Halfords Black Friday Giveaway

Oscar’s Autism meant that he didn’t start using language in any meaningful way until he was 3 and a half. And yet every day since then it seems like he learns another word, grasps another concept, answers another question. For me it’s thrilling. Only last night did he described his book case as a “library”! Asking for things has also been slow to arrive. We focused for the longest time on getting him to express his needs, which he still sometimes struggles with to be honest. So you can imagine, asking for things he wants, verbally, hasn’t been high up on his agenda. Until recently. Suddenly he can tell me when he’s hungry and two weeks ago he told me he wanted a bike. And when your child, who has only just (at four and a half) learnt to sit for long enough in order to learn to pedal, asks you, with words, for a bike, you start looking for a bike. Believe me.

If you follow me on Facebook you’ll have seen I asked my lovely readers where they’d recommend when looking for a first bike, particularly one that was good quality but also value for money. The answer from almost everyone who joined the discussion was Halfords. To be honest I’d completely forgotten Halfords did bikes but I had so many recommendations for them, I couldn’t not check them out online. I had no idea how much a child’s bike cost. Looking around the internet it would appear you can happily pay whatever you like. Bikes are one of those things I think. So I was pleasantly surprised to find the ones at Halfords weren’t crazy expensive.

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Now I don’t know about you, but I love a bargain. I’m the kind of person that takes great pride in finding something I want in the sale. However, I’ve never really got involved with the whole Black Friday thing. The images of people trampling each other to get a cheap telly always left me cold. There’s no bargain on Earth worth that kind of behaviour. But then I saw that, this year, Halfords are having an online Black Friday sale on 25th November. Not a trampling in sight. They are discounting things every day until the main event on 25th and I’m keeping my eyes on the site but I think I’m going to wait for the biggie, the main event on 25th, to be in with a chance of a really decent discount.

Now I love a bargain, but what’s a bigger bargain than free? Alongside their Black Friday discounts Halfords are also running a Black Friday Giveaway. You can enter any time up until 22nd November to be in with a chance of winning one of three prizes of either £2000, £1000 or £500 worth of Halfords goods. That’s a lot of Christmas pressies right there! I’ve put a link to the Halfords Black Friday Giveaway page in the image below.

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I’ve entered. And you’ve got until 22nd to do the same! Good luck!

Right, back to looking at bikes. I only hope Oscar doesn’t ask for anything more expensive. Like his own private jet or a Ferrari. If he asked me with words, I’d probably get it for him!

 

This is a collaborative post.

Hotter Shoes – can footwear really be comfy AND cute?

When I was a little girl, shoes were something of an obsession for me. I loved shoes. Looking at shoes, trying on shoes, playing with shoes. I loved everything about them. Except having school shoes fitted. Not because of the experience itself (which obsessive wouldn’t love going to a shop wholly dedicated to their passion?) but because of the shoes that I was invariably made to have. And not because my parents were hell bent on me having strong, supportive shoes (I mean they were, but…) No, I hated the inevitable tears and heartbreak when I couldn’t have a pair I liked because a) my feet were too wide (seriously I was an H fit child) and b) they weren’t supportive enough for my pretty bad pronation. I would have given anything to leave with a pair of  Clark’s delicate, single strap Magic Steps. Remember Magic Steps? With the hidden key in the heel? But no. I would come away every time with a face full of tears and a pair of T-Bar, if not double buckle, T-bar shoes. Double Buckle? Oh the shame!

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Double buckle Tbar shoes – oh the shame! Image courtesy of Pinterest

Now I’m a parent I feel for my poor mum, having to dash her little girl’s dreams every shoe shopping trip. And I also feel for her, because as soon as I was old enough to chose my own shoes, all thoughts of supportive footwear, that fit properly, flew out of the window! Most children grow out of their pronation, but not me. Likewise most children’s wide feet slim down as they grow. And once again, not me. It doesn’t mean my love of beautiful shoes has changed. I still struggle to find shoes I like that fit. I usually have to get my boots and shoes either from plus size retailers such as Evans or I buy cheap shoes that I don’t mind painfully stretching, often beyond recognition. It’s been that way for such a long time that I never really considered that there was an alternative.

Hotter Shoes

When I was invited to Hotter Shoes in Guildford to take a look at their AW16 range I was skeptical. I had heard of Hotter. I was pretty sure I knew the kinds of shoes they stocked and was also sure I wouldn’t be interested in the styles they sold. Turns out I was wrong.

Firstly I didn’t realise they were a British company who make all their shoes here in the UK and have been for over 50 years! The family run company began in the slipper game back in 1959 and gradually moved into the comfortable shoe market, selling via mail order and in garden centres, over the next 50 years.

Hotter Shoes started in 1959 selling Slippers, which still form part of their core stock

Hotter Shoes started selling Slippers in 1959, which still forms part of their core business

It wasn’t until 2010 when they opened their first shop, that they really started to expand into fashionable styles, without compromising their unique construction and quality. Hotter shoes all have air bubble filled soles and use super soft leathers. They also use a special process to create flexible soles that are molded to the upper, meaning there is no sole unit to come away from the upper. Genius! Waterproof and flexible they also have “special grooves that yield and support your feet as you walk and pillows of cushioning create a slipper like feeling underfoot”. Fancy!

The look

OK, so that sounded lovely and all, but what’s the point of having lovely comfy shoes if they look like the very devil? So the lovely ladies at the Guildford store gave us a chance to explore the shoes for ourselves and I can’t tell you how shocked I was.

Yes Hotter have a core stock of exactly the kind of shoes I was expecting to see.

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But they also had a range of the most beautiful boots and dress shoes. I was gob smacked. But the biggest shock for me was the fit. I mentioned to the store manager that I have (and always have had) wide feet and she sympathised. She explained that much of their stock came in three width fittings, but suggested I try on the standard fit, as I might be surprised.

The fit

I chose several pairs of boots and honestly expected to have to also ask for the wider fit in all of them. However, turns out Hotter’s standard fit is wider than most high street stores, and is in fact closer to Clark’s Wide Fit. Every single pair that came out, bar one, fitted first time. Shocked Face!

Surrounded by boots that fit!

Surrounded by boots that fit! I cant tell you how rare an occurrence this was for me!

And even better was that I liked every pair. I loved the high leg “Mystery” boots (although I found they fitted my huge man calves better in the wide fit) and was seriously tempted by the gorgeous “Lotty” boots that I’m wearing above. I couldn’t believe how comfy they were, and yet how good they looked. They actually made my feet look narrower, despite not pinching anywhere. It was a revelation in boot shopping. I tried on so many pairs and except for the beautiful brogue Chelsea Boot “County” (which was just a shade too narrow and doesn’t come in the wider fit) they all fitted so nicely.

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“Mystery” Boots by Hotter Shoes

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“County” boots by Hotter Shoes

But when it came down to choosing a pair, I decided to go with the ones that made me happy. The ones I just adored on sight. The cute ones I would never have bought myself. The impractical suede ones, that make me feel a hundred foot tall. The ones that made me smile the most. I chose my grown up version of my Magic Steps, but without compromising on fit. I chose a black pair of “Vanity“.

"Vanity" Boots by Hotter Shoes

“Vanity” Boots by Hotter Shoes

Thoughts

I love my Vanity boots. They go beautifully with leggings or tights, and just as well with skinny jeans. The heel is probably as high as I can take these days, but it’s chunky and sturdy. That coupled with the cushioned insole, make these some of the most comfortable heeled boots I’ve ever worn. And what with the Christmas season coming up, wear them I will. I tell you now, I’ll be the last one on the dance floor, that’s for sure!

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My grown up version of Magic Steps. I got the ones I wanted!

They completely typify the kind of footwear I had no idea Hotter made. They’re comfortable, but they’re also beautiful. Who knew that could even be a combination? Not me.

I’ve had my eyes opened and I’ll definitely be back. Or maybe I could ask someone else to go back for me?

Now listen Santa, I’ve been very very good this year…. 😉

 

EDIT:

Hotter have very kindly sent me a code for £10 off a pair of shoes or boots, plus FREE delivery. So if you are tempted to try them out then now’s the time to do it!

Code: PQBTPD

T&C’s – £10 off plus FREE delivery is for first orders only. You are entitled to £10 off the total order value of any full priced items in the Hotter range (excluding shoe care products) plus FREE delivery.  This offer cannot be used in conjunction with any other promotional offer or on Sale or Factory Clearance items and gift vouchers. Expires 29/1/17

 

 

 

 

Thank you to Hotter Shoes and the lovely ladies at the Guildford branch for a super evening. I was given a pair of boots for the purpose of this review, but was not paid for this post.

As always all opinions are honest and my own. 

 

SEN Family on Holiday at Moonfleet Manor

When we decided to go back to Moonfleet Manor this September, I was not only really looking forward to it (we had such a great time when we went two years ago) but I was super interested to see how the hotel would cope with us as an SEN family. Could they accommodate the needs Oscar, as an autistic child has, and give us as parents (and adults) a decent break too?

Moonfleet Manor in Weymouth

Moonfleet Manor in Weymouth

Preparation

I started to get a feeling that they just might, even before we arrived. Weeks before our stay I phoned the hotel to book Oscar into the onsite creche, sessions of which are included in the room price. I spoke to the Ofsted registered creche manager and explained about Oscar’s Autism and asked whether they would be able to cope if he came to spend time with them. She couldn’t have been any clearer that he would be welcomed with open arms, and explained they regularly have guests with disabilities including those on the Spectrum. Without prompting she asked whether we would like them to assign a member of creche staff to be Oscar’s one to one during his sessions. I was blown away by this as it was exactly what he needed, but was something I’d never thought they’d be able to provide. They continued to outdo themselves when, several days later, they emailed me a picture of the staff member who would be his one to one, so I could prepare Oscar beforehand. Again, above and beyond and highly appreciated.

I tried to prepare Oscar as best I could for the upcoming holiday, by talking about the hotel, showing him videos from Moonfleet’s website and making him a visual board which we stuck to the lounge door for a week beforehand. He looked at it every time he went past and was soon telling me he needed to go swimming. By the time we left he was pretty excited I think.

Oscar's Moonfleet Manor Holiday visual board

Oscar’s Moonfleet Manor Holiday visual board

The journey to Weymouth, in Dorset was easy (and made all the easier by Thomas the Tank Engine films on the iPad!). We arrived too early to get access to our room, but the staff happily checked us in and gave us our room name so we could order lunch. Oscar had a little wander round the gorgeous hotel lounges, looking at the vintage pieces on the walls, before finding the garden. We thought he’d be drawn to the trampoline, having been sat in the car for two hours, and he might have been had he not seen the giant sandpit. He happily installed himself and his trains in the sand, leaving us to have a coffee and a biscuit, bought out to us in the garden. Aaaaaand relax. The fact that the sandpit was in a gated enclosure was a nice touch and the huge garden itself was fairly secure, although this did rely heavily on other guests closing the gate to the car park, which not all did.

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Oscar adored the giant sand pit at Moonfleet Manor

The sandpit at Moonfleet Manor was in a gated enclosure, great for small children or those who need a little more secuirty

The sandpit at Moonfleet Manor was in a gated enclosure, great for small children or those who need a little more security. Plus, look at that view!

Coffee cup

When someone brings you coffee and a cookie almost as soon as you arrive, you know its going to be a good holiday!

Creche

At 3pm, we took him to his first creche session. We had booked him in for four sessions over the two days so were hopeful that would give us (and particularly me 😉 ) some time and space to be alone. We were introduced to his one to one, Tara, who we chatted to about Oscar’s likes and dislikes etc. She asked some really relevant questions that kind of took me aback a little, until she told me she was also the mother of a SEN child herself and spoke Makaton at home. As any SEN parent knows, our children take a special kind of patience and knowing Tara had real life experience of this gave me even more confidence in his time at the creche. As I expected he would, Oscar ran straight in, excited to play with all the new toys (including of course the trains and track) and we were free for two hours.

Room

We checked into our room without Oscar, which allowed us both to lay out his things ready for him (making the unfamiliar a bit more friendly) but also to look round our accommodation. I was thrilled with the room. We had a Deluxe Two Bed Family room and couldn’t get over the space this afforded the three of us. As well as our huge (ridiculously comfy) bed and the generously proportioned bathroom (with bath, shower and double sinks), the room also had two twin beds, which were cleverly separated from the main room, giving the feel of two rooms. And each room had its own window, meaning that although this was a large space it didn’t feel too dark. Plus, what a view!

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The lounge area of the room. Behind those doors was a real surprise!

Double sinks! As the room could sleep a family of up to five I'm sure this detail would be most appreciated.

Double sinks! As the room could sleep a family of up to five I’m sure this detail would be most appreciated.

Moonfleet Fleet

View from our room at Moonfleet Manor. Across the gardens and down to the Fleet.

This was a wonderful and unexpected touch as we were worried how Oscar would cope with sleeping in the same room as us. As it happened he had a generously proportioned ‘room’ all to himself, with twin beds, it’s own storage and own TV. This room could have slept up to three, with a camping style bed being included at the foot of the twin beds. This had been made up despite us not needing it, and blow me, if Oscar didn’t insist on sleeping in it (very well I might add!) both nights! Funny child 😉

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Oscar’s room was separated from us, which gave him his own space and a choice of beds!

When we bought Oscar up to the room after his creche session (and our relaxed Cream Tea in the lounge in our favourite chairs in the bay window!) he ran around giggling, jumping on the beds and then proceeded to get his trains out and play with them on the coffee table in the living room area. It was so nice to have that extra room and it gave him the space to regulate himself in peace after busy sessions in the creche/pool/garden etc.

We booked our cream tea before we arrived. Happiness in a scone. PS this jam cream combo is THE only way ;)

We booked our cream tea before we arrived. Happiness in a scone. PS this jam cream combo is THE only way 😉

Food

One of the things we loved about Moonfleet last time was their ability to feed all age ranges so thoughtfully. Despite Oscar being a rather anxious eater, we knew there would probably be a few things he would eat on the menu and we were right. However, we hadn’t considered how difficult the dining room might be for him. The first night he managed it, just about. Although he didn’t get upset, there was just waaaaay too much going on for him to concentrate on eating. Or sitting. Add to that a new(ish) food and it just all got a bit much and we left before things spiralled. The next night, after a busy day in the creche and the pool, we just figured he’d be more comfortable and eat more if we ordered room service. It couldn’t have been easier and they bought up his naan bread pizza and fries with the requested squash in minutes. It was a genius plan and I was just so grateful that it’s a service the hotel are happy to provide. It made such a difference and he ate the whole meal. It was also another time we were so grateful for the extra space the room provided.

He loved the naan bread pizza at Moonfleet Manor, but struggled with the dining room

He loved the naan bread pizza at Moonfleet Manor, but struggled with the dining room

Deciding to order him room service was an inspired plan. Oscar was thrilled it arrived with a 'hat'. I told him not to get used to it ;)

Deciding to order him room service was an inspired plan. Oscar was thrilled when it arrived with a ‘hat’. I told him not to get used to it 😉

He ate much more in our room and was much more comfortable.

He ate much more in our room and was much more comfortable.

Breakfast was equally good with a menu to chose from or a running buffet of cooked breakfast items, along with the usual cereals, pastries etc. Again Oscar struggled a little with the dining room, although being tempted with Nutella on toast and the pastry basket was enough to get him to eat something and give us time to do the same. However, not before he insisted 8am was time for the sand pit! And who were we to argue? It was after all his holiday too!

Prebreakfast sand pit action.

Prebreakfast sand pit action.

There were healthyier options thank pain au chocolat and chocolate muffins on offer for breakfast at Moonfleet Manor, but I wasnt going to argue. It was his holiday too after all!

There were healthier options than pain au chocolat and chocolate muffins on offer for breakfast at Moonfleet Manor, but I wasn’t going to argue. It was his holiday too after all!

Baby Listening

The excellent food continued into the evening and due Moonfleet Manor’s wonderful baby listening service, we were able to thoroughly enjoy it! Each night we kept Oscar’s bedtime routine the same as home, meaning when he got into this new bed he was ready for sleep. We called down to the reception to turn the baby listening service on and left him, with fingers crossed. And bless him if he wasn’t out like a light both nights! It was just so nice to have that time, sans child, to eat a delicious meal together, all the while knowing he was safe and monitored. We did see the receptionist come and find several families over the course of the two evenings. The majority of our fellow guests had young toddlers and babies, so that didn’t surprise me, but it did comfort me to know someone was actually listening!

Evenings

Our evenings, just the two of us, were wonderful. So relaxed and so much fun. It really did feel like ‘going out’ for dinner both nights. We dressed up, although you totally didn’t need to. We started the evening with drinks and nibbles in the lounge, where we were bought the menu to order from. We were then called to our table when our food was imminent. And the food itself was delicious. We played a game of who won each course both nights and disagreed over the outcome of most, as everything was so good. Plus Ben had goats cheese and who can ever win with goats cheese!

Wine and nibbles before dinner. I can highly recommend the the Preignes le Vieux Viognier

Wine and nibbles before dinner. I can highly recommend a bottle of the the Preignes le Vieux Viognier!

My winning dinner

My winning dinner

Although Ben was adamant his choice was the winner

Although Ben was adamant his choice was the winner. He was wrong though!

Spa

Our opportunity to relax while Oscar was looked after in the creche continued in the onsite spa. Both Ben and I booked treatments for our second day. I had a body wrap and a pedicure and Ben a facial and massage. The fact that the hotel has a fully functioning spa onsite, would be a draw for any stressed out parent. We made our appointments at opposite ends of the day so neither one of us would be left to look after the boy alone.

Heated bootees in the Moonfleet Manor Spa! Stylish!

Heated bootees in the Moonfleet Manor Spa! Stylish!

I love a good pedi!

I love a good pedi!

While Ben went to have his treatments in the afternoon I had a nap!

While Ben went to have his treatments in the afternoon I had a nap! A nap! Imagine that!

Pool

As it happened my nap was disturbed half way through as Oscar had managed to wet every pair of trousers I had taken down to the creche for him (toilet training is a new and ongoing process for us). I took some more down to him, however once he saw me it became apparent he didn’t want to stay. I didn’t mind and chose instead to take him to the pool next door.

Moonfleet Manor has a three small pools onsite, a baby pool, a small learning pool and a larger swimming pool. While it may not be as fancy looking as some other spa hotel pools I’ve seen, it certainly worked for us.

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I was unable to take my own photos in the pool and this is an old one taken before this year’s renovation. Those pillars are no longer there.

Having not been swimming for a long time I wasn’t sure how Oscar would react. I needn’t have worried. He was most interested in the swimming lessons taking place in the learning pool (all babies or young children) and happily snaffled a couple of pool noodles to play with from the teacher. I still don’t know where he found a pair of Peppa Pig armbands, but find them he did. Once he put them on there was literally no stopping him. We were in the pool for two hours and in the end I had to practically drag him out, he was having so much fun. So much in fact that we decided not to put him into the creche the morning of our departure and instead both took him to the pool. He just loved being in the water so much! I am definitely going to have to look into one to one swimming lessons for him.

As the pool wasn’t too large I could relax about him getting lost and it never got busy enough to be too much for him. The only thing that could have been better for me were the changing rooms. The facilities were unisex and yet there were very few cubicles. On days busy with guests or swimming students this would mean you could end up changing in front of the opposite sex. Not ideal to say the least. However, there were decent baby changing facilities, free lockers, towels and toilets within the changing rooms. I would recommend changing into your swimwear in your room, meaning you only have to use the facilities at one end of your swim. Unless, unlike me, you have no body image issues!

The Verandah

One of Moonfleet Manor’s other assets is it’s enormous, and I mean enormous, play barn The Verandah. As we were only there for two days, we barely had time to fit it in, but did pop in for a quick run around before departing the hotel. Anything to let him burn off a bit of energy before getting in the car! He LOVED it, just as much as last time, and we actually ended up having this giant space, filled with soft play, trampolines, climbing equipment, football pitch, piano, ride on toys and air hockey tables to ourselves!

The Verandah. More fun than you could shake a stick at in one enormous room. Perfect for wet days!

The Verandah. More fun than you could shake a stick at in one enormous room. Perfect for wet days! Includes giant clambering beanbag bunny!

Oscar and daddy having a go at the highrope

Oscar and daddy having a go at the slackline

The boy's first game of air hockey. He thought it was hilarious every time he let a goal in!

The boy’s first game of air hockey. He thought it was hilarious every time he let a goal in!

Again the room was fairly secure and was a great place for Oscar to get some vestibular and propreoceptive sensory feedback! It also had a nice array of comfy seats for the adults, not that we got to use them!

Impressions

Moonfleet Manor remains a beautiful place to go. The amount of facilities available to all ages are more than you’d find at most other holiday resorts let alone other hotels and I’m so glad we went. Oscar’s issues with the dining room did make me realise how differently we manage food and it’s consumption at home. I came away feeling like self catering would have been much easier. For him and for us in terms of his behaviour. However, he’s since started school and is slowly learning to eat in a room with lots of others, which makes me think actually this wouldn’t be an issue again. But if it is for you I would highly recommend the room service option!

The staff couldn’t have been more friendly or helpful. Not once were ever made to feel we were any different to any other family. When, during his first session in the creche, Oscar needed a change of clothes. The hotel manager came to find us and once we’d grabbed the clothes insisted he take them over himself so we could resume our sitting/schlomping in the chairs by the window! A gesture that was most appreciated. Those two hours sure do fly by!

All the facilities aside, my favourite thing about Moonfleet Manor is it’s location. The views from the hotel and gardens down to the Fleet and Chesil Beach were just what I needed after a very stressful summer. Peaceful and calming, they breathed new life into all of us as a family.

Evening explore

Evening explore

Boats on the Fleet

Boats on the Fleet

The field of horses next to the garden were a great hit with Oscar!

The field of horses next to the garden were a great hit with Oscar!

Just like when we visited with a toddler, we came to Moonfleet Manor with our autistic son, looking for a chance to rest. We did just that.

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A beautiful day begins at Moonfleet Manor.

 

 

 

We would like to thank Moonfleet Manor for supporting us on our visit to their hotel. We paid for our room and treatments ourselves, however were gifted a complimentary room upgrade for this review.

As always all opinions are honest and my own.

You can find out more about Moonfleet Manor and the Luxury Family Hotel chain on their websites.

 

 

 

Kidloland Preschool App – A review

Oscar and I love technology. Always have. From as soon as he could grasp for it with his pudgy little baby hands, he wanted to play with my phone. And now I have an iPad he’s taken his love of app based entertainment to another level. I don’t have a problem with this. My son’s autism means he learns in a very visual way and I’ve found apps, of all kinds, to be thoroughly useful for him. From hand eye coordination to speech and vocabulary to problem solving and plain old having fun, we love apps in this house. So when I was approached by Kidloland to try out their app I was intrigued. Here was an app that wasn’t just songs or just games or just fun, it seemed to be a bit of everything. We couldn’t wait to try it out!

Kidloland is a app designed specifically for preschoolers and toddlers. It has over 500 Nursery Rhymes, Songs, Stories, Activities and Games, with no advertising what so ever. Advertising in apps for children is a bug bear of mine so I was pleased to find none here. It works on a subscription basis of 1, 6 or 12 months. We used to subscribe to BabyTV and that was just short cartoons. There is so much more to this.

The app

My first impression of the app, on downloading it from the iStore, was it was huge! There are just so many different parts to it! As always, when I download content for Oscar, I took a look around myself first and I’m so glad I did. I found each ‘pack’ needs to be downloaded to your device individually before using it. I’m glad I realised this before giving it to Oscar, as I know he’d have been frustrated had he not been able to access everything straight away. The downloading does take a little time, but fortunately there is a “download all” function for each pack. I did have an issue downloading one of the songs, but I remedied this by skipping that one and downloading it individually. I also told Kidloland about it and they gratefully handed the info over to the tech team so it may not be an issue any more.

The look of the app is bright and fun, with all original characters and animations.  I have all the packs in the app, but you can choose which ones to download. I love that, as it means you can concentrate on a particular theme if you prefer. It also allows you to control how much memory the app takes up, which if you download the whole thing is a lot! However, downloading it means you don’t need a signal (or wifi) to use it, which is a definite plus point for me!

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Just some of the packs available on the Kidloland app

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The content

It is split into sections you would expect such as stories, numbers, games etc. But I love that it also has other sections such as fruits and vegetables, months of the year and even a whole section devoted to dinosaur themed activities!

It even has a Dinosaur section!

It even has a Dinosaur section!

The pineapple song!

Fun with fruit!

Learning Letters!

Learning Letters!

I assumed Oscar would be drawn to the games and initially he was, but after a while I noticed he was playing more with the songs. The nursery rhymes are set to interactive animations. Touching the characters makes them move or do surprising little things, which he seemed to love! I just love the concentration in his face here. Getting video of Oscar is so hard, but I love that he’s so engrossed here he doesn’t even notice me!

Thoughts

Kidloland is well made, well thought out app, which keeps on expanding (I’ve had two more packs updated since we originally downloaded). Oscar starts school in a few weeks and some of the games were a little simple for him, but he still found things to enjoy and good fun to be had. I only wish we’d found this app a year or more ago! It would be a great learning app for younger toddlers.

There is so much do and chose from in Kidloland. Although your child is bound to find favourites, they’ll never be bored.

 

 

Thank you Kidloland for gifting us a 12 month subscription for the purposes of this review. As always I wasn’t paid to write this post and all opinions are my own.

You can download the app for iOS, Google Android and Amazon Android.

 

Our day out with Thomas the Tank on the Watercress Line

If you follow me on social media at all, you can’t have missed how excited I was when I recently won a Family Ticket for The Watercress Line’s Day out with Thomas event. If you haven’t heard of the Watercress Line (or to give it it’s full title The Mid Hants Railway – The Watercress Line), it’s a beautifully restored and maintained vintage steam and diesel railway line, running trains all year round from Alton to Alresford in Hampshire. If you haven’t heard of Thomas the Tank then where on earth have you been for the last century?

The competition was run on Instagram and asked you to share photos of your child playing with their Thomas toys. Seeing as how Oscar is such a big Thomas fan, I had plenty to hand and entered a few. This is the one that won and quite right too. I love it!

The IG photo that won the competition. The original caption said ""I'm working on one side of the table, he's working on the other. It's lush"

The IG photo that won the competition. The original caption said “I’m working on one side of the table, he’s working on the other. It’s lush”

We started to explain to Oscar where we were going and what we were doing two days before the Thomas experience even started, which was a massive mistake. Once he heard, he wanted to go NOW, NOW, NOW! School boy error on my part perhaps, but it did give him time to get his head around the idea. We used videos on the Watercress Line website, showed him pictures and talked him through what we might see, In his mind he had it all sorted. He was going to drive Thomas, I was going to ride in Clarabel and Ben was going to set the points.  And he told us all that with words, dontcha know!

Oscar marching up to the station as early as we could have possibly got there!

Oscar marching up to the station as early as we could have possibly got there!

A Day out with Thomas

A Day out with Thomas was running for a week this summer and Oscar’s excitement made sure we were stood on Ropley station platform, tickets in hand, at 9.30 on the first day it started. He was beside himself and to be honest so was I. I mean how often do you get to introduce your child to their idol? I’d seen photos of what to expect, but I wasn’t quite sure how authentic it would feel. I’ve heard of other ‘experiences’ that promise the world and fail to deliver, but I needn’t have worried. When Thomas puffed down the track my little boys screams of “It’s Thomas, he’s here” and how hard he jumped up and down told me all I needed to know. As did the fact that Oscar’s excitment made Ben well up 😉

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Just look at how perfect this Thomas is! It blew all our minds!

Thomas himself gives short trips up and down a small piece of track (well he is only a tank engine!) and when he arrived on the platform we started to walk straight to Annie and Clarabel (the carriages for those not in the know!). However, Oscar had other ideas. Despite all our prep, he was adamant he was there to drive Thomas. We told him over and over that he couldn’t, but it took quite a long time for him to understand (and a few tears). It was no ones fault. He just got an idea in his head and when that happens it takes some effort to change that.

We finally got him to ride in Annie and Clarabel, instead of in Thomas, but bless his heart if he wasn't just a little disappointed!

We finally got him to ride in Annie and Clarabel, instead of in Thomas, but bless his heart if he wasn’t just a little disappointed!

Riding while standing and looking out of the window is so much fun for my guy.

Riding while standing and looking out of the window is so much fun for my guy.

After a couple of rides in Thomas’s carriages, we went over the bridge (Oscar loves bridges) to check out the other attractions that were available. We got to ride actually in Toad the Brake Van (which went some way to compensating for him not getting to actually drive a tank engine. You know, at four years old 😆) and then took a ride in the carriages of a real steamie. Oscar insisted it was Neville, but to us it looked like Donald or Douglas. Oh yes we know all the names 😱.

We actually got to ride in Toad the Brake Van! Photo by Mid Hants Railway Watercress Line

We actually got to ride in Toad the Brake Van! Photo by Mid Hants Railway Watercress Line

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Just look at these beauties! Neville or Donald and Douglas, they were superb.

We rode up and down the line a few times, which despite the few small delays we experienced Oscar loved. And I mean loved. I don’t know if it was the movement or the look and feel of the coaches but he seemed to just be happy to be on the train. We stopped off at various stations and at one he convinced us to add another train to his collection.

Diesel 10 joins the crew

We bought this TrackMaster toy from one of the stations. I was happy to see the toys cost no more than you would pay in any other toy shop.

Boy on train playing with toy train

Diesel 10 came along for the ride!

Oscar just had the best time. Once he got over the idea of riding on the footplate he really enjoyed so much about this day. He found so many opportunities to mix his two favourite things, Thomas and movement. We went on so many rides on the train but also on the small fair at the side on the tracks at Ropley. He’s not one for colouring and such, but was happy to look round all the activities laid on in the station buildings.

Boy lying on train seat

Feeling the movement from another angle – that’s my little seeker for you.

We loved it

It was such a wonderful family day out and very thoughtfully aimed at small fans of Thomas, but I can’t tell you how much Ben and I also got out of it too! For me it was the vintage details that won the day. The stations were beautiful in themselves but also helped create a feeling of being ‘on Sodor’!

vintage rail platform sign and the bunting

The signs and the bunting – gorgeous!

Vintage toilet lock

Even the details on the loos at Ropley were beautiful! Spend a penny anyone?

The staff were also very helpful and all obviously proud of what they were doing. Oscar knew exactly who this was. He waited patiently to speak to him then told him “Fat Controller, Fat Controller, Thomas is in the station”. Proud! I really felt for the chap playing the Fat Controller – it was such a hot day and he stayed in that outfit throughout! What a champ!

Oscar chatting to Sir Topham Hatt

Oscar chatting to Sir Topham Hatt

I would also highly recommend taking a picnic as we did. Not because there isn’t food available (there absolutely it) but having our own food with us mean we could eat whenever we liked, wherever we were, including half way down the line!

boy and mum on train

Hungry boy half way between stations.

All characters aside we all loved the engines, especially Ben. I think at times he was more excited than my actual little boy! I already know we’ll be going back. Not just to the Day out With Thomas (which I imagine we will be doing every time now!) but just to ride the trains and surround ourselves with the history and the magnificence of the engineering.

Oh and I’ve just noticed the Santa Experience. Oh good lord!

 

 

We would like to say thank you so much to The Watercress Line for our competition prize of a free Family Ticket to Day out with Thomas.

I was not asked to write about our time at Day out with Thomas, I just like to share the things we love.

I’m not sure when the next Thomas experience is scheduled for, but you can contact The Watercress Line via their website or Facebook