Monday 20 February 2017

#ImpossibleExperiences with Into The Blue

What if I told you that tomorrow you could go anywhere, do anything you wish... money is no object, reality doesn't exist. Anything is possible...

Unfortunately I'm no magic genie, but it's nice to dream right? 

But what if you could? Would you go for a picnic on Pluto? Direct your own movie? Or maybe take a trip to an underwater hotel?

[credit: Into the Blue]

Me? I'd do New York in a day! 

Yep, James and I would get up early so as not to miss the space rocket style... erm... thingy, that was due to pick us up from right outside our house (whilst waving to the kids from the window, who were of course being looked after for the day) and we'd be transported safely to NYC in less than an hour!

We'd take a little walk through Central Park before heading to a cute little diner for pancakes for breakfast. Then we'd jump on the ferry for a nice trip and to take some photos of the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge and the Empire State Building.

After a picnic in the park we'd head to Bloomingdales for a spot of shopping, and if I'm lucky we might head over to Tiffany & Co too! We'd then take a walk to the 911 Memorial, to pay our respects, before heading over to Times Square. We'd of course take some amazing instagram worthy photos, eat as much food as we possibly could handle and finish the evening with a Broadway show in time to jump back on the space rocket style thingy, complete with hands full of bags of all my shopping goodies, to get back home in time to see the kids tucked up in bed.

Sounds perfect huh? 

Gift Experience mavericks, Into The Blue have been making memories since 1996 and now offer over 2000 experience days by gift voucher including wing walking, surfing, spa days and more. 

Of course, like me, they're not magic genies, and unfortunately they can't make my 'New York in a Day' dream happen. But they are offering YOU the chance to appear on their Impossible Experiences page. 

Simply come up with your own Impossible Experience and send your idea over to them over Twitter or Facebook using the hashtag #ImpossibleExperiences, by February 28th 2017. A minimum of four winners will be chosen to feature on their Impossible Experiences page.

Winners will receive a £200 Into The Blue gift voucher for to spend on an actual real life gift experience! Will you choose a cruise down the Thames, a tandem bungee jump for you and your bestie or a rally driving experience? There are so many amazing experiences to choose from.

Head over to their Impossible Experiences page for all the T&C's, a bit of inspiration and check out where YOUR dream experience could end up if you win!

What would YOUR dream experience be?

*In Collaboration with Into The Blue


Saturday 11 February 2017

Sensory Play for Toddlers

sensory play, sensory development, toddlers, child development,

Having worked in Early Years for almost 18 years, trained in Child Development and having a degree in Child Psychology, the importance of fun, educational play is at the forefront of my mind with my own children. Sensory Play is something I'm a big fan of.

What is Sensory Play?

Young children learn with all of their senses; look, feel, taste, smell and listen, to explore and learn about the world they live in. Sensory play is an activity that stimulates a child's senses, enhancing their learning and naturally encouraging them to use scientific processes whilst they play, explore, create and investigate. 

What are the benefits of Sensory Play?

Sensory play encourages language development, introducing lots of new vocabulary, it helps a child develop and enhance their memory and supports cognitive growth and of course, fine and gross motor skills. It allows them to question things and use trial and error to problem solve. Sensory play is crucial to brain development, helping to build nerve connections in the brains pathways which enhances their ability to complete more complex learning tasks.

Sensory Play is something children can do as small as babies, is super simple to do, even at home, and can be adapted for any age and ability. 

Recently, my 2 year old Taylor and I have been enjoying 'Sensory Saturdays'
Let me show you some of the things we've been exploring in our sensory trays lately...

Shaving Foam

For our sensory, or messy, activities we have a tuff spot (otherwise known as a builders tray) which can be purchased from builder supplies stores or eBay/Amazon, we got ours for about £16, and a large plastic storage tub which we picked up for £6 from the local discount store. You can use pretty much any containers you wish, we used to use small Ikea drawers when Taylor was younger, see here.

For this activity I filled the plastic tub with 2 cans of shaving foam then laid out different things around the tub for Taylor to choose what he'd like to explore with; silver spoons and utensils and small world toys; people and animals. 

sensory play, sensory development, toddlers, child development,

For any messy activities we cover the floor with an old shower curtain, it can be wiped clean or thrown straight in the washing machine and dries quickly too. And Taylor wears an apron or one of his older brothers old t-shirts which can also be thrown straight in the wash.

Taylor had lots of fun exploring the shaving foam, talking about what it looked and felt like. 'It looks like snow!' 'It feels like sloppy custard'.

He will often start off slowly... looking... trying to work out what to make of it. Sometimes I'll often model play to show him it's okay to get stuck in. But he soon gets involved and has lots of fun. It wasn't long before he was taking off his socks and giving his toes a good wiggle in the foam!

It can be adapted in any way, maybe with winter animals for a winter themed tray. Or hide letters or numbers inside the foam for children learning their letters and numerals. 

sensory play, sensory development, toddlers, child development,
sensory play, sensory development, toddlers, child development,

Crunchy Tray

Another one of our fun sensory activities was nicknamed the 'Crunchy Tray', using the tuft spot. I emptied leftover or stale crunchy foods and emptied the last of the crunchy cereal boxes. Simple things you can find in the back of your cupboards, that'll make a good crunchy sound. 

We used pasta sheets, uncooked noodles, pringles (the sour cream and chive ones left over from Christmas that I don't like, haha)  and cheerios. There are so many things you can use, and don't ever throw any out of date store foods, keep them safe for occasions like this! 

sensory play, sensory development, toddlers, child development,

Working in Early Years, I know the benefits of using real household items such as kitchen utensils, they encourage this as much as possible, some nurseries even use real wood and tools in their construction area! Obviously only allow this if you are confident to do so. Somebody commented on my instagram photo that they felt uncomfortable with the pizza cutter, in case he accidentally hurt himself. I see their concern, but I'm very confident allowing him to explore with these and have been doing this with children for years. You know your own child and what you feel is safe for them to use. Plus, this pizza cutter rarely manages to cut through pizza! ;) As long as the activity is well supervised, there should be no problem, and of course the activity should be adapted depending on the child's age and stage of development.

Taylor loved exploring the crunchy tray and loved breaking the foods with his toy hammer, crushing them with the potato masher and learning the skills to use the other utensils. It was great fun and encouraged lots of new words; crush, crunch, bash, break...

sensory play, sensory development, toddlers, child development,
sensory play, sensory development, toddlers, child development,

Porridge Oats

Bags of porridge oats are super cheap to buy. I often keep bags of out of date oats in the messy cupboard for messy activities. I set up a pile of oats with a bunch of household items to explore with; large and small spoons, colander, saucepan and weighing scales. Activities such as these are quick and easy to set up, are totally open ended and nothing a quick hoover can't tidy up.

sensory play, sensory development, toddlers, child development,

Taylor really enjoyed this sensory activity, he kept commenting how soft the oats felt and loved scooping them using his fingers or the utensils available. it wasn't long before the socks came off again and he was burying his toes in the oats and pouring them over his legs. :)

sensory play, sensory development, toddlers, child development,
sensory play, sensory development, toddlers, child development,
Sensory play doesn't have to be hard work, you can use anything you have at home and doesn't always have to be well thought out or pre-planned in advance. I often just grab whatever is available at home, or if I have time, I prepare a few things the night before. We've had a jelly tea party with different coloured jelly and the plastic tea set. Coloured rice is super easy to make in advance too. Next weekend I'm going to freeze some ice in different sized containers, colour the ice with food colouring and maybe hide a few surprises inside too! Don't forget to follow my Snapchat (Lianne.1984) to see how that goes!

There is so much fun to be had and 
learning to be made with sensory play.

Do you create sensory activities at home?

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Saturday 4 February 2017

Toddler Friendly Places to Eat : Bodega Leicester

Toddler friendly, restaurant review, leicester, bodega

Eating out with my 2 year old is one of the most stressful situations for me as a parent. He has been known to throw cutlery across a restaurant, shout and scream, not sit still and generally be very hard work. It can be hard to find a place ideal for him when we're out at lunch times;  the thought of him having a tantrum because he's hungry and fed up of waiting for his food makes me shy away from places I would eat at without him. And then there's the battle between good, nutritional food and convenience. I would often find myself heading for certain fast food restaurants simply for the ease and speed of service, but of course I don't want to be feeding my toddler fast food every time we're out...

I decided to start a new series on my blog, visiting different restaurants and reviewing how Toddler Friendly they are.

Toddler friendly, restaurant review, leicester, bodega
Toddler friendly, restaurant review, leicester, bodega

Last week, we headed for Bodega Cantina, a South American restaurant in the heart of Leicester City Centre. I first visited Bodega on their soft launch night and fell in love with their quirky decor and amazing quesadillas! 

We were greeted by manager Benji who was super friendly towards Taylor, he got down on his level to speak to him and even welcomed him by signing hello Mr Tumble style. 

We were able to choose our own table, with it being a nice quiet lunch time. I aptly chose a nice table with comfortable seats, in a corner so he couldn't escape, haha (believe me, this was a good move!

Toddler friendly, restaurant review, leicester, bodega
Toddler friendly, restaurant review, leicester, bodega


Keeping Taylor amused is very difficult, he's not a child that will sit still for very long. So this is something that is so important to me when eating out; does the restaurant offer anything to keep young children amused while waiting for their food?

Taylor was given a 'Nino's Menu' which included puzzles aimed at older children but younger children could also mark make as they wished, along with a super cool colouring sheet of a mask  and colouring pencils. 

Whilst we were waiting for our food, manager Benji came over and demonstrated his balloon modelling skills, making Taylor a pirate sword! And a little later a dog, after he managed to pop the sword! Such a lovely touch, he loved it!

Toddler friendly, restaurant review, leicester, bodega
Toddler friendly, restaurant review, leicester, bodega


Many kids menus are quite standard. I'm looking for variety and nutritional options...

At Bodega, there are 4 options to choose from inc. pizzadilla and homemade meatballs -yum! and all come with juice and a healthy snack pot. We chose chicken and cheese tortillas with sweet potato fries. He loved it and I was very happy he was eating good, fresh, nutritional food. The snack pot was a great idea for him to snack on whilst waiting for his food. I had quesadillas which are pretty much the same thing. SO tasty!

For dessert we chose vanilla ice cream with toffee sauce, which he enjoyed pinching Mummy's tasty churros to dip in to!

Toddler friendly, restaurant review, leicester, bodega
Toddler friendly, restaurant review, leicester, bodega
Toddler friendly, restaurant review, leicester, bodega

Overall, we had a lovely lunch time at Bodega. I was very happy with the food options for Taylor, how quickly we received the food and how attentive the staff were. Taylor did get a little silly at times, jumping on the seats, shouting, etc, but it wasn't too stressful as we didn't have to wait long before something was bought over to keep him amused.

I most definitely would recommend Bodega as a Toddler Friendly Place to Eat, and will be happy to visit them with my little whirlwind again very soon.

Toddler friendly, restaurant review, leicester, bodega

Do you struggle to eat out with your toddler?
Any tips?

Many thanks to Benji and all at Bodega Cantina, Leicester.
We received complimentary meals in return for a full review.
As always, all words, opinions and amazing wit are my own.

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