to perform your own tales. Thomas’s favourite place of all was the “Lollipopter” – a flying machine that might have been a spaceship, but might have been a boat. Thomas spent a good deal of time here, spinning the wheel and changing the speed settings. I asked him what he was doing.

“Going to find treasure Mummy!”

“Where are you going to find it?” I probed

“On a pirate treasure island. You can bring the map. It’s in the sea. We’re sailing in the sea. Oh look. We’ve arrived”

“How are we going to find the treasure?”

“On the map, silly. Look. ” [Hands me an imaginary map] “X marks the spot! We need to dig the treasure. We need shovels.”

And so it went on. With him describing what needed to do, and how we were going to do it. I prompted him every so often to ask him where, how and why, or to describe something to me, such as the chest the treasure would be hidden in. What would it look like, and feel like. We began to talk about different words to say the things he wanted to express. It was lovely to just sit listening to all these things pouring out of him and exciting him.

Can you see what was happening here? Just being in this different environment inspired me to encourage Thomas’s imagination and storytelling. It’s certainly given me pause for thought in how I deal with games he plays at home in order to nuture this raw and budding creativity. And that, I suppose, is the very point of the Discover Centre.

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They also hold various sessions, for different age groups. There is currently an Oliver Jeffers exhibition on in the basement section and there are daily story readings. We attended a reading of Roald Dahl’s The Enormous Crocodile. We bought a copy of this for Thomas for Christmas – his very first introduction to Roald Dahl. He has loved the book at home, and really seemed to enjoy hearing it in a different environment where the children where encouraged to contribute thoughts, actions and sounds. He asked to read it again before bed last night, and provided sound effect throughout for the snapping of teeth and evil laugh of the eponymous croc.

The Discover Centre also has a story garden with various themed play station, including a dragon slide, a pirate boat, space ship and taxi cab as well as various outdoor musical instruments. We were so lucky with the weather yesterday, given that we’re still mid February, and enjoying a packed lunch sitting in the garden I got so hot that I had to take my coat off. (Thomas kept his on. “No Mummy. It’s winter silly. You need to wear your coat!”)

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If you have young children, particularly if they love story telling or imaginative play (or perhaps especially if they don’t, but you want to encourage it) I’d highly recommend at least a few hours spent here. It was not only part of a fantastic day out, but it will definitely influence how I assist Thomas at home in developing his ideas, story telling and vocabulary. For a few hours that’s what we focused on, and it made me realise how simple it can be.

For a full programme of event, check out the website. We paid for our own tickets to the Discover Centre and all thoughts, opinions (and bad iPhone photos) are our own. 

Room on the Broom at Christmas

Last Christmas, we took Thomas to the theatre for the very first time. We saw a production at The Unicorn Theatre entitled “The Night Before Christmas” which was based around the well-known verse. It was perfectly pitched for his age, and became the first of several theatre trips this year. But sadly, when it came to seeing what the Unicorn had to offer this season, there wasn’t really anything aimed quite at his age group and interest level, which led to us looking elsewhere for a Christmas theatre trip.

We considered Pantomine, obviously. And whilst Thomas loves the theatre and I think would have no trouble sitting through a Panto – and even enjoying it – I just felt that we might be better saving this British institution for another year, until he was even better able to get in to it. We also considered the West-End production of “The Snowman” and Thomas was completely obsessed with the television version last year (I think we watched it every day for a month!). It turns out he still loves it this year, but the stage show is incredibly expensive – it would have cost well over £100 for the three of us to go. I don’t mind splashing out for great theatre (and by all accounts the show is good) but I didn’t want to gamble that much money on Thomas completely enjoying it. he can still be unpredictable in what entertains or scares him!

So in the end we settled on “Room on the Broom” – a Julia Donaldson favourite around here. Granted it’s not an especially festive tale, but this was more about having some special family time to look forward to in the run up to Christmas itself than being purely related to the season. The tickets were also raesonably priced and there were both morning and early afternoon times to choose from.

It turned out that we had chosen a day that was to bring beautiful weather to London. Clear, crisp and incredibly bright, with that low winter sun that seems to give everything added sparkle. We headed up a little early and went to see the Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square, before taking a wander across Leicester Square and up to the Lyric theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue.

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It’s fair to say that the show did not disappoint. I’m always intrigued about how relatively short children’s books will be adapted in to a longer show, and how faithful they will be to the original text. In this case there is some additional scene setting and plenty of singing that does not use verse from the original book, but it is completely recognisable. There is a great amount of repetition for younger viewers too, and Thomas stayed absolutely engaged throughout the just-over-an-hour show.I was slightly concerned that he may find the dragon scary, but I needn’t have worried at all.

This is the first Julia Donaldson inspired stage production that we’ve seen, although I know there are many others out there. I’d definitely recommend it as a great introduction to theatre if you have a Donaldson fan!

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Following the morning show, we walked back across London, enjoying the beautiful weather. Thomas wanted to cross the Hungerford Bridge (is it still even called that?!) to see the trains on their way in to Charing Cross, which made his day. We then made our way over to the Southbank Christmas market and ended up having lunch in Wagamama. (Given how fussy an eater Thomas is, this is an odd one, but Wagamama, along with Pizza Express, is one place that he absolutely guaranteed to love). Our celebrity spot of the day in here was Russel Brand!

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The market itself was very busy, but there was plenty on offer. We didn’t end up spending long as Thomas was pretty tired, and we had already had plenty of Christmas market experience in Brussels.

It was a lovely family day out though, and the tradition of seeing a theatre show in the run up to Christmas is now well and truly cemented!

And Thomas… fell asleep on the train home!

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Santa Special

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When your son is a complete train obsessive and your local heritage railway run dedicated festive services, there is really only one option of where to go to meet the big man in red. Add the fact that we took Thomas on the local “Santa Special” service last year – and it’s fair to say that he really loved it – so why take the chance of going elsewhere and having an overwhelmed pre-schooler on our hands when we knew this would be a massive hit?

So last Sunday we set out bright and early for Eridge station to join the train in what could easily become a family Christmas tradition. We enjoyed the lovely log fire in the waiting room, and hot chocolate (or orange juice, in Thomas’s case!) in the buffet car before the train pulled in to take us on our way.

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This year, in contrast to last year’s set up, Father Christmas actually visited each child on the train to have a few words and give them a little gift. (I won’t spoil the surprise in case anyone is going on the same trip, but it’s a decent quality item with plenty of play value.) Father Christmas then posed in his sleigh in the engine sheds at Tunbridge Wells. This actually worked very well as it meant each child got two opportunities to see him (and this would be helpful with a child prone to getting shy, overwhelmed or otherwise potentially distressed) and it also cut down the waiting time in the engine sheds as each family was only posing for photos, rather than also getting their gift and chatting to Father Christmas for a while.

Thomas is at a really perfect age for becoming completely wrapped up in the magic of Christmas. Although he’s normally full of questions about “why” or “how” it hasn’t occurred to him yet to be anything other than completely absorbed by the magic of the season. I know that we won’t have that long until it begins to fade, so I want to clutch it hard whilst it is here. Seeing the look on his face when the big man arrived in our compartment was one of those moments I’ll treasure.

Thomas very sweetly whispered to Father Christmas to remind him what he had written in his letter, and Father Christmas was happy that he’d come on his train ride, given that he wants trains for Christmas!

He also very happily climbed aboard the sleigh for photos, which was something I’d been unsure that he would actually want to do!

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IMG_6631(That is my mum, hiding behind Thomas!)

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IMG_6723(Father Christmas climbing back aboard the train for the return journey)

We then got the train back to Eridge, complete with a visit from a balloon modeller (yes, the same guy again!) Thomas was suitably impressed with his sausage dog that had eaten a single sprout! We also had delicious mince pies, and a train shaped shortbread for Thomas, included in the ticket price.

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Thomas absolutely loved the train ride, quite apart form seeing Father Christmas. He spent a good deal of the time with his face out of the window shouting about the trees, tracks, animals and steam that he could see.

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He wasn’t too happy about leaving the train when we got back to Eridge, but we had a table waiting in a local pub for a delicious lunch… and The Polar Express to watch (again) when we got home!

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We went on The Spa Valley Railway Santa Special Service but paid for our own tickets and all thoughts are our own. I can highly recommend this trip, especially if you have a little train enthusiast, and similar service operate at other heritage railways across the country.

A Christmas Trip to Brussels by Eurostar

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I’ve loved Christmas markets for many years. Since the first time I experienced a “proper” European extravaganza of wooden huts, mulled wine and kitsch wares for sale. I can’t even put my finger on why wandering around in the freezing cold, browsing items from Christmas decorations and candles to chocolate and bakeware, is so exciting. Perhaps it’s the inherent festiveness in all the twinkly lights, sparkling decorations and Christmas music. Or maybe it’s just the lovely mulled wine after all!

We haven’t “done” a Christmas market since Thomas was born though. The thought of schlepping a small baby around in sub-zero temperatures suddenly made it lose its appeal. And then he got bigger, but I just didn’t think he would enjoy it. After all, he’d not be allowed any mulled wine!

But this year was different. And as with many things in our lives right now, it all came down to trains. Earlier this year, the Eurostar became Thomas’s overnight favourite train. He was obsessed with watching YouTube videos of them, and spotted pictures of them in the newspaper, the Hornby catalogue and the travel agents’ windows. Then, he started asking to go on the Eurostar. He understood completely that they go through a tunnel and he referred to them as “the trains that go under the sea.” So, call it my first defeat at the hands of pester power, but we began to consider a quick European trip. Ian immediately suggested Bruges, a beautiful city I’ve travelled to many times. The only problem with getting the Eurostar to Bruges is that means changing trains in Brussels. I suggested that we just do Brussels instead. And since we’ve been to the Christmas market there before and thoroughly enjoyed it, I also suggested we make it a Christmas market trip. It was easy not to think about the cold back in August!

So last Tuesday we got up bright and early for the short drive to Ebbsfleet. And it’s fair to say that Thomas absolutely loved the Eurostar. We opted not to get a separate ticket for Thomas. Children under four can travel free if sitting on an adult’s lap and we knew he’d want to be on us in order to get a better view out of the window. The tunnel portion is less than thirty minutes of the whole journey, so there is plenty to see! It turned out to be a good decision as I really doubt he’s have sat in his own seat for long. Once we arrived, he also loved catching a tram (“Tram! Tram! Tram! Tram!) from the station to our hotel.

The rest of the trip, however, his enjoyment was less clear cut and we suffered more than a good day’s quota of threenager meltdowns. We’d booked in to the Hotel Meininger via Expedia. As is usual, we weren’t able to check in until the afternoon, but we dropped our bags in to the left luggage room and then headed out for a wander around and to get some lunch. It turns out, though, that we perhaps hadn’t adequately managed Thomas’s expectations of the trip. Although we’d told him we would be staying in a hotel overnight, and had him help pack his bag Gruffalo Trunki, he was incredibly cross that we weren’t getting a tram straight back to the station to get the Eurostar home. In hindsight, getting up so early whilst also still recovering from a cold and a week of extra-poor sleep added to his grumpiness. Despite rarely using one at home, we’d taken the pushchair as we anticipated a lot of walking, and I was pleased that Thomas elected to take a nap, as I thought that was ease the strops. But here was my second mistake. I’d known it would be cold. Brussels is so near, yet slipping outside the jet stream, surprisingly much colder than home. I’d dressed Thomas in a vest, long sleeved T-shirt, wooly jumper, thick coat, scarf, hat and mittens. But the one thing I’d not taken was a blanket. And it turns out sleeping in a pushchair in freezing temperatures can make you really cold. So when Thomas awoke, far from being refreshed, he was a bundle of renewed grumpiness.

Fortunately an indoor fondue lunch and a spin around the big wheel cheered him up a bit, but after that we were subjected with renewed requests to get back on the Eurostar. We decided to head back to the hotel to see if our room was ready but the screaming reached such heights on the walk back, accompanied by vociferous complaining about a “hurty head” that we found ourselves in a Belgian pharmacy purchasing the equivalent of Calpol. (Yes, the pharmacist did ask if I was sure I didn’t want suppositories! And interesting they dose exactly by weight, meaning the syringes are marked not only with mls, but with weight markings. I don’t have a clue how much Thomas weighs – the pharmacist must have been performing internal eye rolls by now – but fortunately it clearly stated that it contained 32mg/ml allowing me to calculate the correct dose by UK dose standards. It turns out to be slightly more concentrated than its UK counterpart, and, according to Thomas, significantly LESS tasty!)

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The return to the hotel helped. Not only did it allow us all to get really warm, Thomas clearly felt much more settled and finally said he didn’t want to go home yet! The hotel was certainly comfortable, if basic. It seemed very new, modern and clean. There was no bath, only a shower, in our room, and no fancy additions such as a kettle. It was a very large space though, with a large double bed plus a sofa doubling as a single bed for Thomas. The hotel had a bit of a hostel feel, and there were certainly several large groups of teenagers staying. Accordingly there was a “Guest Kitchen” and a 24 hour bar. It was a good price, and easily navigable from the Eurostar terminal and, with Brussels being pretty compact, all the main central areas. Perhaps best of all though, we had a view of the canal and a busy tramline and road, so Thomas could spot barges, trams and bendy buses from the window!

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In the late afternoon we headed back out and Thomas had a lot of fun looking at all the Christmas lights as we explored the Grand Place and surrounding areas before promptly falling asleep in his pushchair again. Two naps in one day is unheard of, so I knew he must really be feeling under the weather. We took the opportunity to have some dinner while he slept. When he eventually woke up we headed over to the main Christmas Market in Place St-Catherine. Since Thomas had missed dinner and was clamouring for food, we let him pick what he’d like to try. The choice was a fresh crepe filled with Nutella, which he polished off!

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Ian and I were both pleased to see that the carousel we’d loved on our last trip here in 2008 was still there. It is an amazing work of art. In the place of traditional horses are all sorts of whimsical things to sit on, including an octopus and a snail, a dinosaur, a submarine and a hot air balloon. There is an aeroplane suspended high up with its own little staircase to board it. And perhaps best of all, a rocket ship which “launches” as the ride spins, rising high enough to pass through the canopy atop the carousel. Last time we were here we were childless, and could not participate, so coming back with our won child to ride felt just a little bit magical. We opted not to suggest the rocket, however. On that last trip a little girl was sealed in (they secure the door to stop children falling out) and promptly began to scream as the rocket took off! Thomas chose the steam ship to ride in, and totally adored it. As seam poured from the funnels halfway through the ride he shouted “Wow. Look! Steam. Steam from the funnels!”

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We didn’t want to push our luck whilst Thomas was in a good mood, so we clued it a night not long afterwards.

Our previous experiences of all sleeping in one hotel room have not gone exactly smoothly (walking up and down the corridor more than 100 times pushing an over tired and excited child in a pushchair to get them to sleep, anyone?) But tiredness was definitely the theme of the day, and Thomas actually settled really well, leaving me with the opportunity to catch up on a few chapters of my book before we turned in ourselves.

The following morning we headed out to cafe we remembered from previous visits for a breakfast of waffles and hot chocolate. I was anxious to avoid a repeat of the previous day’s melt downs and avoid too much market browsing or shopping. The only trouble was that we hadn’t really done an awful lot of planning for this trip beyond getting the Eurostar and visiting the markets. Thomas suggested the solution by begging to be allowed to “go on the Brussels underground pleeeeeease.” So we caught the Metro out to the Atomium, which none of us have visited before.

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The Atomium is one of those slightly fascinating buildings, a giant molecular structure rising out the surrounding parkland. Several of the spheres are open as part of a tour of the building, which starts with the observation deck at the very top. It also includes a couple of spectacularly long escalators, and plenty of room for Thomas to run around. As you can see from the pictures, the weather was exceedingly grey and damp!

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We then caught the Metro back to Place St-Catherine for more Christmas market browsing. We managed an impressive haul of chocolate, new Christmas decorations and a tin wind-up train for Thomas.

There was also plenty of Vin chaud drunk, and a family sized portion of Churros consumed, an absolute must before getting the Eurostar home again!

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Overall we did have a good time, despite some moments of frustration from Thomas . The Eurostar worked very well. We won’t hesitate to take another trip on it and would recommend it as a means of transport to parents of young children, especially if they happen to be train obsessed. But I think our next trip needs to be either a little warmer or involve less long periods outside! Of course, you can’t control getting ill around the time you go away, but I would certainly change Thomas being under the weather and us all fighting off colds if it were in my control! I suppose I’d also be a little less busy and stressed in the run up to going away, and do a little more planning, even if the trip is for less than 48 hours! But I still love Brussels as a destination, and have no doubt that we’ll be back!

A Day at the Museums

The Museums in South Kensington – most especially The Science Museum and The Natural History Museum – were staples of my childhood. I remember many a school trip – soggy sandwiches and broken down coaches included- and family day out spent happily at both, so it’s natural that they were both on the list of “Family Days Out To Look Forward To” before Thomas was even born. However, with one thing and another, we hadn’t actually got around to taking him until last weekend. And having now taken him, I’m glad that we waited a while. We were able to go without a pushchair in-tow (which simplifies everything) and Thomas was properly interested in so much that was on offer, participating not just in the interactive areas for young children, but also asking questions about everything he could see.

Having asked Thomas if he wanted to see rockets or dinosaurs first, we headed straight to the Science Museum. I had heard the same advice over and over again that the main areas to go with little ones are the basement and the fourth floor, but of course that wasn’t accounting for Thomas’s obsession with steam and engines. The enormous working steam engine in the entrance hall captivated him for so long that I began to think we’d never get away. It was only the promise of more engines that succeeded, and he was in seventh heaven when he discovered “Stephen” (Stephenson’s Rocket) “Billy” (Puffing Billy) and “Emily” (a great big steam engine with a passing resemblance to “Emily” from Thomas and Friends) plus plenty of others. We spent a good while on a gallery which housed a number of small scale models of trains and other machines. At first he was a bit put out that they weren’t moving, so he was absolutely ecstatic to discover that some of them did indeed move if you pushed a button! The cars and space rockets were also a huge hit with Thomas, and of course, there was plenty to interest me including old dental units, an early radiographic machine and a three dimensional model of pig insulin. But visiting museums with kids is very different to visiting them without: your own interests get rapidly sidelined, of course!

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We didn’t make it to the bubble show that everyone has been raving about, but we did see a rocket show up on the fourth floor that Thomas really enjoyed. It was probably pitched at slightly older children, with explanations of Newton’s Laws of Motion, complete with audience participation demonstrations. However, the show was extremely well done in that it also kept Thomas’s attention throughout without dumbing down. To my surprise he found hydrogen explosions absolutely hilarious, and was not at all phased by the loud bangs or rockets being flung across the room. (This is the kid who still covers his ears if a particularly loud car approaches, and screams blue murder if anyone dares to use a hand dryer in his vicinity!)

We also spent quite a bit of time in the Pattern Pod, where the interactive floor was a big hit, and also in the Garden in the basement.

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We headed to the Natural Museum in the afternoon, although to be honest, Thomas was already showing signs of being pretty tired and possibly a bit over stimulated. However we’d made the mistake of mentioning that he could see a dinosaur, and he damn well wanted to see it! Dinosaurs are another area of unpredictability with Thomas. He sometimes cowers in fear at anything dinosaur related on television, but at other times loves it. The diplodocus in the entrance hall was definitely loved. So much so that he begged to “see more dinosaurs now”. However, when we got round to the entrance to the main dinosaur exhibit, he got very unsettled – probably because it’s quite dark and noisy – and asked to go. We decided to cut our losses and head home before a great day ended up with a massive meltdown.

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He has asked all week about the dinosaur, though. And for the first time in ages, I chanced putting Andy’s Dinosaur Adventure on Cbeebies on for him. The last time he saw an episode several months ago he screamed until it was turned off. This time thought he was very excited by seeing “the big dinosaur skeleton” and seemed to get quite in to it. So I think we’ll be back to the Natural History Museum again before long!

As the mark of a good day. Thomas actually fell asleep on me on the train home. This is the kid who never, ever sleeps during the day unless he is utterly worn out. It’s become my goal to get him so tired on days out that he sleeps happily, and this time it worked! Definitely a good day had by all.

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Peppa Pig’s Big Splash

BigSplash

I’ve written before, recently, about taking Thomas to the theatre and how much he seems to enjoy it. After The Tiger Who Came to Tea, the second trip I had lined up for this summer was to see Peppa Pig’s Big Splash at the Churchill Theatre in Bromley. It’s a while since I’ve been to the Churchill, but it’s a venue firmly linked to my youth as I used to attend plenty of productions there both with my school theatre group and also with my parents. It’s a really lovely, spacious auditorium, and they tend to have a fantastic line up of touring and pre-West End shows to choose from at reasonable prices.

Peppa Pig is a relatively new thing for Thomas. Having been obsessed with Thomas and Friends since before he really watched television, there has been little room for much else until recently. To be honest, I could have done without the little pink pig coming in to our lives, with her snorting and her muddy puddles, as, truth be told, I find her pretty irritating! And after watching multiple episodes back-to-back during our chicken pox quarantine, even the music sets me a bit on edge now. However, Thomas loves it, and clearly actually gets something from it, as the story lines in Peppa episodes have often been a springboard for his own imaginative play ideas. (There is no road that has not been dug up in our near vicinity!) So I booked the tickets for him, and accepted that I’d have to sit through it.

I have to hold my hands up though, and say that I was impressed. I actually enjoyed myself, and not just because Thomas was so obviously having a ball. The show was actually really good, engaging for young and old(er) alike, and no where near as irritating as the television shows. All the familiar characters were represented as puppets voiced by their operators, and the voices were fairly faithful to the familiar television ones. Mr Bull popped up to “dig up the road”, Daddy Pig was, of course, “a bit of an expert”, George’s dinosaur went missing, resulting in much “waaaahing” and there was plenty of singing including some rousing rounds of everybody’s favourite “Bing Bong Song”. And, of course, there was lots and lots of splashing in muddy puddles and jumping up and down for everyone!

PeppaPig

This was the first theatre production that we’ve been to that had an interval, so I treated Thomas to the traditional ice cream from a tub. This was also partly in reward for the fact that he was incredibly good about not pestering me for the plastic tat they were flogging for nearly a tenner a pop. This was probably my one frustration with this particular show, but I suppose I can’t blame them as they have a captive audience and it’s all business, after all! I understand that it’s a normal part of these touring theatre shows and, sadly, being merchandised at is a now a normal part of life! Of course his own ice cream tub wasn’t quite enough, and he also wanted to share steal mine too!

This post is not sponsored. We paid for our own tickets and all thoughts and opinions are mine (and Thomas’s). I would, however, highly recommend that you go to see the show if you have a little Peppa fan. Peppa Pig’s Big Splash continues to tour the country until January, with more dates promised – see the website for more details by clicking here.