Wednesday 30 April 2014

Facing your insecurities - can I love me just as I am?

I've had a blog post brewing for weeks now. Do you ever find that you have something to say but you are not sure how? I just seemed to have so much information and no way of putting it together into a coherent (and not too lengthy) post but today I'm determined to do it.

In March I wrote a post called 'As a parent I am the antidote to the norms and expectations of society' this was my first attempt to try and sort my own thoughts out about how the beauty industry and society at large are making an impression on my children. JJ is now 10 and my girls are nearly 7 so there is still some time to be able to positively influence them and to help them know they are beautiful and lovable. They are worthy of love without any conditions laid on it, they are loved for who they are, not what they do or how they look. I'm so scared the media will get under their skin and dictate that they have to be very slim, with perfect hair, clothes that are the latest fashion and always sporting a smile.

But I'll be really honest here with you (and please don't judge me). What I'm super scared of, is that the media has already impacted me and that without my wanting to I have been conditioned to believe that I must lose weight and keep my newly developing wrinkles at bay. Then of course in my fight to lose weight and my own battles with how I look (even if I try to hide it) they will see it and they will know it without me ever having uttered a word.

Just a week or two ago Miss E wrapped a cardie around herself and said 'look Mummy, I look like you, you wear your cardie like this' and she is right, I do.  I wear it tightly around me so it hides my large tummy, that was a bit of a wake up call!

Then wake-up call number two came when I was on pic monkey the other night resizing some images to use for my weekly 365 post and I came across a picture my Mum had taken of me last weekend. I was thinking how much I liked it and that it was a good shot.  Here it is, what do you think?

I look at this photo and I see a warm and friendly person, someone I might like to hang out with.

This is me as I look most days, nothing has been touched up in the photo, it shows the true picture of an overweight 40 year old mother.

Then for some reason whilst I was in pic-monkey I thought it might be fun to play with the touch-up tools (Photoshop type) and see how I might look after. Here is the touched up photo -

I used the weight loss tool, gave myself a sun-kissed glow, removed my forehead and eye wrinkles, gave my lips a touch of colour, added more mascara and brightened my eyes. It got to the end of the process and I was pretty pleased with the photo and thinking I looked like a better version of me.

What is that about? Here I am worrying that my kids will not accept themselves for who they are and what they look like and I am evidently doing the same.

This parenting lark really can be difficult, you have to deal with all your own insecurities and face up to every challenge in your bid to help your kids be confident and independently equipped to deal with whatever life throws at them. I suppose I should thank them really for helping me to grow up and face my own demons.

I now need to find some ways to help me love and accept myself just as I am. Have you got any good ideas for me? I think it is going to be quite a process.

So please tell me, am I alone? Have you been conditioned by the media or have you stood firm and retained the knowledge that you are worthy of unconditional love and that you don't have to look twenty forever more?

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Tuesday 29 April 2014

Flying with a Young Family – Tips for Travelling With Babies and Toddlers

For most of us, flying is an unavoidable and rarely-enjoyed necessity when travelling abroad. There’s the tedious airport waits, the cramped seating, the turbulence… throw small children into the mix and you’ve got a recipe for real hassle. It doesn't need to be this way though. Follow these tips for travelling with babies and toddlers and reduce stress levels on your next break.

Pack what you think you need…. and the rest! 
We all want to pack as lightly as possible, but don’t scrimp on the nappy bag! Prepare for the worst case scenario in terms of airport/flight delays and pack more than you need when it comes to nappies, wipes, spare clothes and milk. You really don’t want to be left with a screaming baby in a dirty nappy when the plane announces it can’t take off for another half an hour. Toys are an on-flight essential too; opt for small playthings that can be swapped and changed to hold your little ones attention or buy something new as a holiday treat.

Get ready for spillages 
Think you’ve packed everything? Have you packed a tea towel and paper towel too? This might sound like an essential saved only for the kitchen, but sometimes baby wipes just aren’t enough, and it’s usually the case when you’re thousands of feet up in the air! Unexpected travel sickness can be very messy… and it will save yourself time and embarrassment if you have the means to just clean the situation up yourself rather than wait for the cabin crew to assist.

Buy more legroom
If you can afford it, always try to buy yourself seats with extra legroom. You will be so thankful if you have a child on your lap, you may even be able to seat them on the floor for short periods to give yourself a little rest. This extra legroom may be cheaper than you think too, especially if you’re travelling outside of peak season. Use travel comparison site to compare flight tickets and try and secure that extra space for next to nothing. It will be almost certainly be worth it.

Charge up the gadgets 
For older toddlers, gadgets are a lifesaver. If there’s one time you’ll want to be throwing out the screen-time rules it’s on a plane journey. Make sure your smartphone, iPad, tablet or portable DVD player is charged up and ready to use as soon as those seatbelt signs go off.

Feed baby to ease ear pressure 
A simple tip to avoiding baby fussiness when flying is to help ease any ear pressure during landing and take-off. This tried and tested trick will help small ears adjust and will be just as beneficial whether you opt for a breastfeed, bottle or sippy cup of water. A dummy will also do the job. Remember throughout the flight, if your ears feel uncomfortable then give your baby another drink to aid them too.

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Monday 28 April 2014

Top 10 tips for helping your children eat a better diet

Of course as parents we know how important it is that our children eat a good balanced diet, we want them to have a healthy plate and to eat from each food group and meet the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, but let's be honest, it is not always easy is it?

Sometimes you think you are doing a good job, perhaps you make a spaghetti bolognese and you have even taken the trouble to grate up some carrots and mushrooms and hide them in the sauce and you are feeling all angelic until someone explains to you that the jar of ready pasta sauce you used contains a high level of salt, artificial sweeteners and perhaps a preservative like sodium benzoate which has been linked to hyperactivity in children when combined with colourings!

It is an absolute minefield nowadays to know what is OK and what isn't, this is why so many families are reverting back to basics and following diets like paleo, that is a step too far for my family but I am concerned about my family eating well and that is why I signed up to Organix and their No Junk Challenge. For the whole of this week I will only feed my family a food product if I completely know and understand what it contains. So if the label has letters and numbers on it under the ingredients I'll take this as a sign that they should not be eating it. Take a look at the top 12 list of additives to avoid, aptly called the Dirty Dozen!

OK, so now we know what to avoid but we still have the issue that it is not always easy to get children to try new things and to eat variety and healthily, so ere are my top 10 tips -

  1. Get your children involved with growing your own produce. I have found that mine are far more likely to try something new when they have spent time planting the seeds and lovingly caring for the plants as they grew.
  2. In a similar vein, get the kids cooking with you. Yes it takes a little longer but they gain so much from it and again are much more willing to try out new food items if they have invested time in their preparation/ cooking.
  3. Once your children start cooking with you, why don't you encourage them to use their imagination and to make up a recipe. We often have JJ's pasta bake and how proud do you think he feels?
  4. Play with some food and that way the child becomes familiar with it, why don't you make an edible picture with broccoli trees, carrot and beetroot flowers, cut using tiny cutters and noodles coloured with green food dye to make your grass.
  5. Teach your children that there must always be at least three colours on their plate, so even if they are having fish fingers and chips (which are both yellow foods in case you are wondering) you then need to get two more colours on the plate, so empower your children to choose their own, perhaps cucumber and cherry tomatoes? Unfortunately salad does not go down well with the kids in my house and it would probably end up being green beans and carrots, my kids do love their cooked veg.
  6. It might seem obvious but repetition is key, especially when they are very young. A child might reject something the first 8 times it is one their plate and then all of a sudden they will give it a go and perhaps even find they like it. Of course make sure the plate has items on it you know will be enjoyed as well as the new item you are trying to introduce.
  7. Most of our meals are 'family service' rather than coming out ready on the plate. This means we have bowls of all the foods on the table and we help ourselves, this allows the child to feel as if they have some control. of course you can still have rules with this, my children always have to choose at least two veg.
  8. Reward charts and praise always goes a long way with children I find. Until recently we had sticker charts most weeks where the children could work towards targets (it could be trying two new veg) and then if they achieve them they can choose a small reward, an extra bedtime story, a family bike ride etc.
  9. Each week I plan our menu before I order the shopping and I make sure I ask each family member to choose one meal. Some prove unpopular with another family member so then I'll ask what we can do to make it better for them, it might be adding a corn on the cob as a side order, or serving the sauce separate to the pasta, as long as I'm cooking the same meal for everyone I don't mind making a few small changes.
  10. I'll leave you with this last genius tip from Organix - Give them pads of paper and suggest they become restaurant critics, marking each dish out of ten and giving comments. Provide lots of little dishes – like a picnic – to encourage them to try each flavor and write down notes on the taste or texture.
Blackberry picking last year meant that my girls then tried lots of new recipes with blackberries - 
smoothies, muffins, bakewell pudding and so on...

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Sunday 27 April 2014

A year in photos - Happy Easter - Week 17

The Easter weekend was spent together and it rained but we managed church, an Easter egg hunt and I even snuck in an afternoon nap! Monday was  trip to see Rio 2 with the kids and then the kids went back to school after the Easter holidays and I was able to get the house back into order. Whilst we had a wonderful time together, it was good to have some space again!  I joined slimming world and dh and I had a big and important meeting which went well, but that is new for another time.

Here are a few pics from our week -

Jumping for joy in some new summer clothes!

Easter Sunday started early with a 6.30am service in the prayer centre and courtyard outside our house

Miss M finding the egg that we had hidden in the flower!

I'm loving this plant, I think it is hydrangea and I'm expecting it to change colour as 
I've never seen a yellow one as yet! 

TheBoyandMe's 365 Linky
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Friday 25 April 2014

Get Out and About – The Big Kids Get Adventurous

Just lately my husband and I seem to be letting our hair down a bit more, by that I mean we are getting more adventurous in our fun and days out with the kids. Prior to moving to the countryside you could probably count on one hand the amount of times we went to the park and actually got on the play equipment, we were more likely to be found on the bench having a chat and smiling at the kids as they charged about.

Now you can find us playing basketball with the kids, taking them to a barn dance and dancing the night away, cycling as a family, going on the fitness equipment at the park and even going on the park equipment, which in reality is probably only meant for the kids, but sometimes dh and I like to be big kids.

Take last week in the Easter holidays, we headed out to do some shopping for dh's work which was not the most thrilling of times and the kids behaved well that we went to find a new park and what a fabulous place it was. So fabulous that there was no way dh and I wanted to miss out on the fun, so all five of us had a ball and got adventurous together.

I think it is really important for families to get out and about together and I have written about it quite a lot since moving here and having more free time.

My friend Lucy has written about loads of wonderful ideas for playing outdoors with kids.

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Thursday 24 April 2014

Birthday party planning

Considering that if you add up the ages of my kids they've had 22 birthdays between them, then it's perhaps surprising to learn that I've not thrown many birthday parties for them. There has been maybe five in total and a couple of those only involved 6 or so kids, so maybe they don't even count!

It's not that I'm Scrooge, we have celebrated their birthdays, there has been holidays, family days out and family tea parties but just not many of the big, scary invite the whole class kind of party. Well, I've decided this year will be different, the kids all joined a new school last September and I think it is important that I do all I can to help them bed in, so come July I'll be throwing a party for the 30 or so kids from Miss M and Miss E's class. Thirty 5, 6 and 7 year olds - you can imagine my joy!

I've decided that if I'm going to have this party I might as well do it right and give them a real good one but not one that costs hundreds of pounds I hasten to add. I hate spending money for the sake of it and extravagant shows of how much money I can spend on a cake etc just do not appeal. So the party will very much be old school and the girls are in agreement about this. There will be a bouncy castle, craft table, traditional party food such as little sandwiches, cheese on sticks and jelly and ice cream and there will be face painting, all at our local church hall.

Oh yes, when I let myself in for it, I really go for it. I'm not one of those super talented artist types, I'm just an average mum who can just about manage a butterfly or a camouflage face but some how or the other I found myself telling my daughters I would happily paint faces at their party and I'm hoping to recruit a couple of friends to help me!

I'm kidding myself that because my kids are happy with my rubbish face painting efforts that others will be too but don't you just know there will be at least one little madam there who will tell me how bad my tiger is? So in order to try and ease the public embarrassment of my newly turned 7 year olds I have started to practise the face painting already and the girls have got in on the act too and have been practising on me and themselves as well.

I was very pleased that the premier suppliers of face paints, Snazaroo sent me through one of their party boxes, worth £44.99. The sturdy yellow box contains 20 small palettes of 3 face paints for me to use as party bag favours (I mean really, how much are the kids going to love these and just add some sweets and the bags are done, result!) as well as 10 sponges, 4 brushes, 8 x 18ml face paints, 2 x 12ml glitter and 20 invitations. There is also a clear instruction booklet included with some step by step ideas for painting faces. All that face paint will keep us going for a very long time after the party too.

We have used Snazaroo face paints before as they are water based, skin friendly and non-toxic and even my Miss E who often suffers with sensitive skin is fine with them. The only niggle I have is with the turquoise coloured face paint always seems to stain and does not wash off as easily as the other colours. Nothing too major as it will come off but more soap is required or an extra scrub the next day. Most just come off with a baby wipe which is super.

The girls and I had lots of fun over Easter painting each others faces, it is good to have a product that you can let the kids loose with and allow them to be creative. I bought some stencils and we used these too and they were great, look at the picture of the flowers on Miss E's arm. It took just moments and is really effective and the Snazaroo stencil only cost me £3.50 at the Range. I loved the high density sponges, a friend of mine recommended I cut them in half and I did this and I could hardly believe how well they hold the colour. See that rainbow I did, that was by painting it on to the sponge and pulling it across Miss M's face - clever stuff!

The brushes supplied are also really nice and don't have any shedding, they seem to keep their nice clean point and the small one works well for precision work, although I really need to practise at this and improve my steady hand!

I'm really pleased with the products I have been sent and I'd happily buy Snazaroo or recommend them as a brand as we have now been having fun with their products for at least five years.

Take a peek what you get in the party box (they offer a boy, girl and unisex box) -

Disclosure: We were sent the party box from Snazaroo for the purpose of this review but I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.

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Wednesday 23 April 2014

I love my home #GreatBritishHome

When I saw BritMums asking what your home says about you, I started to wonder. Last summer we moved into a beautiful grade 2 listed house (yep, that one in the photo above). It is a former stable block of a country house and sits in 220 acres of amazing grounds. I adore my house and I feel like the luckiest girl in the world to live here. It is not about the glamour for me, it is about the comfort and practicality of our family living here whilst feeling relaxed and content.

BritMums have teamed up with Victoria Plumb, the quality bathroom retailer to ask what the Great British Home looks like and of course the answer is different for everyone, but after a good ponder and walk around my house, I have come to the conclusion that for me the Great British Home is about -

Basically at the crux of it, my home is all about ensuring that my family are happy and able to relax and kick off the pressures of the world. I aim to make it a sanctuary, a place where people want to spend time.

As I said before, homes are a really unique thing, so now I'm wondering what does home say to you? How have you managed to turn your house into a home and make it somewhere you want to spend time?

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Tuesday 22 April 2014

Positive team work - 5 Chances

I introduced a new system of discipline in our house last week and it seems to be working really well. I can see the makings of something that could stick around for quite some time. The Easter holidays have been fabulous but three children all together for that amount of time leads to quite some bickering and honestly, who wants to listen to that?  I certainly don't!

So last week on our way out to meet friends I told the kids to all be quiet and listen good. They could tell I had my serious voice on and all listened attentively as I asked them if I had been grumpy that morning and moaning at them all a lot? Yes, they agreed I did seem in a bad mood. I went on to explain that their constant bickering, one-upmanship and rudeness/ disrespect to each other was what was making me sad and therefore quick to tell them off and frankly I was not going to put up with it anymore.

I went on to explain that we were introducing a new system of discipline and it involved team work, respect, good manners and loving each other with kindness and patience. The car went very quiet as they digested this bit of news and I was asked if I was going to make some new sticker charts.  No, I explained they were beyond that and I didn't want them to work individually towards good behaviour, what I really wanted was for them to show love and respect towards each other and that involved them working together and working things out as a team.

The new discipline is called 5 chances as that is what the collective family get in a day (yes Daddy and I are involved too). Any one of the five of us can blow one or even all five of the chances and once the five are gone the next day is all about boredom. If they cannot get their behaviour in check and manage to not lose all the chances then the next day there will be nothing that they enjoy - it will literally be a day of having to make their fun together and learning to play nicely and like each other. I have said they will lose TV, computer, iPad, Lego, make-believe schools, arts, crafts, bikes, scooters, fashion and treats/ pudding. Basically all the things the three of them hold dear and love to enjoy.

It felt a bit risky at first to be putting in place a system that just one of them could blow in a day and then all of us would suffer the nest day. It sort of reminded me of when I was in school and teachers use to say they would put everyone in detention if no-one owned up to doing the naught thing. I hated it then but I sort of knew this kind of peer pressure might just work between them.

On our first day last week, we had 10 chances, so they could figure out how the system would work and to allow them a little leeway. I was super pleased that they only lost 6 chances that day and the most they have lost since is 3 chances. So far there has not been a boredom day where they have lost all beloved things. Thank goodness for me, as can you imagine the pain I'll go through with them whining about being bored?

There has been some really positive outcomes so far from the 5 chances system, like hearing them reminding each other 'do you want to lose a chance?' if one of them starts to be brash or quick-tempered with another. I've also told them they have to talk to each other and work something out if there is an issue and they have done this. I was very proud to watch one of my 6 year olds tell her 10 year old brother why he was upsetting her and how he could change.

Then generally I've seen some much better behaviour modelled from JJ to his sisters as he sets the example of how we should all act and particularly towards each other and being grateful for what we have. There will still be unacceptable behaviour, we are human and they are kids, so it will happen but if it happens less and they are more aware to be kind to each other then I'll be a happy mum.

There are so many behaviour and discipline theories and schools of thought out there and my stance is that you should pick what suits you and your family and leave the rest. I'm not telling you my way is the best way, I'm just saying that for us at the moment this is working. Go with your gut and do what feels right for your family, each is different.

Have you ever tried disciplining your kids in a team manner  where the actions of just one could end up impacting all of them?  I'd love to hear how it works for you.

Have a great week, Mich x
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Saturday 19 April 2014

A year in photos - week 16 (Home with my babies)

Happy Easter everyone. It is a joyous time and I'm so pleased to have the kids off school and enjoying it with me. We have spent a lot of time around home this week and it has been fab.

I've captured some lovely photos (if I say so myself) this week whilst I've been wandering around the grounds at home here.

There has also been a fab day at Legoland -

and a day trip to the park when we all acted like kids -

It's been another good week, I'll be sad to see them go back to school next week. Never did I think I'd ever type that!!! How life changes....

TheBoyandMe's 365 Linky

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Blown away by Netflix This Easter

Well you know, not literally. I am still sat here in one piece thankfully but I am absolutely in-love with Netflix and our Apple TV that we can stream it on. A couple of weeks ago I was asked to be a #StreamTeam blogger with Netflix and I thought why on earth not?

No buffering
My brother has mentioned Netflix to me before and I didn't take too much notice, we have had subscriptions to LoveFilm before and I thought it would be just the same. As we live out in the middle of nowhere our internet is not that great and we suffer with slow speeds (about 3.2mb for downloads) and buffering when we try to stream from BBC iPlayer, Youtube, LoveFilm etc but I kid you not when I say we have not had one buffering issue with Netflix and we have been using it over a week now. I don't know if the Apple TV box or Netflixs itself works in a different way but it is making my Easter holiday with the kids so much easier.

Such great variety
When we moved to East Sussex last summer we gained so much but one of the things we lost (and our girls have still not forgiven us) is the Nickelodeon TV channels, well by having Netflix they have been able to get their fix of programs such as iCarly and Austin & Aly and that is making them very happy (and well behaved too, thank the Lord!).

JJ has also been happy as he is finding lots of new movies to be able to play on his laptop whilst he plays Lego in his bedroom. Films such as Cody Banks, All Stars, Big Fat Liar and Cop and a Half. Paying £5.99 for all of us to watch as much as we like sure beats me going to the charity shop each week and picking up a couple of new Kids DVD's for a couple of pound each and dh and I watching the same old rubbish.

I suppose I should also admit that dh and I have barely watched regular TV since we have had Netflix. In fact I'm wondering why we are paying a TV licence when no-one is actually watching live TV nowadays, I'll have to see how that goes! Freeview does offer quite a variety of channels nowadays but without cable TV we have been in a rut of watching CSI after CSI and at least now we are able to start exploring some of the TV series available like Suits, Breaking Bad and House of Cards.

Programs at times to suit you (not a schedule)
We have also switched off our laptops and iPads and just sat and watched a good movie together. It makes such a difference to be able to start a program when you want to and not to be tied to the TV schedule. Then the Apple TV is brilliant with its little remote control as you can pause if the phone rings or in my case if one of the girls have a very urgent task they have to disappear for.

Parental control
The remote control is easy to use and even my less confident twin has figured out how to use it and is happy navigating her way round Netflix now. I do like that I have been able to set different profiles for the kids as well and this means they can only access content deemed appropriate for under 12 year olds. Of course there is no password on netflix (or not that I've found) so it does work on trust that they do not just use my profile but I suppose the check there would be that I can see all programs recently watched and they know this.

I was surprised when I came in the lounge the other day to find JJ using his IPad as a remote control, there is an app you can download for free and now he is the master controller! Well, so he tells me, lol!

Smart suggestions
I like that Netflix is clever and trying to get to know me, when I set it up it asked me to pick 5 films from a selection so it could learn a little about me and then once I was online I was able to personalise my profile and choose the genres that appeal to me most and rate films I have watched and as I watch and rate more it becomes more accustomed to my tastes and can make better educated suggestions. It is all good, I may never run out of viewing material again!

As part of my #StreamTeam responsibilities I'll be updating you each month on what Netflix has to offer. For this month I'll leave you with some picks for great Easter movies to watch together as a family -

Disclosure: I have received a years free membership to Netflix and a free device to become part of the #Streamteam. They have not instructed me what to write and I remain honest, as always. 
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Friday 18 April 2014

Making Easter memories with your children

As Christian's Easter is a really important time for us. So much fuss and preparation is made about Christmas and really it has gotten a bit out of sync. As whilst it is incredibly important that we mark the birth of Jesus, it is even more important (in my opinion) that we remember what He did for us. God allowed his only son to be crucified and suffer this horrendous death so that all our sins may be forgiven.  It is massive stuff and yes I realise it is hard to understand or to believe if this is not your faith. But for us as Christians it is awe-inspiring and one of the cornerstones of our faith.

It would be all too easy to allow Easter to pass as just another bank holiday and especially this year as dh is working much of it but I was determined that the children stay connected to our faith and yesterday we had a day of making Easter memories. Claire at Clarina's contemplations reminded me recently with her delightful post that I love the little traditions that families repeat year after year and last year we made Easter (or resurrection) gardens for the first time and when I mentioned to the girls about making some they were up for it.

We had a lot of fun yesterday as we walked around the lake to collect all we needed to make our little gardens (dirt, sticks, moss, wildflowers, stones) and then we headed over to the gardeners' stores to borrow a couple of seed trays and plastic post and finally back home to put them together. As we went we talked through the Easter story and the girls recounted what they knew and I filled in the gaps. It is really important for us reflect on the importance of Easter and remember what happened.

We also then made hot cross buns from scratch, not something I've done before but it was OK and the kids managed to do two batches argument free, which was fabulous. It was then nice to be able to butter them while they were still warm and take them up to the main house and offer my husband and a few of his staff one.

We used the BBC good food easy hot cross bun recipe here.

The girls also painted some cheap pottery bunnies I picked up in Hobbycraft and we painted faces too, it was a day of togetherness and for me it finished perfectly when I went to a Maundy Thursday service in the evening and had some adult time to pray and reflect.

From our family to yours we wish you a very happy Easter.

Be blessed, Mich xxx

Thursday 17 April 2014

What's new at Legoland, Windsor for 2014?

I think it's pretty well documented on both my blogs how much my family enjoys a day out to Legoland, Windsor. It really is the ultimate theme park experience for those with primary school aged kids, I don't have mega thrill seekers and this makes Legoland just perfect for our children - near 7 year old twin girls and our boy aged 10.5 years.

We always have a fun day when we visit and there is so much there that we are kept busy from the moment we arrive to when we leave. In fact there is so much to do that you can easily spend a couple of days in a row there. We have not had the pleasure of staying at the Legoland Hotel yet but that is the next thing on my hit list as the inside pool looks amazing and you often get two days entry to the park as part of your deal.

Legoland enjoys a beautiful position set into the hillside in Berkshire and the views of Windsor Castle are superb, the park is really green and well maintained and a pleasure to spend time in. As it is set in a hill there is a fair amount of walking and climbing to do but they have made ramps, wide walkways, tram trains and slides for the kids to enjoy the decline into all the different lands.

One of the things I love best about Legoland is that they do not rest on their laurels, each year something is updated, modernised or added and this means that the park always feels fresh when you arrive. I think the only area that now needs a freshen up is the original Miniland with all the Lego buildings, some of those are starting to look a bit worn now, although if you don't look closely the overall effect is still pretty spectacular, just look -

I think one of the things our family really likes about Legoland is the mix of entertainment. Yes there are some spectacular rides which make you scream with excitement and of course these come with queues during the busy periods (you can purchase a q-bot to help you skip the queues if that is your thing) but there are also excellent no-queue activities such as the Brickville play park, Duplo Drench Towers area, Puppet theatre and Pirates of Skeleton Bay stunt show. The imagination centre is also pretty amazing if you have Lego fans as they can explore Lego related science activities and make Lego kits until their heart is content, followed by a visit to the 4D imagination theatre.

Pirate Shores
This year Legoland have also given one of the areas a new identity for 2014 and Pirate Shores has opened. The pinnacle of this will be Castaway Camp which is a opening in May 2014, it will be a fabulous play area with high rope-walks, play nets, slides, a forgotten fortress and battleships to play on. We will definitely be heading back there when we next visit again. As well as the Castaway Camp Pirate Shores includes Pirate Falls, a steep drop log flume ride surrounded by some fabulous new Lego models, the Jolly Rocker, which is a 'too scary for me' boat ride and a refurbished Burger Kitchen restaurant as well as a couple of smaller attractions.

The Burger kitchen
Two of the existing eateries have been refurbished and the menu upgraded this year and we were very impressed with the offering in the Burger Kitchen, despite what you might think the food was very tasty and the price was as we would expect at a large theme park. We paid £6.50 for a premium chicken burger meal, £6.35 for a hamburger meal and £4.95 for a kids meal.

I have to be honest and say some of the kids best fun of our day there last week came from the Legoland badge that comes free with the kids meal. Little did we know that you can ask staff if they have spares and if not you can swap your badges for theirs and build up a nice little collection. This became a great source of competition between my three and they were all searching for the elusive golden badge.

Thank you very much Legoland for such an amazing day with you trying out your new facilities for 2014. We had a wonderful day and I'm happy to recommend you to anyone who asks.

I can't resist, I'll leave you with a few more taster photos of the fun you can have if you visit Legoland, Windsor.

Other Legoland posts I have written that you might enjoy -

Fathers Day at Legoland, Windsor 2013

Lego Duplo Valley, 2013

Extensive review of Legoland, Windsor, 2012

Disclosure: We received entry to Legoland, fast passes and some Lego loot to use during our day out as part of their press day. I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.