From parentshaped

Travel can involve a lot of time sitting, and the more I do travel, the more I want to make that time count too. Sometimes of course, it is great to just look out the window and be alone with your thoughts, especially I find on trains. But other times, I think it’s nice to have something to pass the time. Double win if it also helps you to unwind.

Over the summer we decided to retreat to a fairly out of it cottage in Wales, I decided it was time for some time offline and to try and remember exactly what my hobbies were too. I’m really proud that the time I spent in Wales really helped me reconnect with myself and that lots of those activities have really stuck for me, so I thought I would share them.


I dabbled in yoga each morning out on the grass overlooking the curious sheep and green hills. I watched the ants crawling to distract myself as I held a plank in the sun salutation. I’ve kept it up too, just a little each morning, often while I wait for the kettle to boil.  A few sun salutations and whatever poses I can remember from all the classes I have dabbled in. Yoga is the perfect antidote to travel aches and pains and the stiffness that comes with sitting still. Sometimes the kids join me, and Ive managed to teach them a few relaxation activities too, including this one of my Mum’s, to help them sleep anywhere.

In this picture they also found some natural clay and made little sculptures, nature crafts can be brilliant.


On a whim in Wales I picked up a knitting and crochet magazine, which came with some wool and needles/hook. I have so many half finished craft projects, but this time it felt a little different, it really helped me to feel mindful of my holiday time and to relax.

First I crocheted a mandala storage box – mandalas in themselves are quite therapeutic -and suddenly felt like my crochet skills took a leap forward. Then I used some of the wool to teach L to knit which took me right back to sitting on my Gran’s knee. I’ve always felt passionate that it’s important to treasure these skills, and pass them down. It made me happy to watch L move from me guiding her, to busily clattering off a scarf for a teddy. I’m going to look out more patterns for her as she is keen to try something more complicated now. Deramores have crochet and knitting patterns to order online, I wonder if L might like the penguins and Christmas baubles.

My latest crochet project, a rainbow blanket is really growing, it’s been on our last two trips too, to North Norfolk and to stay in the Ben 10 Rust Bucket too, so I feel like it’s almost stitching together the memories of those adventures too.


I love taking photos to remember wherever we go, and I’m never happier than when I have landscapes and places to photograph. I’ve always felt a little shy taking pictures of people, but I’m learning that I love buildings, trees, fields, forests, horizons, seas and the great outdoors. Sometimes I take my big camera, other times my phone will do, but the more I take photos, the more photo opportunities I see when we travel. This was snapped on my phone in Ashbourne, Derbyshire.


Simple pleasures are the best. I like to ask my friends on facebook  before I go on a trip for their book recommendations and make sure my Kindle is all fired up and ready to go. I also like to indulge in some magazines and newspapers, I like to read more about how our minds work, how to be happier, books that will inspire me to improve my life while I have some extra headspace. I find in flight magazines are brilliant for more travel writing ideas too. Mum gave me this mini book of the Moomins, little books like this are great to keep in a travel bag for the kids, who always forget to bring a bedtime story.


I try to write while things are fresh in my head, I think it is the best way with travel writing. So on planes, trains, in the car I am always tapping out notes on my phone or scribbling ideas in a notebook. It also means the writing up isn’t hanging over me when the post holiday blues set in.


Whenever I feel stressed and in need of a holiday I am reminded of the little things my grandmothers did which seemed to give them so much headspace. Crosswords and puzzles are good when you really need the brain to totally switch off. My Grandma did one daily and was unbelievably mentally agile into her 90s, so I always mean to take a leaf out of her book. I am sure the knitting helped her too.


Travel games are another way we get quality family time, magnetic ludo was a huge hit on our last trip, Yahtzee went down well on our Scottish road trip and we found a jigsaw in the cottage in Wales – long forgotten simple pleasures!


By Helen Wills for Space in Your Case

At Space In Your Case we’re firmly committed to travelling anywhere we can with our children. After all, what would be the point of a family travel site where the editors didn’t travel, or restricted their trips to just one country? Makes no sense, right? So we were intrigued today by the Telegraph’s headline: The science behind why you should never take your children on foreign holidays.” Bold statement, we thought, let’s read that and see what this science really says; that’s going to be fascinating.

The basis for the piece is a quote by child psychologist Oliver James, who says:

“Home-based holidays are what children really want. A familiar, recurring holiday spot can sometimes be the only anchored thing in a child’s life – a safe and predictable place in a shifting universe.”


Now we’re big fans of Dr Oliver – usually. He has talked previously of travel being an essential part of family life, an experience that allows a family to create memories and feel stronger as a unit. Sign us up to that. But on the matter of travel abroad we wholeheartedly disagree. And so, it would seem, do most of the families who have experienced a foreign holiday.

“I felt that [the article] was written about what worked best for the author and family and not from a wider angle. Whilst going to the same place every year might work for some, it’s a nightmare scenario for others (me!). I want to get out and see as much of the world with my family as possible.” Emma, A Bavarian Sojourn.

Monika, from Mum on the Brink, feels just as strongly.

“The psychologist says that young ones won’t be able to appreciate the sight and smells of Morocco. Absolutely true, they won’t appreciate it as an adult or even a rebellious teen, who’ll probably hate it if it’s their first trip abroad. A young child will soak it it up with all their senses. They will immerse in the experience more than any adult can and it will rewire their brain to accept this new as something not dangerous. Through travel with young children we help broaden our children’s perspectives.

Sure, returning to familiar places is fantastic, but only if you stop helicopter parenting and let the child explore further and further as the years go, independently. We do a mix of exotic new destinations and returning to old haunts. The new destinations give us an opportunity to discover together; the old haunts have the kids excited because they know what they want to do and where they can push the boundaries. In our case this year, they’ll be allowed to go anywhere on the large campsite on their own.”

At Space In Your Case, we’ve pushed the boundaries with our kids, just as much as we’ve stuck to tried and tested holidays, and all of us agree that whilst returning year on year to the same campsite, or cottage holds some comforts that we all appreciate – not just the kids! – exploring new horizons is just as exciting for every age. Helen’s kids love Center Parcs, and will settle in as quickly as you can say ‘mine’s a slushie,’ but each foreign trip has awakened a bigger hunger for travel, and that’s exciting, she says. Whether it’s Christmas in New York, or a lazy week in Barbados, she says the everyone’s lives are all the richer for their foreign travels. Helen’s 12 year old daughter is firmly committed now to a career in the Big Apple, having fallen in love with the pace of life there. And if her younger son has anywhere he’d like to revisit, it’s the beaches and seafood of the Caribbean.

“When we travel abroad it can definitely feel more stressful from time to time, but the children are usually the ones pushing to go somewhere new.”


Cerys wants to know where the science is behind the article:

“Any early childhood specialist will tell you that children want to explore and learn about the world but surrounded by comfort and familiarity. What better way to achieve this than exploring the world with the most important figures in their lives – their parents and even grandparents. For children to understand more about life outside of their bubble they need to experience it and with more than just a book or from tv programmes.

Even a new holiday can be familiar – if you stay in a tent every year then swap the location but keep the same tent, a villa holiday – do a villa but in a different country. If you ski, try a different resort but stick within the same area.

I believe that a lot of the time it’s not the children that feel that but the parents that are stressed about the unfamiliar and that leaves lasting impressions. It is certainly easier to return to the same area each year especially with young children. But facing your fears and journeying beyond your comfort zone is showing children how to be resilient and taking risks is ok too.”

We say hear hear. Of course familiarity feels comfortable, and there’s a place for that. But from the scientist who told us that families are brought together more closely by travel experiences, we can’t help feeling that this stance is a half measure to family happiness. Rebecca Ann agrees, and says that by taking kids out of their safe and easy spaces you’re doing them a huge favour:

“Surely showing your children how to step out of the comfort zone and try new things is part of parenting. Life is full of changes, often unexpected ones, and preparing my children for that is a big part of my role. That being said for many reasons we haven’t taken the girls too far as yet but I definitely hope to. As far and as frequently as time and finances allow. To travel is to live after all.”



By Penny Alexander for Space In Your Case

Organising a big birthday party, an extended family get together or simply looking to share the childcare with some likeminded friends somewhere family friendly? Today we are sharing 10 amazing larger self catering properties. From Cornwall to Aviemore we’ve found some amazing big cottages to rent which will reconnect with your special people. Whether you are 14 or 44, there is something for every gathering.

We’ve also included links to Penny’s posts on some of the local areas, she’s a real UK cottage holiday lover and has lots of posts bursting with family friendly tips on things to do locally. To find out more about the cottages click the link to read much more about locations and amenities.


Middleton Hall, is a Grade II listed, beautifully refurbished, stone-built mansion. Nothing quite prepares you for the sight of this breathtaking 17th century retreat, nestling amongst the trees near Belford in the heart of the Northumberland countryside.

Penny visited Northumberland recently and found no end of fantastic things to do with the kids here, castles to explore, pretty fishing villages, playing on vast swathes of beach that look like the Caribbean, boat trips to the Farne Islands to see puffins, or days out following Roman history along Hadrian’s Wall. The hospitality and the welcome is wonderfully warm.

Middleton Hall can be combined with neighbouring/nearby property to sleep 40.


With a Sauna, heated swimming pool and basement games room there is something to keep everyone busy at Oughtershaw Hall. The features of this former shooting lodge are guaranteed to impress. There are servant’s bells and stained glass windows, and a guest book dating back to the 18th century.

Oughtersahw Hall is surrounded by National Trust land and situated in one of the best areas for walking in the Yorkshire Dales. You can wear the kids out and then snuggle by the fire in the evenings. Nearby Hawes is one of the most popular market towns in the Yorkshire Dales, home to the famous Wallace & Gromit Wensleydale cheese with its working factory, museum, visitor’s centre and restaurant.


If you are looking for a really special getaway in stunning Snowdonia, with it’s mountains, castles and beaches, Tan Llan could be just the place, with 15 acres there is space to truly feel at home in Snowdonia’s glorious National Park.

We think Tan Llan could be great for a couple looking to celebrate an anniversary with extended family. The exceptional master suite is situated in its own wing, with its own freestanding bath.

Penny loved exploring North Wales with her family, find out which beaches and castle they loved here.


With its own mooring and pontoon (that’s a boat if you were unsure!) on the banks of the River Tamar, Ancarva is perfect for making family memories. Prepare to be wowed by the contemporary design and panoramic views across the river to the historic Mount Edgcumbe estate and beyond. Travel by boat or by car to small beaches and coves along the coast, a paradise for sailors and sunset lovers.


The views of Lake Windermere from the giant dining kitchen at Silverholme are incredible, there are log fires and a cinema room too. This would be an amazing place for a family get away in all seasons, the Lakes make an amazing place to retreat to.

For local inspiration, check out Penny’s post on things to do in the Lake District with kids. There are amazing walks along Lake Windermere and up fells, trampolines in the trees and museums and walks that explore Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter’s footsteps. For a Swallows and Amazons themed action adventure, check out this post.


Plas Gwnfryn is an imposing Edwardian residence set within 8 landscaped acres. It’s perfect for spending time together and apart. All the bedrooms have spectacular views of Artro Forest, the Rhinog mountain range, Moelfre mountain or the sea. There is a courtyard for summer alfresco dining and 4 log burners for chillier nights. The sitting room sits 16, so the whole gang can be together. With beautiful arts and crafts architecture, it’s even been featured in Country Living magazine.

Only 4 miles from the stunning beacon of Penny’s childhood holidays, Harlech Castle. The castle is surrounded by six miles of sandy beach.


Featured in The Sunday Times top 100 cool cottages list and Concept for Living magazine, Bookilber Barn enjoys an fabulous hillside position with breathtaking views and fabulous walks in every direction over the breathtaking Yorkshire Dales. We love the contemporary comforts: underfloor heating and a hot tub to relax in afterwards!

One of Penny’s first holidays with a baby in tow was to this area. A baby carrier and grandparents meant she still managed to fully appreciate walking in the stunning Yorkshire Dales.


Enjoy staying is a grand country home complete with quoins, a cornice topped by a parapet, a beautiful balustrade, ornate ceilings and beautiful fireplaces. Winster Hall is the perfect place to play board games together, the first floor sitting room is stunning and the summerhouse is equipped with games to make the most of the garden.

Nearby, Penny recommends Matlock for chips by the river, Gullivers Kingdom and the Heights of Abraham; Bakewell is world famous for its Bakewell Pudding and stunning Chatsworth House is close by. There are magnificent walks from the doorstep in the beautiful Peak District.


Play at being Laird and Lady in the stunning Scottish Suidhe Lodge. There is zip wiring, clay pigeon shooting, 4×4 adventures and horse riding on the doorstep and in nearby Aviemore you can certainly get into role!

We love the tartan accents, antique furniture, gorgeous country kitchen and, yes, this places even has a hot tub. There is a wonderful feeling of space in the Victorian high ceilings and generously proportioned rooms, and outdoors via the views of mountain ranges. There is even a discrete and self contained pub within the lodge, Suidhe Lodge is a social place to be.

Penny’s family motorhome trip took her through this amazing part of the world, she promises you, the scenery is absolutely out of this world.


A stunning, detached Georgian house, ideally situated in its own private parkland. The games room has a pool table, table football, air hockey and darts to keep the kids busy while grown ups enjoy making an entrance down the sweeping cantilevered staircase, cooking in the AGA and chilling by the open fires and woodburning stoves.

Close by to Ismere Hall visit the Black Country Living Museum, Severn Valley Railway and West Midlands Safari Park, or further afield enjoy a day out at the pretty town of Bridgnorth, with world-famous Cadbury World, Ironbridge Gorge and Stratford-upon-Avon, birthplace of William Shakespeare.

Penny spent a couple of days in Worcestershire on a university friends and families reunion over the summer, making toy boats and watching the river go by, it’s very pretty place to be with your loved ones.

Planning a Baby Shower

from Bounty

A fun celebration before baby arrives

Baby showers have seen a huge rise in popularity over the last few years and are no longer just for celeb mums-to-be. They have been a 'thing' in the US for years, and are now catching on big time here in the UK too.

The trend has doubtlessly been helped along by celeb mummies tweeting and Instagramming pics of their swanky bashes to the world, but a baby shower doesn't have to come with an A list price tag!

Organising a baby shower

Showers are usually organised by friends of the mum-to-be, although of course there is no reason why you can’t throw your own. Sometimes work colleagues will arrange a baby shower for when the mum is about to go off on her maternity leave. However, bear in mind that mum will get tired as she begins to bloom so don’t leave it too late!

When and where to hold one

What you do is down to personal preferences – but bear in mind if you are organising the event for the mum-to-be, that she is unlikely to appreciate a boozy lunch she can't participate in, or a late night do. The practicalities of pregnancy must be taken into account.

That's probably why most baby showers are held at the mum's house, and usually during the day. Afternoon tea-style is always popular, and friends can all contribute by bringing a platter of sandwiches and cupcakes so the guest of honour doesn't have to do anything beyond enjoy herself.

Depending on the number of guests, and mum's stage of pregnancy, the party could just be a nice girly afternoon chatting and eating, or a pampering session or party games could be planned. If you are organising for a pregnant friend, always try and get a handle on what she would like (check with her partner or mum) so that she doesn't get any 'surprises' she might not want to participate in.

Present ideas

As baby will no doubt get a load of presents on their 'birthday', a baby shower is a nice opportunity to treat mum, so think about gifts for her at this stage – maybe a hair salon voucher to use after the birth, or a mobile beautician to come and give her a manicure and pedicure at the party or a few weeks before her due date (by which time reaching her own toes will be nigh-on impossible!).

Whatever you decide to do for your own – or your friends – baby shower, make it a day to remember by taking lots of pics and videos –it could be the last time you all get together before baby's arrival.

New Study Reveals Moms Need a Full Year for Recovery After Giving Birth

from Red Tricycle

Growing a baby a beautiful experience, but it’s also demanding on your body. New mothers may be told by books and doctors that they’ll be back to ‘normal’ within six weeks of giving birth, but a new study has found that most women take much longer to recover.

Dr. Julie Wray, a researcher at Salford University in England, interviewed women at different stages of post-partum life. She found that the standard six-week recovery period is a “complete fantasy,” and it can take a full year to recover from childbirth.

It’s not just physical recovery that’s needed, but mental as well. Many feel the pressure to get back on their feet soon after childbirth and feel it may be necessary to head back to work as early as six weeks.

Wray found that recovery should start in the hospital. Back in the day, women spent more time in the maternity ward learning how to take care of their infant and getting breastfeeding advice. Now, some women are discharged as early as six hours after giving birth and expected to just go with it, according to Wray’s research.

“The research shows that more realistic and woman-friendly postnatal services are needed,” Wray concluded. “Women feel that it takes much longer than six weeks to recover and they should be supported beyond the current six to eight weeks after birth.”

Recovery after childbirth is different for everyone, but the general consensus is that a full year to heal the body and mind is much better than a month and a half.

Find expert help for your growing family with British American Newborn Care.

The Complete Checklist for Car Journeys with Kids

By Jennifer at Jenography

Being from Texas, I have a particular love for road trips; the journey is part of the experience, with the open road, good music on the car stereo, chat, everything you need packed inside. Once you have kids, that list definitely expands and changes, as it does as children grow up.

Here, our list, honed over thousands of miles and hours spent in tailbacks.

1. Water

Better than sugary drinks or juice, whose taste can encourage kids to neck it…then immediately need a loo break.

2. Healthy, non-crumbly snacks

Crisps end up all over the footwell, raisins get ground into the upholstery. We opt for easy-to-hold snacks that you can pop into your mouth in one go or don’t leave reminders: dried apricots, nuts, ham sandwiches, fresh fruit like apples.

3. Pillows

What wonderful memories I have of taking long family trips lounging in the back of our station wagon surrounded by pillows, back before seat belt laws. Yet even now our tween and teen love taking a fluffy pillow to use as a table, sleeping cushion and, when it comes to it, divider between enemy territories.

4. Blanket

Travelling with kids frequently means setting off very early or late at night, to minimise traffic hold-ups. A fuzzy blanket turns the back seat into cosy den. A cuddly toy also helps.

5. A mental list of conversation starters, songs and games

There are loads of games you can buy for car journeys; just as good are family games from I Spy for younger kids to license-plate spotting to singalongs. We like Mad, Sad, Glad, where everyone goes around and tells what made them mad, sad and glad in the past week, month, etc. A great way to catch up with laconic teens. Looking for ideas? Check out The Lost Art of Having Fun.

6. Adapter to charge devices from the car

We’re living in a digital world. Of course you’ll set off with fully charged phones and tablets, but if you hit traffic they’ll drain faster than you can say, “Boooooring!” We use adapters into which you plug in a USB as well as a regular 3-pronged UK plug — good for my laptop. During heavy travel times — bank holiday weekends, last Sunday before school term — a charged battery pack doesn’t go amiss either.

7. Stick-on sunshades

Even with tinted windows, light streaming in can make riders hot and cranky. We like the suction-cup versions because they can be transferred to granny’s car, rentals on holiday, etc.

8. A downloaded Spotify playlist

We used to set out with a huge stack of CDs. These days, I curate a playlist with my daughter, featuring songs all of us like…or at least the grown-ups can countenance.

9. Extra earphones

Inevitably the teen and tween want to listen to different music or play games with beeps and buzzes. Inevitably, someone has misplaced their earphones. Keep an extra set or two to hand, just in case.

10. Playing cards

Good old-fashioned cards are great for impromptu back-seat games like Go Fish or family Spades game at rest stops or your destination. Top Trumps always endure. We keep a pack in the glove box at all times.

11. Wipes/paper towels

Spills, sticky fingers, messy mouths. You know they will happen. Be prepared.

12. Spare plastic bags

Grab a handful of regular shopping bags from the kitchen and a larger black bin bag to serve as everything from emergency carsickness containers to laundry bags in the event that clothes get wet or soiled.

13. Spare set of clothes

Bring a full set for younger kids and tops for parents if you have a toddler or baby, in the event of nappy leak or spit up.

14. Clean dustpan brush

Great for brushing off seats, shoes after walks or feet sandy from the beach.

15. Emergency equipment

As parents we first think of bringing items to make the ride more comfortable and fun, but we can’t forget safety essentials. An RAC European Family Driving Kit is a good idea to have to hand. We also carry jumper cables and an extra bottle of water. We always ensure at least one phone is charged and available for emergency calls.

50 Things To Do In London Before You’re 5

From Not Another Mummy Blog

London is awash with places to take the kiddos – whether it’s raining and you need to entertain them undercover or it’s a glorious sunny day and you can take advantage of the city’s outdoor spaces, there’s plenty of choice of things to do with kids in London. And when you’re under 5, there’s SO MUCH FUN to be had. Some of it costs money, some of it is free. Here are my favourite 50 things to do with young kids in London… how many have you ticked off so far?things to do with a baby in London

  1. London Zoo is an awesome day out. Under 3s get in for free and for kids older than that, it’s £17.50 a ticket. So not the cheapest day out, but you can make a proper day of it, take a packed lunch to save money there and enjoy seeing the lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Afterwards, walk through Regent’s Park – it’s huge and beautiful.
  2. The Southbank Centre on the, er, Southbank of the Thames (near Waterloo) has loads of family events and shows on from storytelling for under 5s to dance and music events. Check their listings and book to see something fun. There are plenty of family friendly restaurants nearby from Wagamama to Giraffe.
  3. Frozen Sing-a-long at Prince Charles Cinema, Leicester Square. Yes, you heard me right. This independent cinema in central London is doing matinee screenings and fancy dress is essential. *warbles Let It Go*
  4. Get on a red double decker bus and ride past the sights (The No11 bus from Liverpool Street drives past loads of famous landmarks like St Paul’s Cathedral, Big Ben and Nelson’s Column for less cost than a tourist bus ticket.)
  5. The Discover Centre is one of my personal favourites in London. A five minute walk from Stratford station (and Westfield) it has indoor play areas, storytelling rooms (pre-book tickets when you arrive) and craft sessions. It’s always been raining when we’ve visited, but the outdoor play area looks awesome too.
  6. Centre For Wildlife Gardening in Peckham has a great nature trail and runs kids’ gardening sessions where they can learn about the natural world. In the middle of town. Cool.
  7. Make pirate biscuits or monster cupcakes at baking classes for tots run in East London by BKD. Adelle, who runs the classes, is brilliant with kids (she has a two-year-old herself who helped out at the class we went to.)
  8. Watch classical music aimed at 3-8 year olds and do music related activities and crafts at Crash, Bang, Wallop at Cadogan Hall, Chelsea.
  9. The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park looks fantastic and is on our To-Do list. There’s the Tumbling Bay Playground and fun activities like kids’ Zumba classes.
  10. Hire a pedalo in Regent’s Park (be ready to do most of the pedalling!)
  11. There are a few farms in London – Hackney City Farm is a great one. As well as the usual animals, they offer pottery painting sessions and mosaic making. Don’t leave without buying some fresh eggs!
  12. See a puppet show at the Little Angel Theatre, Islington.
  13. The Diana Memorial Playground in Kensington Gardens is a joy. You can only enter if you’ve got a child (they have security on the gate) and once you’re in, there are lots of places to explore, play areas and a giant pirate ship to climb over.
  14. Ice skating doesn’t have to be a festive activity – head to Alexandra Palace in north London and have a family skating session all year round.
  15. Paint a plate at Biscuit Ceramic Cafe in Greenwich.
  16. We haven’t been to Coram’s Fields but it’s up there on my ‘must do’ list. Seven acres in the middle of London, it has a farm and play areas galore.
  17. The Southbank doesn’t just have a Centre, it also has cool stuff like a carousel, entertainers making giant bubbles and in summer months, there are water fountains to run through. Hours. Of. Fun.
  18. Buy some seriously amazing ice cream at Scoop in Covent Garden.
  19. Museums aren’t always my first choice for family fun (too many memories of boring school trips) but the Science Museum is something else. Check out the Garden Gallery where under 5s can play with sound, light, contraction and water (take a change of clothes – they might get wet!)
  20. The Unicorn Theatre near London Bridge regularly has kids’ shows on but it also has the Up Club every Saturday between 12pm and 1.30pm, where kids can do activities like rocket building and cake decorating. No need to book.
  21. Another museum I’d recommend – the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden is great for any bus-obsessed child (that’s all of them at some point, right?) and you can visit Shake Shack afterwards for a cheeky burger.
  22. Feed the ducks in St James’ Park. Quack.
  23. If you fancy a boogie, Big Fish Little Fish family raves are fantastic and happen all over the capital, from Hackney to Crouch End to Balham (my favourite venue). Proper DJs play music you’ll love and remember from your youth, while the kids bop away with glow sticks, munch on healthy snacks and make stuff in the craft room.
  24. For a visit to an aquarium that won’t break the bank (*looks at London Aquarium’s ticket prices and faints*) then the Horniman Museum in Forest Hill is brilliant. Small, but perfectly formed, the aquarium is downstairs from lots of cool exhibitions and a great cafe (eat early if you want to find a free table or high chair). The grounds are fun to explore too, with giant musical instruments and space to RUN.
  25. Wimbledon’s Polka Theatre is a theatre that just shows performances for kids, but they also have a drop-in play area and cafe which you can visit at any time.
  26. Take a boat to Greenwich and see the Cutty Sark. Big boat! Ooh. They regularly have family fun sessions where you can make captain’s hats and the like.
  27. Wander along the Regent’s Canal Path and look at the canal boats on the water. Or better still, go on a water bus barge that will take you from Little Venice to Camden.
  28. Go to Buckingham Palace at 11.30am and watch the Changing Of The Guard. Go at another time of the day and stand outside, counting the windows. Bonus points if you see Queenie waving from one of them!
  29. The treetop walk at Kew Gardens is supposed to be pretty cool and if your kiddo’s a bit scared of heights, there are indoor and outdoor play areas to keep them happy. (The Orangery Restaurant serves Peyton and Byrne food so you’ll be kept happy too…)
  30. Making puppets and designing t-shirts are just two of the things on offer at the V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green. Sounds like a great day out, to me.
  31. One of our favourite things to do, on a weekend is visit Brockwell Park in Herne Hill. They have a kick-ass play area with loads of slides, swings, sand pits, a zip wire, climbing frames, cubby holes and more. There’s also a lido and posh cafe which serves the best boiled egg and soldiers.
  32. Have a mid afternoon wine while your little one plays in the garden of The Paxton pub in Gipsy Hill. They have a fab child-friendly menu too.
  33. Watch street performers in Trafalgar Square, then mooch up to Covent Garden to watch some more. Take coppers for your little one to throw in their hat.
  34. For a brilliant Sunday afternoon family show, hit The Albany in Deptford. Dance shows, puppetry – it’s all going on. Sign up to their mailing list for advance notice of what’s on.
  35. The London Eye is a winner for family fun in my book – mainly because it’s a cool thing to do for grown ups too. Book ahead to save yourself 10% and  tickets are free for under 4s.
  36. Try Toddler Time at The Ritzy Cinema, Brixton – special half hour screenings of things, like Peppa Pig or Timmy Time, that cost just £3 per child (grown ups free).
  37. Once a month, the Royal Academy of Arts do a free family activity afternoon, where you can do things like getting green fingered with plants or creating your own story book. Afterwards, stroll along to Piccadilly Circus to look at the big TV screens (and if you are that way inclined, head to the Trocadero).
  38. If you’re visiting the Museum Of London get a free Explorer Bag when you arrive – it’s packed with fun activities that’ll help you and your under 5 explore the exhibitions. Great idea.
  39. Watch the skateboarders on the South Bank. My tot could do this for hours…
  40. Go for a ride on THE TRAIN WITH NO DRIVER (aka the DLR). Ride out to Greenwich or Stratford and back.
  41. Got a dinosaur fan in the family? They’ll love the giant dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum. You can watch the butterflies in the butterfly house too – you might even see one emerge from a chrysalis!
  42. Dinosaur fans should also make their way to Crystal Palace Park where they can climb on them in the play area and see large sculptures poking out from the trees.
  43. I’m 35 and even I love the lights and fountains at Granary Square near King’s Cross. They’re fun for kids to run through, and they can also swing in the giant birdcage. Don’t miss the street food stalls for a quick bite (the burgers and ice lollies look amazing).
  44. Check out a craft or storytelling session at the Geffrye Museum, Shoreditch.
  45. Get a bird’s eye view of the city by going up 72 floors to the Viewing Platform of The Shard. Check their website for any deals on kids – they often do ‘kids go free’ deals during the holidays.
  46. Battersea Children’s Zoo is well worth a visit. As well as the animals they have a fantastic play area and a nice cafe.
  47. Strut your stuff to the sounds of child-friendly reggae, folk and pop tunes at Toddler Jam at Stratford Circus – £3 for a child and parent/carer.
  48. Camley Street Natural Park is a bit of a secret in London –  many people don’t even realise it’s there, nestled near King’s Cross, but it’s a lovely green space run by the London Wildlife Trust.
  49. If you have £100 burning a hole in your purse, head to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique in Harrods where your little one can have a royal Disney experience to rival no other – dressing up, having their hair done, face painted and generally treated like a princess.
  50. Go for a boogie at Monksi Mouse’s Baby Disco Dance Hall on the Southbank – it happens every Sunday between May and September and costs £8.

18 book club suggestions from mums that read

By Susanna at A Modern Mother

It's book club time again! I'm always looking for suggestions on book that are interesting and entertaining yet gritty enough to spark heated discussion. I asked my mum blogger friends for some ideas and it resulted in a plethora of good reads.


1. One Day by David Nicholls. "It's about a couple who meet each other on 15th July (their graduation) and it follows their lives on the very same day until they are older. The ending is fab and totally unexpected. They're making it into a film and Anne Hathaway plays the main female character! x" (Jo Jo Kirtley)

2. The Help by Kathryn Stockett. "About the American deep south at the time when slavery was being abolished in the north. It's written from the perspective of one of the maids and is a really easy brilliant read." (Kate Takes Five)

3. Fingersmith By Sarah Waters. "By the same author as Tipping the Velvet. Victorian crime novel – lots of twist and turns in the plot and I haven't even reached the end yet…" (Kate Takes Five)


 4. Room by Emma Donoghue. "Absolutely brilliant, compelling and heartbreaking. Written through the eyes of a 5 year old boy who has only experienced life in one room." (I Heart Motherhood

"Room is incredible – really different. I've already blogged about it!" (Not A Notting Hill Mum)

5. "And if you like Sarah Waters – try The Little Stranger – because the ending is quite ambiguous and I think it would be really interesting to hear what everyone thought had happened. And if you do PLEASE let me know as I am none the wiser!" (Not A Notting Hill Mum)

6. Bad Science by Ben Goldacre. "It's an eye opener to poor media reporting (and screwing with statistics) of science and medical stories which are often presented as fact,but more closely resembles fiction. It's also very funny and a great read, Ben is very witty…" (Cheeky Wipes)

 7. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver "Love and survival in the Congo. Lots to talk about. And Major Pettigrew's Last Stand is lighter but with lots of class and race issues to discuss." (In a Bun Dance)


8. "My real life book group all loved 'The Book Thief' by Marcus Zusak. It is astonishing, about the redemptive power of love and is not as 'creepy' as the synopsis makes it sound!  Everyone should read it. (Not A Good Mother)

9. "And my virtual book group had massively divided opinions about'We Were the Mulvaneys' by Joyce Carol Oates.  This is about how a family in small town America manages when the daughter is raped.  A story of massive breadth and depth, it has stayed with me for years.  I often think of it and wonder what I would do if I were in the mother's position (and thankful that I am not).  Really good read, it willmake you stay up late into the night to read it." (Not A Good Mother)

10. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. "It has just been made into a film. Very chilling and thought-provoking. Perfect for a book club discussion." (Living Abroad)

11. The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas."It really divided people in book group and was great for discussion. A lot of very bad language and some full on sexual scenes so not for the prudish. We did One Day over Christmas and our meeting to discuss is tonight! I enjoyed it but not really sure what there is to say about it."  (Eggs, Cream and Honey)

 12. "I just finished 'The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet' by David Mitchell  and thought that some of the writing in there was beautiful.  Great story too and keeps you going." (Mummy Squared)

13. "If you want an oldie but goodie how about Catch-22 by Joseph Heller…  everyone should read it." (Mummy Squared)

14. "I think The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins would be an amazing book for a group to talk about.  It's the first book in an amazing trilogy, but could easily stand alone for discussion purposes." (Oh Abby Really)

15. Another David Mitchell book (author of The Thousand Autumns of Jacob Zoet) is Cloud Atlas. Utterly brilliant. Shortlisted for Booker and a Richard and Judy winner. (Archers at the Larches)

16 and 17. "For non-fiction, I'd recommend Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell and for fiction,Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarderor for something more recent, Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro and read it before you watch the movie that's about to come out! Our book club is reading The Way to Paradise by Mario Vargas Llosa at the moment…. (Mummy Zen)

18 (again) Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell "You'll never run out of things to talk about with this extraordinary book. It's difficult to quickly explain what it's about, but it presents six separate stories and over the course of the book you realise that they are all intertwined, despite taking place hundreds of years apart. It's the sort of book you want to start reading again as soon as you've finished it. (Here Be Boys)

That should keep you bust for a while. If you need any other suggestions, check out my previousposts.

Happy (book) clubbing!